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basic old dough sourdough

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Crusty sourdough loaf

Wild yeast doesn’t like my new kitchen. Either that or I have lost my sourdough mojo. Neither of those options pleases me much, in fact I’d be gutted if either proved true. The fact is, I’ve struggled to make a decent sourdough starter since the building works finished and I took back control of the kitchen.

I buy the same flour. The water comes from a different tap but the same pipes bring it to my home. The airing cupboard which used to double up as the proofing chamber is gone, but I have the central heating mainframe/manifold/weird machinery cupboard now which is constantly warm too. I even have the dough proofing oven drawer.

The first attempt which I nonchalantly fed for four days, thinking it would be a doddle like it used to, was a stillbirth. Not a single bubble. The second was given filtered water. It showed signs of life on day three and died on day four. The next attempt used a different brand of flour. The next was a rye sour. Nothing worked.

Then (Doh! or even: Dough!) I remembered the ‘old dough’ method which uses fermented sourdough instead of starter. I made a tortured pain de campagne with starter number five or six, more persuading myself that it was fermenting than believing it really did. I cut a chunk and made it join the jar collection in the fridge.

Old dough sourdough

It works. It needs a long cold proof and a long final rise but it makes a properly tasty loaf. Next step - sourdough raisin buns or even brioche! And kudos to Sourdough Baker whose detailed instructions were invaluable.

  • INGREDIENTS
  • 550g white bread flour
  • 50g wholemeal flour
  • 100g old dough starter
  • 300 – 350ml warm water plus some more for spraying the dough and the oven
  • 12g fine sea salt

METHOD

The main thing of course is to cut off a chunk of dough when making your next sourdough; it best be before adding salt but it works with salt too. Keep it in a plastic tub or a bag in the fridge, not sealed tightly so it can breathe, for about a week – it’s ready to be used when it’s got a significant amount of bubbles.

Old dough

You will need to start the process on the morning of day 1 to aim at baking at midday day 2.

Morning day 1:

Mix the old dough with the warm water; leave it for 10 minutes if the old dough was hard.

Add the wholemeal flour and half the white bread flour and mix into lumpy ferment. Leave it to rest in a warm place for an hour.

Add the remaining flour and start kneading manually or in a standing mixer with the dough hook attachment. When it comes together, leave it for another rest for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour.

Turn the dough onto a work surface; now it’s time to cut off a chunk of this dough for the next loaf! About 120g will leave you still with a decent-sized loaf.

Flatten the dough into a rectangle, spray it with water and sprinkle the salt all over. Dock it into the dough with your fingers and roll it into a long cylinder. Turn it 90 degrees seam side up; flatten it again docking it with your fingers and roll up in the other direction to form a shorter cylinder. Repeat this at least until all the salt has been incorporated and no little wet salt pockets open up when you flatten the dough. Place it in a plastic container or a bag and leave it in the fridge for 24 hours.

Morning day 2:

Take the dough in the container out of the fridge first thing and bring it to room temperature – it will take a couple of hours. When it’s reasonably warm, place it on the worktop and gently flatten for the last time; roll it up into a long sausage and leave it on the worktop, seam side down, to rest for 10 minutes.

Now pick it up in both hands, lengthwise, and stretch the surface by gently pulling the dough roll underneath with both hands; squeeze the base to seal up the seam. Place the loaf on a baking sheet lined with parchment and sprinkle it with flour. Place the tray in an inflated plastic bag (just blow into it and tie the ends) or cover with a bowl if you have one large enough. Let it prove for 2-3 hours, until an indentation remains in the dough when gently pressed with a finger. Make two or three slashes across the top with a sharp knife or a baker’s blade.

Proofing sourdough

In the meantime preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas 6. If you have a baking stone, put in in the oven to heat up. Place a small container with water on the bottom of the oven for moisture release (or use a spray bottle when the bread goes in).

If you’re baking on a stone, transfer the loaf onto it with the parchment; remove it halfway through the baking. Bake the bread for 1 hour, turning the heat down by 20C/70F every 15 minutes – so that you end up with the temperature of 140C/290F at the end of baking. Cool on a wire rack.

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