Sourdough Bread (Leith

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A natural yeast starter for sourdough bread will take about 1 week to become active. To be active enough to raise a dough, a starter should double in 4 hours when fed and left at room temperature. A traditional sourdough loaf will take about 1 ½ days to produce. Whole wheat grain can be found in health-food shops. MAKES 1 LOAF

For the starter 225g/ 8oz organic wheat grain or strong white organic flour 225ml/ 8floz lukewarm mineral water 225g/ 8oz strong white organic flour 1 tablespoon organic barley malt syrup 290ml/ 10 fl oz lukewarm mineral water

For the dough 225g/ 8 oz starter (see left) 55-115ml/ 2-4 fl oz lukewarm mineral water 1 tablespoon clear organic honey or barley malt syrup 170 g 6 oz strong white organic flour 55g/ 2oz organic rye flour or wholemeal flour 1 ½ teaspoons fine sea salt

For the starter If using wheat grain, grind it in a clean coffee grinder to make flour. Place this flour or 225 g/ 8oz strong white organic flour in a bowl and stir in 225 ml/ 8 fl oz water to make a paste. Leave to stand uncovered for 3 days at room temperature. A few whole unwashed grapes can be added to the mixture, which should start to bubble and smell sweetly yeasty. If it smells unpleasant, throw it away and start again. 2 On the third day stir in the second quantity of flour, the barley malt syrup and the 290 ml/ 10 fl oz water. Leave to stand, uncovered, for a further 3 days. Discard the grapes, if using. Remove 225 g/ 8 oz of the starter to make the bread. Feed the remaining starter by mixing in 100ml/ 3 ½ fl oz mineral water and 100 g / 3 ½ oz strong white organic flour, then cover and store in the refrigerator.
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For the bread Place 225 g/ 8 oz of the starter in a large bowl and stir in the water and honey or malt syrup. Sift the flours together, then add enough flour to make a soft but not too sticky dough. 4 Knead for 10 minutes by hand or 6 minutes by machine. Place in an oiled bowl and turn to coat with a thin film of oil. Cover with oiled clingfilm and leave to stand at room temperature until doubled in size. This will take up to 8 hours. 5 Knock back the dough and knead for 1 minute. Return to the oiled bowl, cover with oiled clingfilm and chill overnight. 6 Sprinkle the salt over the dough then knead to knock back for 2 minutes. Cover the dough with clingfilm and leave it to rest for 10 minutes. Heavily flour a 20 cm/ 8 in diameter basket or line a bowl with a heavily floured tea towel. 7 Shape the dough into a smooth round and place in the basket or bowl. Cover with oiled clingfilm and leave to prove (rise again) in a warm place until nearly doubled in size, about 3 hours. 8 Meanwhile, place a baking stone on a rack placed in the top third of the oven and heat the oven to 220°C/ 425°F/ gas mark 7. Place an empty roasting tin on a rack in the bottom third of the oven. 9 When the dough has proved, sprinkle a baking sheet or peel liberally with flour. Carefully turn the dough on to the baking sheet or peel, then slash it with a razor or serrated knife in a noughts and crosses grid pattern. Boil some water for steam. 10 Slide the dough from the baking sheet on to the baking stone, then pour a cup of boiling water into the roasting tin to create a steamy environment. Spray the dough with a plant mister during the first 5 minutes of baking. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the loaf is well-browned and sounds hollow when tapped on the underside. Transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool for 1 hour before slicing.
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