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River Cottage Sourdough
River Cottage Sourdough
added by River Cottage summers here

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Servings
  • Makes 1 loaf
Ingredients
  • For the starter
  • •Up to 1kg strong bread flour – including at least 50% wholegrain flour
  •  
  • For the sponge
  • •About 100ml active starter
  • •250g strong bread flour (white, wholemeal or a mixture)
  • •300ml warm water
  •  
  • For each loaf
  • •250g strong bread flour (white, wholemeal or a mixture)
  • •1 tbsp olive or rapeseed oil (optional)
  • •10g salt
  •  
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Directions
Begin with the starter. In a large bowl, mix 100g strong bread flour with enough warm water to make a batter, roughly the consistency of thick paint. Beat it well to incorporate some air, then cover with a lid or clingfilm and leave somewhere fairly warm and draught-free. Check it every few hours until you can see that fermentation has begun – signalled by the appearance of bubbles on the surface. The time it takes for your starter to begin fermenting can vary hugely – it could be a few hours or a few days. Your starter now needs regular feeding. Begin by whisking in another 100g or so of fresh flour and enough water to retain that thick batter consistency. You can now switch to using cool water, and to keeping the starter at normal room temperature – though nowhere too cold or draughty. Leave it again, then, 24 hours or so later, scoop out and discard half of the starter and stir in another fresh 100g flour and some more water. Repeat this discard-and-feed routine every day, maintaining the sloppy consistency and keeping your starter at room temperature, and after 7-10 days you should have something that smells good – sweet, fruity, yeasty, rather than harsh or acrid. It’s now ready to bake with. The night before you want to bake your loaf, create the sponge: take about 100ml of your active starter, and combine it with 250g fresh flour and 300ml warm water in a large bowl. Mix well with your hands, or very thoroughly with the handle of a wooden spoon, then cover with clingfilm and leave overnight. In the morning, it should be clearly fermenting – thick, sticky and bubbly. Now make your loaf: add a fresh 300g flour to the sponge, along with 1 tbsp oil, if you like (it will make the bread a touch softer and more silky, but is not essential), and 10g salt (which is essential). Squidge it all together with your hands. You should have a fairly sticky dough. If it seems tight and firm, add a dash more warm water. If it’s unmanageably loose, add more flour (but do leave it as wet as you dare – you’ll get better bread that way). Turn out the dough on to a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and silky. This takes in the region of 10 minutes, but it can vary depending on your own style and level of confidence. Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and turn it so it gets a light coating of oil. Cover with lightly oiled clingfilm, or put the bowl inside a plastic bag, and leave to rise. Don’t expect it to whoosh up to twice its original size in an hour, as a conventional loaf does. Sourdough rises slowly and sedately. The best thing is to knead it in the morning then simply leave it all day (or knead in the evening and leave overnight) in a fairly cool, but draught-free, place, until it is more or less doubled in size and feels springy when you push your finger gently into it. Knock it back (deflate it) on a lightly floured surface. You now need to prove the dough (i.e. give it a second rising). You are also going to be forming it into the shape it will be for baking. If you have a proper baker’s proving basket, use this, first dusting it generously with flour. Alternatively, rig up your own proving basket by lining a medium-sized, fairly shallow-sided bowl with a clean tea towel, then dusting it with flour. Place your round of dough inside, cover again with oiled clingfilm or a clean plastic bag and leave to rise, in a warm place this time, until roughly doubled in size. This might be only an hour or it could be three or four. Then the dough is ready to bake. Preheat the oven to 250˚C/Gas Mark 9 (or at least 220C/gas 7, if that’s your top limit). Have ready, if possible, a clean gardener’s spray bottle full of water – you’ll be using this to create a steamy atmosphere in the oven, which helps the bread to rise and develop a good crust. (You can achieve the same effect with a roasting tin of boiling water placed on the bottom of the oven just before you put the loaf in – but the spray bottle is easier.) About five minutes before you want to put the loaf in the oven, put a baking tray in the oven to heat up. Take the hot baking sheet from the oven, dust it with flour, and carefully transfer the risen dough to it by tipping it out of the proving basket/bowl, upside down, on to the sheet. Slash the top of the loaf a few times with a very sharp, serrated knife (or even a razor blade). Put the loaf into the hot oven and give a few squirts from the spray bottle over and around it. After 15 minutes, reduce the heat to 200C/gas 6, give the oven another spray, and bake for a further 25-30 minutes, or until the well-browned loaf vibrates and sounds hollow when you tap its base. Leave to cool completely, on a rack, before you plunge in with the bread knife…
46 replies
Replied on

