Spelt Sourdough Bread
Wild yeast and creating the 'Mother'
To begin our journey in sourdough baking, we must create life using wild yeasts and a combination of lactic and acetic acids. They will form a fermenting agent which we will use to 'leaven' our bread or give rise.
To start your culture, mix together equal amounts of room temperature water and bread flour, say 50g of each. Always mix your starter/Mother by hand as the wild yeasts we will utilize are mostly present on the baker's hands and in the grain, a little comes from the air. Leave this mixture at room temperature and covered with a damp cloth so it will ferment and can breathe.
The next day there will be little to no difference, discard 80% of the mixture and top up with your flour and water ratio as before. Repeat this process for 3-4 days, you'll notice each day more activity. To test your Mother's strength and see if you're ready to bake, place a small amount into some room temperature water: if it floats it's good to go (if not, feed again and try again on the following day).
The night before you wish to bake feed your Mother, my bread recipe calls for 250g of Mother so I throw away 80% and add 160g water and 160g strong bread flour. Once you're baking daily you won't throw the starter away but will use it to make your dough.
300g Water room temperature
400g Strong white bread flour
100g Spelt flour
15g Salt mixed with 25g Water
Mix together the water and Mother in a separate bowl. Mix your flours then slowly add the water mixture by hand, until all the flour is hydrated. Now leave the dough to rest for 30-60 mins, this is called Auto-leese, which allows glutens to swell and form chains that will trap the gasses and form the structure of the dough. Cover with a damp but not wet cloth so our dough doesn't dry out.
You now are ready to stretch the gluten by doing a series of folds. Leaving your dough in the bowl, lift up and stretch each corner and fold back on its self. Once this is complete, cover with your damp cloth. Leave to rest for 30 mins and repeat this process 4 times, each time allowing the dough to rest for 30 mins. This stage is called 'bulk fermentation' in which the dough is kept around 25c. Each time you stretch the dough, notice it becoming stronger as the glutens are worked and the folds are trapping air pockets which form the base structure for the 'mie' or crumb. On the final fold, you should be able to do a 'windowpane' test where you stretch a small amount of dough thin enough to see through, without tearing which means the glutens are worked enough.
After the final turn, divide your dough in 2 and give it a bench rest of 15-30 mins, this allows a skin to form on the surface of our dough.
Now shape the dough, keeping as much of the trapped Co2 (air bubbles) as possible. Stretch gently, fold 1/3 to the middle and repeat with the other 1/3. Stretch in the other direction and repeat the fold. Cup your hands around the dough and pull it towards you letting the base drag on your workbench.
Lightly dust your bread proofing basket with a 50 - 50 mix of fine semolina and bread flour. Place your dough inside with the seams facing up. Cling-film and allow to prove. If cooking straight away this will take 3-4 hour depending on the temperature of your room. I like to 'retard' the dough which makes it sourer: I let it prove for 30 mins at room temperature before moving to the fridge for the night.
The next day, remove the dough from the fridge whilst the oven heats up to 240c. The baking tray should be inside as well as a deep tray on the bottom shelf filled with hot water which will create steam while your bread cooks. Dust flour and semolina on the base of the dough and gently release all sides from the basket. Score on a 45c angle down the centre of the dough with a sharp knife. Bake for 25 mins then tap the base once cooked - if it sounds hollow it's done.