This is mainly aimed at users of the Sourdough UK Facebook group many of whom are new-comers to sourdough and are clearly confused by conflicting advice.
This is a Pain de Campagne (white sourdough) I baked yesterday. It is the simplest but most perfect of breads. The method:
I fed my starter the night before.
I mixed the dough by hand in the morning.
As soon as all the flour was incorporated, I kneaded the dough ten times, let it rest for five minutes, kneaded ten times more, rested and repeated a third time. I put the dough in a lightly oiled box to ferment for four hours.
Every 60 minutes for the first three hours I took the dough out of the box, stretched it one way, folded it up, stretched it the other way, folded and replaced in the box.
At the end of four hours I shaped the dough, placed it in a proving basket and let it prove for three and a half hours, turned it out onto a baking sheet, slashed it and baked it for 50 minutes.
Removed to a wire rack to cool.
End of story.
No tricks, no fridge, no Dutch oven, no autolyse, no steam.
This is what my starter looked like the morning after being fed. Nothing spectacular but clearly active.
I keep my starter in a plastic pudding basin with a clipped lid. I’m not interested in how much it rises or whether it floats. I’ve had it twenty years and I know that 7-8 hours after feed it will be ready for use, and remain so for a number of hours.
None of this has to be complicated.
Download the pdf of my sourdough book and my spreadsheet calculator