Monday, 28 November 2016

A few bread notes from here and there

Cartmel Priory

This bread story came up in a recent baking session at the Heron Corn Mill, and I can now share these pics thanks to Greevz who sent me them. I really hadn't quite grasped how old parts of Cartmel are, and it's well worth a visit just for this.

The tradition of leaving out bread for the poor of the parish continues to this day. I wonder if it's sourdough.


I have what a character in Ulysses calls a "strong weakness" for Slaithwaite. (Despite the spelling, it is pronounced "Slawit". It's a Yorkshire thing.) The terrain is uncompromisingly hilly and the scenery is breathtaking in more senses than one. If you approach Slaithwaite from the M62, be prepared for a series of hair pin bends and superb views at every turn. And test your brakes before you start!

Down from the railway line, nestling between the canal and the river, you will find the marvellous Handmade Bakery coop. This started out as a subscription community bread service running in the back room of the local green grocer's shop. It's now in a large canalside premises. The whole setup ticks a number of boxes for me - community breadmaking, not for profit, cooperative working, hand made bread, overnight fermentation, a really cosy cafe in sight of the working bakery, bakers who will take a minute off to talk bread with you, real tea and coffee, proper simple food for lunch at reasonable prices, really friendly staff, a canalside situation, accessibility by train, glorious surroundings. What's not to like?

This was what the bread shelf looked like the afternoon I was there. Lots of bread had been sold, but a good choice was still available. The top shelf had two long-fermentation white options - yeasted on the left and sourdough on the right. The other shelves were for wholemeals of various kinds. 

Friends, Romans, countrymen: lend me your ears

If you look at the loaves on the top shelf, the slashing of the loaves on the right has clearly produced different results from the slashing of the loaves on the left. I asked the baker how this was done.

The bread on the left was slashed with the blade straight up - a single vertical cut along the length of the loaf. It looks like the loaf was fairly loosely shaped, because the bread has spontaneously ripped right down beyond the end of the cut, allowing the whole thing to open right up.

The right hand loaves have a distinctive step shape, known as the ear. In extreme cases you should be able to get hold of a loaf by its ear. This one looks pretty amazing -

But this one looks more like an owl than anything else!

This is achieved by slashing with the blade about 30 degrees above the horizontal. Think of the angle of the hour hand on a clock when it's 2 o'clock.

Another shelf at the Handmade Bakery had orders waiting to be collected, all bagged up with customers' names written on. The bakery has subscribing customers who order so many loaves a week and pop in to pick up their bread when it suits them. The bakery gets the security of regular sales, and the customer knows they will always get a loaf, even if the shop is sold out. A sound coop principle.

The cup that cheers

There are a few trusted items on sale at the bakery as well as the bread. They have a range of Suki teas from Belfast. Their Earl Grey is really worth a try. I first found this in the cafe at Glasgow's Kelvingrove Gallery, and always look out for it.

Flour power

The Handmade Bakery uses two suppliers of organic flour. One is Shipton Mill near Tetbury. You can find this flour at Low Sizergh Barn. The other supplier, which is more local to Slaithwaite, is Yorkshire Organic Millers of Spaunton, near Pickering. Botham's of Whitby also use this flour.

They are very proud at Yorkshire Organic Millers - proud to be Yorkshire, proud to be stone ground, and proud to be organic. Quite right too. They use electricity to power the stones, unlike the Heron Corn Mill which uses water power exclusively, of course. We need to treasure this fundamental distinguishing feature of our own historic mill! 

I bought a "wild white" from the Handmade  Bakery. That's an overnight sourdough to you and me. Very good too. Considerably more sour than the stuff I make myself, but very good flavour. 

I was happy to see that mine stands up quite well when compared to the professional version. Can you tell which is which?

Hungary comes to Huddersfield

From Slaithwaite the only place to go is Huddersfield, where I had a fairly hectic weekend of weird and occasionally wonderful music at the festival. In the market I came across this cheerful Hungarian couple, selling various Hungarian food, including the bread they have named their cafe after - langos.

This is essentially a pizza-like fresh dough, which is flattened into a circle and deep fried to order. It usually comes with a topping of cheese or various other options, but I had a plain one to see what the bread was like.

Being deep fried it is undoubtedly rich - a bit like a calzone, but not folded. It is nice and tasty inside, and crunchy on the outside. I had a little garlic dressing on mine.

