This recipe was created over time, adding a little more water here, a little more spelt or wholegrain flour there, until I hit a sweet spot: a dough that has a high enough hydration to yield an open crumb and a glossy interior, but not so wet that it’s hard to handle with my amateur shaping skills. A dough that tastes comforting and familiar and is not hard to master. A dough that I make on auto-pilot when the household just needs bread and I haven’t got time or energy to think about what to make. A dough that turns out roughly* consistently every time and is a platform for seeds, nuts and other additions if desired. It’s also really easy to remember by heart because most of the quantities are rounded out to the 100.
*Roughly* consistent, because it always turns out a little bit differently each time, whether it’s a slightly more open crumb, a thinner, crisper crust, or a disappointing bloom. I think that reflects how I’m still learning to master this process and reach consistency each time. Each bake is a new study of how ambient temperature, fermentation time and dough handling can have such an impact on the finished product!
This recipe, like many of the recipes you’ll find here, makes two loaves. I just don’t really see the point in making one loaf of bread, when it’s a given that most of the loaf is going to be eaten immediately by anyone in the vicinity. Who can resist the smell of warm, just-baked sourdough? I like to slice one loaf up as soon as it’s cooled, and freeze it for toast for the rest of the week. The other loaf, or what’s left of it after the initial carnage, lives in the bread bag on the bench and is a vessel for fried eggs, salad sandwiches, and peanut butter. It’s also used to fortify scrapped-together lunches. We’re hardly ever without a loaf of this bread around the kitchen somewhere!
The reason I’ve called this recipe “v1.0” is because, if past experience is anything to go on, no doubt I’ll continue to fiddle with the recipe and may want to post again down the track to show the journey that’s occurred!
I’ll be away completing a speech pathology placement in the country for the next month, so you might not be hearing from me for a while! But I do have some recipes I can’t wait to share on the flip side. Happy sourdough baking <3
- For the sourdough leaven
- 100g sourdough starter @ 100% hydration (ie, fed with equal weight flour and water)
- 50g water
- 25g strong white flour
- 25g wholemeal baker’s flour
- For the dough
- 200g sourdough leaven
- 600g water (75%)
- 500g strong white flour (62.5%)
- 200g wholemeal baker's flour (25%)
- 100g white spelt flour (12.5%)
- 20g salt (2.5%)
- Preparing the leaven: Firstly, make the sourdough leaven. Mix the water and flours into the sourdough starter using a small spatula, and leave at room temp (25-28C is ideal) until it has risen to twice its original height.* This can take anywhere from 1.5 to four hours depending on your climate and ambient room temperature.
- Autolysis: At least an hour before the leaven is ready, mix the dough ingredients by hand** - water, strong white flour, wholemeal flour, and spelt flour - until combined. This stage is important to allow the gluten to start developing before adding salt into the mix. By the time you go to add in the sourdough leaven, the autolysed dough mixture should already be elastic and smooth.
- Mixing the dough: Add the sourdough leaven and salt into the dough, and mix by hand until combined. It should take around two to three minutes to do this. The dough should feel elastic and smooth. Cover with a tea-towel and leave in a warm area.
- Bulk fermentation: This stage takes around four hours (but is dependent on your climate and ambient temperature!) After the first 30 minutes of fermentation, remove the tea-towel. Start by wetting your hand, grabbing underneath the part of dough closest to you, stretching it upwards and folding it over the rest of the dough. Turn the bowl 90 degrees, and repeat. Do this until the bowl has done a full rotation (ie, four folds of the dough)***. Repeat the stretch and fold process after another 30 minutes of bulk fermentation is complete. Repeat twice more - so now you're up to two hours of bulk fermentation. Leave the dough for an hour, then repeat the stretch and fold process. Leave the dough for another hour, and then bulk fermentation is complete.
- Pre-shaping: Tip the dough out onto a lightly floured bench and, using a dough scraper, divide into two roughly equal portions. You can use a digital scale to weigh them if you don’t trust yourself to eyeball it. Shape into roughly round balls. Rest for 20 minutes - resting allows the gluten to relax before its final shaping, where the dough is folded up more tightly.
- Shaping: Scoop the ball of dough up, flip it over and place it back on the bench (similar to if you were flipping an egg or a steak!). Imagine the dough has four corners. Grab each corner, stretch it out and and fold it into the centre, then roll the whole thing over so the seam is on the bottom. Use your hands, or a bench scraper, to gently shape the dough into a tight ball. Dust with flour and gently rub it over the dough to cover the entire loaf. Repeat with the second loaf.****
- Proving: Place seam-side UP into floured or lined proving baskets, and then place in the fridge overnight (~12 hours). Alternatively, leave on the bench for ~1 hour. I personally prefer to do an overnight cold proof, as the added fermentation time adds to the flavour!
- Baking: Place a lidded cast-iron pot in the oven, and pre-heat to 250C/480F. Once hot, sprinkle a little semolina or cornmeal into the pot, and gently upturn the loaf into the pot (so the seam is now on the bottom again). Score using a sharp knife or baker’s lame to allow the gas to escape during baking. Place the lid back on, and put in the oven. Bake for 20 minutes at 250C. Remove the lid, turn the heat down to 220C, and bake for another 20 minutes, until the crust is dark golden. Repeat with the second loaf.
- Eating and storing: As tempting as it is to eat the bread straight out of the oven, it’s actually better to wait until the loaf is entirely cool before eating it. The bread will have a gummy texture if cut while hot, and letting all the hot air escape results in the bread going stale where you cut it. Of course, you can warm up your slices of bread to your heart’s content after letting the loaf cool! The sourdough can be stored in a bread bag or container in a cool place for up to five days, or sliced and stored in the freezer for up to three months.
**You can also use a stand mixer if you prefer. My personal preference is to mix by hand. I like the therapeutic feeling of mixing flour and water together into a cohesive mass.
***This is the Tartine method and is a popular way to work on building the dough's gluten structure during bulk fermentation. You could also just leave the dough for four hours without touching it if you're short of time - you might not get the same open structure, but it's much less time-consuming, and your bread will still be delicious.
****There are many, many ways to approach shaping, but I’ve just provided one, easy technique!