Sourdough versus…Is There a Real Rival?

A true, hearty sourdough loaf is distinctively different from what is sold as bread in the 21. century supermarkets. Probably there is not even a competition, as two that can not be compared, can not compete…The difference lies in the three main, very opposite characteristics or sourdough versus factory-produced sandwich bread:

moist texture against soft structurelessness
tangy, deep taste against flavour-lite white powder
crunchy crust against pale raw flour….

“Without injustices,
the name of justice
would mean what?” 
Heraclitus

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Sourdough, by contrast, is bread with heritage, culture, personality and character, and – hopefully –  with presence and future – bread that has a statement to make.  Due to the popularity of healthy lifestyle, vintage values and modern campaigns, it is  possible to buy great sourdough, but  it – reflecting the quality of the ingredients and time that is spent with making the loaf – cost considerably more than standard bread.  But making sourdough at home is not expensive at all and, while it demands patience, it requires little actual effort.  All enthusiastic bread-makers who do not happen to own a sourdough starter are only ten days away from enjoying the first mouthful of a finished loaf made with their very own sourdough starter.

“Every true heart needed a pragmatic counterweight, and every cynic an idealist to lift his spirits.” 
 Neal Stephenson

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For the sponge
About 150 ml active starter
250 g strong flour (white, wholemeal or a mixture)

For the loaf
300 g strong bread flour (white, wholemeal or a mixture), plus more for dusting
1 tbsp olive oil
10 g fine sea salt

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Method
The night before baking, create a sponge: in a large bowl, combine 150 ml of active starter with 250 g flour and 275 ml warm water. Mix, cover with clingfilm and leave overnight.
To make the dough, add the flour to the sponge, along with the oil and salt, and incorporate. Turn out the dough on to a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and silky – about 10 minutes – then put in a lightly oiled bowl and turn it to coat with the oil. Cover with clingfilm and leave to rise (Usually takes about 4 – 5 hours).
Deflate the risen dough by punching it down. Form it into a neat round, tucking the edges of the dough underneath. Line a wide, shallow bowl with a clean, floured cloth. Place the dough smooth side down in the basket or bowl, cover with oiled clingfilm or a clean plastic bag, and leave to rise. In a warm place it takes an hour and a half to three hours, until roughly doubled in size again.
Heat the oven to its highest setting (230 degrees C). If possible, have ready a clean spray bottle full of water to create a steamy atmosphere in the oven, which helps the bread rise and develop a good crust. Five minutes before loaf is put in the oven, place a baking sheet in the oven to heat up. Take the hot baking sheet from the oven, dust it with flour and carefully tip the risen dough out of the basket/bowl on to it; it will now be the right way up. Slash the top of the loaf a few times with a sharp serrated knife or snip it with a pair of scissors to give a pattern. Put the loaf in the oven, give it a few squirts from the spray bottle and leave to bake for 15 minutes. Lower the heat to 200 degrees C, give the oven another spray, and bake for a further 25-30 minutes, until the now well-browned loaf vibrates and sounds hollow when its base is tapped. Leave to cool for at least 20 minutes before slicing.

“Everywhere the human soul stands between a hemisphere of light and another of darkness; on the confines of two everlasting empires, necessity and free will.”  Thomas Carlyle

2 thoughts on “Sourdough versus…Is There a Real Rival?

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