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First make your starter. In a large jar (a 1litre kilner jar is good) or plastic container, mix 100g of the flour with 125ml slightly warm water. Whisk the batter until smooth and lump free, whisking will help incorporate some airborne yeast particles to get your starter going. Leave the jar or container lid ajar for an hour or so in a warm place (around 25C is ideal), then seal and set aside for 24 hrs.
For the next 6 days you will need to ‘feed’ the starter each day. To do this, tip away half the original starter and add an extra 100g of flour and 125ml slightly warm water, whisking well each time, try to do this at roughly the same time everyday. After 3-4 days you should start to see bubbles appearing on the surface, and it will smell yeasty and a little acidic. This is a good indication that the starter is working. The time it takes for fermentation to begin can vary between 1 to 5 days depending on temperature and environment, persevere for up to 6 days, if you still don’t see any signs of life, or the starter smells unpleasant, throw it away and start again. On the 8th day the starter should be quite bubbly and smell much sweeter. It is now ready to bake with.
Now you can make your first loaf. Tip the flour, 225ml warm water, salt, honey and sourdough starter into a large bowl, or a table top mixer fitted with a dough hook. Stir with a wooden spoon, or on a slow setting in a machine, until combined, adding a little extra flour if it’s too sticky or a little extra warm water if it’s too dry. Tip onto a work surface and knead for about 10 mins until soft and elastic, if using a mixer, turn the speed up a little and mix for 5 mins. The dough is ready when it bounces back when gently pressed with a finger.
Place the dough in a large, well oiled bowl and cover with an oiled sheet of cling film. Leave in a warm place to rise for 3 hrs. You may not see much movement after this time, but don’t be disheartened, sourdough takes much longer to rise than a conventional yeasted bread.
Line a medium-sized bowl with a clean tea towel and flour it well, if you have a proving basket you can use this. Tip the dough back onto your work surface and knead briefly to knock out any air bubbles. Shape the dough into a smooth ball and dust it with flour. Place the dough, seam side up, in the bowl or proving basket, cover with a sheet of oiled cling film and leave for 6-8 hrs, until roughly doubled in size.
Place a large baking tray in the oven, set to 230C/210C fan/gas 8, to heat up. Fill a small roasting tin with a little water and place this in the bottom of the oven to create some steam. Remove the large tray from the oven, sprinkle with flour then carefully tip the risen dough onto the tray.You can slash the top a few times with a sharp knife if you like. Bake for 35-40 mins until golden brown and hollow sounding when tapped. Leave to cool on a wire rack for 20 mins before serving.
To make a sourdough loaf you’ll first have to create a fermented ‘starter’ to replace the usual processed yeast. Making sourdough for the first time is a lengthy process, but the resulting bread, with its chewy texture and deliciously tangy flavour, is well worth the wait. Once you have created the starter, store to allow the flavours to mature, and use every time you bake a loaf.
Storing your starter
If you're planning to make sourdough every 2 - 3 days, keep it at room temperature, feeding it every day or 2. For less often, store it in the fridge, feed it once a week and then leave it at room temperature for 24 hours to keep the yeast active.
Using your starter
If using the starter from the fridge, leave at room temperature for 24 hours. Always try and use your starter when it is 'hungry' (has not been fed for 24 hours). Leave about 200ml of the starter in your jar for the next loaf.