Late last year Maya and I moved from our little studio apartment in Surry Hills and landed smack bang in the middle of a sourdough desert. There were no good bakeries around our temporary abode so we set out on a quest to bake all of our bread ourselves using flours we like and keeping things 100% sourdough. We had planned to share some recipes last year when at the time, we thought we had a grasp on baking but like any home baker will know - we discovered we knew far littler than we thought. Now almost a year later, we are slightly more comfortable with sharing our recipes and process. These loaves work for us, our taste buds and have happily slotted their way into our weekly routine. We are not bakers and we aren’t pretending to be an authority on this by any means, these recipes are here for both ourselves and for anyone curious. Hope they work for you, don’t hate us if they don’t and enjoy!
A country style sourdough loaf is the staple for any home baker. It is hard not to enjoy both baking and eating them. Even when they are at their worst, they are still rarely that bad but a great one can be transcendal. These loaves are all about subtleties and it’s taken the good end of a year to finally start making a loaf that I am proud of. The biggest test to know if you are happy with your bread is to offer to bake a loaf for some friends. For a long time, I was struggling and I spent many hours following Mauricios glorious blog and reading through Kirsten (@fullproofbaking) instagram and find out what I was doing wrong. I matched my temperatures to theirs and spent my day off synchronising my schedule to their timelines but I still rarely had luck. The loaf I dreamt of making not only had to taste great and have a nice soft crumb, good structure and spring but also had to fit into my standard week. I did not want to spend my day off waiting around the house for dough to proof only to shape it bad and have to wait until the following week for redemption.
One thing I realised quickly is that recipes are by no means universal - you can use them as a guideline but you really need to find one that works for you. Now that we are familiar with this recipe, we treat it extremely casually and make it in the background at the studio. Because we work for ourselves, we have the luxury of doing this at our workplace but if you were low key enough, Im sure you could wrangle this recipe out in your cubicle.
There is plenty of bread knowledge out there regarding the preparation for your starter and shaping etc. so I am not going to stumble through giving bad faux-scientific explanations, instead I am just going to tell you what we do. I spent a long time getting disappointed that my loaves never looked as good as those crumb shots that pop up on my instagram and then one day I just stopped aiming for those and instead asked myself what kind of loaf I actually want to eat. Good flour and taste was more important that striving for an aesthetic.
Hydration - For a long time I kept on trying to keep my hydration above 80% because that’s what good bakers seemed to be doing. Shaping was always a struggle and my loaves just didn’t have the height I desired. Recently I turned my baking ego down and also tuned my hydration a bit lower as well and in doing so found my magic percent - 75%. It was as though all my bread ailments were cured instantly. My dough had strength. My baked bread kept its height and structure. The crumb was still soft and glossy. Everything I feared to loose remained even if the number is much less impressive. Don’t fall in to the trap of being scared to take steps back in order to move forward again.
Our starter is strong and we had not heard of anyone else being so lax when it came time to getting their starter ready for a loaf, but we have pushed it to it’s most convenient. We take our starter out of the fridge the morning we start our dough and feed it up 1:2:2 with 36 degree water. Thats 25g Starter : 50g whole wheat flour : 50g filter water. I know this is uncommon but it really works great for us. When it is ready, we add 100g to our dough and put 25g back in the fridge so we can begin this process again the following week.
The bannetons we use are ____ and we purchased them from ____ with a pre-fitted linen liner. These liners are great but are not necessary. For years we used a square of Irish linen which would also double up as a cover in the fridge. This recipe is designed to fit into these bannetons.
We use these ugly plastic tupperware contains to the dough because they are a great size for mixing the dough, light enough to travel and the lid seals.
It may be because we have been doing this consistently for almost a year. It may work for you, it may not.
325g Organic unbleached heritage wheat by Wholemeal Milling. Protein Content 13%
75g Organic unbleached Wholewheat by Demeter Mill
295g Filtered Water
9g Celtic Sea Salt
105g Starter @ 100%
Here is a run sheet of what the day will be looking like, I have explained each step in detail below.
