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Baking Sourdough Bread

This is Part 3 of our Sourdough Challenge, in which Christopher walks you through his step-by-step process of making a loaf following his recipe for Sourdough Bread. Check out other parts of this series on sourdough: Part 1: Making your own Sourdough Starter and Part 2: Sourdough Bread Recipe.

Here are stage by stage photos of making and baking Sourdough bread.

The making went well thanks to the warm sunny day on Sunday. (Unlike the starter, which should be kept at ambient temp, the bread dough should be kept at a comfortable kitchen warmth, like 28-30C for happy fermentation and rising during proving). The first stage of making the 'sponge' with the starter and 400g of flour gave a thicker 'sponge' than I planned, but I simply added a litle of the remaining water and made it like thick porridge. It worked well. I left it 4 hours.

The full flour and water quantities were then added, mixed and kneaded into a lovely aromatic dough that I had proving in two special proving baskets (see photos). After 12 hrs proving, the dough had doubled and was tipped onto the baking sheets. They were slashed on top to control the direction of the expansion of the loaf in the hot oven. The degree of expansion is clear in the width of the unfloured expansion of the cuts (called 'bursts' in the bakery game). This loaf has almost doubled in size again in the oven!! The shape and colour of baked bread excites me. The smell intoxicates. Such transformation. What simple pleasures I have!

The snowy appearance of the top of the loaves indicates how much flour I scatter in the baskets to ensure the proving dough cannot stick when I tip it out after the 12 hrs activity. Any sticking could deflate the loaf, and you would have to reshape and prove again

I couldn't resist a fresh sourdough and marmalade breakfast.

I am looking forward to hearing how you got on and seeing some photos as well as descriptions of your experience.

Now the starter gets some feeding and I plan another batch after next weekend.

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1.Christopher's sourdough starter 10 minutes after measuring the 300ml for the recipe into this bowl. Still bubbling away.

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2. Starter mixed with the first 400g flour to make a 'sponge', left to get going for 4 hrs.

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3. Full 1 kg flour added, kneaded then divided into two equal pieces dough, kneaded again and shaped before placing into WELL floured proving baskets to prove for next 12 hours. Note that after kneading and shaping, the seam of the shaped loaf is uppermost in the basket. This becomes the bottom of the loaf when it goes into the oven. If you are proving in a loaf tin, place the seam at the bottom as you won't be tipping it out to bake. This stage is helped if you can leave to prove in a warm kitchen or, as I did, in a sunny, warm conservatory for the first 4 hours of the 12 it was left to prove.

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5. After 12 hours proving this loaf is ready to be tipped out onto a baking sheet and baked. This is the dough I stretched to fit the lenght of the basket.

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6. The loaves baked and now just warm. Note the slashes made to allow a controlled expansion in the oven. One feature of sourdoughs is the visible crisp and crunchy crust you see here. The coating of flour is from the basket.Yes, that's how much you need to stop the dough sticking during the long proving! I rather like it, but it brushes off easily by hand or with a vegetable brush.

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7. And now to breakfast…...Note that the I added neither salt nor sugar to my dough. There is no need to add salt to your bread dough, despite its inclusion in many recipes in books. The quality of the loaf will not be affected. Salt in bread is a major contribution to unnecessary dietary salt intake so leaving it out is doing yourself a favour.

Christopher Robbins

If you have any questions about your sourdough, feel free to ask us here, or on Twitter or Facebook. For more magic with sourdough, have a look at our post about bread baking with Tom Herbert.

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