Welcome to day 6 of the #7days7breads challenge. How easy was that pumpernickel bread and the rolls looked fantastic. Today we are finally tapping into our sourdough starter and making our first ever sourdough bread together. Remember, I will be there every day to guide you through the recipes, share my tips and hints and at the end you can share your results on social media using #7days7breads to win amazing prizes. I am also on Facebook every day live to show you how to master each recipe and technique at home with hardly any effort. All recipes are designed to be easy to follow and at the end you can enjoy a freshly baked loaf at home.
Sourdough bread making is a longer process than the usual bread you have made with me during the last 5 days of the challenge and it requires a little more patience. But I will tell you what, the results are totally worth it. This loaf is called a no-knead bread because we are not really kneading the ingredients but rather folding it and activating the gluten by proving it for a long time. There are some great techniques to learn today and once you master the art of sourdough making at home you will probably never want to go back. Timing is everything during today’s challenge and I have written down for you what you have to do roughly at what point in the day so that you can ensure to catch on with the right tasks and not miss out.
What you will learn:
- How to use rye starter to make a bread
- How to make a no knead bread with delayed salt method
- How to make a pre-ferment (for next day)
- How to maintain a starter
Day 6: No-Knead Sourdough
No-knead bread is slightly different to any other sourdough bread and is actually quite easy to make at home because it requires minimal kneading and shaping effort. You can easily make this bread if you are very busy because for most of the time it will rest in the fridge and you can get on with your daily tasks. All we need to do is prepare our dough the day before and leave it in the fridge to do its thing. The next day we will shape it before breakfast and then again we can leave it to rest in the fridge until the afternoon. It’s the ideal loaf to fit around a busy work schedule.
To bake our bread we are gong to use the dutch oven method. This is the most common technique to baking a bread. I use a cast iron pot that I bought quite cheaply online. You don’t need to go for a branded item as long as it is nice and big enough to bake your bread. I would avoid a cast iron pot with enamel on the outside because over time it will wear off and look ugly. I have a round one and an oval one at home. Place the cast iron pot (or dutch oven) in the oven and preheat it until you reach a high temperature of around 250C / 230 Fan / Gas Mark 9. Remove the cast iron pot from the oven, tip the bread carefully seam side down into the pot, placing the lid on top immediately and putting in back in the oven. Now you need to use a spray bottle to spray the sides of the oven heavily to create a lot of steam. Do that for 30 seconds, then promptly close the door and leave closed for at least 10-15 minutes. Continue as per your recipe. The dutch oven basically creates nice steam inside the pot and therefore your bread cooks evenly and develops a gorgeous crust. This method is particularly suitable for ‘no knead’ breads.
Top Tips for better results
- Make sure you add the salt to the dough one hour after making the dough in order to get some activity going first. Salt is quite bad for wilds yeast or yeast in general so by not exposing the wild yeast in your starter to the salt for an hour it will give the sourdough some time to start developing and fermenting which will make your bread more robust. After the hour you can add in the salt and place the dough in the fridge. We call that the delayed salt method in baking.
- You can add any toppings you like to this no-knead bread in the morning when you take it out for optimum results. I have had some great successes with raisins, currants, nuts, cheese and dried tomatoes or olives and they have all added so much flavour to the dough it is amazing.
- When you prove bread dough in the fridge, make sure to cover it with a shower cap to a void skin from building. It is important that no skin builds during the proving process and I have achieved best results by using my oh-so famous shower caps on top of the mixing bowl. You could also get away with cling film but make sure it is really sealed quite nicely so that it cannot build skin because that shows in the dough and finally in the bread the next day.
An extra task in the evening
As we are making our last loaf tomorrow we are attempting quite a traditional technique and that is making a pre-ferment. For most sourdough breads I bake at home I will always start with a pre-ferment apart from the no-knead bread today which is different entirely. For the rye loaf we are making tomorrow we need to start building a really nice and active batch of dough that is full of bubbles and ready in the morning so that we can make our final dough and leave it to rise all day.
A pre-ferment is nothing more than using the sourdough starter and a portion of the water and flour of the recipe and mixing that to make a thick, almost porridge like consistency that is then stored at room temperature overnight covered with a shower cap in a mixing bowl to create love fermentation. Other people might call it bulk fermentation step. Basically it just means that we are using our sourdough starter to extend the amount of wild yeast we have available to a much bigger chunk of dough rather than just that small amount of starter we are using.
