Since I wrote the Easy White Sourdough recipe my method has changed quite a bit.
I now use a dutch oven, have reduced the amount of kneading and added in some folding. You need to be more attentive to the dough when it is proving but I think it produces a better loaf and reduces the risk of the dough over proving. Using a dutch oven creates a really good crust using the moisture in the dough rather than having to add water to the oven.
150g Sourdough Starter
250g Strong White Bread Flour
300g Strong Bread Flour (any one you fancy)
1 tbsp Olive Oil
Some Rice Flour for dusting
Dutch Oven (I use the lodge combo cooker)
1. Friday Evening - Create your levain
Mix together 150g of your sourdough starter, 250g strong bread flour, and 275ml of water that has been warmed in the microwave for 30 seconds in a medium size bowl. Cover the bowl with clingfilm, wrap with a tea towel and leave overnight. When you return in the morning it should be nice and bubbly.
2. Saturday morning - Make the dough
Mix the sponge together with 300g of strong bread flour and 9g of salt. I do this with a mixer and a dough hook but you can do this by hand if you have time. I sometimes add a splash of water at this point if the dough looks too dry. When the dough comes together, add 1 tbsp of olive oil and then knead with the mixer for about 5 minutes. When done transfer to a large bowl greased with 1 tbsp olive oil for the first rise.
At this point I do my first 'fold'. I grab a piece of the dough the from the underside as it sits in the bowl, stretch it upwards and then fold it back down on top. I do this all the way round the dough which roughly takes about 4 or 5 folds. You dough should start to form a tightish ball. Don't worry if it doesn't on the first go as you will do this several more times
3. Saturday Morning - Fold and fold again
I do this folding process several more times. Roughly every half hour. I don't count how many times I fold the dough (5 times should do it) but know that the dough is ready when I have tight puffy ball that bounces back into shape when gently pressed.
Do the final fold on a work surface dusted with rice flour (Try not to fold any of the flour into the dough). Dust a proving basket with a little of the rice flour. Then shape the dough to roughly match the size of the proving basket. To do this I flip the dough over after the final fold and then cup my hands around the ball and gently roll and rotate the dough across the work surface. When you are happy with the shape you can gently place the dough into the basket.
Cover the basket with a tea towel and leave for the final prove (around 30 mins).
4. Saturday Morning - Bake (you will bake the bread for 45mins in total)
While the dough is proving, heat your oven to 250c or as high as it will go with the dutch oven inside. When the dough has increased in size by about a third it is ready for baking. It should have increased in size by about a third.
Carefully (it will be very hot) take your dutch oven out from the oven and place on a heatproof surface (I place mine on the pan supports of a gas hob). Tip your dough from the proving basket directly into the hot dutch oven being careful to not knock to much air out. I tip the dough onto the shallow skillet of the combo cooker and use the deep skillet as a lid so it is easier to slash the dough. I then slash the top of the dough with a sharp knife or razor blade to help the loaf expand in the oven. Get creative with your slashing patterns if you like. Place the lid back on the dutch oven and return to your hot oven and bake for 20 minutes. I try to transfer the dough from basket to oven relatively quickly so as not to lose to much heat.
After 20 minutes of baking has passed turn down the oven to 200c remove the lid of the dutch oven and bake the bread for a further 25 minutes. At this point the bread may still look quite pale but will now begin to colour nicely.
5. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool.