I've been experimenting with making sourdough for months. I usually manage to get a decent loaf but have never settled on a method that works for me. Sourdough bread is a personal journey of learning about bread making, learning what it should look like and how it all works. It is so dependent upon the temperature in your house, your lifestyle and so many other things that affect how you fit it into your day. I think I've finally got a method that works for me.
This assumes you have a starter already. I keep mine on the side in a glass fermenting jar from Lakeland. The fermenting jar has a valve in the top so the jar doesn't explode when the yeast is active.
I took 300g of starter and placed it in my breadmachine bowl. I topped up the starter with a cup of flour and a cup of water (and mixed it together), then added the same to my bread machine bowl. I then set the breadmachine to the pizza setting and let it mix it together for 5 mins. I then stopped the pizza setting after 5 mins of the progam and left it overnight.
In the morning it was bubbling nicely, and just before i had my breakfast I reset the pizza setting going and kept the lid open to add a tspn of salt, and half a cup of water then enough flour to bring it to a dough consistency - I add it while the program has started so that I can see it mixing. I then let the pizza programme do it's work - mixing and warming the dough for 45mins. After an hour or so, at coffee time, I took it out of the bread machine and put the dough on a floured surface. I kneaded it to a smooth dough and then shaped it into a ball and placed it in a bowl lined with a floured cloth and then sprayed it with water on top and left it to rise.
Meanwhile I heated the oven to 200deg. At lunchtime I gently turned the dough out onto a large square of baking paper, and slice the top of the loaf. I then used the paper to lift the dough into my Le Creuset cast iron casserole pot, put the lid on and put it in the oven. After 20 mins I took off the lid and let it bake for another 20-25 mins (depending how crusty you like it to be).
I'm sure there are sourdough experts who will tell me how my rise isn't perfect etc, but for me it works :-) And I've managed to fit it to give me some natural breaks in my day (I'm a bit prone to just working through and ending up with sore shoulders from hunching over a lap top or canvas) - the regular input the dough needs makes me take a break from my work at regular points in the day. I think my next break will be a nice slice of warm fresh bread with butter and home made jam....