how do you make sourdough?


I'm not going to pretend I'm some legend baker of perfect sourdough, let's get that straight.

I'm new to sourdough. Ordinary bread: yes, I think the sheer numbers of loaves I've started, risen, punched, risen, baked, (eaten), I get to claim that I know something about that. 

But sourdough is cool. SO cool. 

You make a paste of flour and water (starter recipe here) and after a few days the wild yeast has arrived at the party, you add some flour, water and a bit of salt and you have a risen loaf of bread. No yeast. No oil or butter. No milk powder.

Now that's some honest bread. 





We've been experimenting with free form over loaves baked in tins. I'm fantasizing about getting a proofing basket or two to create a proper sourdough shape.




And over in the corner is Henry Bean running a private and enthusiastic demonstration of how to bake sourdough. 





"And then you eat it!"

No you don't dude. I haven't finished with the photos. Put the bread down. 

Here's the recipe I used, Arabella Forge's instructions from Frugavore.



*note: takes approx 24 hrs rising time. 


1 cup sourdough starter

8 cups flour (I've only ever used 7)

filtered water

sea salt



Mix the starter with 3 cups of the flour and just enough filtered water to form a smooth paste like the consistency of the starter (about 1.5 cups water max.)

Cover and leave at room temperature for 12 hours. The whole thing will bubble like a huge bowl of starter.

I do this bit in the morning and the next bit in the evening. (And bake the next morning.)

I know this sounds crazily involved but each step only take a few minutes and it's not like we're sitting around waiting for the bread, you know? It just does it's thing, we do our thing, we eventually bake it. But I digress.

So in the evening I add sea salt (a big dash) and 4 cups of flour to the bubbling mix. Mix well. Add water if too dry and more flour if you need it. 

Work into a round ball and knead for about 10 minutes. (In the spirit of full disclosure, I do not do this bit by hand anymore. I have a mixmaster with dough hooks. Which I'm very grateful for!)

The dough should feel soft and springy and returns to form if poked. If it feel hard and unyielding it may not have been kneaded long enough or the starter may not have been sufficiently active. 

Place the ball in a tin or on a tray and leave it somewhere draft-free to double in size over about 12 hours. Arabella suggests leaving it in the (cold) oven and then turning the oven on the next morning to 180 degrees celcius and giving it an hour. If you put it into a hot oven it only needs 45 minutes. 

It's cooked when it sounds hollow when tapped, and leave it to cool for 10 mins before slicing. 

I loved Frugavore by the way, I highly recommend it. Without Arabella I might not have tried this. 

Hope this inspires you to have a go too.

Everyone needs some wild yeast in their lives.


P.S. I love this bread because it looks like ridiculous white cartoon bread. I used to call that super soft white bread 'balloon bread'. 'Cept it's not, it's rocking, flavoursome sourdough. Thank you, Arabella. 


8 Comments on “how do you make sourdough?

one lentil croquette short of a picnin
May 26, 2011 at 12:21 am

That bread looks good enough, well, to eat!! You have inspired me again, another thing to put on the list. Happy eating xx

May 26, 2011 at 8:54 am

Yum… hungry for that bread. With ham and cheese, grilled. Yum. starving now.

May 26, 2011 at 9:27 am

p.s Have tagged you for a versatile blogger award. x. a

May 26, 2011 at 4:02 pm

That’s some awesome lookin’ sourdough you’ve got there. You’ve inspired me to give it another crack.

May 26, 2011 at 11:12 pm

Oh this looks lovely! I’ve never made a starter for bread before, and I’m going to give it a shot this weekend. Also thanks for linking to Frugavore. As soon as it is released in the US I am going to get a copy!

Jen Rees
May 28, 2011 at 6:42 am

You have inspired me with this, so I ordered a copy of Frugavore to give it a go myself. Thank you!

June 19, 2011 at 9:08 pm

I had a go at making this yesterday/baked this morning. I usually make a sourdough, but add yeast. This time no yeast. It worked out pretty well, a little moist in the middle but very yummy, will definitely go with the yeast-free method when possible. Cheers!

November 9, 2011 at 3:42 pm

Your bread looks great. I’ve been wanting to get a proofing basket – but until now I didn’t know what they were called – thanks ! I’ve only been making sourdough for a couple of months and we haven’t bought shop bread since – we’re hooked. I use a recipe from called pain de campagne – works beautifully every time.


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