Sourdough bread is made using the “sponge method.” This recipe will make 2-3 decent sized wholemeal loaves.
For the sponge: For the dough:
500g strong wholemeal flour 600g strong wholemeal flour
600ml warm water 25g salt
1 Ladleful of very active starter
Make your sponge the night before. Mix all the sponge ingredients in a large bowl till it forms a smooth batter like consistency and leave in a warm place overnight.
The following day, mix the 600g flour and salt into your sponge mixture till you get a nice soft kneadable dough – you may need to add a bit extra flour or water to achieve this. Now knead the dough for 5-10 mins to develop the gluten.
Shape the dough into a tight round shape, dust with flour or spray with a little oil and place in a clean bowl. Cover with a plastic bag or cling film and leave to rise for an hour. After an hour remove from the bowl and shape into a round again – it may not have risen much at this point but don’t worry. Leave to rise for another hour and shape again. Repeat the shape and rise again; you will notice that the dough will become increasingly light and airy.
After the final rise, deflate (or “knock back”) the dough, and divide the dough into 2 or 3 and shape your loaves as required. Dust them liberally with flour, cover and leave to prove till they have doubled in size. This may take up to 4 hours depending on the temperature and the vigour of your starter.
When your loaves have almost doubled in size, preheat your oven to 2500C/Gas Mark 10 and place your heaviest baking tray in the oven to heat up.
When the loaves are ready for baking, remove the baking tray from the oven. Place the loaves on it and return to the oven as quickly as possible. You may want to slash the tops of your loaves first. When you place the loaves back in the oven toss a handful of ice cubes into the bottom of the oven to give a nice burst of steam.
Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 2000C/Gas Mark 6. If the crust is quite dark you may want to reduce this to 1800C/Gas Mark 4. Bake for another 30 mins until the loaves are well browned and crusty. The loaves should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. If not, return to the oven for another 5-10 mins.
Leave your bread to cool, for at least 20 mins on a wire rack before you slice it. This is the hardest part!! Cut a slice, slather with butter and enjoy…