I don't know if I'm doing so etching wrong but my Starter keeps separating, it smells right but is it meant to separate? It got bubbles and went thru the different smells, it currently smells like a yeasty, sweet fermented smell.
I tried to make a loaf, I think it was too wet because it flattened out and barely rose, however it tasted great! Lol
I've just made a new sponge that's already looking better than my last so will see but I'd love to know if everyone else's separates and if it's normal or if it's because of a specific reason.
Thanks

Replied on

i have a fan oven - my first attempt at this recipe burnt because i forgot recipes are normally cooked at lower temperatures in fan ovens. can anyone suggest the right temp. for fan ovens. i was thinking 230 to start then down to 180. any suggestions please??

Replied on

Made Sourdough once before but used a different recipe. That one went off and I had to throw it away. Now I have made this one and so far so good!

Replied on

I use a breadmaker to make the dough. I use the normal dough cycle and just leave it in the machine after it has finished. When the dough has risen I tip it out onto a warm baking tray and bake in the oven. The whole process takes about 8 to 12hrs depending on the temperature of your kitchen!
I do find if the starter is too strong or I use too much, it can hinder the rise (something to do with the acid I think)

Replied on

I have baking sourdough almost daily for 3 weeks, its become a bit of an obsession, but i am getting perfect results now. I am using this recipe, except using 100 g wholemeal rye + 200g strong white flour in the sponge. The One big change which works everytime is to bake loaf in a cast iron casserole dish (large oval Le Cruset), with the Lid on for the first 25 minutes at 250 C, then remove lid for final 25 minutes at 200C. No need to steam. The casserole is heated in the oven 15 minutes before the dough is carefully put in- be carefull its hot, especially when handling lid, oven gloves a must. This 'Dutch Oven' method results in great oven spring and a crisp golden crust. Well worth a try

Replied on

Great recipe which takes the mystique out of sourdough baking, and more to the point works really well. I used Marks and spencer strong white bread flour with about 15% wholemeal rye four in both starter and dough. My starter activated in hours, and turned sweet and beery after just four days- I think the small amount of whole meal rye may have helped here.. I used a pre heated pizza stone, and steamed the oven with a tray of boiling water, which I removed after 15 minutes. Result was a perfect crisp loaf. Thanks Hugh

Replied on

This is basically the same recipe as in the River Cottage Bread book, minus the instructions to knock back at hourly intervals two or three times after the first rising. I've been making sourdough for many years and have tried many, many recipes. This one is the only recipe that's resulted in what I consider to be the perfect loaf. As far as water is concerned, I've never used anything but tap water. My current starter is nearly four years old. I keep it in the fridge and feed it once a week, always using the same proportions (by volume) of flour and water.

Replied on

I tried this in the weekend. I used the same recipe but adjusted the amount of water. One loaf was moist and ended up flat after not holding shape after the proving basket, the other loaf had less water and held a lovely shape out of the basket. The structure inside was different too, the moister loaf had larger air pockets while the drier mix was firmer. Any ideas on what is going on? Ta.

Replied on

Well, I've worked out why I was getting overly-hydrated dough and rather flat loaves from this recipe. The ingredient list on the left says 250g flour for each loaf but the directions say add 300g per loaf!

Does nobody proof read articles here?!? Tut tut. ;)

Ah well, next time I try this recipe, I'll be sure to add enough flour...

Replied on

Made 2 loaves and 3rd one is rising now. Taste has been great but the breads a bit heavy. I'm using wholemeal in starter and white flour in bread, my ovens new so still not sure about temperature. Any suggestions?

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