The Gift Of Bread

The basic procedure of the four day extended fermentation process

 

This is a simple and quick process – not so much a recipe. In fact we use the same basic formula for all loaves.

Note: Photos of all procedures coming soon.

Stage One – Mixing the dough and transfering to the fridge

Flour, water and salt, that is all we use. The system is known as the 'bakers percentage. We use a 'seventy percent hydration mix'. All this means is that the water ratio to the flour is 70%. One kilogram of flour and 700 gms of water. The most common amount of salt to use is 2% or 20 gms in this case. The amount of sourdough starter used for a long fermentation is very little. Not enough to upset the ratios of the overall mix – about 6% (60 gms).

• 1) Gather 1kg of flour. This can be all white bread flour (e.g. Shipton Mill No 4) or half wholemeal and half white or all wholemeal. At your discretion.
• 2) Pour over the top (with a bit of a puddle in the middle) 700 grams of cold water. Just start to mix the flour and water till it is a bit soupy on the top. (30 seconds or so.) Hold back just a few grams of the water (two tablespoons) for the salt.
• 3) Pour into the puddle 80 grams of active sourdough.

Mix this all together just until all the flour and water is taken up (incorporated). Do not over mix or attempt to ‘knead’ the dough. Use you hands for this or a spatular/wooden spoon.
One or two minutes of mixing.
• 4) Place the 20 grams of salt (good quality) in the saved water, don’t dissolve it, just swill it about a bit and pour over the rough dough.

Mix it in thoroughly. Once again no formal kneading, just a good mix up. Note: It is detrimental to the outcome to any more mixing than necessary.

That’s it. It should have taken no longer than five minutes and the next step is to seal the container and place it in the fridge. Nothing more to do for four days.
Tip: A round mixing bowl takes more space in a fridge than a rectangular one. Transfer it to a smaller container. It will not rise as long as it is cold.

 

Stage Two – Removal from fridge and shaping, proving and baking

 

• 1) On the fourth day, remove the dough mix from the fridge let it come back up to room temperature. Depending on how warm your room is, this may take several hours.
It will start forming some bubbles (marble size or larger) and it will expand, so if you placed it in a tight fitting container to save space in the fridge, you may need to put it back in a roomier container.


• 2) Once the dough is obviously ‘woken up’ divide it into three (or two for larger loaves) equal portions by weight (3 = approx 600 grams each).


• 3) Now we get technical. Give each piece of dough a quick ‘envelope fold’, and then repeat this once more. (Our photo gallery will show how this is done. Basically it just means take one side of the dough and fold it over onto the top, just passed the middle of the lump, and do that to each side. You will feel the dough ‘tighten up’. That means you will feel a resistance develop and ‘it does not want you to fold it any more’.
Let the dough rest for about ten minutes (that is it will relax and be willing to take another letter fold) and do one more letter fold.


• 4) Next will be the process of making it into a ball shape. We need some flour (non gluten, rice flour is good) on your hands to stop things getting sticky (or oil) and using the inside palms of you hands to shape it into a ‘tight’ ball. See the photos for guidance and explanation.


• 5) Place the ball into the proving basket or bowl with either lots of flour (gluten free) or a tea towel liner and wait for it to rise.
Time then for all this should only be three to five minutes

Most instructions for bread making say let it rise until it is double its size. Not so in this case. As soon as it is noticeable that it has risen ‘significantly’ – obviously bigger; it is time to heat the oven up. Preferably up to 240 or 250C. This may be higher than your domestic oven will handle. If so, take it to the maximum temp you can.

Note: We are going to bake the bread in ‘pots’ with lids on to keep the dough in a moist steamy atmosphere for the first fifteen minutes. These pots can be old style cast iron ‘Le Creuset’ style, or just an ordinary steel saucepan with a lid, as long as it does not have a wooden or plastic handle. Clay and Pyrex work as well. Place the pots, one for each loaf, in the oven before heating it up so they will be (very) hot ready to place the dough in for baking.

There are several reason for using the pot. One is the steam generated in the pot enables it to rise before a hard crust forms. Second, our dough mix was a seventy percent hydration mix (700 grams of water in 1 Kg of flour) and this will be more floppy than you may be used to or expecting. The sourdough brigade of critters and enzymes needs the ‘fluid condition’ to operate in. 70 % is the minimum for everything to work in an extended fermentation.

To get your bread out of the basket and into the pot ready for the oven needs two things. Baking parchment paper, and gloves for handling the hot pots.

Baking

• Take a pot out of the oven and remove the lid (don’t forget the gloves). Place a sheet of parchment paper over the top of the basket and turn upside down. Use the corners/sides of the parchment paper to lift the dough and lower into the pot.
Take a pair of scissors and put a couple of cuts in the top of the dough. These will be where the bread ‘pops’ on the surface which looks nice but is also needed for a reason.

Put your gloves back on and place the lid on tightly and place back in the oven. Repeat for the other loaves.
If your oven was up to a really good temp, turn it down to 230C. If your oven only went up to 225C, leave it on full.


• After 15 minutes (use a timer, or speaking for myself, time always gets away from you) take the lid off – with the gloves. This is the fun bit because you see the bread having risen for the first time with a big smile on its face where you placed the cut with the scissors.


• Leave for another 15 minutes, still in the pots – use the timer. It will have a nicely browned crust and should be ready to remove (with the gloves on).

When is it cooked?

The only way to be really certain is with a digital temperature probe and see if the middle of the loaf is above 93C. That is the only guaranteed way. These days a probe is relatively cheap and a good investment.

Bread Tin Note: If all the above with pots was a bit much, use an ordinary bread tin, it will work fine to rise the dough in and place direct in the oven when it is up to temp. It will not have quite the same texture and will not rise as much, but will certainly be a wonderful loaf of bread.