Sourdough Bread, Clay Ovens and Leaven

I find real beauty in the simplicity of sourdough. The fact that two ingredients treated with a little love and care can produce such a delicious product. And such an important addition to any table.

This sourdough is inspired by a Spanish recipe. It has a close, creamy grain and thick flavourful crust.

Waste not: Sourdough is hugely versatile, it doesn’t mould like regular yeasted breads. It dries out over time and can be used in various dishes as it ages. Check out my blog Feeding the 5000: The Life of a Loaf for recipes on how to use stale bread.

First make the leaven/starter

250g organic flour
250ml water


Whisk the flour and water together in a 2 litre container with lid. Seal and leave in a warm place (such as a kitchen shelf).

Feeding the leaven
A leaven is a living thing, so it needs to be fed regularly. You will need to feed the leaven more or less, depending on the frequency that you make bread. Otherwise you will end up with excess. If you want to bake every three days, then feed your leaven everyday. If you want to bake less regularly, start feeding your starter 3 days before you want to use it.

To feed –  Add roughly 125g of flour and 125ml of tepid water, bringing the starter back to its original quantity. Whisk thoroughly. The starter should be of a double cream consistency. Repeat this process and watch your starter come to life!

Sourdough (makes two large loaves)

1kg organic bread flour (organic flour helps the bacteria and flavours form)
250g rye flour
25g salt
500g leaven
600-700ml water 36-45° more or less

Day 1
Feed your starter as usual in the morning, so that it will be nice and active in the afternoon for you to make the dough.

Weigh out your flours and salt and pour onto a clean table. Make a well in the centre of the mixture and add 300g of your starter. Pour in the water.

Now start to draw in the flour paddling the mixture together until a slightly sticky dough forms. Add flour or water as necessary and continue to knead for 10 to 12 minutes.

Form the dough into a ball and leave to prove for 2-3 hours.

Knock the dough back. Split the dough into two and shape into a ball by puling the outside of the dough to the middle, leaving a smooth, round surface on the opposite side. Place on an oiled baking tray and cover with oiled cling film and a tea towel. Leave to prove overnight in a cool room or the fridge.

Day 2
Preheat the oven to its maximum setting or 200-300° C.

Allow the dough to warm up slightly until it springs back when touched. When the oven is really hot, gently put the dough into the oven. Throw a splash of water onto the oven floor to create steam, this will help your loaf form a crust.

After 15 minutes, turn the oven down to gas mark 4 or around 160°. Leave for a further 45 minutes. The bread is ready when it has a really dark wholesome crust and sounds hollow when tapped on the base.

Leave to cool on a wire rack and enjoy smothered in butter.

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