Poland and the Caribbean

My last stop in Huddersfield was Wood Street, where there is a Polish deli and grocer, and a Caribbean general store and restaurant.

I always feel a little out of my depth when faced with a Polish deli. Polish names don't trip off English tongues very easily. On my last visit, I bought some meat to make a sandwich with, thinking it was cured pork. Actually it turned out it was bacon - not a great choice for lunch on the hoof! So this time I just took a look at the bread - various types of Baltic-heritage rye bread and dark breads like this Latvian one -

Caribbean bakeries mean one thing to me: BUNS! I used to get these in Manchester as a sweet treat. This one claims to be "Birmingham's best".

If you have never tried one, don't be put off by the rubbery looking outside. On the inside, it's a rather delicious gooey treacle fruit cake, with a touch of spice and brown sugar. It's definitey moreish, and seldom lasts long when I'm around.

Along with the wonderfully named "foo foo flour" and row upon row of jerk chicken mixes and chilli sauces, the Huddersfield Caribbean shop offers several variants on the classic bun theme, but I like my old favourite best.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Sourdough Saturday baking day

Earlier this month, after much anticipation and preparation by a lot of people (and plenty of worry on my part!) we finally had our Sourdough Saturday at the Heron Corn Mill. Whereas our bread groups normally try to fit a couple of bakes into a long morning, this time we set aside a medium sized day (10:00 till 16:00) to see if we could produce a couple of sourdough loaves out of a single session in the shepherd's hut at the mill. It was always going to be a bit of a close thing, as sourdough really wants the best part of 24 hours from start to finish. Not for nothing is it called "our daily bread".

We took a little bit of a short cut by making up a bulk quantity of sponge the day before baking. Even so, we were pushing our luck a little with the timing. Fortunately the sponge was vigorous and hungry enough to fit in with our plans, and "rose to the occasion".

Autolysis and spongeing

To try and maximise the available rising time, I suggested doing all the mixing first, to get both lots of dough started, and then starting the kneading as a separate stage. This was a purely pragmatic suggestion on my part, but it begs the question why do we do things in stages in breadmaking?

Making a sponge the day before baking is quite a common technique. A sponge is basically a very wet dough, made up with a quarter of the flour and half the water, all the yeast (wild or commercial) and little or no salt, depending whose version you follow. Making a sourdough sponge turns a small, sleepy starter into a bowlful of wide awake, lean and hungry production sourdough. It is a long, slow pre-fermentation, taken at a leisurely pace. It makes for a stronger fermentation on baking day because there is in effect more yeast - and hungrier yeast - to do the job.

Autolysis is similar to making a sponge, except that you don't put the yeast in - just flour and water. If a sponge is about getting the yeast ready to make bread with, autolysis may be seen as getting the flour ready.

You start a sourdough culture off with just flour and water, so autolysis is like the very beginning of a new sourdough culture. Whatever reaction starts when you mix a new starter, the same thing happens when you mix flour and water before making up dough. But whereas a starter may take about 10 days to develop, autolysis just means leaving the mixed flour and water for an hour or two.

If you were really keen, you might make a sponge overnight to wake up your yeast, autolyse in the morning to wake up your flour, and then add salt when making up your dough.

Rye starters can be vigorous

My starter, about a week old at this stage, was making a break for freedom an hour after I fed it. Like something out of the Rocky Horror Show.


Our bread rested for about 2 hours in the bowl, and then after a gentle shaping, it got another hour in the basket. This is really just about the minimum you can get away with. But with a really active starter, which leads to a good vigorous sponge, the dough should be getting on with things in that kind of timeframe. I had made sure that everyone was using the same sponge, so we all had the same chance of getting a good rise. If any single loaf didn't rise, we would know it was not due to yeast issues. With sourdough it is as well to try and eliminate as many variables as possible, so that you can say with reasonable confidence "X happened because of Y". If there are too many variables, you can't be sure which of many possible snags you hit.

Time for a spot of lunch

Getting the bread out of the basket - tricky 

The afternoon was naturally less busy that the morning. All the physical stuff was out of the way, and all that was left was the skilful stuff - moving the dough forward to create that fragile but beautiful thing, a loaf in the oven. Getting dough out of baskets is a tricky business. It might stick to the basket. You might deflate it by flopping it out too hard onto the peel. It might catch cold on the way to the oven. You might drop it on the way to the oven. It might stick to the peel. It might come off the peel so fast that it slides over the edge of the stone in the oven. All of the above might happen! They have certainly all happened to me at one time or another.

