I’ve followed Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s approach to making and keeping sourdough starter. His bread recipe is good, too.
- 1 kg high-gluten (strong) bread flour. In the UK you can buy Canadian extra-strong bread flour, which is best.
- 750 ml warm water
- 200 ml sourdough starter
- 25 g (1 tbsp) salt
- Semolina flour for dusting banneton (optional)
You’ll also need two round bannetons (I like the ones with a linen lining) and what North Americans call a Dutch oven. That’s not a term I’d much heard before moving to Canada: I think British people call these ‘big cast-iron pots with lids’. Le Crueset jobs.
Mix water and starter, add the flour, mix by hand, and rest it for thirty minutes.
Add salt in 2 tbsp water and mix by hand. I’d add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil here, too.
Knead for ten minutes, and rest it for thirty.
Split it into two. Shape into two balls, repeatedly folding it in on itself in one place so its skin is being stretched and stretched.
Dust two bannetons with semolina flour (or ordinary flour).
Place one dough-ball in each in banneton, seam-up. Dust the top, cover with cling-film, and put in the fridge overnight.
Remove one or both from the fridge and warm to room temperature for half an hour.
Put the Dutch oven in the real oven and heat both to 230ºC/450°F.
Take the Dutch oven out, and quickly but carefully invert the banneton to drop the loaf into the Dutch oven. It’s tricky.
Quickly core the top of the loaf with a very sharp knife. (I use a surgical scalpel.) Replace the lid, put the Dutch oven back in the oven, reduce the temperature to 225ºC/425°F, and bake for thirty minutes.
Remove the lid and bake for another ten to fifteen minutes.
Remove the Dutch oven from the real oven. Tip out the loaf and cool it on a wire rack for a while before cutting it. (I often cool the loaf for a while, slice the whole thing, and then freeze the slices. With the benefit of a toaster, a microwave, or a little patience, I have fresh bread whenever I want it.)
Repeat from 7 above for the second loaf.