A while back an Australian friend asked me to make her a few videos on how to make 50+ hour fermented sourdough and so I willing made some poor quality single take iPad videos that are coming to my YouTube channel shortly. This blog is a written explanation to go along with the three days of creation I videoed. While slow TV is quite the rage these days the screen would have mainly been like a still shot as most of the time you have to do absolutely nothing. And watching dough rise is more painful than paint drying.
The videos will show me making a very large dough with seeds that yields many loaves and some fougasses too (weird plural since it’s a borrowed word). So here on my blog I’m showing how to make a more manageable sized dough with simple ingredients. This will make a few very grand white sourdough loaves without any fat or oil aside from greasing the plastic proofing or blooming box.
1.5kg white bread flour
200g white sourdough starter
750ml of water
14g of quality salt
Day 1: Place 750g of flour in a large mixing bowl and 200g of sourdough starter and then slowly add around 750ml of water. Mix to create a very thick clotted cream-like consistency.It will need a vigorous stir and make certain you have scraped all the dry flour from the sides and the bottom of the bowl into the viscous mixture. Cover with clingfilm and place a dry tea towel over the bowl. Then leave in a warm place without any draughts to bloom for 24 hours. An airing cupboard or close to a boiler is perfect. This is known as a sourdough autolayse.
Tick tock tick tock – don’t peep just leave it alone to work its magic. The next day you should find tons of bubbles have appeared.
Day 2: Add the salt and then add more flour around the edge of the bowl and push your fingers along the side of the bowl to allow flour to reach the bottom of the autolayse and continue adding flour to create a soft dough.
Turn out onto floured work surface or rubber baking sheet. Using the heel of the hand press and stretch the dough forward to lengthen the gluten strands and increase the elasticity.
Then fold the dough back upon itself and repeat the action of kneading the dough with the heel of the hand. This will take at least 10 minutes and is thoroughly enjoyable and a great arm exercise too.
Lift up and hold in both hands and rotate it like a steering wheel as you fold the edges underneath several times The surface skin on the top will stretch naturally if it has been kneaded enough. If not it will tear slightly. In this case continue to knead for longer. Form into a ball and place in a large oiled plastic box with a tight lid.
Once again place in a warm place and leave for 24 hours for the dough to grow.
Day 3: The boxed dough should have doubled in sized and will smell wonderfully of light gentle yogurt.
Once again remove from the box and place on a floured work surface and knead again for 10 minutes. Then divide the dough into pieces for the bannetons. I divided it into three pieces. The large round one was filled with a piece weighing 1kg and the two longer style ones have 600g pieces in them.
To create a smooth skin I lift the dough and turn the sides underneath to stretch the top surface. Place the smooth skin side down onto the floured cane basket.
Now cover with a dry tea towel and leave until double in size. This can take different amounts of time depending on the temperature of your kitchen throughout the year.
How to use a banneton
Bannetons are spiral cane bowls that are heavily floured and are perfect for creating wonderfully marked loaves. They create the perfect environment in which the bread can breathe and grow. If your banneton is new you will need to spray the inside with a mist of water and then flour very well. You don’t want wet flour but a nice dry layer or the bread will be a bugger to turn out before baking. Bannetons improve with age so don’t worry if the first try is tricky. They can often refuse to release the loaves in the early days but a good shake will resolve this. With each further use you only need to flour the basket before adding the bread. I suggest starting the battenton prepping on day one of your bread making. Mist the inside of the basket with water and coat the inside with flour. cover with a tea towel and leave overnight. On day two dust again with more flour. Then before popping the dough in on day 3 dust them again. The first mist of water is to get the flour to adhere to all of the basket. But this then needs to dry in. The additional flour will help to create a dry barrier or else the bread really will stick. Never wash your bannetons, just add a fresh dusting of flour before each use. Occasionally you can pop on a sunny windowsill too to dry them out fully.
Heat the oven to 200C. If using a banneton give the banneton a carefully but vigorous shake to begin to release the loaf. Then place an oiled baking tray over the top of the cane basket and turn upside and shake the loaf free. With a very sharp oiled knife cut lines of your choosing in the top of the loaves. A sharp knife is needed so that you don’t push the dough and leave it misshapen. Now place the breads in the hot oven along with a small ramekin of water and bake with the steam for 10 minutes. Remove the dish of water and reduced the heat to 180C and cook for 40 minutes. To check if a loaf is fully baked turn it over and knock on the base. If the loaf sounds hollow it is cooked. If the knocking is a dull thud put it back in the oven for another 10 minutes and check the loaf again by knocking. Once cooked pop onto a wire rack and leave to cool. resist cutting into the bread while it is piping hot. It spoils the crust and the inside. And there you have it. Three beautiful sourdough loaves that will keep for more than a week if you don’t gorge on them. Or offer them to friends and neighbours as wonderful gifts.