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Even though I spent three years writing a book on savoury baking, baking bread is not something I do on a regular basis. And baking sourdough bread is definitely not something I am comfortable with, not until recently that is. I tried to make my own sourdough but it didn’t really work. The dough just wouldn’t rise without adding a little yeast to it. Then, I went to Sao paulo and had Luiz Camargo’s (my lovely friend who edits Paladar) sourdough loaf which was simply perfect. I asked what his secret was and he offered to give me some of his mother. I was thrilled, although I doubted I would be able to achieve good results, given my sad past history. But his sourdough turned out to be brilliant, as were his instructions both to feed it and to make the bread. I have to admit that my first loaf was not so great but that was because I rushed it. The second one worked, as did the ones that followed — just now, i am worried about the mother but hopefully it’ll just be a hiccup. In any case, my loaves came out as good as Luiz’s and although the bread is different from that at St John’s Bread & Wine, which is my favourite sourdough in London, it is equally good. Here is how I do it.

sourdough-1st-kneading-copy.jpg sourdough-2nd-kneading-copy.jpg sourdough-3rd-kneading-copy.jpg

Following Luiz’s recommendation, I refresh 100 g sourdough with 5 tbsps wholewheat flour (sometimes I do half wholewheat and half plain) and 150 ml water, which I mix well. Then I use 150 g sourdough for 500 g flour, together with 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt. I add enough water to make a softish dough and I knead the dough for 2-3 minutes. Then I roll the dough into a ball, invert the bowl over it and let it sit for 15 minutes. This is equivalent to the autolyse of professional bakers where they mix the flour with water and let it sit for 45 minutes to an hour to let it hydrate before they add the leavening. I have adapted this method because it does away with long kneading as you can see from the photos above. Once the 15 minutes are up, I knead the dough for 2-3 more minutes and let it sit again, covered for 15 minutes before kneading it for the last time. As you can see, the dough becomes very smooth and silky without me having to kill myself kneading forever.

Then, I place the dough in a lightly floured bowl and let it rise for 7 hours. You can leave it overnight. I did that once, for 10 hours, and the bread came out just as good.


Once the dough has proofed, I gently take it out of the bowl and shape it into a batard (oval) or a miche (round). I then cover it with a wet although not dripping kitchen towel and let it rise for an hour. Half an hour before the dough is ready, I preheat the oven to 200º C. Then, I uncover the dough and let it sit for 5 minutes, to allow the surface to dry. Then with a lame (baker’s razor), I make a slash all along the middle of the loaf — you need to hold the lame at a slight angle and don’t cut too deep into the dough. Then, just before I am ready to place the loaf in the oven, I put a baking dish full of water on the bottom of the oven to create steam. I quickly place the loaf in the oven and bake it for an hour. The slash opens up beautifully and the bread is crisp and golden brown. I let the hot loaf cool completely on a wire rack before serving to allow the flavour of the bread and the texture of the crumb to go on developing.

this is the 7-hour rise loaf

and this is the 10-hour rise loaf

and what the crumb looks like

If you are reading this, thank you Luiz for the brilliant sourdough. I just hope I will be able to keep it going.

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There is 10 comments on this post

  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    Thank you so much.
    Long live to this british son of a brazilian sourdough.
    And the loaves are great!
    A big hug from São Paulo.

  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    thanks luiz. glad you approve. and a big hug to you too, from cloudy london.

  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    Thank you, Anissa. I have a mother (made from St John’s recipe) that is two years old now – I make sourdough twice, sometimes three times, a week from the recipe in the first Moro cookbook, although I have adapted it a little. The very wet dough means it is hard to shape. I’m going to try your method next time.

  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    Great recipe! Here’s the link to a Dutch oven bread that is as simple with excellent results!

  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    you are welcome joe. let me know how it works out. and send me a pic or post it on facebook.

  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    thanks. and thanks for the link. looks very nice. must try it one day.

  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    Looks fantastic! I went on a bread making course in May, run by Andrew Whitley (‘Bread Matters’), and one of the many things I learned from him is to have PATIENCE. I’ve probably bought a couple of loaves since coming back from the course and basically only make my own bread now.
    Happy baking!

  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    thanks christian. i met andrew in abergavenny 2 or 3 years ago. i really like his book. i am still waiting for a reply re. the bulgarian gadget.

  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    Anissa, I love your blog! I also make bread, mainly sourdough. Do you welcome a couple of ideas?
    Regarding slashing, you normally slash about 1 cm; if less, it does open so well. Also, you can slash 20-30 mins before you put the bread in the oven. The temperature and the humidity in the oven will also be important in quickly raising the bread and in opening the slashes. Here is a link to interesting videos on bread-making that also cover the ‘scarification’. And, a bonus, it is in French.
    Some tricks I learned about a sourdough mother: make sure you use bread flour to refresh and if possible very high protein content eg Canadian bread flour (Waitrose sells some as well as many flour makers such as Shipton); a little bit of rye flour also is helpful when your sourdough is a bit ‘lazy’. Do a couple of refresh of your mother ferment at about 8-12 hour interval before making your bread, this ensures that your ferment is really active. When refreshing, try not to use more than a 1-1 ratio of your retained ferment and the flour you are adding. With a weak ferment, it is sometime preferable to refresh with a ratio of 1-2, that is if you use 50 g of your mother sourdough, refresh with 100 of flour, adjusting the water to get to the desired hydration level.
    I hope I am not getting too ‘geeky’…. Dis-moi! J’ai bien hate de voir tes creations. Claudine

  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    thanks for the link claudine, and for the advice. i don’t remember them slashing so deep at amy’s bread (where i did three days internship) but i will try slashing 1 cm deep with my next loaf and see what happens. and thanks for the ratios. my sourdough is coming back to life quite nicely. i follow luiz’s recommendations and refresh with wholewheat. this worked a treat until i started improvising; and it’s when the problem started. not much room for improvising in baking. will email you the results of the wholewheat loaf. still not perfect but getting there. so glad you like the blog. a bientot.

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