The first thing to say is that you should have fun with bread making, enjoy the process and don’t expect perfection at least at the beginning. There are many variables that influence the process and your rational and artistic minds need to work together to create the sourdough loaf. Happy baking.
First choice you should make is if to use a starter or levain. You should always have a starter at home, and the starter is needed to make the levain. The levain involves the extra step, of separating a bit of starter and giving it 'more food' so it is 'extra active' comparative to the starter. Using levain ensures that the rise is good, wait time is shorter and in general a more active fermentation. See following steps and choose your path.
For seven days, mix equal parts by weight of flour and water in a container (in cups it is around 1/2 cup and 1 cup of flour and around 1/4 to 1/2 cup of water; it does not have to be exact); so each day you mix for example 1/2 cup of flour and 1/4 cup of water cumulatively in the same container. By the seventh day your starter should be bubbling.
1. The Levain is optional but gives your dough a good fermentation push.
2. Prepare the starter as specified in Starter section.
3. The levain needs to be done between 5 to 10 hours before making the dough depending on temperature conditions and how active the starter is; if the starter is very active and you are in a warm place, you need less hours. The more active and the warmer, the less time you need.
4. Add 1/2 cup to 1 cup of starter in a separate container and add another 1/2 cup to 1 cup of flour and the same amount of water by weight (approximately 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup) and mix until smooth.
The dough needs to be done 5 to 10 hours before the actual bake depending on temperature conditions and how active the starter or levain is.
An extra step can be done before baking which is proofing. Proofing is slowing down the fermentation for a period time in the fridge, which adds more complex flavors and makes the bread more fluffy in my opinion, but we will leave this step out for simplicity.
1. Depending on the size of the dough you are making (300 grams of flour is a personal bread and 500 grams is a family loaf), we add X grams of flour and add 70% of the flour’s weight of water and add 3% of the flour’s weight of salt, or based on your taste. If you don’t have a scale, try using a bit less than half of the volume of flour in water. Experiment and see what works for you.
Note: The wetter you can go with the dough the better. Professional bakers, even do 90% of the weight of the flour of water, but more experience is needed since the dough is harder to work with, very sticky.
Mathematics’s class 😊
2. Mix the water and flour and salt until smooth and let sit for 20 minutes. This is the autolysis stage, when enzymes from the flour start activating themselves when in contact with the water and start unlocking the sugars from the flour's starch. Nature’s magic
3. After 20 min, mix in the starter or levain until smooth. This will require some kind of folding or mixing with hands. Then let rest for 20 mins.
4. If you have time, for the next 2 hours stretch and fold the dough for 5 to 10 minutes. You will see how the dough develops.
5. Let the dough ferment for another 5 hours at least, but you can leave it as long as 20 hours fermenting. I found that 8 hours after the stretching and folding is complete is the sweet spot.
6. When the dough has fermented and risen, pre-heat the oven to 200C and place a metal container inside the oven. A cast iron pot with cover is ideal or any metal pot with cover is ideal. I have even covered the container with aluminum foil. The cover is mainly to catch the moisture and make a nicer crust.
7. Sprinkle flour on a surface in your kitchen.
8. Place the risen dough on the sprinkled flour.
9. Stretch and fold 2 to 4 times.
10. Shape the dough and place it on a bread-shaping-basket to hold the shape until the oven is heated. A bowl can also be used.
11. When the oven is heated remove the metal pot from the oven and place the dough in the metal pot.
12. Cover the metal container and place in the oven and bake for 45 minutes.
13. Take the metal container out, uncover and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes or until the crust is golden.
14. Remove from the oven and from the metal container and let it cool down for 20 minutes.
15. Enjoy the deliciousness
Day 0 (7 days duration)
Create levain from starter (optional)
1. Mix in X grams flour and X * 0.7 grams water and X * 0.03 grams salt wait 20 min – autolysis
Note: 500 grams of flour makes a good family loaf.
2. Mix in levain or starter and wait for 20 min.
3. Stretch and fold every 30 min for 2 hours (optional).
1. Pre heat oven and shape bread, putting it in bread-shaping-basket.
2. Bake bread in covered metal pot for 45 minutes covered and another 15 uncovered.
3. Cool down on some kind of rack for 20 min.
4. Enjoy with your favorite toppings or by itself.
5. Cool down for 20 min.
6. Eat and enjoy!