This is bread you can make when you get home from the pub, a little the better for drink. That’s what I did, and it worked out beautifully. It rises overnight, as you slumber, and it only needs a little of your input the next day when you might be feeling a little delicate and disinclined to do much of anything that involves fast movements or loud noises. It’s a no-knead bread, based on the recipe from Steamy Kitchen that I’ve tried before to great effect. The end result is full of flavour and chewy texture, and loads of little bubbles that are great for catching mini puddles of Scottish salted butter.
For this to work, you have to have a sourdough starter that’s at least mostly awake – I think it will work even if your starter isn’t active and bubbly when you begin, but I’m fairly sure it won’t work if it’s been languishing in the fridge. So, step one is to take your starter out of the fridge, if that’s where it lives, and give it a wee bite to eat – a spoonful each of flour and warm water, say – and let it sit out and warm to room temperature while you’re off gallivanting. If your starter is in frequent use and lives on the counter, you should be able to use it even if you forget to do that before you go out.
Here are the ingredients for a Drunken Sourdough loaf:
- 1 cup sourdough starter
- 1 1/2 cups wholemeal bread flour
- 1 1/2 cups plain bread flour
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 cup warm water
When you get home, start the dough off – all it takes is throwing your ingredients in a great big bowl, mixing them together, then covering in clingfilm and leaving in a warm place. It doesn’t have to be an airing cupboard or next to your water heater – as long as the temperature of your room is pretty average, this will work. If you live in a cold house, consider putting a radiator on low and setting the bowl next to it. In a push, you could try setting the bowl over some very hot water and wrapping it in a few tea towels, which should kick things off. The dough will be a sticky, shaggy mess, and that is OK. You might be much the same. It might also be quite dark…
Twelve hours later, which may well be around the time you’re getting out of bed, your dough will have risen up and look bubbly. If you use a glass bowl, you’ll be able to see the bubbles round the sides, which I always like. You will now tip and, if necessary, scrape the dough out onto a well floured surface and sprinkle a little flour over the top, then gently work it until it’s robust enough to form a boule without collapsing into a very big pancake when unsupported. Again, you may be feeling in a similar way yourself.
Now prepare a place for this dough to rise again. I use a colander lined with clingfilm, which I coat with a fine film of oil and then sprinkle with cornmeal. You can also use a teatowel, but this will encourage sticking no matter how much cornmeal or flour you try to sprinkle over it – I speak from experience. You can use a pot, a cake tin; anything that’s roughly the width of the utensil you will be using to bake the finished loaf. There is a nice section on choosing the right receptacle at Steamy Kitchen. Scoop that lovely round of dough into your chosen and prepared raising place. Don’t worry if it gets a bit bashed en route.
Cover it over with a layer of clingfilm and a tea towel, and leave in that warm place again. You can have a nap, or watch daytime TV, or have a soothing bath with essential oils. After two hours, your dough should be risen and plump and a bit shoogly. I will refrain from making any personal comments here.
Make sure the dough has risen up, and then get your oven heated up to a very hot 230C. Put your baking dish in the oven, too, so that it’s hot when the dough goes into it. Cover the dough again while you wait, and then when your thermostat light blinks off it’s show time. This next step is probably the hardest bit. You have to transfer the dough into the hot dish without burning your hands or dropping it on the counter or, worse, floor. This is why it’s important that it rises in something that’s roughly the same size and shape as your baking dish, the risk of spillage is minimised that way. You basically just want to tip it over in one quick motion and hope for the best. Mine got an extra foldy bit. That’s OK.
Cover the dish and bake for half an hour, then uncover and bake for another 15 – 20 minutes, until golden brown and crunchy on top, and hollow sounding when tapped. Cool it on a rack before slicing and slathering in butter.
It’s absolutely full of flavour and remarkably good with a nice bit of cheese. The crust is especially good, crisp when it comes out of the oven and chewy once it’s cooled down.
It’s toothsome. I think this is the first time I’ve used the word toothsome, I’m not sure how I feel about it. But, my feelings aside, it is. Yum.