I visited some friends a while ago who told me that near my work there is a bakery that makes bread with a sourdough starter that is 500 years old! That instantly sparked a desire in me for making my own again (I had tried in the past with very mediocre results) so I put together my starter and a week later tried making my first loaf. I have to say I wasn’t completely impressed as it was still raw inside and felt very disappointed about it. Tried again, and it baked a bit better. Third time lucky, I decided to add more water to the dough and turn the bread upside down to ensure that the bottom would be cooked through and bingo! I had the best loaf of bread I’d ever made.
I strongly advise you not to be discouraged, you just need to be patient and try different things before giving up completely. Every oven is different and you need to learn how to use it and tweak the baking times and techniques according to the recipe you are using. Unfortunately it is always going to happen that at first things don’t come out as you’d like them to be, but with a bit of perseverance and passion, you can make it work 🙂
This is my second best loaf, this I made with hazelnuts and walnuts and.. OMG, It was so good! (I will explain quickly again how to make your starter at the bottom of this recipe)
600g/21oz strong white bread flour
150g/5.3oz rye starter* (below how to make your own culture)
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1. ensure that your starter was refreshed the night before and is active and ready to be used
2. add the sugar to the starter and dissolve with the amount of water specified
3. add salt to the flour and mix to ensure it is evenly distributed
4. add the water/starter mix to the flour and incorporate in a bowl
5. transfer onto a floured surface and continue kneading until you have a smooth dough
6. place on a sheet of lightly oiled baking paper
7. cover with a damp tea towel and a dry one on top of the wet one
8. allow to rise for about 4 hours, then punch down and roll out with your hands
9. fold the edges four times ensuring that you press down well not to create big air pockets in the loaf
10. rise for another 4 to 5 hours until doubled in size
11. bake in a preheated oven at 180C for 45 minutes
12. then turn upside down and bake for an additional 40 minutes until the bottom sounds hollow
13. allow to cool completely (best if overnight) before slicing
NB: please note that these cooking times work for me, but you may have to adjust according to the type of oven you have, so keep an eye on your bread and check every half hour. both sides, top and bottom, should brown and have a good thick crust when they are ready. they will also sound hollow if tapped!
*To make your starter combine the following ingredients:
100g/3.5oz rye flour
1 tbsp sugar
Store in a large glass container and place it in your food cupboard for 48 hours.
Once this time has elapsed, refresh with 50g (1.7oz) rye flour and 50ml (1.7oz) of water and allow to rest for another 48 hours, after which you refresh again with the same quantities of the first feed and allow to rest for 24 hours. Then feed and allow to rest for 12 hours and feed again 12 hours later. Your starter should now be ready for use. Once used the first time, store it in the fridge and the night before you plan to use it, take it out and feed it again the 50g/1.7oz of water and flour.