Super Sourdough at Home [Advanced]

This is a recipe for someone who is used to bread and sourdough baking, and would like a simple white recipe to be their staple at home. It really is as simple as a Sourdough gets, as it requires no sponge or pre ferments or slow pitching or any of that faff. It does require care, though, and is unique in that it is centred around a serious home baker approach as opposed to a professional approach. This recipe assumes you know the basics of bread.

 

A few words on your starter:

Your sourdough starter should¬†ideally be kept at room temperature (18-24 degrees) with as little fluctuation in temperature as possible. The ratio of strong white flour to water should be kept at 1:1 and, to steal the term from beer brewing, the pitching rate should be kept constant (this is simply how much you feed it compared to how much starter there is – try and feed it with about twice the weight of starter that remains after use. If you don’t use your starter on a particular day, pour some away to keep this ratio constant). Additionally, this recipe assumes the activity of your starter is high, and that it is used as it is fed with the full amount of flour required for your daily bake every 24 hours, as it is used.

 

But even if you don’t abide by those strict starter rules (I must admit, I often don’t), my rules to the perfect simple white home sourdough are simple and easy and should be followed:

  • STARTER should be ONE:ONE ratio of flour and water
  • Use HALF the weight of STARTER to your weight of FLOUR
  • Add enough water to keep the OVERALL HYDRATION at 75%

 

Easy huh? A worked example:

To make a loaf using 400g white flour, we add 200g starter. This means we have a total of 500g flour and 100g water so far. To bring the hydration to 75%, we can work out that we need a total of 375g water total. Therefore, 275g water should be added to bring it to 75% hydration. Of course, make normal adjustments, and add a little more water if your starter is more active or less water if less active.

 

Recipe (makes one large loaf):

400g Strong White Flour (just go ahead and order a sack from Shipton Mill…)

200g White Sourdough Starter

275g Cold Water

10g Salt

 

1. Mix together water and starter and flour until combined. Cover and leave for 30 minutes to autolyse.

2. Add salt and knead fully (none of this Dan Lepard stuff) until passes the windowpane test. I would recommend the stretch and fold method – this maximises exposure to oxygen, and aerobic metabolism during and just after kneading is key to producing maximum CO2 and therefore maximising gluten formation, especially in a slow rise. This means you can forget about it later on – folding during the first prove isn’t all that essential. See my post on The Fresh Loaf¬†for evidence)

3. Cover and rest depending on what suits you: approx 6 hours at room temperature should be enough. Alternatively, just chuck it in the fridge overnight.

4. Shape (you can preshape if you like: if rested overnight it might be a bit floppy – just shape it loosely, except try and use no flour. 30 mins later just shape again) and transfer to basket or brotform

5. Prove for another 4-6 hours at room temp until done. You can retard this prove too if you like, but I wouldn’t do both as the sourness can be a little too much (though works well if starter is on 12 hour cycle), and if you retard this prove you’re crumb isn’t going to be quite as tight.

*** Baking instructions are my recommended, but just on stone or in a pot I’m sure will be fine ***

6. Preheat baking stone at 240 degrees, then add in a cast iron pot (Le Creuset or similar or a dutch oven) with lid on about 20 mins before you’re going to bake.

7. Turn down oven to 210, score and bake loaf in the pot for 15 minutes with the lid on, then remove lid and bake another 15 minutes. Remove the pot and turn out the bread (bread can be frozen or kept back at this point) and bake on the stone for a final time until done (another 20 minutes or so).

Happy baking!

 

34 thoughts on “Super Sourdough at Home [Advanced]

  1. Hi James. Is it important to leave sourdough to prove at room temp (18-20C?) and not “in a warm place” as with other bread? Thank you.

    1. Hello! You really shouldn’t leave any bread in a warm place, unless you’re in a great rush. As a rule, with any bread, the colder and for longer you prove, the much better the flavour and texture.

  2. Hi James, v interesting and I will try your ratios in my next loaf; I use a rye based starter are there any adjustments I should make for that?

    1. Probably just leave it as it is, but incorporate a stretch and fold or two into the first prove to make sure the gluten is very well developed.

  3. Hello! I tried making a starter at home but it just won’t bubble or double in size! Does it matter? What am I doing wrong!?!

