Ingredients (to make 4 loaves of approximately 500 grams each)
1. Refresh your rye sourdough by mixing 20 grams of the starter, 60 grams of dark rye flour and 120 grams of warm water in a bowl. Cover it and leave it over night.
2. The next day, take 40 grams out of this bowl and put it back with the rest of your sourdough starter in an airtight container and leave it in the fridge until you are ready to use it. There is no need to “feed” your dough at all until you are ready to use it again and then, just follow the instructions above. Now, make a pre dough: Mix the remaining refreshed starter with 300 grams of dark rye flour and 350 grams of warm water. Cover this and leave this until it has doubled in bulk and is all fluffy. This can take 2 hours on a hot day but you can also leave it overnight/all day if you want, either in or out of the fridge.
3. Mix the pre dough with 700 grams of the flour of your choice. You can use a mixture of any flour at this point – some light rye, some white or whole wheat, or white or whole spelt. Really – what ever you have on hand. Just be aware that if you use all dark rye you will have a very heavy loaf. Delicious, but heavy. Add 250 grams of water and 20 g salt. If you are using all rye flour give this a good mix to make sure everything is incorporated and add more water gradually to get the consistency of a mud pie. Don’t bother kneading. It won’t make any difference to the final bread. If you are using any component of spelt or wheat, knead the mixture for a good 10 minutes and then add the salt and up to 100 g more water and then knead for another 5 minutes until you get a dough the consistency of a thick pudding. Depending on your flour you may need to add more or less water.
4. Let the dough rest for 30-60 minutes or so, covered.
5. Shape the dough with wet hands. If you are making 100% rye, make four rectangles and slide each one into a well buttered tin. If you are using baskets to rise the bread, roll the rectangles in dark rye flour and pop them in the baskets. Cover the tin/baskets with clingfilm and let the dough rise until it has doubled in bulk. This will take 2-4 hours depending on the warmth in the kitchen. If you have a component of spelt or wheat, make four blobs and hold them one by one in both (wet) hands. Transfer the blob to one hand and imagine it has four corners. One corner at a time, gently pinch the dough and stretch it away from the blob and fold it back on itself. Gently massage the blob into a sausage shape. Then, slide each sausage into a well buttered tin. If you are using baskets to rise the bread, roll the sausages in dark rye flour and pop them in the baskets. Cover them with clingfilm and let them rise until they have double in bulk. Again, this will take 2-4 hours depending on the warmth of the kitchen.
Sourdough loaves are ready for the oven when this happens: Push the dough gently with a finger. If the indentation comes out again within a minute or so they are ready for the oven. If it takes longer than that they need more time. If you can push you finger in really easily and it is clear that the indentation will never come out again, they have over risen but do not despair! Just scrape the dough out of the tins/baskets one at a time, knead a bit more flour into them until they are somewhat more solid and put them back in the tins/baskets as you did before. Try rising them again and watch them a bit more closely. They will rise again, trust me.
6. Bake the bread at 220 degrees for 10 minutes and then a further 30 minutes at 200 degrees. I am sure I don’t need to say this but you don’t bake bread in a basket. You roll the dough out of the basket onto a cookie sheet that you have lined with baking parchment or liberally dusted with polenta. Ideally, heat the cookie sheet up first and roll the dough onto a hot sheet. If you forget, don’t worry about it.
Take the bread out, lovely and cracked on the top and WAIT until the next day to eat it. Sourdough is very damp and is better the next day. It will stay fresh for 4-5 days.
If you would like to add dried fruit or nuts or seeds it is a nice idea to soak these in water for 12 hours so that they are moist and don’t take any moisture out of the dough.