Although my sourdough starter is many years old I call this Port Renfrew Sourdough because the technique I now use for all my bread was developed at the cottage in Port Renfrew in the spring of 2016. My starter also developed a more aggressive character at that time which may be due to a local strain of yeast.
The technique was developed from that used by Tartine Bakery in San Francisco. A good source if you want to follow the original is the New York times article: Tartine’s Country Bread which says in part:
The country bread from Tartine Bakery in San Francisco has reached cult status among passionate bakers, and deservedly so. Based on traditional principles, Mr. Robertson has developed a way to get a tangy, open crumb encased in a blistered, rugged crust in a home kitchen, from a starter you create yourself.
That process takes 2 weeks if you need to develop your starter but still 2 days after your starter is established. For me that was simply too long and complicated so I tackled the essentials and came away with a loaf that hits all my expectations for a great loaf in about 12 hours. Here are the steps I use.
We are going to assume you have a starter and know how to keep it well fed and happy. It should look bubbly and smell fruity. If left on the counter in summer it should attract fruit flies, not sure if that is a requirement but mine certainly does.
You will need flour, salt, water and a sourdough starter.
sourdough starter – 50 grams
whole wheat flour – 100 grams
water – 100 grams
white bread flour – 300 grams
water – 175 grams
salt – 7 grams
I only use the scale so I can give you the exact measurements. On a daily basis I use containers that I am familiar with. The process is not exact since temperature, type of flour, hydration of your starter and the phase of the moon (probably) affect the result.
Put 1 heaping tablespoon of starter (50 grams) in a glass or stainless steel bowl.
I feed my starter at the same time with a heaping tablespoon (25 grams) of whole wheat flour and 25 grams of water. I leave it on the counter as a check that my bread is actually going to rise. After it has doubled in size I put it in the fridge. The bread takes longer because the mixture has proportionately less yeast in it.
Add 100 grams of whole wheat flour and 100 grams of warm water. If you live where water is treated best to have your water sit for a while to give the chlorine or anything else that may kill the yeast a chance to escape. 30 minutes should be adequate. BUT I have forgotten to do that without disastrous effect.
Mix this well. You should get a batter a bit thicker than you would use for pancakes.
Cover with a tea towel and put it in a nice warm environment for 3 to 5 hours. I use the closet where our water heater lives or the oven with the light on giving me about 30 degrees C. You can leave it on the counter but it will take longer.
After about 2 hours on the counter at 21 C the starter is showing me that it is still working well so I put that in the fridge.
This is just an indicator of how long I will need to wait for my batter to be bubbly. The batter has spread out and is showing some small bubbles
When it is bubbly and at least doubled in size (4 hours this day)
I add 300 grams of white bread flour and
7 grams of salt and
I pour 175 grams of room temperature water onto the salt. Remember chlorinated water could be a problem unless you leave it sit for a while. If your room temperature is below 20 degrees you could use warm water but we don’t want the dough rising much until it is in the pan 3 hours from this point.
The result is a very sticky dough which I beat for about a minute and then cover with a tight lid. I use a dinner plate. If you can form the dough into a ball and pick it up then it is not wet enough.
Let rest covered for 30 minutes at room temperature.
For the next 3 hours at 30 minute intervals do the following:
With wet hands scoop up the dough and fold half of it towards you.
Rotate the container 180 degrees and fold the other side toward you.
Rotate 90 degrees and fold half toward you. The first time you may need to wet your hands a second time.
Rotate 180 degrees and fold the last half toward you, cover and let rest.
After 30 minutes your dough will have relaxed and spread out some. Repeat the above process.
Each time you do this the dough gets easier to handle (less sticky, shinier and more elastic) because the gluten is being developed. You can see that it progressively holds its form better.
After 5 foldings prepare a minimum 4 inch by 8 inch loaf pan with a some olive oil. I use my hand to spread it up the sides and onto the ledge.
Pick up your dough and create a bit of final tension in it by gently folding the bottom inside but not so much that you tear the top. Place it in the pan with the folded side down.
Since it is a hot day and my kitchen is 27 C I leave it on the counter covered with a tea towel but if not I would put it in the oven with the light on
until it starts to come out of the pan (3 to 4 hours).
I preheat the oven to 500 degrees hoping my consistency is sufficient to hang together until the oven is ready. Should have started a bit earlier this day. But it does hang in there.
I place it in the oven at 500 F for 10 minutes. It rises a bit extra and takes on some colour.
I reduce the temperature to 350F and give it another 30 minutes. Pop it out of the pan and let it bake for an additional 10 minutes with the oven off to harden the crust a bit.
Cool on a rack for at least 30 minutes
I store my bread on the counter for at least 2 days with the cut end down, if it lasts that long and then pop it in the fridge for toast.
Butter is, of course, the best accompaniment for fresh bread but a slice of cheese and a bit of crab apple jelly also works.
I vary the type of flour. A 100% whole wheat loaf is just as fluffy as this 25% one. For raisin bread I use multigrain flour instead of white and add a couple handfuls of raisins. I make a solid rye loaf by substituting the white for rye flour.
When I want a traditional round loaf I use a cast iron skillet with a tight fitting lid which I leave on during the first 10 minutes.
To score or not to score? You can experiment with this but I have found that the loaf rises out of the pan about the same whether I score or not. This day scoring would probably have caused it to flow out of the pan. In the skillet I usually score with a wet razor blade. I have concluded that scoring is only important if the dough is less runny.