We talked about basket problems in some detail. When the dough is really wet, it can stick like glue to the basket. I told the story of the great beetroot sourdough experiment. Here are some pictures which show the full extent of the problem. Scroll down and look out for the purple dough. You will get the idea by the end!

Slashing - you've got to be bold

There is definitely an art to slashing dough, whether you use a razor blade, a Stanley knife or a serrated edge bread knife. Point the blade down a little, and don't think about it too much - just go for it. I always tell myself "be bold", and usually when you see people make a hash of it, they are really being timid. It's no good being afraid of the dough, and if you try to be gentle with it to avoid hurting it, you will just finish up making a mess of it. Show it who's boss!

Signature slashes

I went for a single slash with my rye-based loaf on the left here. But it wasn't enough to allow it to expand as much as it wanted. It spontaneously ripped - quite dramatic actually.

The round loaves seem to have come out the best this time.

And the deep, bold slashes have opened up really well without deforming the loaves.

It's always nice when the bread gets shared.

The loaf on the bottom left (below) has three slashes. One slash is much bolder than the other two. Look how much better the bold slash has opened up than the other two.

And the loaf at the bottom right (above) shows how the cut narrows to nothing as the knife comes off at the end of the cut.

This is a cut I've not seen before - 3 intersecting lines. The thing to realise here is that rather than make 3 full cuts right across the loaf, it's better to do one full cut right across, followed by 4 half cuts up to the middle. That way rather than pulling down away from the weakest point (where all the cuts cross) you are always pulling up towards it.

Look at this beauty! Just about held together at the corners, while opening up nicely. And beautifully browned and risen.

A baker's half dozen

All of us took home bread that would grace any table - something we could present with pride.

And relax

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Sourdough Saturday

This month we're having a Sourdough Saturday at the Heron Corn Mill. Sourdough is something that keeps coming up in conversation, and lots of people are curious to see if it really is so much of a black art. So I have risen to the challenge, and will be helping people have a go at my very simple way of making sourdough. Hopefully we will avoid enough of the pitfalls to come away with some proper sourdough, and the results will make people feel like it is worth the effort. Otherwise I'm in big trouble!

The idea is to try and do the whole end to end process within a day. More accurately, we'll be doing it within 24 hours. End to end sourdough just doesn't fit into a single calendar day because the rising time needs to be really long - 16 hours is pretty well a minimum. Fortunately it actually works best if you do the really slow part (which requires minimal human intervention) overnight, and the less slow part (where all the baker's work comes in) the next day. This is the approach we, like all sourdough bakers, will be taking. It's called prefermentation, or making a sponge.

What is a sponge?

Let's make a sponge. What does that even mean? And what does it involve?

A sponge is basically a very wet dough that is allowed to ferment very slowly for a very long time. To make it ferment, it needs some yeast, but to ferment for a very long time it needs to be a very slow acting yeast.

Commercial yeast is factory produced (even the fresh variety) and is specifically designed to act very vigorously, so that it can raise dough very quickly. It's all about producing gas. This is absolutely not what sourdough is all about: it's about producing flavour and texture.

The yeast that a sourdough sponge uses is natural wild yeast, designed by nature to act slowly by breaking down the complex "stuff" in good flour into less complex "stuff" plus various good gut-friendly acids, and a bit of gas. You can see I am not very scientific about this. I don't feel it is important to understand the details, but it is very important to recognise the good effects that result from this process.

Why is sponging a good thing?

The good effects that a long slow fermentation produces are -
  • really good flavour
  • much more strength and sponginess in the body of the bread
  • generally open texture
  • crunchy crusts on day 1
  • more digestible bread and a happier gut

How to describe a recipe

If you are making a batch of dough for a couple of loaves, the recipe might call for 700 g of water and 1 kg of flour. The ratio of water to flour in the final dough is 700 : 1000 so the hydration level is 70% - quite a soft dough. You can work this out very simply on a calculator. Just divide the weight of water by the weight of flour, and multiply the result by 100 to get the hydration percentage.

