The ‘Pareto principle’, or the ‘80:20 rule’ states that 80% of effects come from 20% of causes – for example 80% of the work being completed with 20% of the effort (that is, the last 20% to get something totally ‘complete’ or perfect will take a lot more effort and so the reward may not be worth the cost).
In the quest for simplicity and easy to remember recipes, this sourdough loaf uses white flour and wholemeal flour in an 80:20 ratio and the water content is 80% of the flour weight, or 80% hydration. This makes it a relatively high hydration dough, but with the right technique, handling of the dough will not be a problem.
A specific levain is not built for this loaf. I use my regular starter that I pull from the fridge and allow to warm up to room temperature. I then decant 30 grams into a new jar to refresh it (with 100g all purpose flour and 100 grams of water), and then use the remaining starter (approx 200 grams) to build the dough. This method has delivered consistent success, producing loaves with good colour, blistering and peel.
Photos and videos to follow.
High Level Timings
10:00 Mix dough
10:15 Bulk fermentation, intermittent folding
13:00 Prove in bowl
15:00 Pre-shape, prove on counter
16:00 Shaping, prove in bannetons
17:00 Cold retard in the fridge
21:00 (or the morning) score and bake
Makes 2 loaves
800g bakers flour
200g wholemeal flour
200g sourdough starter
9am mix 800g bakers flour, 200g wholemeal flour and 800g water in a large bowl until all flour is combined. Leave to rest, covered in the bowl (I use a large plate instead of plastic), for 1 hour.
10am press a wide well into the dough and tip in the remaining 200g of starter (the remains of the jar that was pulled from the fridge and used to propagate a new starter). Sprinkle 20g salt on top of the starter and a little water – just enough to help the salt combine with the dough. Mix well, pulling dough from underneath furthest away from you and folding over the top and towards you. Turn the bowl 45 degrees and repeat continuously until you have a smooth dough.
The next few hours will require several sets of folding, around four or five sets over two to three hours. The timing of these folds is not critical, so to some extent you can manage the dough around your day. Folding every 30 minutes is fine across a couple of hours.
If you can resist it, leave until fully cool before eating (although eating right away with poached or scrambled eggs is often too good to turn down)
The technique I use for this part of the process I call ‘lift and drop’. Dump the dough onto the counter so it is in a circular-ish mound. It will still look pretty rough at this stage. Pick up the dough from the sides, a hand either side of the dough and by pushing fingers all the way underneath the dough. Lift up and allow the drooping front and back to come together below and then place the dough back down on the counter. By doing this a few times, the dough will develop tension and form more of a ‘proud’ mound that holds its shape more than before, and the surface of the dough looking smooth and domed. Place back into the bowl after a few (5 or so) of these ‘lift and drop’ folds.
10:15-1pm Intermittent folding as described above.
1-3pm Leave the dough covered in the bowl to prove.
3-4pm Tip dough out of bowl and use a dough scraper (or large knife if you don’t have a dough scraper) to separate into two equal sized rounds. Shape using the scraper or hands into neat rounds with a good surface tension.
4pm Sprinkle the top of each round with flour, and flour a space to the side of the rounds. Working with a dough scraper or other flat tool, quickly slide the scraper under one of the rounds and flip it so that the floured top lands on the floured bench. With floured hands, pick up the dough at the ‘10-minutes-to’ and ‘10-minutes-past the hour’ clock positions. Allow the dough to dangle , making the top part that you are holding into more of a rectangular shape. Place the stretched dough onto the counter and then pull out the ‘20-minutes-to’ and ‘20-minutes-past’ the hour positions to complete the rectangle (very roughly speaking). You may need to flour hands again at this point. Fold the top of the rectangle down to the two-thirds point and the bottom third up and over this, like a letter. Spin the dough 90 degrees so it is a long rectangle top to bottom in front of you and perform another letter fold. Spin the dough using hands either side of it, pulling in the base to give some surface tension to the dough.
Flip the dough into a banneton lined with muslin (or a colander lined with a floured tea towel), carefully fold the surplus muslin or tea towel over the top of the dough, then leave to prove a little longer (try 30 mins to 1 hour). Repeat with other round of dough.
5pm Place each banneton in a tied plastic or ziploc bag and place into the fridge.
From here you can either pull the loaves out of the fridge at 8-9pm and bake (see below) or keep them in the fridge overnight and bake in the morning. By keeping in the fridge overnight, the wild yeast is retarded, avoiding the dough becoming over-proved and allows time for lactobacilli to develop, enhancing the sour flavour of the final bread.
8pm or Day 2, 7 am: place dutch oven (I use a casserole dish) with lid on into the middle of the oven. Place baking stone (if you have one, don’t worry if not) on the oven rack approx 10 mm below the dutch oven/dish. Preheat oven to maximum temperature.
9pm or Day 2, 8am: pull the banneton out of the fridge and turn the dough out onto a piece of greaseproof paper. Score the dough by swiftly dragging a sharp knife (I use a thin carving knife, freshly sharpened) across the dough from the side to the centre, approx 1.5cm deep. Turn dough 45 degrees and repeat until you have 4 slices meeting in the centre of the loaf forming a cross. Holding the knife at a shallow angle to the dough increases the chance of a good ‘peel’ – the spread of the sliced area during baking.
Place dough (by grabbing the sides of the grease proof paper) into the casserole dish, replace lid and place into oven. Turn heat down to 245c and bake for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, take off the lid, turn down heat to 220c and bake for a further 25 minutes.
If you can resist it, leave until fully cool before eating (although eating right away with poached or scrambled eggs is often too good to turn down). The crust will be it’s crackly best on the day of the bake. If the bread lasts longer than a few hours and when completely cool, store in an airtight container at room temperature. Bread will be good for a few days.