A few years back, this blog began to turn into a grind: I felt obliged to post on a regular basis, and more often than not, I didn't really feel like I had much to say. Posts felt flat, I felt resentful. So I made a deal with myself: I would only post when I had Something To Say, i.e. some frippery trundling through my head like a wonky tractor wheel that I could only get rid of by writing it out. Which is why I only post a few times a year.
I know a lot of people think that writing is a 'craft' that requires 'discipline', but seriously fuck that. Just do what makes you happy. Forget the rest as far as possible. Forget all the 'shoulds' and 'supposed tos'. That's the secret to life, I'm convinced.
I'm only sharing this to say that, somewhat unusually, there are no tractor wheels involved in this post, just a life-changing (for me, anyway) recipe for sourdough bread.
Now, connoisseurs will probably say this is not real sourdough bread because it is made using regular supermarket yeast, as opposed to some wild, 150-year-old yeast/bacteria combo that has solved quantum physics and partied with Keith Richards at the Playboy mansion. But to folks like you and me, who might feel obliged to pretend we care about such things in certain circles (but really don't), THIS IS SOURDOUGH.
If it looks like sourdough, and tastes and feels like sourdough... See where I'm going?
It is so simple. Read the instructions twice, and you'll see they are really, really, REALLY easy.
The only snag I can see for most folks is either having a mental block to performing a stupidly easy task the day before (mixing the flour, water, salt and yeast in a bowl, which takes all of 5 minutes), or not owning a lidded cast-iron pot. I don't know what to suggest if you don't own a cast iron pot... Maybe Google an alternative?
If you're down with those two things, you're styling.
Okay, now for the easy part...
3 cups stone ground flour* (plus extra for dusting)
1 tsp yeast (boring, vanilla, never-left-its-home-town/married-its-highschool-sweetheart yeast)
2 tsp salt
1.5 cups water
1. All you do is, see, is put the flour, yeast, salt and water in a large bowl and mix it up real good, then cover with clingfilm, put it somewhere in your house and forget about it for 10 to 24 hours.
2. The next day (or, if you did the first step in the morning, later that afternoon), you flour a work surface and your hands, spatula the dough out and pat it flat till you've got a rough, largish square. Fold each flat side into the centre (so you've got a rectangle), then fold the rectangle ends into the centre, so you've got a square. (This helps to trap the air bubbles in the dough, says my Dad*.) Flatten the bread out again in a big square, and repeat once more.
3. Now pull the bottom layer up and around the dough and smoosh the ends together so you've got a smooth bottom bit and a wrinkly top bit (though this is really for aesthetic purposes as far as I can tell), and place the dough in a floured dishcloth, cover and leave to rise for 2 more hours.
4. After one hour, you'll want to put the oven onto its highest setting (220-250 C), with the cast iron pot inside, so it gets nice and toasty.
5. When the dough has risen for 2 hours, place it in the pot, crinkly side up, pop the lid on and bake for 25-30 minutes. Then remove the lid and bake for another 10 minutes, or until the top goes all golden and delicious. Hey presto, you've got your sourdough.
*Acknowledgement: My marvellous Dad gave me this recipe last week at an early Christmas family gathering in Pringle Bay. He's been tinkering with sourdough bread for years now, and when I tried one of his loaves recently and complimented him on how good it was, he told me he'd found The One Recipe to Rule Them All. And it was SO SIMPLE. Full disclosure, though: it's a riff on a recipe by Jim Lahey (from his book My Bread: The Revolutionary No-Work, No-Knead Method, I think).
Also, the recipe on the back of the packet of Eureka Mills Stone Ground Flour is pretty similar — I highly recommend you use stone ground flour (you can find Eureka at Pick n Pay and most supermarkets). My Dad says you can use ordinary bread flour too but it won't be quite as good (but it'll still be good enough :). This recipe works with both wholewheat and white stone ground flour.