And then there was bread!
13 days after first mixing together some four and water, I’ve cultivated active yeasts, kept my starter alive and finally produced a loaf. After the sponge had its overnight fermentation, I was pretty hopeful about getting some bread as the sponge was frothy, thick and bubbly, so the starter was alive and kicking. The final step before baking is to then make the dough by adding to the sponge mix, 300g of your chosen bread flour, 10g fine sea salt and an optional tablespoon of rapeseed or olive oil. Next step, knead until smooth and silky which fortunately I left to my very capable dough hook and Kitchen Aid that did the job in about 10mins. I then placed the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, covered with oiled cling film and left it to prove in a cool spot overnight. It’s important to know that sourdough isn’t going to rise quickly, or as high, as a regular loaf, but you should see it double in size given the right amount of time.
Finally it was bake day. I knocked back the dough and placed it into a floured, cane, proving basket and popped it into the airing cupboard for its second proving. Hugh suggests up to 3 hours in a warm place and this did seem enough time for my little loaf. The oven has to be super hot, 230°C / Gas Mark 8 at least, and it’s a good idea to pop the baking tray in for 5mins before baking. Dust the baking sheet with flour and then turn out the dough. Have a spray bottle full of water handy so that you can pop the loaf in and then spray the water over and round the loaf in the oven, this will help you to get a good crust. After 15mins I turned the temperature down to 200°C / Gas Mark 6, and cooked the loaf for another 25mins, until I had a hollow sounding base. Done at last. Don’t dive straight in, give the loaf about 20-30mins to cool and then go for it. I had my first few slices toasted and smothered in scrambled eggs, and they were a real treat. Tangy and nutty with a great crust, success!
As for Tallulah, I’m going to keep her of course. Once your starter is active you can continue to feed it everyday in the same way if you intend to make a loaf every day or so, but if you are baking less frequently, then simply add enough flour (no water) to form a stiff dough, then the starter won’t need feeding for 4 days or so. You’ll just need to add more water when you come to make a sponge again. If you won’t be baking for a while you can also freeze your starter, it will reactivate when thawed and fed. Clever little things aren’t they.