Sourdough September has arrived.
For the third year running, the Real Bread Campaign has kicked off its month-long celebration of the most fashionable bread of the moment, and the oldest way of raising a loaf, the humble sourdough.
Over the next thirty days, baking schools, mills and food festivals around the UK will be rising to the bread fest challenge with sourdough classes, tastings and talks.
“Real Bread: The Uprising” at SOAS University in London on September 12, is the flagship event. Talks will range from the keynote from the Real Bread Campaigns’ co-founder Andrew Whitley to the link between baking and good mental health, and how to start a bakery.
Or why not celebrate from the comfort of your own kitchen with this excellent basic sourdough loaf recipe from Trine Hahnemann? While this uses mostly wheat flour, you can channel your inner Paul Hollywood and experiment by adding spelt or einkorn flours to create your own signature loaf.
Ready, set, bake!
Makes: 1 loaf
You will need
For day 1:
150ml lukewarm water 100ml wholemeal biga (see below)
100g stoneground rye flour 100g strong white flour Coarse polenta, to dust
For day 2:
150ml lukewarm water 350g strong white flour, plus more to dust 10g salt
For day 1:
1.Mix the water and biga in a bowl, then mix in both flours until you have a smooth, very runny dough. Cover tightly with cling film and leave overnight on the kitchen table.
For day 2:
1. Put the biga mixture in a big bowl, add the lukewarm water and mix well. Now add the flour and salt and mix well again. Tip the dough out on to a lightly floured work surface and knead it. The dough will be sticky, so it is a good idea to use a dough scraper to help, or to knead it in a food mixer fitted with a dough hook (let it run for 10 minutes). Place the dough in a big bowl, cover tightly with cling film and leave to rise at room temperature for six hours, or until doubled in size.
2. Tip the dough out on to a lightly floured work surface, knead lightly and fold into a round bread. Leave in a well-floured 21cm proving basket (or similar-sized colander or bowl lined with a well-floured tea towel), in a warm place, until doubled in size; this should take one or two hours.
3. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 240°C/475°F/gas mark 9, or to the hottest it will go. Place a baking stone or a sturdy, heavy-based baking sheet lined with baking parchment inside the oven. Take a flat baking sheet dusted with the coarse polenta and tip the loaf out on to it, so the basket pattern is visible on top of the bread. With a razor blade or a sharp knife, slash the top of the bread.
4. Spray cold water into the oven to create steam. Place the bread on the baking stone or lined baking sheet, using the flat baking sheet and a jerking motion. Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 200°C/400°F/gas mark 6 and bake for 20-25 minutes. Leave to cool on a wire rack.
You will need
150g strong white flour, plus more to feed 100g strong wholemeal flour, plus more to feed 300ml water, plus more to feed
1. Measure the flours into a large mixing bowl. Gradually pour in the water, mixing until it is the consistency of pancake batter. Every day, discard 80 per cent of the biga, add about as much water and both of the flours to make up the difference (no need to be exact) and mix well. Do this ‘feeding’ for five to 10 days until the biga comes to life: you will notice small bubbles or a sour smell. Ideally you should feed it every day, as above. If you forget, just discard and refill as though there had been no gap.
(Quadrille, £25), photography: Columbus Leth
1. Dough scraper
Whether you want to cleanly divide dough or scrape up leftovers, this stainless steel non-slip tool is a bread maker’s best friend. It’s great for portioning cookie dough and pastry too.
Dough scraper, £5.47, Lakeland
2. Cane proving basket
Yes, there are ways around buying a proving basket, but, if you’re a keen bread maker, they are really worth it. The ridges become imprinted in the dough as it rises, giving your bread that artisan look. You could use it to serve your bread or rolls in too.
Round Cane Proving Basket, small, £19.50, Divertimenti
3. KitchenAid (complete with dough hook)
Of course you could knead your dough with your bare hands, but you could also let the dough hook do all of the hard work. The aluminium design with a non-stick nylon coating makes it easy to work with (and easy to clean too).
KitchenAid 6L Artisan Bowl-Lift stand mixer, £699, John Lewis
4. Baking stone
This handmade natural soapstone is non-stick and can be used to bake brilliant bread with a good crust. This is great for making homemade pizzas too, and it also doubles as a serving plate or cheese board.
Sparq soapstone rectangular stone, £49.50, Borough Kitchen