Because let's face it: it's carb season
This is precious stuff: the sourdough starter, or ‘mother’ that her grandfather began the year he opened Elliot’s Edinburgh. He kept it going for decades, regularly feeding it flour and water, and after he died, Susan took it on. It makes the most amazing bread: dense and moist and crisp-crusted.
You've all still got your lockdown starters, right? I hope so, because this bread is a BRILLIANT use for them! I make it almost every week, and it's worth the effort. This is the very loaf I had in mind when I was writing about Susan's sourdough in All Stirred Up.
A couple of cooking notes:
I use a 100% hydration rye starter (equal weights flour and water). If your starter is wetter or drier, adjust the water in the recipe accordingly.
Depending on how warm or cool your kitchen is, you may need to add or subtract rising time. Just keep an eye on the dough and use your best judgement.
This makes either two small or one HUGE loaf. Feel free to cut the recipe in half (I make the massive loaf, which perfectly fits my big dutch oven, but we're extremely dedicated bread eaters in my family, so you may not need quite so much!)
100g white bread or all purpose flour
24g whole wheat flour
12g rye flour
640g white bread or all purpose flour
85g whole wheat flour
45g rye flour
435g warm water
All the levain
About 12-15 hours before you want to start mixing up your bread dough, combine all the ingredients for the levain. Cover and leave until it gets nice and bubbly.
Once your levain is ready, add it, your flours, and most of the water (keep back around 50g) to the bowl of a stand mixer. You can also mix this by hand, but the mixer will make your life a lot easier.
Mix by hand or with the dough hook just until everything is moistened and has come together in a rather shaggy dough. If it's too dry, add a little of the reserved water. This dough tends to be fairly forgiving, so don't stress if you have a little bit of extra flour or water in there!
Cover the bowl and let stand for 30-60 minutes, so the flour can begin soaking up the water (the autolyse phase).
Uncover the dough, sprinkle on the salt and add remaining water. Mix for around 5 minutes with the dough hook, until it comes together smoothly, comes away from the sides of the bowl, and is beginning to get nice and elastic.
Put the dough in a clean bowl and let it rise for the next 4 hours. Every 30 minutes for the first 3 hours of the rise, perform a stretch and fold by grabbing the dough at north, east, south, and west, stretching it out and folding it over onto itself. This helps develop the gluten. After your three hours of stretch and folds, leave the dough for the final (fourth) hour. It should have risen by about 75%. If it hasn't, let it go a bit longer. If your kitchen is rather chilly, it might help to put the bowl in the oven with just the oven light turned on (that's what I do and it really seems to help!)
Turn the dough onto a floured surface and flatten it down, dimpling a bit with your fingers, to spread out the air bubbles. Gather it into a loose ball and let sit for about 30 minutes.
Lightly flatten out again. If you're making multiple loaves, divide your dough. Shape your loaves however you like and put in proofing baskets or containers. I usually put mine in seam-side down, so the seam becomes the crack at the top of the loaf, but if you prefer to do a decorative slash on your loaf, put it in seam side up.
At this point, you can refrigerate your dough for up to 24 hours if you want a really sour flavour (or you just don't have time to bake that day).
If you refrigerate your dough, let it come up to room temperature before baking. This will take anywhere from 30-90 minutes, depending on the temp of your kitchen.
If you're not refrigerating your dough, let it rise for about 3 hours (again, depending on how warm your kitchen is).
An hour before you want to bake, preheat your oven as high as it'll go. If you're going to be baking in a covered pot (which I highly recommend), put that in as well, to heat up.
Once everything's ready to go, place your bread on a baking sheet or in your covered pot. Slash if necessary. Put the lid back on the pot, if you're using it, and slide it back into the oven. Reduce the temperature to 450 degrees F/230 degrees C.
When I make a huge loaf, I bake it for 30 minutes with the lid on, and then check the loaf. If I'm happy with the rise, I take the lid off for another 10-15 minutes, to get a good, brown crust on the loaf. If it doesn't look like it's risen quite as much as I'd like, I pop the lid back on for another 5-10 minutes before the browning. If you're making smaller loaves or baking without a pot, you may need to adjust the timing a little to ensure it doesn't burn.
Let your bread cool for at least an hour (I leave mine out overnight) before slicing.
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