This is becoming my everyday bread. I am at the stage where I can never go back to the stuff they sell in supermarkets. It's got nothing on this.
What I look for in a good sourdough loaf is flavour, structure, rise, holes and crust. If it scores a ten on all five of these then I'm happy for the rest of the day. I really am.
This recipe uses the sponge method, where you make a preferment using half the flour from the main recipe and let it sit overnight.
500g strong bread flour
250g flour from above with all the water and levain. No salt at this stage
Use half the flour and all the water mixed with 50g active starter to make a sponge and let it sit overnight. Next morning add the remaining 250g flour to the sponge and work into a shaggy mix. Autolyse 30 mins before adding the salt with a misting of water. Bring together in the bowl for a few minutes, turning and folding until dough is smooth and silky.
Bulk fermentation – stretch and fold in the bowl at two-hourly intervals for six hours. Lift and stretch the dough into the centre. Rotate the bowl as you go and do this about six times until a neat round is formed. Each time you do this the dough will be more springy and bubbly. When the dough is looking silky and 'pillowy' it is ready to shape.
Ease the dough gently from the bowl and shape lightly for 10 seconds using cupped hands and rest for 20 mins. If it sticks to the counter, slide a dough scraper underneath to help the shaping. Coat with rye flour, place into a lined and floured basket and prove for one to three hours until doubled in size.
Gently turn out onto a baker's peel. Dust, score and slash, but again with great care... everything is done lightly to preserve the air in the dough.
Bake in a Dutch oven at 230c/450f for 15 mins with the lid on and 20 mins at same temperature with the lid removed.