I am fairly new to bread making. I have read in a book once that you need to perfect one given receipt of the bread by baking it as many times as you need to and only then move on to the next one. Well this is what I have done with this particular receipt. I baked it many times with different types of flour, white plain, wholemeal, rye, spelt, strong, very strong, but now I generally prefer stoneground unbleached strong white flour. I am originally from Latvia and love all sorts of European breads and especially sourdough. I tend not to use yeast in my baking as it is not very healthy, so I made my own rye and white sourdough starters. For this receipt I use rye sourdough starter to get the most sourness.
This receipt makes a small loaf of bread for our family of 2. I usually bake it every 5 days. I freeze some because it does not stay fresh longer then for a couple of days.
300g white strong bread flour
100g rye sourdough starter
150g tepid water (preferably filtered)
1 full tsp coarse sea salt
1 full tbsp raw organic honey
1-2 full tsp caraway seeds
a fairly deep and wide bowl 20 cm wide and 10cm deep
square piece of muslin cloth / cheese cloth approx 40 cm by 40 cm
baking stone (optional)
Preparation time: around 2 days
I would advise you to read this receipt at least once before baking your own bread so you can plan your time.
Remember to revive your sourdough starter at least 24 hours before you use it.
Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and knead it for about 5 minutes. If the dough sticks to your hands try not to be tempted to add more flour just pour some extra virgin olive oil into your hands and knead some more. Place the dough into a lightly floured bowl, sprinkle it with some flour and cover with a cling film or a tea towel. Leave it in a warm place to ferment overnight. It needs to double its size. Usually I do it in the evening before going to bed.
Then you will need to knead the dough again for about 1 minute, cover it with the same cling film or tea towel and leave it to proof at a room temperature. It needs to double the size again, so it will take around 5 hours. As this is the free shape bread you would need a special proofing basket or like me just a right size bowl lined with some cheese cloth.
Now you need to prepare the oven. For a free shaped bread you would need a baking stone or if you do not have one just use a baking tray.
For baking stone just place it on the oven rack in the middle of your oven. If using the baking tray, turn your baking tray upside down and place it in the middle of the oven. Fill a stainless steel tray or a glass roaster or any other oven proof container, fill it with water and place at the bottom of your oven, this will make a very nice crunchy crust. Switch the oven on the maximum, usually it is 220⁰C for one hour. It is very important to let the oven heat up properly.
After your dough has doubled in size for the second time and your oven is smoking hot take the baking paper and cut out a piece to go into the oven, sprinkle it lightly with flour and place it on a cutting board so later you can easily transfer your dough straight onto your baking tray or stone. Take you dough now and place it carefully onto the baking sheet by slowly turning the bowl with cheese cloth upside down. Now gently and very slowly without touching the dough remove the cheese cloth. Sprinkle the top of the dough with some flour, open the oven and carefully transfer the dough on the baking sheet onto the baking tray or baking stone by carefully sliding off the cutting board.
Bake your bread for around 35-45 minutes. It will depend on the kind of oven you are using. I would recommend to check on your bread after the 25 minutes in order to determine how much more time will it need and if the temperature is right. If you see that your bread is too brown even black turn the oven down to 190 - 200⁰C and bake for another 5 minutes. To determine that your bread is ready, take it out of the oven and tap the bottom of it with your knuckles, the sound should be hollow. If you still not sure just give it another 5 minutes in the turned off oven.
After your loaf is ready take it out and place it on a rack to cool. Leave it to cool for at least 1,5 hours before cutting it up and trying a piece.
Please feel free to experiment with your bread, add caraway seeds, omit them, once I added 1 grated raw tomato without skin and some chopped up fresh basil leaves (reducing the amount of water used accordingly) and it still tasted really good. If you try something new with this receipt please do let me know in the comments section.
More recipes using the sourdough starter can be found in my first e-book Sourdough Goodness 1.