340ml water
20ml maple syrup
20ml kimchi juice (the liquid found at the bottom of a jar of homemade kimchi or store-bought bag)
75g active starter
100g wholegrain spelt flour
450g strong white bread flour or white spelt flour
10g salt
Rice flour, to dust the proving basket

1 round proving basket, or a mixing bowl lined with a clean tea towel
Ovenproof heavy-based pot with a lid, roughly 22–24cm; a cast iron pot is ideal

Kimchi Sourdough

SERVES: Makes 1 round loaf

Kimchi is the reason why I first started making sourdough bread. There was something so gratifying about bringing cabbage to life out of nothing but the natural yeasts in the air and on the vegetable – so it wasn’t long before I was eager to do the same with flour and water.

In a bowl combine the water, maple syrup, kimchi juice and starter.

In a second bowl combine the flours and salt. Add in the starter mixture and thoroughly mix, ensuring there are no lumps of flour. Cover and leave at room temperature for 1 hour.

With a lightly floured hand, take a portion of the dough, stretch it up and over and press it into the opposite side of the dough. Repeat this movement four times, turning the bowl so you work your way around the entire dough. Cover and leave to rest for 15 minutes. Repeat three more times, leaving 15 minutes between each kneading. Cover the bowl and leave it at room temperature overnight (or for at least 8–10 hours). If you live in a very warm climate, place the bowl in the fridge.

The following morning the dough should have doubled in size and feel light and airy to the touch. If you refrigerated the dough, remove it and leave to prove at room temperature for a few hours. Prepare your proving basket or bowl by liberally dusting it with the rice flour, making sure it it is well coated.

Lightly dust the work surface with rice flour and gently tip the dough on to it, using a spatula to help coax it out. With floured hands, take one edge of the dough and pull it up and out, then back over itself into the centre of the dough. Work your way around the dough, repeating until the edges are puckered in the centre. The dough should now feel a bit tighter.

Flip the dough over so the puckered surface is facing down, cup your hands around and bring them together underneath the dough, gently pulling the surface downwards. Repeat all the way around the dough until the surface feels smooth and tight. Transfer it into your proving basket with the puckered surface facing up. Dust with rice flour, cover loosely and leave to rise in a warm spot for 1½ – 2½ hours, until the dough has noticeably risen, but not doubled in size.

Thirty minutes before the final rise is completed, put your pot and lid into the oven and preheat to 240°C/220°C fan/Gas mark 9.

When the final rise is completed, carefully remove the pot from the oven and gently invert the dough out of the basket and into the pot, so the puckered centre is now facing the bottom. Take care, as the pot will be burning hot.

With a small, very sharp knife, cut two to four shallow slashes into the surface of the dough. Put the lid on the pot and place it in the oven. Turn the temperature down to 220°C/200°C fan/Gas mark 8.

Bake the bread for 30 minutes, then remove the lid and bake for another 10–15 minutes, until the crust is golden brown. To check the bread is cooked through, tap the base. It should sound hollow. If not, bake for another few minutes and test again.

Once cooked, leave to cool on a wire rack. Once it is cool enough to handle, slice off a chunk of your well-earned sourdough.