    1. Hi there! Often things can just not be quite right with starters – there are 2 near foolproof methods. The first is to mix equal quantities of flour and water and add a handful of raisins. Your starter should be bubbling away within a few days, then just strain out the raisins and feed daily. The other way is to use normal baker’s yeast. If you feed daily a mix of flour and water and yeast, very quickly it turns into a sourdough starter.

      1. I went on the 5-day course at the Bertinet school a year ago and came home with some of his 50% hydratrion starter, which is what he uses in his bakery. It is the easiest starter to maintain that I’ve ever had. Far easier than a 100% hydration and can be left a lot longer between feedings due to the volume of flour.

        Feeding every 2 -3 days is not needed if you keep it in the fridge. I bake about once a week and use the starter directly from the fridge – no need to leave it out or feed it first. The longest I have left it is 2 weeks between feeds and it is still strong and active and useable from the fridge even after that time.

        I usually keep back 250g and feed it with 500g flour and 200g water. I discard anything over 250g.

        It then goes straight back into the fridge after feeding and is usable for baking again after about 2 days.

        If I was going to leave it for 3 weeks (for example if I was on holiday) I’d bulk it up to 2kg (500 ferment /500 water /1000 flour) and it would survive 3 weeks in the fridge as it would have so much flour to feed on.

        Anything longer than that, I would either freeze it or dry it. I have tried both and they revive perfectly. Freezing is easier.

        Of course, all his recipes are based on his starter, but if need a 100% hydration I just use the 50% and add water… so if I needed 250g of 100% starter, I would take 190g of 50% starter and add 60g of water, and that is close enough and works fine.

        Believe me – if you try a 50% starter you will never go back to 100% – 50% is way easier to maintain and keep alive.

  4. Hi James,

    I’ve been having an issue with my loaves rising too much during the baking process. I’d much prefer to have a wider, longer loaf, but am unsure as to how to achieve this without pummeling the dough before baking! Any thoughts?

    Also, love that you use the Bourke St Bakery’s recipes. I live nearby and can say they truly do make great bread!

    1. Hi there! Sorry for the lateness of my reply…

      Your problem is one that many would envy! You can try a few things – the one that is probably going to make the most difference is increasing the hydration of your dough (ie adding more water). This will mean that your dough simply splay out a little more during the prove and will be flatter overall. If your dough is already super wet, just don’t shape it as tightly.

      The other thing to do is watch your scoring – if you do a cross shape on top, it will rise almost vertically. If you score it with cuts to make a square, it will rise out evenly and become wider. However you score the loaf, the rise will be perpendicular to the cut.

  5. Thanks for the feedback! I’ve only recently heard about the ‘wetter is better’ philosophy, so increasing the hydration of the dough might just be the ticket.
    At least then I might just get a few more slices out of my loaves!

  6. Hi James! I’ve been having problems with my sourdough starter. I usually bake weekly but for some reason doesn’t double in size in the fridge even though it does at room temprature! It is still bubbly though so is that ok to bake with? Or can it be fixed!? Cheers

  7. hi james.
    can any of your bread recipes be used in a bread machine as i have just purchased one and cant wait to try in, thinking just to use it for mixing, proving then removing and baking in my oven

  8. Hi,

    at what point in making a sourdough starter do I switch from strong flour to regular plain flour? Does it matter? My starter seems to “live fast and die young’, within 48 hours of starting.

    1. You can feed with any flour! Start it off with stoneground, organic wholemeal flour – this has the best chance of having the right bugs in it. Feed with that until you’ve none left, if I’m honest, then just use whatever flour you have! It’s just food for the bugs that are already in there.

  9. Hi James – excellent website, great advice. My starter is OK I think, and bread is OK, but too “uniform”? Not big bubbles like the artisan loaves I really want. I use 5:3:2 flour:starter:water, plus salt and sugar.
    I’m wondering about my kneading, because I can’t get really the “window pane”? It tends to falls apart. What am I doing wrong?

    1. likely doing nothing wrong! Perhaps, for a less uniform structure, you can knead it less. You can also do the final prove overnight in the fridge and this will destabilise the bread and give a less even texture. Finally, try baking with plenty of steam for mega oven spring – have a look at my post on baking in pots. As for the windowpane, to do it properly, you need to stretch it very slowly. Try giving your dough a half hour autolyse!

  10. I’ve made this sourdough several times, and while it always tastes great, I can never shape it properly – I don’t know how without having the dough stick everywhere. I try to tighten it before it goes in the basket, but never get it into a real shape. I’m hesitant to use flour. