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MY GO TO RECIPE & SCHEDULE
This is the recipe & schedule I have started my sourdough journey with, the one that has always been my reference point.
For more detailed instructions & explanation of every step, plus a long list of troubleshooting questions, you may want to check my Sourdough bread guidebook. Otherwise, just scroll further 🙂
Some considerations before I share the recipe & schedule
🌾It is crucial to use an active starter. An inactive or acidic starter is the main cause of unsuccessful bakes, something we often ignore. My Sourdough starter guide does not only cover how to make a starter from scratch, but also important information about your starter maintenance. Otherwise, you can read this article, about my sourdough starter maintenance.
🌾This schedule works best for an ambient temperature of 24-25°C / 75-77°F, so please keep this in mind. If your kitchen is much cooler, you will have to extend the bulk fermentation time. This is my winter baking schedule, you might want to check this one too.
🌾The quantities stated are for a final dough before baking of ~950g dough before baking and around 820g once baked
🌾This recipe calls for cold proofing also known as overnight in the fridge. Should you want to go for ambient proofing, the starter should be fed the night before, and the dough prepared first thing in the morning to allow same day baking. Replace the overnight cold proofing with a 2.5h ambient proofing. More on this in my Sourdough bread guide
🌾This recipe is using bread flour. Should you use all purpose flour, less water might be required. Should you add whole grain flour to the mix, more water might be required. Every flour absorbs water in a different way, that’s why adjustment is important. Otherwise you can easily end up with a dough that’s too wet and impossible to handle, or a dough that’s too stiff, and again difficult to handle
🌾Use % to scale up or down should you want to prepare a smaller or bigger loaf, in brackets below next to the weights of ingredients
INGREDIENTS 100g starter (20%) 500g bread flour (Strong White in UK, Tipo 1 in Italy, T65 in France, Euro 650 in Europe) 350g water (70%) 10g salt (2%)
THE PROCESS STEP BY STEP
9am: take the starter out of the fridge and refresh it
Keep 15g and discard the rest.
Mix it with 60g water and 60g flour. Leave on the counter until it reaches its peak. This will give you enough to make your dough with (100g) and carryover to the next feed (35g).
[TIP] If you haven’t used your starter in a while (> a week), give it an additional feed the night before before going to bed.
5pm: start making the dough
Take 100g starter and mix with 330g water (you save some for later*).
Stir well (by hand or using a whisk) until it dissolves. At this point the rest of the starter can go in the fridge until next time you make bread.
Add 500g strong white flour (or bread flour) and mix until there is no dry flour and no visible lumps. Around 5-6min by hand. This marks the beginning of your bulk fermentation.
[TIP] *It is important to refrain from using the entire quantity of water stated in the recipe at the first step. This is because different flours have different absorption rates. While you can add more water if needed at the next step, together with the salt, you cannot really take it out.
6pm: add 10g salt + the rest of 20g water (which you save at the beginning)
Sprinkle the 10g of salt on the surface and the water you have saved (if required). With your wet fingers push the salt in the dough, and then mix it by squeezing it through your fingers. It will separate before coming back together. Give the dough a light knead of 4-5 min. Video
If you choose to use a stand mixer, make sure you mix on low speed for the first 2-3min, followed by another 2-3min on 2nd/3rd speed. You don’t want to overmix it.
Once this is done, cover the bowl, and leave on the counter for another hour.
7pm: first stretch & fold
You will perform 4 sets of stretch & folds, at 30 min intervals each
This a technique used during bulk fermentation to strengthen the dough, help with the development of the gluten network, equalising dough temperature and trapping little air into the dough. It also gives you the opportunity to check on the progress of the dough regularly
To do the fold, grab one side of the dough and pull it up by stretching it gently and then over itself. Repeat on the other three sides. This will be one set
Fold the dough 4 times in total = 4 sets at 30min intervals.
30 min after the last set, the dough should now be ready, feel lighter and airy. It will have risen (some 60-80%, it won’t double) and feel like a pillow.
If after the 4th fold the dough hasn’t moved much, give it another fold and wait another half an hour. This can happen especially in winter, when ambient temperature is lower. You may have to give a second extra fold (and even a third) or just leave it some more time to rest before pre-shaping. Especially in winter, the bulk fermentation should be longer (an extra 60-90min) to ensure the dough develops properly.
[TIP] at an ambient temperature of 20°C/68°F the bulk fermentation can be as long as 6, even 7h. If that’s the case, you can do the folds 45min apart instead of 30min, and you can also add one-two extra folds.
As a folding technique, instead of stretch & folds, you can also try the coil folds. These are just different techniques to strengthen the dough and help with the gluten development. You may want to check this video or this one for my folding technique.
[TIP] Folds are important as they equalise the dough temperature (so that it ferments in a uniform way) and they help build strength and give internal structure to your dough. They also help you check on the dough from time to time. You can fold the dough later in the bulk fermentation as well, this won’t degas your dough (as some might say), as long as you are gentle with your dough. Choose a stretch & fold at the beginning of bulk fermentation, first 1-2 folds, move to coil folds later in bulk, if you can.
9pm (or later if you give it some extra time): pre-shaping time
It marks the end of bulk fermentation
Remove the dough from the bowl and shape it gently into a ball
First, bring all the sides of the dough in the middle, then flip it over, pulling it towards you. Repeat until you have a relatively tight ball
Dust it with a bit of flour, cover it with the kitchen towel and let rest for 30 min
The time between pre-shaping and final shaping is also called bench rest. This gives the chance for the dough to relax, so that you don’t tear it when giving the final shape.
Check this video for my pre shaping technique.
9.30pm (or later if you have given extra foldings during bulk fermentation): final shape
Flour your banneton generously
Flip over the dough and repeat the above if you want to give it a round shape. Should you want to give it an oval shape, this video should be useful.
Once shaped, place it in the banneton (or a bowl or even a sieve lined with a towel if you don’t have a banneton). You can now place it in the fridge for the final proofing. Do not cover it in plastic, use a towel instead to avoid condensation and a dough that’s too wet, hard to score and which can also overproof.
9am (or later, roughly 12h after dough has been placed in the fridge): preheat the oven at 250°C / 480° F
If you use an oven stone or a dutch oven, please ensure these are placed in the oven during the pre-heat. Preheat for at least 30 min to ensure the dutch oven or stone reaches the desired temperature.
9:30am score THE DOUGH and put it in the oven
Remove the dough from the fridge, flip it over on a parchment paper (which will help you transfer the dough to the oven/dutch oven) and score it. This video will show you how to best score your dough. It’s time to bake now.
Using a dutch oven:
Bake for 20 min at 250°C / 480°F with the lid on. After 20 min remove the lid and bake for another 25-30 min at 200°C / 390 °F
Using a baking stone (or just a regular oven tray)
Bake for 20 min at 230°C / 445°F, with steam. Release steam, bake for another 25-30 min at 200°C / 390°F, top – bottom setting. Avoid fan mode, as this might burn your loaf more than you would like
Unlike the iron cast pan or a dutch oven that holds in the steam released by the dough, when using a baking stone/steel (or even a tray) you need to create the steam using some tricks:
- pour boiling water in a hot tray at the bottom of the oven, the wider the tray the better. place it in the oven during 5-10min before putting it the dough, you want the environment to be ‘moist’ already
- finely spray the dough with water just after placing it in the oven
- add ice cubes on the baking stone /baking tray, next to the dough. Making sure the ice cubes are not getting into contact with the dough, you might want to place them under a parchment paper
BEST TO WAIT FOR 1-2H BEFORE SLICING IT, TO LET IT COOL DOWN ENTIRELY
check these pages for some of the most frequently asked questions
Sign up for one of my virtual classes or if you’re on London or around, you can also join me in person, in my kitchen.