Making bread is a wonderful way to enjoy a slower pace, but this recipe is flexible and can be made to fit into your life. The video shows me going through the baking of a loaf start to finish. Below is my recipe for both the starter and the bread.
To make your starter all you need is water and flour and time. Nature does the rest.
Mix 100g water and 100g flour - cover lightly and leave at room temperature. Pour out half daily and feed again until the mixture is sweet smelling and maybe a bit boozy smelling and very bubbly.
Mine took 10 days to get strong enough to make a successful loaf and I keep it in a jar on the shelf in my kitchen. You can keep it in the fridge once you have it growing well, but don't refrigerate it until it is strong enough for baking with.
You can also add things to help the starter start faster - I have heard of apples, grapes, potatoes and I used a bit of whole wheat flour.
When it is ready to bake with, the starter floats easily on water.
Once it is established, you can feed the starter 3 or 4 times a week 6-8 hours before you bake or once or twice a week if you slow it down in the fridge.
If you keep your starter in the fridge between baking days, the day before you bake, take it out, feed it and leave it on the counter overnight.
These instructions make a loaf with about 80% hydration. You can adjust the size of the recipe to fit your needs by keeping the ratios of the ingredients the same while you vary the amounts.
Using the amount of flour as 100%, compare all the other ingredients to get your ratios.
Flour = 100%
Water = 80%
Salt = 2.5%
Starter = 30%
(since the starter is equal parts flour and water, it doesn’t affect the overall ratio by much)
To resize the loaf, pick the amount of flour you prefer and then multiply that weight by the percentages to get the new recipe - these are called Bakers Ratios.
Feed the starter 6-8 hours before you are going to start the loaf. You want maximum activation to bake with.
I use two mixing bowls - one for dry measuring and one for the wet.
Mix 250g whole wheat flour, 250g hard wheat white flour and 12 g salt in a bowl.
In another bowl, weigh out 400g water and add 150 g of your starter. Stir to distribute the starter through the water.
Dump the flour into the starter and water and mix until all the flour has been taken into the dough. It will be sort of a rough and shaggy dough.
Leave covered for 30-45 minutes.
For the next 2-3 hours, do a fold and turn every 15-30 minutes by wetting your hands, picking up an edge of the dough, stretch it and fold it to the center of the bowl, then do a quarter turn and repeat 4 times. The dough will be stiffer with each turn. Leave the ball smooth side up and cover until you are ready to pull it again.
Now you are ready for the long ferment or long proof.
It helps to place the dough in a straight sided clear container so you can mark where you start and see when the dough has doubled.
Cover and leave to rise on the counter for 6-8 hours until at least double in bulk.
On a lightly floured surface, pull the dough lightly into a rectangle using a bench scraper as necessary. Don't flour the top surface of the dough. Fold the dough over itself from left to right, right to left, bottom to top and top to bottom (a bit like an envelope) and then turn it over so the seam is on the bottom. Using the sides of your hands roll the ball gently on its bottom to create tension across the top surface of the ball and then coat with seeds or lightly flour.
Place the dough ball in a benetton with the top down - making sure to flour it well to prevent sticking. Alternatively, lay a tea towel on the table and apply flour to it, then line a bowl with it and use this as your form for the loaf - I use the bowl I had used for measuring the flour as my form. Cover loosely to proof a second time.
At this point, I like to use the fridge for the second proof. It can sit in the fridge 6-12 hours. Or, for quicker results, leave on the counter 60-90 minutes. The benefit of using the fridge to proof the loaf is you end up with a finer crumb - less huge bubbles in the final loaf. Also, a cooled loaf is a bit easier to handle than one that has sat entirely on the counter.
I use a cast-iron dutch oven to bake with.
If you don't have a cast iron pot, you can use another type of casserole dish or even ceramic flower pots or regular baking tins. You will want to check that your chosen baking pan is safe at higher temperatures. Some will have a maximum baking temp of 450 degrees. If this is true, reduce the oven temperature and increase the time.
The main key is you want to be able to cover your loaf for the first half of the baking time.
If you are not using a pan that is good with high temperatures, you can skip the preheat of the pan itself - again this will mean you need to use a slightly longer baking time.
Before baking, preheat your oven at 500 degrees with a cast iron Dutch oven inside for 30-60 minutes. You want to make sure the oven is fully up to temperature before you bake.
Cut a piece of parchment big enough to line the baker. Cover the bowl containing your loaf with the parchment and quickly turn it out onto the counter. Use a sharp blade to cut the top of the loaf - a razor blade works well if you have one.
Now carefully lift the hot baker from the oven and remove the lid. Using the parchment paper to lift it, place the loaf into the pot and spray with a bit of water. Replace the lid and bake 18-25 minutes. Remove the lid and continue baking another 18-25 minutes.
Cool at least 2 hours before slicing.
This bread freezes well. I keep mine in a breadbox on the counter so help retain the crust. A paper bag would also work for this.