Sourdough Isn't A Pain...
Sourdough Pain Naturel
The Gent's are having a sourdough day. Sourdough is not difficult, but it does take time. Hence, 'sourdough day'!
We're bringing you the staple of the sourdough world, a white flour 'pain naturel', courtesy of Ed and Marieke of the Weekend Bakery. We're also making our own mixed flour sourdough which has a heavier texture and richness, thanks to the rye and wholemeal flours.
As with many sourdough recipes, we start with making a sponge/poolish/leaven the night before. This is simple mixture of sourdough starter, water and flour. This particular recipe calls for just 15g of starter culture that gets fed with equal parts flour and water and left overnight. Some recipes call for several hundred grams of starter, but we think the results are really not that different.
Once we've had a coffee or two and feel ready to face the day, we begin our dough. Water is added to our sponge and mixed well ensuring there are no lumps. We want all of our lively yeasts well distributed. Next we add flour to form our basic dough. We're still missing one essential ingredient and that's salt. By waiting to add the salt the dough is allowed to autolyse. This allows time for the gluten in the flours to fully absorb all the moisture. You'll end up with better flavour and whiter loaf.
Despite the overnight rest, we're still moving slowly. No heavy kneading is required. Simply fold the dough in on itself (which takes about 30 seconds) and leave for 30-50 minutes. Plenty of time to read the paper, drink more coffee, or write a food blog! After a couple of hours we shape our dough into a tight ball (by now the dough will be stretchy and silky) and place in a well floured proving basket or banneton. Then more waiting. 2 and half hours to be exact. This allows our happy little yeasts to give off their carbon-dioxide to fill up our dough with bubbles.
Finally we're ready to bake. Bread likes moisture to help it rise and a fan oven is your enemy. You can find plenty of good commercial baking stones with lids, or Dutch ovens, but we use an old Le Cruset casserole. Pre-heat to 230 degrees centigrade before carefully tipping in your risen dough. Slash with a knife if you wish then spay in some water before placing the lid back on and putting the dish back in the oven.
After 30 minutes your loaf should be lightly golden and have 'sprung' up into it's final shape. Now take the lid off, get a good crust and deeply golden colour and when your bread sounds hollow, take it out and leave to cool. You may hear your loaf making crisp cracking noises or 'singing'. This is normal and really rather lovely.
We wanted to show you the difference in these two fantastic loaves. You can see the the Pain Naturel (white flour) loaf (left) has a very open texture compared to our mixed flour loaf containing wholemeal and rye.
Sourdough makes the perfect vehicle for a simple yet tasty supper and here we have two wonderful examples; kippers on buttered white sourdough and mushrooms on mixed flour sourdough toast.