Homemade Sourdough Bread
As soon as you get up, take the starter out of the fridge. Open it, and add one cup of white flour. Give it a stir, and then leave it for an hour. This stage is important - you're feeding the yeast with some fresh food, so the yeast will be more active when you make the bread.
After an hour, the starter should be bubbly on top ( see the video if you're unsure). This means it has woken up and is ready. Measure two cups of the starter, and pour it into a large bowl. If the starter liquid seems really thick, add one cup of warm water ( hot enough so that it just starts to hurt your finger). Add the salt and sugar followed by one cup of flour at a time. Once it gets too hard to stir, put the spoon aside, put some flour on your hands, and place them in the bowl to start kneading. Push the dough down flat at the bottom of the bowl; fold it over on itself, press flat again. Do this for a minute or two, adding a bit of flour as you go, until the dough is tacky on the outside, but not wet.
Now, using your hands, form the dough into a ball, squeezing it and folding it over a few times, then make into a ball one last time. Take the dough ball out of the bowl. Clean the remaining flour in the bowl, scraping it off the sides. Place in a cup or smaller bowl - you'll need it in a minute.
Put one tablespoon of oil in the bowl, spread it around, then place the dough ball in the bowl. Flip it over twice so it gets coated with oil. Make sure the seam side is down. Cover the bowl with a damp tea towel. The first rise has begun. Let it rise until you come home from work ( assuming that's 8 or nine hours later).
There's one last step before you leave, though: put one cup of flour and one cup of water into the starter, to replenish what you took out. You can use the flour you scraped out of the bowl for this, as well as regular flour to make one cup. The water can be cold or warm, just not hotter than your finger can stand.
Give the starter a stir, put the lid on, and place it back in the fridge. Now you can go to work and let the yeast do its work.
After the first rise.
It's now eight or nine hours later, and the sourdough ball should have doubled in size. This won't look huge. To test if it is ready, poke it with your finger. If the indentation stays, it's good.
While you've been at work, the yeast has been eating the flour and expelling carbon dioxide, making the bread expand. For the next step you need to deflate this balloon, so punch it down a few times ( gently - don't hurt yourself!). Take the dough in your hands and knead it for a minute or two. Now, place it in a small oiled bread pan, and put a damp tea towel on top. Now you can go away for three hours as the yeast gets back to work.
Get ready to bake
The bread should have risen again, clearing the top of the bread pan, or at least looking obviously bigger than when you left it. ( It all depends on what size of bread pan you used). Don't worry if it doesn't look too big - it will rise some more in the oven.
Preheat the oven to 370 degrees F. Also, place a pan of water on the bottom rack of the oven. This will help with the crust.
When the oven is ready, take the tea towel off gently. (If it sticks and deflates a bit, just give it another 15 minutes to rise again). Place the bread in the oven, and set the timer to 30 minutes.
The bread is done when it is golden brown, and sounds hollow when you knock it on top. Let it cool for ten minutes before taking it out of the pan. Doing this too early can cause it to rip.
Congratulations, you have made a sourdough bread, joining a tradition that is many hundreds of years old!