Few things smell as amazing as homemade bread baking in the oven, and there are many ways to prepare bread.
Here we are using one of the most ancient techniques, which is making bread with a homemade yeast starter. Doing it this way results in rustic artisan bread, which is both fluffy and chewy, and boasts a crisp crust and tangy flavor.
What You Need
- 1 cup water
- 5¼ oz bubbling live yeast starter
- 1 2/3 tablespoon olive oil
- 17½ oz bread flour
- 2 teaspoons salt
- Cornmeal or parchment paper, as needed
How to Make It
Combine all the ingredients together using your hands until everything is well mixed together. The dough at this point will feel dry and loose. Cover the bowl using plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel and let it sit for 30 minutes, then shape the dough into a ball.
Cover the bowl again and let the dough rise at room temperature (somewhere between 68 and 72 degrees F is good).
The dough will take anywhere between 3 and 12 hours to double in size depending on the conditions in your kitchen, the temperature and the flour you are using.
30 minutes into this process, you can either do some stretching and folding of the dough or omit this step. If you do it though, you will be adding structure and height to the finished bread.
Now lightly flour your worktop and put the dough on there. Fold the outside of the dough towards the middle, then turn 90 degrees and repeat. Repeat twice more. The reason we are folding rather than kneading is folding gets more air into the dough, which results in a better, lighter loaf.
Now coat the bottom of a heavy Dutch oven or cast iron pot with plenty of cornmeal or line it with nonstick parchment paper.
Add the dough and let it rise for about 45 minutes this time. It doesn’t need to double in size again but wait until it’s nice and puffy.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F while the dough is still proving. Make a 3-inch slash in the top of the dough to let steam escape during baking. Cover the Dutch oven or pot with the lid.
Turn the oven down to 400 degrees F and bake the loaf on the middle rack for 20 minutes before removing the lid. Give it another 40 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. The internal temperature should be between 205 and 210 degrees F.
Cool the loaf on a wire rack for an hour, then slice and enjoy. Be patient and don’t cut into it before the hour is up, else the texture will be gummy!
Tips for Making the Sourdough Starter
If you aren’t lucky enough to have a friend or family member who agrees to share some of their fresh yeast starter with you, you can always make your own! This process does take about 5 days though, so you will need to plan your bread-making well in advance.
You will need to mix 4 ounces each of flour and filtered water in a bowl, then cover with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and leave for 24 hours somewhere where the temperature is between 70 and 75 degrees F.
Stir another 4 ounces each of flour and water into the mixture, then cover and leave for another 24 hours. Repeat this for about 5 days or until the fresh yeast starter is very bubbly and about twice as big as when you started.
Now, depending on whether you are a keen baker or someone who prefers to bake occasionally, you will keep the starter at room temperature or in the refrigerator. Feed it daily (adding more flour and water in equal measures after discarding or using the same amount from the bowl) if it is at room temperature, or weekly if it is in the refrigerator.
If you start to end up with too much starter, rather than throwing some out, it is nice to give some to friends or family and encourage them to try home baking!
Remember that results vary when baking and no two loaves of bread are ever the same, but that is one of the special things about homemade artisan breads.