Bread is my drug of choice. And since I came back from China, I've been craving it bad. As far as carbs go, you can get the worlds best noodles in China (sorry Italy - but I call your noodles pasta anyway, so it doesn't count... friends again? Good. x). You can eat theeeee most delicious dumplings in China all day, every day (and I just about did). And then there's rice... do I need to go there? But you can't get really good bread. Well, I couldn't anyway. There might be a secret, bread-loving society that knows where all the chewy, tangy sourdough is in China, but they didn't get in touch with me. So I've been making up for my deprivation since I got home, churning loaves out like a Tip Top factory. My family should be crying out for some breadless, Chinese food any day now (see my note on how ready for a break from Chinese food my kids were by the end of our China adventure here).
Classic Sourdough Bread
Makes 1 loaf
300ml sourdough culture (see below)
500g bread flour
200ml warm water
2 teaspoons sea salt flakes
Make the Sourdough Culture:
To make your own sourdough culture, mix 75g of flour and 75ml water in a sealable jar.The mixing action traps natural airborne yeast particles in the flour and water mix, and they begin to feed on the flour in the jar creating a living yeast colony. Leave the jar somewhere warm and remember to feed your sourdough equal parts flour and water (75g of flour and 75ml water) every day. By 5 days in it should be bubbling and ready to use to bake your sourdough bread.
Make the Bread:
Put the flour into a bowl and add 300ml of your sourdough culture. Then add the warm water and the salt. Mix it altogether and then turn it out onto a table for kneading. It is a wet dough, the wetter the better, so you have to work it for a long time before it will start to come way from the table.
Once it's stretchy, put it into a bowl, cover it with plastic wrap (I use a disposable shower cap - works a treat), and leave it somewhere warm to rise for 2 hours.
Shape the dough on a lightly floured surface to fit a proving basket or loaf tin. To do this, stretch the dough out into a long rectangle then fold each outer third inwards. Knuckle down a seam at the bottom of the dough nearest to you, then roll the dough down from top creating a tight loaf shape.
Dust the proving basket or loaf tin with flour and roll the dough in flour to stop it sticking. Put it into the basket, cover it again and leave it to rise in a warm place for a second time, for about 8 - 12 hours.
To bake it you will need a baking stone or a heavy metal baking tray. Get your oven very hot at 240 degrees C and heat the stone or tray. Carefully turn the loaf out onto the hot stone or tray - be careful not to knock any air out. Slash the top of the dough a few times with a sharp knife then put the it in the oven and throw a cup of water into the bottom of the oven to create steam. Bake for 30 minutes until golden.