Classic Sourdough Bread Leavened with Rye or Wheat Starter
The recipe calls for exact amounts to end up with a large loaf of bread. You can scale it up or down as required. You will find baker’s percentages there – this is a method widely used to calculate amounts of ingredients and is based on the total weight of flour in the recipe. If you know the percentage, you can easily scale every recipe as each ingredient is relative to the flour (which is always 100%).
There are numerous bread recipes available online and you may prefer one over another. We have achieved the best results using the recipe below. Keep in mind there are multiple factors affecting the process, like temperature, environment, manual skills and techniques, and of course the activity of your starter. Treat this recipe as a general guide only and feel free to experiment.
Timing also can be easily adjusted to fit your daily schedule - you can achieve similar results if you have a standard 9 to 5 job, or if you work from home and can be more flexible.
STEP 1: @ 10.00pm – PREPARE LEAVEN (8 hours)
This is a mixture of the starter, baker’s flour and water at 1:2:2 ratio. It will end up in the final dough mix and will be baked with other ingredients. Mix everything thoroughly (you may use a little bowl or a clean jar) and put aside for at least 8 hours. After this time, it should be active, bubbly and quite sour in taste.
We often prepare it the night before, so that it's ready to use in the morning. Our recommended leaven mix is as follows:
40g starter (50%)
80g flour (100%)
80g water (100%) @ room temperature
In the recipe, we will use 180-200g of the levain, or up to 25% of the total dough mix by weight.
STEP 2: @ 7.00am – DOUGH MIX / AUTOLYSE (1 hour)
It is important to let all the flour hydrate completely before mixing with the leaven. Mix flour and water only in a large bowl and set aside for at least 1 hr. The dough should be somewhat lumpy yet well-mixed (no dry spots of flour).Our recommended dough mix for the bread is as follows:
- 800g wheat baker's flour (100%)
- 560g – 600g water (70-75% hydration) *
* this depends on your specific type flour, keep experimenting around these values what feels best
STEP 3: @ 8.00am – MIX EVERYTHING (30 min)
Add the leaven, salt and grains (optional) to the dough mix. It should be easy to incorporate every ingredient and the mix should not be too sticky. You can use a robot like KitchenAid, Thermomix, or other, to knead the dough.
Do not add any extra flour or water (you may just wet your hands a bit so the douigh doesn't stick). The exact amounts are as follows:
18g salt (2.25%)
160g – 200g leaven from step 1 (20-25%)
dough mix from step 2
STEP 4: @ 8.30am – STRETCH ’N’ FOLD x3
After you mix the dough, perform the stretch ‘n’ fold technique every 30min for 2 hours or until you feel the dough is elastic and does not tear when you stretch it.
This step is probably the most important part of the whole process as it helps to develop a strong gluten structure.
Stretch the dough up high so that you can fold it over completely. Now grab the other end of the dough and repeat the process for all 4 sides: north, south, east and west). Keep the bowl covered in between every run to limit drying.
STEP 5: @ 8.30am – BULK FERMENTATION (6 hours)
This step has started as you performed the first run of the stretch and fold. After 3-4 runs, let the dough sit for a few hours, until it doubles its volume.
Keep it covered with a linen cloth or a foil.
After around 6 hours the dough should have risen by up to 50%, and you may even see some bubbles on the surface. We usually let our dough ferment for about 4-6 hours, depending on the surrounding temperature.
STEP 6: @ 2.30pm – SHAPE / BENCH REST
The bulk fermentation is now over. Dust the benchtop and your hands with some flour and dump out the dough. You may use a dough scraper to get the dough out of the bowl.
Stretch it gently in each direction - it should now be lying flat on the work surface, in a rectangular shape.
Fold it like an envelope - left and right side towards the centre, then the bottom side goes over them completely. Then grab the top side and fold it over the bottom side tightly. The dough should all be tightly sealed and havwe formed a round loaf, called a boule.
Next, slide the boule a few times on the bench towards your body, turning a bit each time until you make a full circle. It should be perfectly round and sealed. Sprinkle lightly with some extra flour and let it rest on the bench for 30 min, uncovered. This step will solidify the shape by strengthening the gluten structure.
STEP 7: @ 3.00pm – REST & PROOF (2-4 hours or overnight)
Once shaping and resting are completed, place the dough in a generously floured banneton for proofing.
Bench knife/dough scraper is very useful here - use it to transfer the dough (top side down). Do not score the dough just yet, this will be done directly prior to baking.
Proofing in room temperature can take just 2-4 hours, and then the dough is ready for baking. However, we know that the most complex flavours can only be achieved if we allow overnight proofing in cold temperatures (in the fridge).
For cold proofing, place the banneton with the proofing dough in a plastic bag and put them in the fridge to proof overnight. This will slow down the yeast, but the lactic acid bacteria (Lactobacillus) will still be active and ferment the dough. This process will allow your loaf to develop more complex flavour and an airy crumb.
Additionally, cold proofing ensures the dough is more stable once you take it out of the basket in the morning. You can proof the dough in low temperatures for up to 24-48 hours.
STEP 8: @ 7.00pm or next morning – BAKING (1 hour)
Pre-heat the oven to 250 C (or the highest temperature your oven can go to). Take the dough out of the fridge and follow the steps below:
- If you use a Dutch oven (a pot usually made of seasoned cast iron with a tight-fitting lid) place it in the oven to pre-heat for at least 30-45 minutes.
- Put some parchment paper on top of the banneton, and cut it in a round shape.
- Put a wooden board on top, and then quickly – but gently – flip over the whole thing, so that the dough is now on the paper & on the board.
- You can now score the dough in a few places (don’t hesitate to cut deep). This allows the dough to expand during baking without tearing.
- Then quickly transfer the scored dough into the pre-heated Dutch oven (gently slide it off the board direcntly into the Dutch oven, and close the lid).
- Put the lid on and bake for 20-25min. Do not open the lid during this time!
- Reduce the temperature to 220 C, remove the lid and bake for another 20-25min or until the bread has developed a nice brown colour of caramelised sugars.
Scoring the bread allows for its expansion during baking. Do this immediately prior to baking. A curved razor blade goes a long way (you can order one here, it’s called a ‘bread lame’) but even scissors will do. Don’t be afraid to cut deep, the bread will expand greatly within minutes! (it’s called an ‘oven spring’).
For best results, use a rattan made bread proofing basket (banneton). If you don't have one yet, you may also use a cake tin and then bake directly in it. Simply shape your dough so that it fits in the tin.
After proofing, there are no extra steps required, just score the dough in a few places and put it in the oven. Bake for around 20min at 250 C, then reduce the temperature to 220 C and bake for another 25min or until the bread has developed a brown colour.
We recommend leaving some water a small tray or a heat-proof cup in the oven. This will help to keep the moisture circulating in the oven during baking. You may even just pour some water directly onto the bottom tray. This extra moisture will help to create a beautiful crust on your bread.
With the Dutch oven this is not required, as all moisture is contained inside the pot and comes from the dough itself.