This will give you some idea of timings from start(er) to finish. I like a leisurely Sunday brunch, so this is how I get my sourdough sorted, but the days and times can be changed accordingly! I find a casserole works beautifully, as it traps the steam in, but if you're not going to use one, try spraying some water into the oven or putting some water in a roasting on the bottom of the oven when you first put the bread in. The steam stops the crust from hardening initially so it can rise properly.
Pictured are the Heston Scales - the best we sell and the most accurate on the market. I was sceptical about how much I needed scales to be accurate to 0.1 of a gram, but I'm a convert now. I have for example found my perfect popcorn flavour balance is 1g of salt to 3g of sugar. You can fine tune these subtleties with the right equipment!
8.00am Saturday: refresh starter
Add 75g of warm water and 75g of bread flour to your starter. (I've emptied my starter into a bowl here, but just add to your jar of starter if it's big enough) Cover with clingfilm and leave at room temperature.
2.00pm Saturday: mix sponge
Your starter should now be very bubbly, like in the pic.
Carefully transfer 150g of it into a bowl big enough to make your dough in. Add 250g of bread flour, 275g of slightly warm water and mix together. You can use your fingers, or a spoon if you really don’t want to get messy yet. I tend to use scales for measuring water, as they’re more accurate than a jug. Cover with clingfilm, leave at room temperature.
In the background is one of our flour containers. They save a lot of mess, prevent bugs getting into your flour, and come with a handy scoop.
9.00pm Saturday: mix dough
Your sponge should now be fermented and very bubbly. Add 300g of flour, 1 tbsp of olive oil and 10g of fine sea salt. You want it manageable but still wet, so add flour or water if needed. Mix and knead on your worktop for 10 mins or so, add a dash of oil to your clean bowl, roll in the oil to coat, and cover with clingfilm brushed with oil. Leave at room temperature overnight.
6.00am Sunday: knock-back and shape
Your dough should be beautifully risen. The curvy dough scraper in the pic on the left will be invaluable here in gently teasing the dough out of the bowl onto a lightly floured surface without tearing it. The flat scraper is great for lifting the dough up if it gets stuck, as well as fuss-free cleaning-up afterwards. Punch the dough a couple of times to knock the air out. (Don’t worry – it will rise again!)
Shape the dough into a ball by pulling the dough out from the side and pressing it into the middle, working your way all around the bread so that each edge has been tucked into the middle and you have a round shape with a ‘knot/join’ in the middle. Dip the join side into a bowl of flour, dust the rest of the bread with the flour, and place join side down in a proving basket/banneton. Cover in the oil-brushed cling film and leave to rise.
10am Sunday: bake!
Preheat your oven to a medium high heat (around 210C, gas 6). VERY gently, roll/transfer your bread into a casserole, so the join is now upwards, taking care not to knock the air our of it. Put the lid on, and bake for 30 mins. Then, have a look to check all’s well, and with the lid off, turn the oven up a bit (I put mine on full) and return to the oven for around 15 mins, or until your crust is as dark as you like it. When ready, leave to cool on a wire rack.