To do that, simply follow this recipe below for Day 7 ( You will find the entire recipe in Day 7 as well).
- 75g sourdough starter
- 140g cold water
- 100g rye flour
Place the sourdough starter cold water and rye flour in the mixing bowl and combine 10 Sec. / Speed 4. Pour the mixture into a small bowl and scrape out every last bit from the mixing bowl with a spatula. Cover with cling film and leave overnight. We will revisit it in the morning on Day 7.
How to maintain your Sourdough Starter from now on
Now that we have made everything we wanted using our sourdough starter it will leave the question what to do next. Actually maintaining a starter is much easier than raising a starter from scratch but the technique is almost the same. Now you have the choice to decide what you want to do. If you feel like you are going to make a loaf every 2 days simply leave your sourdough starter at room temperature as we have done for the last 5 days and feed it every morning before you are ready to make your pre-ferment. Remember to feed it the exact quantities you are going to discard in order not to end up with huge amounts of starter.
If you want to be a little more flexible, simply give you starter one feed after we have made this pre-ferment of 50g rye flour and 50g water as we have done in the past 5 days and place it in the fridge with the lid ajar. Take it out 24 hours before you want to start with your sourdough making process and give it a feed of the exact quantities you are going to need for the recipe in the morning so that it is ready in the evening. Really simple.
If you feel like you are going to be on holiday for longer than a week or you just want a break, simply freeze some of it and feed the rest a little more flour than water to make a thicker consistency and keep in the fridge for up to 2-3 weeks without ever feeding. Sourdough starter is very forgiving and can survive a lot so don’t worry when you take it back out and it has developed a very acidic strong smell, it’s fine. Also don’t be alarmed if you see dark liquid on top, simply stir it in and it is fine to be used. Even white mould is fine for starter, simply scrape it off generously and there you go.
You can really not do much wrong with starter and tomorrow I will explain to you how to prepare a starter for the next use so that you know exactly what to do when you are ready for your next bake.
- 500g strong white bread flour
- 150g sourdough starter
- 320g cold water
- 1 level Tbsp fine sea salt
Day 1 Morning:
- Place the strong white bread flour, sourdough starter and water in the mixing bowl. Combine 20 Sec. / Speed 6. Transfer the mixture into a large bowl and cover with a shower cap or cling film. Leave to rest for 1 hour. This is called the delayed salt method because you add the salt later on to give the dough a chance to start the fermentation process first.
- After 1 hour, add the salt and fold in with your hands. Cover with a shower cap or cling film and refrigerate overnight.
Day 2 Morning:
- Uncover dough and do your first fold. To do so, pull one side of the dough up and stretch it over to the other side. Repeat with the other three corners so that you have folded it over four times in total.
- Leave to rest for 30 minutes, then repeat the folding method again.
- Uncover the dough and place onto a floured surface. Gently push it down slightly and do a pre-shape. This is done by folding over the corners of the dough into the centre until you end up with a rough ball. Flip it upside down and cover with a tea towel. Leave to rest for 10 minutes.
- Now you need to flour a round bread proving basket or a bowl with flour generously and uncover the dough. We are now doing the final shaping into a ball. Do this by folding in all the edges towards the centre again until you have an even more shaped ball and then you roll it between the palms of your hand and the table until you can see that the surface has built up enough tension and underneath you have a very small seam. Place it seam side up into the bread proving basket and dust with more flour. Cover with a shower cap and leave to rise in the fridge all day until it has doubled in size. This may take even until the evening but may be faster, depending on the temperature of the fridge.
Day 2 Afternoon / Evening:
- 30 minutes before you are ready to bake, remove the bread dough from the fridge.
- Preheat the oven fitted with a large, round cast iron pot to 250C / 230C Fan / Gas Mark 9. Once hot, carefully remove the cast iron pot and open up the lid. Tip the proved dough onto a baker’s peel seam side down dusted with polenta and score it with a bread knife a few times. Carefully slide it into the pot, close the lid and transfer back to the oven. Spray the oven chamber with water and immediately close the door. Bake for 30 minutes, then remove the lid and bake for a further 10-15 minutes until dark brown and the bread sounds hollow when tapped. Remove and leave to cool on a wire cooling rack.