At this stage, I can only do the basics as I really am a beginner. I made my first loaf in March but I have so far had a lot of luck and we have enjoyed some delicious sourdough creations ever since.
Obviously, the more simple the instructions are, the easier it is. So I'll keep it as clear and as simple as I can.
Don't be put off by the time it takes. It's so worth it and once you get into a rhythm, you fit it into your day easily.
I've tried to lay out a timetable to give you an idea of timing but you can always make your own depending on your routine.
A starter is wild yeast cultivated in a form that can be used for baking. This is your main foundation for sourdough bread. Once you've made the starter once, you can keep it going for years.
To begin you need:
7 - 10 days
Day 1 Mix 50g flour and 50g water in a bowl or glass container. Cover with a cloth and leave in a warm place away from direct sunlight.
Day 2 Feed starter by mixing in 50g flour and 50g water.
Day 3 Pour 50g starter into a bowl and mix in 50g water and 50g flour (a ratio of 1:1:1). Discard the rest. Pour this mixture into a glass jar. Use a rubber band to mark the top of the starter.
Day 4 - 10 Pour 50g starter into a bowl and mix in 50g water and 50g flour. Discard the rest. Pour this mixture into a glass jar. Use a rubber band to mark where the starter comes up to.
By day 7 If the starter is doubling in size quickly you can start feeding the starter twice a day at a 1:1:1 ratio.
You'll know when the starter is ready as it will double in size within 6 hours of feeding it will look nice and bubbly.
Maintaining Your Starter
You can keep it in the fridge until you need to use it. I keep mine in a large mason jar with the lid on.
If you use it once a week, you should give it a feed midweek. Do this by taking the starter out of the fridge and bringing it to room temperature. Pour 50g or 100g of starter (depending on how much starter you want to make - I usually save 100g) into a bowl and mix with the equivalent amount of flour and water at a 1:1:1 ratio. Discard the rest or save in another jar in the fridge for sourdough discard recipes. Put it back into the fridge until you are ready to use it.
If you want to use your starter every day, keep it out of the fridge. The downside of this is that you will have to feed it every day.
If ever your starter is flagging (ie. it's gone watery or it's not rising quickly enough, give it a 1:2:2 feed). I've found this usually gives it a pick-me-up.
This is a recipe that I have used from the beginning and it has proven fail safe. It takes a day and a night to have the dough ready for baking so I usually get the starter out on a Friday morning if I am making bread on Saturday morning.
160g fed sourdough starter
400g Strong plain flour or bread flour
210ml Water (room temperature)
Day 1 (I'm putting times as a guide but you can do whatever time you like as long as it fits in with your day. It also varies on how quickly the starter rises)
8 am - Take the starter out of the fridge and bring to room temp.
9 am - Feed the starter 1:1:1 and put in a glass jar. Leave in a warm spot. Use an elastic band to mark the top of the starter so you can see when it has risen and by how much.
1 pm - Once the starter has rise to double it's size (around 4 - 6 hours) you are good to go. Mix the starter with the rest of the ingredients. Knead the dough on a floured work surface or use the knead setting on a mixer for 10 minutes. Form the dough into a ball by grabbing the outside edges of the dough and pulling them into the middle. Pop this into a bowl with the tucked edges on the underside and cover with a wet towel or a beeswax wrap. Leave to prove for 3/4 hours at room temperature.
4/5 pm - Take the dough out of the bowl. Once again, lightly grab the outside edges of the dough and bring to the middle. You should end up with a nice smooth dome on the other side. Pop this into a floured proving basket or a pyrex casserole dish lined with a tea towel. Place the dough into the dish or basket dome side down. Cover the basket. If using the pyrex dish, wrap the dough with the rest of the tea towel and pop the lid on. Leave to prove for 3/4 hours.
8/9 pm - Pop into the fridge overnight.
Day 2 (you can bring the times here forward if you want to have bread ready for breakfast).
8 am - Heat the oven to 230 degrees C. Put an oven-proof bowl or tin into the oven.Take the dough out of the fridge and bring to room temperature.
8.30 - If using a basket, you can either tip the dough onto a floured baking tray or into the lid of a pyrex casserole dish. Use a sharp knife to score the top of the bread with whatever design you like. I usually do a cross.
9 am - Pop into the oven for 35 mins and fill the hot bowl or tin with water which will allow steam into the oven. If using a pyrex dish, you can tip the basket or unravel the towel in the pyrex dish and tip the dough into the lid of the dish. Score the dough and place the casserole part of the pyrex dish over the dough. Pop back into the oven for 25 mins. After 25 minutes, take the lid off and turn the temperature down to 210 degrees C.
You can also use a Dutch Oven (a cast-iron cooking pot), sprinkle flour on the inside and put the dough in, dome side up. Again score the top. Pop the lid on and put in the oven for 25 mins with lid on at 230 degrees C and lid off for 25 mins at 210 degrees C.
10 am - Once the bread is golden brown and the base has a hollow sound when tapped, your bread is ready. Allow to stand for at least 20 minutes before slicing.