Saturday, 19 May 2012

Sourdough Experiments - And Success

Until recently my sourdough baking has been a bit hit and miss but I have now achieved success so I'd like to share what I have learnt.

I have struggled to find a recipe, routine and method that suited our lifestyle.  It's the routine that I really believe is one of the most important factors when it comes to making sourdough.  
Our situation is that we do not yet have children and are not really big sandwich eaters.  
But if there is nice fresh bread on offer it is not going to last long and we generally like to have it for Sunday breakfast or lunch.  Between us we work nearly 100 hours a week and so getting all of these factors to work together had been a lot of trial and error.

One of the experiments that I did was to see if a second rise made any difference to the end loaf.  So I divided one batch of dough into 2 parts.  After kneading I set one to rise in the tin it would be baked in and the other to rise in a bowl.

After giving the one in the bowl a chance to rise in the bowl before shaping and rising again in the tin I baked them both.  And you know what, there was no difference.
So now I have employed a different method that makes just one loaf over a time frame that suits us.

On Saturday morning I feed my starter (his name is Elvis and he lives in my fridge) with 1 cup of water to 1 cup of flour and he goes back in the fridge.  

Feeding my starter is the only thing I do by measure, everything else I do by weight.
Saturday night I make the dough.

The Recipe

100gm Fed Starter
200gm Warm Water
350gm Flour
30gm Olive Oil
5gm Salt

The Method 

The method I use for kneading is from Dan Lepards book The Handmade Loaf which I would highly recommend reading.

Weigh flour and salt and pour into a mixing bowl.  Weigh all wet ingredients into a jug and give them a quick mix then pour them into the flour.
Mix using one hand till all of the flour is combined, it will be a very sticky dough.
Cover the bowl with a tea towel, wash your hands and leave for 15 minutes.
Oil a timber bread board and your hands with some extra olive oil and tip your now not so sticky dough out onto the board and knead the dough for about 30 seconds turning a 1/4 turn at each push.  Wash, dry and oil your bowl and put your dough back in the bowl and leave it for another 15 mins.
Knead again on your oiled board for another minute using the 1/4 turn method and by this time the dough will be smooth and elastic.  Put your dough back in the bowl and leave it for another 15 mins.
Knead one last time then shape into a oval and put in your oiled bread tin.
Cover with plastic wrap or put into a bread bag and put into the fridge and leave overnight.

Sunday morning I take the bread out of the fridge at 6am and put it some where warm.  At this time of the year that is near the fire.  Then I go back to bed for an hour or so with a book and a cuppa.
By 11am the bread is risen so I heat my oven to 240 degrees C.  Once the oven is hot the bread goes in for 15 mins.  Then I turn the oven down to 160 degrees C and bake for another 10 mins.

Removed from the oven and tip onto a cooling rack and cover with a tea towel.  It is best if you can resist cutting into the loaf for about half an hour.

This loaf turns out to have a lovely chewy texture and a soft crust.  So far I have only been making it with wheat flour but I am going to have a go at mixing it up with spelt this weekend.  I will let you know how it goes.



  1. looks delicious, I'm still working on getting bread right. It is the routine that's difficult and working out how long the bread will last. Its not like just popping down to the supermarket when you run out!

    1. Liz I agree however we just eat it till its'd gone and keep a brought loaf in the freezer as a spare.

  2. Yes working out how to do it around work is definitely the tricky bit. I've tried getting up just a bit earlier in the morning and making the dough using a recipe that doesn't need a little rest between mixing and kneading, then leaving it to proof all day and then doing a second proof when I get home and baking before bed. That works but then you don't get to eat it warm. Your experiment with the second proof was really interesting. And the loaf at the bottom looks fabulous.

    1. CGCG I am sure there is some reason for the second rise but if I can get it to work without it then I think why bother.

  3. I love my sourdough. I'm glad to hear you are a convert! I make mine ver differently though. Make the sponge. Knead it then and there, adding more flou till it's not sticky. Rise, quick knead, in the tins, second rise - if it's bedtime it goes in the fridge, then bake.

    1. Linda I think that the best thing about sourdough is that there is no rules you can kind of make your own.

  4. This is great, Fiona - your loaf looks delicious! Dan's book is such a staple for the kitchen bookshelf, isn't it? :)

  5. LOVE sour dough! such a pity that i can't eat wheat anymore :( i've been reading your blog since Rhonda posted the link... very glad i clicked!! i'd love to take the plunge and move to the country too!

  6. Herman has been dehydrated and vacuum sealed and is sitting on my pantry shelf thinking about what he DIDN'T do! I tried SO hard to make sourdough bread but ended up with vinegar bricks. I guess the winter Tassie temperatures were not conducive to good sourdough bread and I spent a fortune buying organic spelt and rye to feed Herman but he kept taking and never once gave back and like all one sided relationships there comes a time where you have to make the tough decision "is this worth it?" in my case NO HERMAN! Sigh....


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