Inspired by the BBCs ‘Victorian Bakers’ (which was on BBC2 on Tuesday night), I decided to bake loaf using a sponge starter. A sponge (sometimes called a pre-ferment) is just a mixture of flour, water and yeast that is left to ferment a day or so before you are ready to use it. This is a technique I usually use when I am making a sour dough. I just used dried years in my starter whereas the VBs used brewer’s yeast (something I am quite keen to get my hands on), as it was what was commonly used at the time. This traditional method makes for a longer fermentation process, which creates better flavour.
Makes 2 small or one large loaf
For the sponge starter:
250g strong flour
7g dried yeast
275ml of water
For the loaf:
250g strong white flour
water (you’ll probably need an extra 50ml or so, depending on your flour)
Make the sponge by combining the yeast flour and water. Cover with some cling-film, or a tea towel, and leave to ferment for at least 8 hours (I left mine overnight).
When the sponge has bubbled up nicely, add the rest of the ingredients to create a smooth dough. You will need to add at least 50ml more water, maybe even more, depending on your flour. Add the water gradually whilst kneading.
Knead for 10 minutes, or until you get a soft and smooth dough.
Cover and leave to double in size.
When risen, shape the dough into a one large round loaf (or two smaller ones) and place onto a baking tray.
Cover and leave to rise again, for around 30 minutes, or until it has almost doubled.
Pre- heat the oven to 200 degrees C.
When the loaf has risen, sprinkle it with flour and cut a ‘cross’ shape in the top.
Bake for around 25 minutes, or until its golden in colour and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.
Leave to cool a little before serving.