Sourdough bread is an amazing thing. With flour and water we can create breads with a wide variety of properties simply by changing the proportions of the ingredients, the kneading technique and the resting time. Of course, there is a gold standard that many bakers strive for – a rustic loaf with the large holes and translucent texture of classic mediterranean breads such as Levain and Ciabatta. To bake bread with large “holes” and translucent crumb (insides) requires:
- High hydration (the water:flour ratio should be around 65-85:100, though some prefer ever wetter dough)
- Well-developed gluten (the dough must be worked thoroughly)
- Strong flour (high in protein)
- Time (long, slow fermentation)
- Hot and humid oven that spreads heat evenly
The flour should be a protein-rich bread flour, such as Manitoba Cream, Durum or Spelt. Ensure you give your mother culture (leaven) enough time to develop. It should be full of little bubbles.
Process the dough by machine or by hand. Once the gluten in the dough is fully developed, the dough becomes glossy and very stretchy. It will also become less likely to stick. If you choose to do this by hand, you will need to use the “slap and fold” kneading technique.
You can find several instruction videos on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WVPD-lz_K7g
Place in the refrigerator overnight (or for 12 hours). This allows the flavours to develop. Take the bread out of the refrigerator and allow it to warm to room temperature. Shape the bread gently.
Some great videos on how to do this can be found on Youtube:
Allow the shaped bread to proof in a bread basket that has been lightly dusted with flour (I usually use rice or corn flour). Place in a hot oven and bake for around 25-30 minutes. Some like to adjust the temperature as the bread bakes. Personally, I prefer to use a large clay pot because it keeps moisture in and gets the crust just right.
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