Sourdough Bread

Although the traditional bread-making method below can take a while, it’s definitely worth the wait because it produces, without a doubt, the best-tasting bread. The first step is to make a starter dough and feed it every day with flour and water. It’s very important to use natural spring water or distilled water because chlorinated water will not work so well.

Makes 2 x 500g (8½-INCH) loaves

500g (3 2⁄3cups) strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
200ml (1 cup) warm water
20g (3¼ tsp) salt
1 tbsp caster (superfine) sugar

For the Sourdough Starter
200g (1½ cups) strong white bread flour
200ml (1 cup) distilled water (or use tap water that has been allowed to
stand in a glass for 24 hours)

First make the sourdough starter. Place half the flour with half the water in a plastic
or glass container and stir with a wooden spoon until combined. seal the container
loosely with clingfilm (plastic wrap) or a clean towel to allow the dough to breathe
and set aside at room temperature. ‘Feed’ the starter every day for 5 days with
20ml (4 tsp) of the remaining water and 20g (2½ tbsp) of the remaining flour,
mixing a little with a wooden spoon. The result should be light and aerated because
the process traps natural airborne yeast particles in the flour-and-water mix,
creating a living yeast colony. The sourdough mixture is ready 24 hours after the
fifth and final feed, at which point you can continue with the bread recipe.
Put the flour into a bowl and add 300ml (1¼ cups) of your sourdough starter. Then
add the warm water, salt and sugar. Mix it all altogether, then turn the mixture onto
a lightly floured work surface and knead for 10–15 minutes, or until it starts to come
away from the surface. If you prefer, you can use a bread machine or an electric
mixer with a bread hook attachment to knead the bread.
once the dough is stretchy, put it into a bowl and leave it somewhere warm for
2 hours to rise.
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and push your knuckles into the dough
to knock out air from it. divide into 2 equal pieces.
dust 2 proving baskets or 500g (8½-inch) loaf tins with flour. roll each piece of
dough in flour to stop them from sticking. Put them into the baskets or tins, cover
with a clean tea (dish) towel and leave in a warm place, this time for 4–8 hours, to
rise again.
To bake the loaves without loaf tins, heat the oven to 240°C/475ºF/gas mark 9 and
heat a baking stone or a heavy metal baking sheet until very hot. Carefully turn
the risen dough onto the hot sheet or stone – be careful not to knock any air out of
them. Give each piece of dough a cut along the top, then place in the oven with a
small ovenproof container of hot water to create steam and allow an even crust to
form. If you are baking the loaves in tins, simply place them in the oven. Bake for
30 minutes until golden.
Remove the bread from the oven, dust with flour and allow the loaves to cool down
on a wire rack before serving. These loaves will keep fresh for 2–3 days