(vegan baking + other minor obsessions)
I am selectively lazy. The way I see it, baking your own sourdough from scratch is a worthy endeavour, but kneading, punching down dough and shaping loaves… hmm, not so sure about that. I do look at the beautifully shaped epi baguettes and fougasses in blogs, books and bakeries with admiration for their craft, but to bake regularly at home I want a simple go-to recipe that gives me a full sourdough flavour with minimum effort. Ta-dah… Lazygirl Sourdough.
My starting point was the Light Rye Bread recipe in Bread by Jeffrey Hamelman, a book I can’t recommend enough. If you are serious about bread and want to learn all the science, techniques, how’s and why’s, it’s all in there. From there, I worked on simplifying the recipe as much as possible, to see how many shortcuts I could get away with and still end up with great bread.
To make this bread you will need a sourdough starter – borrow from a friend or plan a little in advance and make your own – the method I use is here. Also necessary: a stand mixer, 2 loaf tins (I use these) and a set of scales. It is very reluctantly that I give cup measurements in this recipe – weighing will guarantee consistent results.
When making the sourdough, I mix in all the mature sourdough culture I have (anything from 1 tbsp to 1 cup), let it rest overnight, then the following morning weigh out the amount that is needed for the batch of bread and put the rest in a clean container in the fridge – and consider it ‘fed’ for the week. Thus if I bake once a week, the sourdough never needs to be fed, which is a bonus. I use wheat- or rye-based sourdough interchangeably.
Remember to mix the sourdough the night before to let it develop overnight, and choose for baking a day when you will be at home, so you can give the bread its time to rise and be ready when it’s ready. And finally, practice makes perfect. With bread as with much of baking, you learn more from making the same recipe over and over than you would from baking a new recipe every time. Enjoy!
Makes: 2 large loaves
150g/1½ cups wholegrain rye flour
120g/½ cup water
1tbsp–1 cup mature sourdough culture (see note above)
540g/scant 2¼ cups warm water
20g/1 tbsp sea salt
850g/6¾ cups strong bread flour
1½ tsp instant dry yeast
270g/1¾ cups sourdough
2 cups seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, etc.) or cooked whole grains (optional)
Make the Sourdough
1. The night before baking the bread, mix the sourdough ingredients in an airtight container which has some extra space for the mixture to bubble and grow. Cover and leave to rest at room temperature overnight. I usually prepare this mixture around 10pm.
Final Dough + Baking
1. The following morning (around 8am?) put the water and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook and mix until the salt dissolves. Add the flour, yeast and 270g/1¾ cups of the sourdough mixture (refrigerate the rest in an airtight container for the next batch) and seeds or grains if using. Mix at minimum speed until everything is combined, then go up a speed and mix for 2 minutes.
Wrap the loaf tins in two layers of plastic bag or cling film and leave to rise in a warm spot in your kitchen for about 1½–2 hours (if you have a dehydrator, this is another great use for it: set it to the lowest temperature, put a bowl of water on the base, and set the wrapped loaves above it).
3. Put a shelf in the centre of the oven and a baking tray on the oven floor.
4. Check the dough: when it has doubled in size and is coming up to between one-half and two-thirds of the height of the tins, turn the oven on to the first temperature – see table below – and bring some water to the boil. If the dough doesn’t seem ready, give it another half hour and check again – times can vary greatly depending on how lively is your sourdough culture and what the room temperature is. If the dough has risen a lot more, put it in a cooler place while you wait for the oven to heat up. Score 2 or 3 diagonal cuts on each loaf – don’t be shy, you can go quite deep – I use an oiled dough scraper to do this.
5. When the oven has come to temperature, put the loaves in and carefully pour 250ml/1 cup boiling water into the baking tray, using an oven glove to protect your hand. Close the oven and bake according to the table.
|start baking at||
230°C/460°F for 15 minutes
210°C/415°F for 11 minutes
|then lower heat and continue baking||
220°C/440°F for 20–25 minutes
200°C/400°F for 17 minutes