I break this recipe down across 3 days so it’s not as overwhelming, so start 2 days before you would like to bake, and you will have fresh bread on the third day. If at any stage you feel confused, make sure to check the YouTube episode for extra info, it’s always easier to get the gist if you can watch something happening rather than just read about it!
Makes 1 x 2kg
Sourdough starter (you will need to have one of these on the go, or find someone who bakes sourdough and they will happily share)
150g + 1000g organic unbleached wheat flour
150g + 750g filtered water
25g Himalayan salt, finely ground
Arrowroot or white rice flour for dusting
25-30cm Cast iron casserole pan with lid (I use Le Creuset) – this must be ovenproof
Razor blades for scoring bread
Linen cloth approximately 40cm x 40cm
20cm Bread basket or colander
Take your sourdough starter (also known as the mother) from the fridge and bring to room temperature. Discard at least half of the starter and then feed with 50g filtered room temperature water and 50g flour. Use the same flour to feed your starter that you will be using in your actual loaf. Leave for 3-4 hours and then discard half the starter and feed again with 100g water and 100g flour to leave on the bench, covered over night. This makes the biga that you will use in your bread tomorrow.
Check your biga is ready by doing the float test. If it passes, you’re good to go. If this makes no sense to you, time for some YouTube! Mix your loaf in a large bowl, weighing everything in grams, including the water.
Pour 750g of room temperature filtered water into the bowl. Add 200g biga. Stir gently to break up the biga into the water. Add 25 g salt and stir again. Add 1000g unbleached organic wheat flour.
Stir with a rubber spatula, making sure all the liquid has been incorporated and there are no pockets of dry flour. Leave for 30 minutes, covered on the bench at room temperature.
After 30 minutes, use the spatula to fold the bread by sliding the spatula down between the dough and the bowl and gently pulling the dough up over the top of itself. Turn the bowl by a quarter and repeat until all four quarters have been folded over the top of the dough in the bowl. Leave for 30 minutes, covered on the bench at room temperature.
Repeat the folding every 30 minutes another 5 times across the next 2 1/2 hours, then cover the dough and leave to rise for 3-4 hours, until it has increased by at least 1/3 in volume.
When the dough has risen, you are ready to wrap it to prove further in the fridge over night. I use a starchy flour, like white rice flour or arrowroot, for this process because it doesn’t stick and it doesn’t get absorbed into the dough making it dry.
Prepare a floured linen cloth, approximately 40cm x 40 cm, and have your bread basket, or colander, like I use, ready to go. Very gently turn the dough out onto a floured board and fold each side in over itself almost like an envelope (this would be a good time to check out the YouTube episode if you haven’t already!). Flip the loaf so the seam is down and leave for 10-20 minutes to seal the seam.
To get the loaf into the cloth lined basket or colander, use a dough slide to lift and flip the dough so it lands with the seam facing upwards in the basket. Wrap the cloth snugly but not tightly around the loaf, tucking it in down the sides of the dough so there are no parts of the loaf exposed to the air.
Place the wrapped loaf in the basket into the fridge overnight.
Take the loaf from the fridge and leave in the basket to come to room temperature while you heat your oven and cast iron pan. Turn your oven right up. Mine only goes to 220C but you want your oven as hot as possible. Place the empty Le Creuset casserole, with its lid on, inside the oven. You may need to adjust the shelves in your oven to give yourself enough room, remembering you’ll need to remove the very hot lid throughout the cooking stage. I have plenty of baker’s scars to prove this is worth getting right!
Once your oven is up to at least 200C, prepare the loaf for cooking by having a square of baking paper approximately 25cm x25cm ready, as well as your razor blade for making the cuts on top of your bread.
Bring the hot Le Creuset casserole out of the oven and have it standing by. This next part has to happen reasonably quickly, so make sure you have everything at hand rather than scrambling at the last minute (of course I’ve done this too).
Unwrap the top of the linen cloth and place the baking paper over the dough. With one hand holding the paper against the loaf, use your other hand to flip the loaf out onto the board and remove the cloth. Quickly score the top of the bread with the razor blade.
Remove the hot lid of the Le Creuset, and pick the loaf up by using opposing corners of the baking paper to lower it down into the hot pan. This can get ouchy if you’re not concentrating, so don’t attempt to Instagram in this moment!
Place the lid back on the pan and put into the oven to cook for 50 minutes. Set a timer so you don’t forget it and go out to water the garden and find the runner ducklings have hatched and although that’s a lovely thing, your 3 days of efforts in the bread baking stakes have turned to charcoal. Just saying.
After 50 minutes remove the lid from the Le Creuset and bake for a further 10-15 minutes depending on how burnished you like the crust. I always go for 15.
Once cooked, remove the pan from the oven and turn out onto a cooling rack. It’s best not to cut it until it has completely cooled, otherwise you’ll squash slices rather than cut them. But I’ve done that too.
Enjoy your bread. It will be the most amazing bread you’ve ever eaten. It’s the taste of serious self satisfaction. Be prepared to become one of those sourdough obsessed people who leave parties early because they have to get home to feed their mother.