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Sourdough-like bread with minimal effort
Baking bread is probably one of the most satisfying processes in the baking world. From the simplest ingredients you get an end product that everyone loves and is absolutely delicious. Most people fear making bread because the sourdough process has a reputation for being difficult to master; those perfect glutenous holes in the bread, coupled with the crunchy crust are quite tricky to achieve.
This recipe is the exact opposite of complicated, as it’s super simple and required absolutely minimum effort. The result, however, is an unbelievably crunchy rustic bread, with the perfect taste.
Since developing this recipe, I have started making bread at home twice per week, and it only takes me minutes to prepare. There is some waiting to be done, but if you remember to prep your dough the night before, the next day you will get perfectly baked bread.
The recipe is based on the most common ingredients found in everyone’s cupboard: flour, yeast and salt.
A very forgiving recipe
The best thing about this recipe is that it doesn’t need you to be extremely accurate. Don’t have a scale? No problem. You can use regular tea mugs.
Timing is quite flexible as well. The proving time can vary, and the quality of the bread won’t be compromised. As long as you let your bread prove between 4 and 12 hours, your bread will come out perfectly. The only part of the timing that needs to be quite exact is the baking itself.
Being no-knead, the recipe also avoids the dangers of over-kneading or creating a dense bread by mistake. It really is the simplest bread recipe!
An important step: folding the dough
Although the bread requires no kneading, you will need to do some quick folding of your dough once it’s proved for a few hours. The folding couldn’t be simpler: with a spatula or a scraper take the sides of the bread and fold the over on themselves like the quick video below.
By folding the dough on itself the aim is to help release more gluten, and make the bread more airy inside. What we are looking for is a supple dough, that becomes smoother the more you fold it in.
I started baking bread whilst being on lockdown during the Coronavirus pandemic. As everyone knows, ingredients were in short supply, which made me want to make the recipe accessible to everyone.
The ingredients can easily be replaced:
- Strong white bread flour – this can be replaced with wholewheat or rye flour. Certain adjustments will have to be made, as different flours soak up water differently. Wholewheat needs more water, and typically an extra 50-100ml will do the trick. You can do it all by eye, and look for a sticky recipe, that’s not dry or too liquid. Cake flour, although it can still make decent flour, is a bit too soft to create the crusty, tasty bread we all know and love.
- Fast-action dry yeast – the recipe can be adjusted to accommodate fresh yeast as well. The ratio will be 7g instant yeast to 30g fresh yeast. You can also use this recipe with sourdough starter, although the proving time will have to increase slightly. I recommend 24 hours proving in the fridge.
- Salt – I wouldn’t recommend removing salt, as it helps improve the taste significantly. If you’re on a low salt diet, removing the salt will not impact the quality of your bread.
- Sugar – although not essential to the recipe, I find it helps balance out the taste, as well as make the yeast a bit more active.
Adding extra ingredients
Besides being fail-proof, the recipe also allows for experimentation. You can add seeds, condiments, nuts and whatever else you’d like to taste in your bread. I recommend adding cardamom or Palestinian Za’atar for a beautiful flavour.
Running out of yeast? Remember this trick
Yeast seems to be in short supply nowadays, so if you’re running low on either fresh or dry yeast, I have the perfect and simple solution.
- Once your bread dough has proved for some time, remove a small piece of dough and set it aside. The piece needs to be roughly a tsp in size.
- Place the dough scrap in a small bowl, and add 2-3 tsp of flour and a splash of water
- Mix until you get a runny paste
- Cover with cling film and store at room temperature if using the next day or in the fridge to be used within 4-5 days.
500g strong white bread flour (approx. 3 1/2 tea mugs)
7g (1 tsp) salt
7g (1 tsp) sugar
4g (1/2 tsp) fast action instant (dry) yeast
350ml water (roughly one tea mug)
*Extra flour for dusting
- In a small bowl, add around 50ml of tepid water and sprinkle the yeast. Let soak for 5 minutes.
- In a large bowl, add 500g strong white (bread) flour, 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp of sugar. Mix to combine.
- Measure 350ml of water (or approx. 1 tea mug) and add over the flour
- Add in your bloomed yeast mixture.
- Using the handle of a wooden spoon or any spatula, mix the flour and water until it just about combines. It will be very sticky, but try to resist the temptation to add more flour.
- Cover the bowl with cling film, and place a tea towel over it. Place inside your oven (turned off) and let rest overnight (between 6-10 hours).
- In the morning, take out your dough and using either a bread scraper or a spatula, fold in the sides of the dough on itself. Do this approximately 10 minutes until the dough becomes smooth and less sticky. Sprinkle some flour over dough.
- Preheat oven to 260°C (or 240°C with fan) and place a Dutch Oven, or Pyrex dish (with a lid) inside to get sizzling hot.
- Once hot, remove your pot and sprinkle with some flour to prevent sticking. Carefully place your dough inside the sizzling pot.
- Cover with lid and bake for 30 minutes. Afterwards, remove the lid and bake for an extra 20 minutes until your bread is a lovely light brown colour.
- Freshly out of the oven, your crust will be very crunchy. Let rest with the lid on top for a few minutes to soften the crust slightly.
- Enjoy whilst still hot with some lightly salted butter – YUM!