It’s a bold statement to guarantee you’ll succeed with something, however based on my own experience I am confident you will. I first started dabbling with no-knead breads a couple of years ago, and whilst it felt like fumbling in the dark my results have been – to my slight surprise – good from day 1. So I think, if you follow the steps accordingly, you will too. So if you fancy homemade sourdough bread next weekend – start this now!
Making your own sourdough starter
It is not hard. It takes some patience and diligence, remembering to feed it daily. But it is a far more easygoing pet than most (no fouling or needing to go outside, for example).
- Grab a suitable container – I would suggest an old cleaned out glass jar with a lid. I have never succeeded using plastic so would advise against this (sorry, tupperware).
- Start your sourdough culture.
Mix 100 ml wholemeal flour, 100 ml plain flour, 1 tbsp salt and 200 ml water in a clean glass container. Stir very well, then cover and leave on the kitchen counter .
- Days 2-4:
Add 50 ml wholemeal flour, 50 ml plain flour and 100 ml water to the starter. Stir well and cover again.
- On day 4 you should be seeing bubbles in your starter, and you can move on to step 5. If not, discard and start over.
- Days 5-8:
Morning and night, discard around half the dough and add 100 ml flour and 50 ml water. The timings don’t have to be exact – in my case I did it around 7am in the morning before going to work and again between 6pm and 9pm depending on my schedule that day.
Morning, 7 am: discard half the dough. Add 100 ml flour and 50 ml water. Stir well and cover.
Night, 7.30pm: discard half the dough, add 200 ml flour and 50 ml water. Stir well and cover.Repeat until dough doubles in size in 12 hours. I used a mix of plain and wholemeal spelt flour throughout and found the resulting starter to be flexible and accepting of various proportions plain/wholemeal, and perfect for the bread I give you the recipe to here.Keeping your starter alive:
I keep mine in a glass jar in the fridge and make I refresh it once a week. Most weeks I will bake something; removing half or so and adding equal parts flour and water to the remains. If you don’t bake, simply discard half and add flour and water in equal parts.
- No-Knead Sourdough Bread
Makes 1 loaf
No-knead bread is super simple to make as long as you take your time. Start this bread the day or the night before you want to eat it. For Saturday morning that means starting Friday evening – you need between 12 and 18 hours for the first rise, depending on the temperature of your kitchen (In my 20 C kitchen I left it for approximately 14 hours).Recipe:
Stir 60ml starter into 360 ml water. Whisk until it dissolves.In a glass or pyrex bowl:
115g wholemeal flour
340g plain flour
1tsp saltStir together and pour wet into dry. Mix together with a spatula or stiff fingers (form a beak with your fingers) until a wet dough forms. Cover and let rest 12-18hrs on the counter.The next morning (or whenever you are baking!) flour your worktop and scoop the dough out. Flour your hands and pat the dough flat into a rectangular shape. Fold into three – like a letter – then the resulting rectangle into two so you end up with a ball-like shape. You may want to repeat this another time if your dough is very loose – it should keep its shape somewhat. If it doesn’t don’t worry – you might end up with a slightly flatter bread, but equally delicious!
Prepare a cloth or a basket with a thick layer of coating – e.g. wheat bran or wholemeal flour. I used a wooden fruit bowl that I covered with a thin layer of oil to make the flour stick. Cover it very well – your dough will want to stick, don’t let it. Transfer your dough ball into basket or cloth; cover with a cloth and leave to rise for 1 hr. After 1 hr, turn the oven to 260 C and put your cast iron pot inside. I used an enamel pot similar to Le Creuset – use whatever cast iron you have on hand that has a lid. Leave to heat up for 30 minutes – you want your pot as hot as possible to get you that great crust!
After 30 minutes, remove your pot carefully and sprinkle generously with wheat germ or flour on the inside (I didn’t the first time – the bread was NOT coming out….). Gently place your dough into the pot, cover with the lid and bake for 30 minutes.
When timer beeps, turn the temperature down to 230 C and take the lid off for a final 15 minutes.
- Leave bread to cool for at least 1 hr before cutting into (this really is the hardest part!).Notes: If you are in a one-man household, like me, it’s good to know that the bread freezes very well. I slice mine up and freeze, defrosting and toasting only what I’ll eat on any given day.The bread will keep on the counter for 2 days, but the crust will soften slightly and go slightly chewy – as all sourdoughs do.Best enjoyed fresh with a thick layer of salted butter and perhaps some cheese. Great alongside soup – I have a great recipe coming soon.