The smell, feel and taste of freshly home-made bread is fairly unbeatable if you ask me – not that you did ask me, but I am sure you was going to so I pre-empted it. I have made standard white bread previously, using the iconic Delia Smith as a guide, with wonderful results. However, I had never made sourdough bread until recently; something that I had been longing to do as I think the tanginess and texture is just super.
After preparing my sourdough starter I decided to make this sourdough continental loaf. As my sourdough starter was only young at the time – about 2 weeks old – I didn’t think it was ripe enough to produce a well-risen loaf, so used a leaven (rising agent that causes fermentation) of both sourdough starter and yeast. Also, by using the yeast the preparation is much quicker, albeit still a few hours, than the more traditional fully sourdough leavened bread.
The bread is fantastic fresh and warm from the oven. Slice the end crust off to reveal clouds of hot bready steam. Immediately cut a slice and smother with French butter, and devour.
Sourdough Continental LoafPrint
- ■ 600g strong White Flour | Strong flour contains more protein (gluten) than standard plain flour, making ideal for forming well-risen and formed loaves.
- ■ 150g sourdough starter | I use rye based sourdough starter. See below for the recipe link.
- ■ 360ml hand hot water | The water should still be able to be touched by the hand, without pain.
- ■ 3g dried yeast | If using fresh yeast, a general rule is to use double the amount than the stipulated dried yeast measure.
- ■ 12g sea salt | Crush the salt if it consists of flakes. I love the flavour of sea salt.
Start by adding 250ml of the hand hot water to the sourdough starter in a large mixing bowl. I used a ‘clean’ roasting tray the first time I made this as I doubled up on the ingredients, but either will do. Mix until combined and then leave to stand for a few minutes.
Next sprinkle 100g of the flour and all of the yeast over the sourdough starter mix and then whisk together. At this stage you should have a loose paste. Leave this to stand for an hour in a warm place, covered with a wet tea towel. The mixture should take on a sponge-like form, but if it’s not completely sponge-like don’t worry too much. I have had varying degrees of sponginess at this stage.
Now add the rest of the flour and water to the mix. Add a splash more water if the dough feels really dry, however the dough is initially dry at this stage. Knead the dough to a rough ball. The roughness is good here, as the miracle transformation will occur next. Leave to rest for an hour, again in a warm place covered with a wet tea towel.
The next stage amazed me when I first made this loaf. Lightly wet the surface of the dough – using wet hands is a good way. Then sprinkle the sea salt on the rough dough and start to knead it in. All of a sudden the rough dough ball turns in to a smooth and silky form. Keep kneading until you can no longer feel the salt crystals then leave to rest in a bowl, covered with a wet tea towel, in a warm place for an hour or two. The time depends on how warm the place you leave it in is.
If the dough is ready it should provide little resistance. That is, if you poke your finger in the mark should remain. Mould the dough in to a round and leave for up to another hour in the bowl covered with wet tea towel, in a warm place. Once the hour is up check for resistance; if there is any then leave the dough a little longer.
Now form the dough into a cylindrical loaf shape and place it on an oiled baking sheet (or in a loaf tin if you’re not too confident). On the baking sheet the dough will lose its shape – but that’s fine, just gently reshape it if required. Wet the dough with your hand and pattern the top of your bread as desired e.g. 3 diagonal slashes. Leave the dough covered for an hour to rise, again in a warm place. In the meantime pre-heat your oven to 180 deg C. I have a fairly decent oven, but always use an oven thermometer for accuracy.
Once the dough has risen, put the dough in the oven (remove the cover!) and reduce the oven temperature to 160 deg C. Bake for one hour. Just keep an eye on things. A recipe can only ever be a guideline; it is still really important to use judgement along the way, as I have learnt the hard way.
Take the loaf out of the oven, procure a slice whilst hot, smother in butter and conserve, and marvel at your ingenuity, skill and penchant for hot home-made sourdough bread.
■ This seems a laborious process at first but it gets easier and more instinctive the more you make the bread – planning ahead is crucial. ■ I make this because I love the ability to make wonderful bread at home. Treat every stage with care, attention and a degree of excitedness and you’re finished loaf will be revered and devoured by all around.