The recipe uses 1700 g for 2 loaves, but after it's been in the oven, the bread will probably only weigh 1600 g. So you could describe the recipe as "2 800 g loaves at 70% hydration".

How to describe a sponge

The sponge is typically made up with half the total water that the recipe calls for, and a quarter of the total flour. It is often called a quarter sponge. You include some sourdough starter culture in the sponge, but you don't add any salt at all.

The sponge for the recipe above would be made up with half the water (350 g of water) and a quarter of the flour (250 g of flour). The ratio of water to flour is 350 : 250 so the hydration level can be worked out like this -

The sponge's hydration level is 140% - twice as wet as the recipe calls for in the final bread. Keeping the starter culture at 140% hydration means it is at the same hydration level as the sponge. This is well worth doing, in my experience, because it simplifies matters a lot.

Making a sponge at 140% hydration gives the wild yeast ideal conditions -

  • plenty of fresh food in the form of wholemeal flour (organic so it is pesticide free)
  • plenty of water
  • no salt
  • reasonably warm conditions (at least compared to the fridge!)
Making a dough using a quarter sponge simply involves adding the other half of the water, the other 3 quarters of the flour, and the salt.

Yeast for use in a sponge

So where do we get this wild yeast? The answer is of course that it's everywhere - in the air, on the grain (especially rye), and on the skins of fruits, provided the farmer hasn't dosed it with pesticides.

If you have ever cycled through a vineyard at harvest time, when the grapes are practically drunk with their own juice starting to ferment in their skins, you will know what I am talking about.

And the smell from apples being crushed for cider is the same thing - just more British.

For sourdough, we need to have access to this yeast in a readily available form. That is why bakers around the world keep a sourdough culture (sometimes called a starter, or a mother) in the fridge. Quite literally, you make a sponge, and bottle it. The yeast in the sponge that you bottle and keep in the fridge as your starter will go to sleep when it has done its work on the available flour. It can happily stay in suspended animation, like a genie in a bottle, until it is needed again, which is next time you want to bake.

San Francisco sourdough culture under the microscope
So all you really need to be a sourdough baker is a bottle or plastic jar in the fridge to keep your yeast genie in. You can spend as much or as little as you like on equipment, but you can't economise on time or commitment, or it just won't work.

Getting started with a sourdough culture

Because the grains that flour is made from are covered in wild yeast, wholemeal flour by definition also contains wild yeast. So to make a new sourdough culture from scratch, you need some wholemeal flour (organic so you know there is no pesticide in the flour) and water. Nothing else.

Just out of interest, I thought I'd prepare a rye culture ahead of Sourdough Saturday at the Heron Corn Mill. Here are my pictures showing what it looked like at various stages of its development.

Day 1 Monday 31st October 2016

First zero the scale with an empty glass jar, so we are weighing just the ingredients. I do this each day as the first step so I am always recording just the weight of the ingredients, and not the jar, each day. [Make sure you can recognise the jar next time you need to use it to zero the scales: empty glass jars tend to look similar!]

Next add my standard feeding quantity - 50 g of flour - to the jar.

Next add 70 g of water, making 120 g of starter.

Calculating and recalculating the hydration percentage

The important thing to realise about sourdough is that you need to know what has gone into it. And this is at least as important when you are making a starter and a sponge. It's not the total amount that's important, it's the amount of water, the amount of flour and most of all the ratio of water to flour, in terms of weight.

My starter has 70 g of water and 50 g of flour. The ratio of water to flour is 70 : 50. Use the calculator to check what that is as a hydration percentage. 70 divided by 50 multiplied by 100. The hydration level is  140%.

Normally, 140% hydration is a really wet batter-like consistency. This time however, it gave me quite a stiff mixture, because the rye flour soaks up a tremendous amount of water.

So I added another 70 g of water to loosen the mix.

[Note: I unwittingly made a rod for my own back here. From this point onwards I need to be extra careful to keep track of how much water and how much flour I put in, so I can be sure what the ratio of water to flour is. You can avoid this complication if you like by deciding once and for all that every time you add so much flour you will add so much water, and sticking to it. By day 5 I am beginning to wish I had! Still, it's all good practice at working out the hydration level.]

I've now got 140 g of water and 50 g of flour, so the ratio of water to flour in the starter at this stage is 140 : 50 which is 280% hydration. It doesn't matter what the actual figure is at this stage, because it can be adjusted later. The key thing is to get a nice wet mix so the yeast can get to work in ideal conditions. And you need to write down exactly what has gone in - you won't remember. 