9:00am - Build Levain
11:00am - Autolyze
1:00pm - Add Levain
1:30pm - Add Salt
2:00pm - Stretch and Fold
2:30pm - Laminate
3:00pm - Stretch and Fold no.1
3:30pm - Stretch and Fold no.2
4:00pm - Stretch and Fold no.3
4:30pm - Begin Bulk Ferment ( S+4 no.4 if needed )
8:00pm - Shape
8:15pm - Bench Proof
8:45pm - Cold Proof Overnight
5:15 am - Warm Oven
6:00 am - Bake - 235, Lid on.
6:20 am - Bake - 220, Lid off.
6:40 am - Finish Baking.
9am - Build levain. In a clean glass container, take 25g starter and add 50g Wholewheat flour and 50g Filtered water. Mix with a fork until all the flour and water is together. Clean up any messy sides with a wet finger and make a mark on the exterior of the glass with a marker or use a rubber band. We are aiming to add this starter to the dough towards the peak of it’s rise, so the the next step is maluable. The goal is to synchronize the autolyze with the starter, so as with everything - ambient temperatures are dependant.
11am - Autolyze. Mix all of your flour and water together. We will take a long autolyze in order to build up the doughs gluten substancially. I have found this extended autolyze to be one of the crucial parts of this recipe. I use a fork to combine everything and it normally takes around 2-3 minutes to ensure all the flour and water is fully mixed and there are no flour pockets. Flour pockets are bad. At this stage, the dough will break apart when you pull at it but by the end of the autolyze, it will be nice and elastic.
1pm - Add Levain. Scoop out 105g of the levain and spread on top of your dough. Place the remaining 25g of your starter into a jar and close the lid. Place in the fridge until your next bake - this is a nice little trick. Once the levain is ontop of the dough, wet your hands and starting slowly working it all the way through the dough. The dough will go through a state where it begins to break apart before it will come back together and feel homogonese. I pick the dough up and use my thumbs to turn the dough upon itself and occasionally stretch and fold it and then continue working it. It should take around 2-3 minutes. Place back in container with the lid on.
1:30pm - Add Salt.
1:30pm - Stretch and shape. Lightly wet down your bench and then take the dough out of your container and place it on top. Stretch the dough out and fold it in half. Turn 90 degrees and repeat until you have folded it on all four sides. Flip the dough over and shape it into a boule by spinning and tucking the dough simultanously. This not crucial by any means but if you are unsure what I mean - youtube some boule shaping videos. Maybe it is just fun to practice your shaping in a stress free environment for a minute.
2:00pm - Laminate. I had not heard of anyone using this technique with bread until I started watching Full Proof’s tuturial videos and I have found it works wonders so it is a permanent fixture in my process now. Wet down your bench again and with wet hands - flip your dough out of its container and onto the bench. Gently stretch out your dough into a large rectangle. This will give you a good idea of how well you are building up the gluten within the dough. When the dough is under stretched out and even - probably covering your entire workspace begin to fold the dough into thirds. Once it is folded, turn it 90 degrees and fold it into thirds again. Use this little break to clean your container up (or take a new container) and place it back into the container with its lid on.
2:30pm - Stretch and Fold no.1 - With wet hands, pick your dough up by the middle and let it stretch down and touch the container - gently fold the dough on top of itself. Turn the container 180 degrees and repeat. Now turn it 90 degrees and begin the process again. Once this is done on all four sides, put the lid back on. This is the first of 3.
3:00pm - Stretch and Fold no.2
3:30pm - Stretch and Fold no.3
4:00pm - Final S+F - Begin Bulk Ferment. Time for bulk ferment. Get ready for the care free hours of bread making. We normally use this time to pack the studio up and drive home, make some dinner and enjoy the evening letting the dough ferment in its own time.
8:00pm Shaping Time. We are aiming to catch the dough when it is almost but not quite doubled. It should have completely relaxed and filled out the container leaving some domed edges against the side of the container. There also will probably be a lot of bubbles which is a sign of a good fermentation. Now comes the stressful part (at least for me). This shaping method is simple and works quite effectively, of course I do not feel like the genius shapers I watch on Instagram for the 10 minutes building up to shaping time but it works.
