Sourdough is such a popular bread now, probably because it is an easier*** bread to eat and reputed to be healthier for us. Most sourdough is made with white flour, but here in this recipe, a mixture of rye and white flour.
Using rye flour creates a denser texture than plain, white flour though using all rye may be too strong for most pallets; a mixture of the two will give a more pleasant bread in both taste and texture.
Like all sourdough's, you will need a sourdough starter, which takes a little time and some patience. Believe me, it is worth the effort for the dense, slightly, chewy bread with its pleasant 'sour' taste. See the notes below.
The popular trend for making (and eating) sourdough breads is not looking likely to wane any time soon, thanks to celebrity bakers like Paul Hollywood.
- Place both flours into a large baking bowl, add the salt and mix. Make a large well in the centre and add the starter dough. Using a fork, draw the flour into the centre and mix lightly. Then (I like to use my hands) mix the starter and flour and water a little at a time together to create a sticky dough.
- Either knead the bread in a mixer with a dough hook or, tip the dough onto a lightly floured worktop and knead until you have a smooth, elastic dough. If the dough is dry, add more water, too wet and you will need to sprinkle with a little flour, about 10 minutes in the machine, 12 – 15 by hand.
- Once the dough is ready, lightly oil a mixing bowl with a little olive oil. Tip the dough into the bowl, cover with cling film /plastic wrap and put the bowl in a cool, not cold and draught-free place. Leave for up to 6 hours or, until the dough has doubled in size. If you want, leave it overnight the dough must be in a colder space allowing the bread to rise very slowly.
- Tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knock out the air from the bread. Lightly knead the dough for a few minutes then roll the dough into a ball, dust lightly with flour and place into either a floured banneton** or a mixing bowl lined with a floured tea towel. Cover the bowl or banneton with plastic and place in a cool, not cold place as before and leave to rise slowly for 8 hours.
- Heat the oven to 220°C/ 475 °F /gas 6. Place an ovenproof bowl half filled with boiling water on the lowest shelf of the oven. The steam given off from the water helps to create a lovely crust to your loaf.
- Line a baking sheet with lightly oiled greaseproof paper. Tip the loaf from the banneton or bowl onto the sheet (do not worry if you lose a little air from the loaf as you do this, it will come back in the oven). Place the tray and loaf in the middle of the preheated oven. Cook for 30 minutes, then lower the temperature to 200 °C/ 400 °F/gas 6 and cook for a further 20 minutes or until the loaf is golden brown. The crust should be crisp, and the bread sounds hollow when tapped on the base.
- Place the loaf on a cooling rack, and leave to cool completely before eating. Rye sourdough can be used as any other bread and of course is delicious freshly made and spread with butter.
- The sourdough will keep for up to a week. Do not place it in any plastic as this will soften the crust. Instead, pop the loaf into a paper bag or a bread bin. The bread keeps well and even after a week is still great toasted.
The Sourdough Starter
If you have a starter ready and working then, use it in this recipe as directed. No starter? Don't worry. Two days before you want to make your bread, place 4 tablespoons rye flour and 3 tablespoons warm milk into a jug or a glass jar. Mix and leave uncovered for 48 hours in a warm, but not hot, stirring once or twice along the way. After this time, it should be bubbling nicely and is ready to use.
Why Sourdough Bread is Better for You
Sourrdough are believed to be healthier for us as well as easier to digest. The natural ferment used for the bread (the starter) also creates an acidic environment in the loaf which bacteria do not like. So, sourdough lasts much longer than commercial bread, and even when a week old still makes great toast.