I then loosely put the top on the jar and left it in the kitchen overnight to get started.

Day 2 Tuesday

Next day I inspected the starter, but there wasn't much going on yet.

There are a very few bubbles, but really, nothing you could get excited about. Nothing daunted, I carried on with a second lot of 50 g of flour.

And another 70 g of water.

So now I have 210 g of water and 100 g of flour. The ratio of water to flour is 210 : 100, which is 210% hydration.

I left the starter in the kitchen again with the top loosely on overnight. Next morning there were still just a few bubbles.

Day 3 Wednesday

At this stage I thought maybe it was time to give the starter a bit of a kick, so I transferred it to the warmest place in the house - over the poorly insulated hot water tank in the airing cupboard. In the evening I fed it with another 50 g of flour and 140 g of water, to keep the mix nice and wet.

So now I have 350 g water and 150 g of flour. The ratio of water to flour is 350 : 150 and so my hydration level is 233%. Hopefully something will happen soon.

At last! Some action!

By the end of day 3 I am starting to see some bubbles. The smell is still quite sweet and pleasant, so I'm happy to let it keep doing what it is doing and not interfere while it is going well.

Day 4 Thursday

By lunchtime on day 4 my weekly bake is complete. My magnificent wholemeal recipe has delivered again, in spades, and my sourdough has survived sticking to the peel.

More to the point, my starter is clearly on the road. It smells nice and fruity at the moment, though I don't expect that to last. The bubbles are forming a fairly distinct layer of thick froth at the top of the jar, so I am going to start giving it a stir now and then.

By teatime today the starter has developed a thick almost crusty top layer, and a fine malty smell. The taste is not so nice - a mixture between stewed plums and something medicinal. It seems like war has finally broken out in the jar, and I think it is now time to start cutting the mix back. This simply means that before my next few feeds I will throw half the mixture away. It sounds wasteful, but over time one strain of yeast will become stronger, and will overpower the others. Cutting back and feeding will encourage the strongest strain to keep growing more and more dominant. It's just accelerating the process of natural selection, really. It also means I don't need a bucket to hold the culture - a jar is big enough.

Once one strain of yeast takes control of my culture, it will start to become less volatile, and it will be worth risking using it to bake with. And it is a risk, believe me!

By the end of the evening the starter has developed quite a pungent bouquet, and is decidedly sharp to the taste.

Time to act!

The first thing to do is check that the jar contains what I think it contains. Reading back through my notes from last night, I think I have 350 g of water and 150 g of flour, at a hydration level of 233%.

OK, the starter now weighs in at 496 g so I have lost 4 g to evaporation, but basically I am right. Now let's harden our hearts and throw 50% away.

That's dealt with my evaporation, anyway! Now I haven't changed the ratio of water to flour - I've just thrown some away. I now have 175 g of water and 75 g of flour. My starter is still at 233% hydration. It is important to do these calculations again, so that I know what I have got in my jar at all times. Remember, you need to keep a track of 3 things -

  • the amount of water
  • the amount of flour
  • the ratio of water to flour

And throwing away half the culture only involved wasting 75 g of flour, which at £3 for 1.5 kg is 15p - hardly breaking the piggy bank. Now I can feed the starter with my usual 50 g of fresh flour.

And another 70 g of water.

By the way, if your water is chorinated, Vanessa Kimble (Bakery Bits sourdough correspondent) suggests leaving it to stand for a few hours before using it in your starter. I've never thought chlorine was a problem with our lovely lake district water, but it's worth thinking about anyway.

Finally, recalculate what is in the jar. I had 175 g of water and added 70 g so I have 245 g of water. I had 75 g of flour and added 50 g so I have 125 g of flour. So the ratio of water to flour is 245 : 125. Work out the hydration percentage on the calulator by dividing the weight of the water by the weight of the flour and multiplying the result by 100 -

So I am taking forward to day 5 a starter with 245 g of water and 125 g of flour, at a hydration level of 196%.

Day 5 Friday

This evening my starter has a robust crusty looking top layer and a fairly pleasant smell somewhere between beer and pear drops. The pear drops however suggest that things could still turn nasty, so I am keeping a close watch.