Before we start, flour up that banneton or couche, get your scraper out and a nice little pot of flour incase things go awry. Lightly flour the top of your dough and the bench, now turn your container upside down and let the dough slowly fall out onto the floured bench. If shaping scares you, be liberal with the flour until you fee comfortable. With floured hands or you bench scraper stretch out the right side and fold it just over half way. Pat down gently to push out any air bubbles and wipe away any excess flour. Now take the left side, stretch it out and fold it all the way over to the far edge and gently pat down. Wipe away any excess flour. Now you will be left with a long rectangle, we are going to start at the top, stretch it out and then begin rolling it up as tightly as possible using our thumbs to continue to tuck in to the dough. If the dough sticks to your hands, just flour them up again and get back to it. When all is said and done, you should have a nice plump little batarde in front of you. I then use my scraper to push the dough backwards to create a taught skin. Now we are going to close the ends by stretching the dough over the folds and sealing it with a good push. Sprinkle flour over the dough
Using the scraper, flip the dough into your hands and place gently place into it’s banneton. I use a fitted linen liner that came with the banneton, but before that I was using a couche made of Irish linen for years. Sprinkle with flour, place a shower cap over it.
8:15pm - Bench Proof - Let the dough rest in it’s banneton for half an hour before placing it in the fridge.
8:45pm - Overnight Cold Proof. Move the banneton into the fridge and let it slowly continue to proof over night, set that alarm for the magic hour and watch an episode of Narcos or two - you will probably regret doing that because you have to wake up early and wont be able to go surfing in the morning because the oven needs to be on and you have bread to bake, but don’t worry. It’s worth it. Isn’t it? I set my station up for the morning so I can zombie my way through these motions. Place your Dutch Ovens in the oven, oven mits, lame (regular razor), a piece of baking paper the size of your banneton and peel (regular cutting board) on the bench. Not clunking around is key to avoid waking up your lovely partner.
5:15am - Heat up Oven. Make sure the Dutch Oven has it’s lid on and is inside the oven, now crank it. Our oven works best with it’s broiler and fan on simultaneously and the heat on maximum. We also have a little thermometer inside because our ovens thermostat is off. We are aiming for around 235 degrees Celcius. Once that oven is on, creep back to bed and set an alarm for 45 minutes.
6:00am - Bake. If you are still reading this I assume you have made it to bake time. Congratulations and good morning! First, check the thermometer to make sure that oven is hot enough - if it isn’t be patient because you will end up with heartbreaking undercooked flatbread. This is all going to happen pretty fast so read before its action time. When the oven is ready, take the dough from the fridge and remove its cover. Place your pre-cut baking paper on its base, the cutting board (peel) on top of that and flip over on to the bench so the banneton is on top. Now gently lift the banneton and remove the couche, if for some reason it is sticking then just be gentle and persuasive. Take your razor (lame) and slice a slightly angle slash 3/4 of inch deep along the top almost center line of the loaf.
Using your gloves, take the hot dutch oven out of the oven, close the oven door and place on the stove or another surface that can handle the heat. It will be super hot so be careful. Remove the lid and place next to it. Take off your gloves, pick up the cutting board (peel) and slide the dough into the dutch oven. If it lands on one of the walls, you can nudge it when you move the dutch oven back to the oven. Now put your gloves back on, put the lid back on the dutch oven and place it back inside the oven. We will bake it for 20 minutes with the lid on and the oven with the broiler on. Go make yourself a coffee and prepare yourself for the reveal.
6:20am - Remove Lid from Dutch Oven. This is the kiln opening equivalent to the bread world. With a glove on, open that oven door and quickly remove the lid from the dutch oven. Get a glimpse of your master work - hopefully it is well risen and your faith in following an internet recipe is rewarded. Close that oven door and place the lid somewhere you will not burn yourself on it. With our oven, we turn off the broiler because it tends to caramlize the top of the loaf too much, but you will have to find out what works for you. We want the temperature to be around 220 for the rest of the bake. Bake for another 20 minutes and go enjoy your coffee.
6:40am - Remove from Oven. You have probably looked through the oven door several times now to see how good your loaf is browning, your girlfriend is probably awake by now too so you can show off the labour of the previous day. Anyway, back to it. Gloves back on, open that door and pull out the dutch oven. Pick up the loaf and remove it from the oven - if the base of the loaf sounds hollow and the crust is nicely coloured, it’s ready so place it on a cooling rack. If it isn’t place it back in for another 5. Let is rest for as long as you can wait and then enjoy. Hopefully this recipe works for you like it does for me and I have single handidly restored your faith in following internet recipes, if it doesn’t I suggest you head to Mauricio’s wonderful blog and follow someone who actually does know what they are doing. 7