There must be a more than a thousand ways to bake sourdough bread. But one element is always the same: you need time and patience to get the best results. Sourdough simply needs a little more time than the super strong commercial baker’s yeast or instant yeast to transform water and flour into a crusty, beautifully risen bread.
For this recipe, start with your bread 1½ days in advance. Then, after the first warm proving period, your dough can continue to prove and ripen overnight in the refrigerator. The result is a tastier and lighter bread. The morning of the day you bake, let the bread prove in a nice warm spot one last time and then it’s time for the oven!
I always bake my bread in a large cast iron pan. Because the bread is baked with the lid on for 20 minutes first, it stays nice and moist and can rise well without being held back by a crust. It’s always exciting to lift the lid from the pan after those 20 minutes. No day and no bread is the same and that makes baking so much fun!
For 1 loaf
Start 1½ days in advance
70 g active starter*
520 g bread flour or ordinary flour** + extra for dusting
± 340 ml of water
9 g of salt
You will also need
-bread basket or bowl with a thin tea towel
-large cast iron pan
-sharp blade or old-fashioned razorblades
Mix 70 g of active starter* with 20 g of flour and 10 ml of water and place in a warm spot covered for ± 1 hour. Mix the rest of the flour with the water in a large bowl. It should form a soft, slightly sticky dough. Add a little more water if the dough is too dry or a little more flour if the dough is still very liquid. Cover and leave to rest in a warm place for ± 1 hour. During this hour the processes in the dough start to get going and you will soon get a tastier and fluffier bread.
Knead the prepared starter with the salt into the dough and let it prove covered in a warm place for ± 5 hours.
After proving for 30 minutes, pull the dough up slightly and fold double.Turn the bowl a quarter turn after each fold and repeat until you have pulled the dough up and folded it four times. Cover again and after 30 minutes repeat the process of pulling up and folding double 4 times. Leave to prove for the last 3 hours.
Put the dough in the fridge to prove overnight.
The next morning, take the dough out of the refrigerator and shape your dough into a nice ball. Tip the dough onto a floured work surface. Make a square of your dough and fold the edge furthest away from you towards the center. Do the same with the other 4 sides. Pinch the seams together and form a ball.
Place the dough seam side down on the counter, fold both hands behind the dough and drag the dough across the counter to tighten the dough surface. The outside of the dough will form a thin tight skin. Turn the dough ball half a turn and repeat. Take a look at the video below to see how I shape my dough. Let the dough rest on some sprinkled flour for about 10 min. Meanwhile sprinkle the bread basket or your tea towel generously with flour.
Put your ball of dough upside down in the bread basket and leave to prove in a warm place for 1 ½ to 2 hours to rise.
Meanwhile, preheat your oven with the lid on to 230 °C.
Place a large piece of parchment paper on a cutting board. Turn your bread on it. Take the pan out of the oven and use the shelf to slide your bread into the pan with the parchment paper.
Make a few slashes in the dough with the razorblades to make the bread rise even better. Put the lid on the pan and bake the bread 20 minutes. Then take the lid off the pan and bake the bread for another 15-20 minutes. The bottom should sound hollow when you tap it. I like to use a core thermometer. If you do, the temperature should be 96- 97 °C in the middle of the bread.
Let the bread cool on a rack before cutting.
* If you use starter that has been resting in the fridge, you will have to feed it first and only use it when it is nice and bubbly again.
** I usually make my bread with 400 g bread flour and 100 g whole wheat flour. Bread flour or strong flour has a higher protein content. It will produce a better risen bread.