The first surprise is that the jar which yesterday weighed in at 370 g, today weighs in at 380 g. I have no idea what has happened there! Something to puzzle over with a bit of unpasteurised camembert "avec son verre de vin rouge" and some of yesterday's wonderful bread.

Much later I realised that I had 2 apparently identical empty jars in the cupboard, either of which I might have been using to zero the scales.

One jar weighs 14 g more than the other. So the apparent increase in the weight of my starter was caused by zeroing the scales with a lighter jar. Simples. Far from increasing by 10 g, the weight had in fact gone down by another 4 g due to evaporation. So in the following pictures, I need to reduce the weight shown by 14 g.

 OK - throw half away.

I now have 176 g of starter (14 g less than shown on the scales) at 196% hydration. That is 117 g of water and 59 g of flour. Now add 50 g of flour.

And 70 g of water.

Finally recalculate the hydration. I now have 296 g of starter (14 g less than the weight shown on the scales). That is made up of 187 g of water and 109 g of flour. The ratio of water to flour is 187 : 109 so the hydration level is 172% (187 / 109 * 100 = 172 to the nearest whole number).

The sponge is getting close to my preferred final hydration level of 140%, but it is also getting a bit thicker than I would like, so if I don't like the look of it tomorrow, I will add some more water to slacken it again. I can always adjust it on the momentous day I finally bake with it.

The first sponge - entering maintenance mode

I think you have got the idea now of how to make a starter from scratch. There are only so many photos of a jar of flour and water that you can stand.

Assuming you have persisted with the cutting back and feeding until the culture has become less volatile, you will eventually feel it is time to let the beast loose, and see what happens when you bake with it.

This is a big day for your starter, because it marks the point where it begins the rest of its life. From now on it will generally live a life of seclusion, in the fridge, contemplating what might have been.

And occasionally, life will brighten up, food will be plentiful for a while, and then just as suddenly, it will find itself back in the fridge, feeling refreshed, but ready once more for an indefinite sleep.

You will have to learn a new routine as well. Two days before you want to bake, you need to get the starter out of the fridge and feed it, keeping the ratio of water to flour the same. So if your starter in the fridge consisted of 70 g of water and 50 g of flour, or 120 g of starter at 140% hydration, feed it another 70 g of water and 50 g of flour, making 140 g of water and 100 g of flour, or 240 g of starter at 140% hydration.

Then the day before you want to bake, turn the whole starter out into a mixing bowl, and feed it again. That will give you 210 g of water and 150 g of flour in the mixing bowl. Feed it again, if possible, during the day. That will give you 280 g of water and 200 g of flour in the mixing bowl, or 480 g of starter at 140% hydration.

And in the evening top it up so that you have the right amount for a quarter sponge plus the original 120 g of starter you took out of the fridge. That means you can take a fresh 120 g back and put it in a clean jar in the fridge to be your refreshed starter for next time you want to bake.

If your recipe asks for 700 g of water and 1 kg of flour, your quarter sponge would consist of 350 g of water and 250 g of flour. So you need to top up your mixing bowl so it contains 420 g of water (350 g for the sponge and 70 g for next time's starter) and 300 g of flour (250 g for the sponge and 50 g for next time's starter). The ratio of water to flour in your mixing bowl will be 420 : 300 or 140% hydration. So not only will your sponge be at 140% hydration (twice the hydration for the finished bread) but the 120 g you take back for next time's starter will also be at 140% hydration.

Your brain will be hurting

Too much arithmetic already! But it really is worth thinking through all the steps and checking your figures at every stage. Eventually it will become second nature, so long as you stick with it.

Fortunately, it's not just you that needs a bit of quiet time after all that arithmetic. The sponge needs to be left alone overnight, with just a tea towel over the mixing bowl, so it can get on with the really slow job of breaking down all that new food you just gave it, and making a lovely wet, gloopy, tangy, sour dough for you to use next day in your baking.

You can go to bed secure in the knowledge that your starter is back in the fridge, refreshed and ready for next time. And your sponge will be ready to go when you are ready to make your lovely sourdough bread next day.

Just one thing, and this is very very important: don't forget to take back the 120 g starter and put it in the fridge. I have done this on a number of occasions, and my best advice is to have a written routine, and include a written reminder to check you have done it. You WILL curse when you forget!

Making sourdough bread using a quarter sourdough sponge

Wel,, that's another story...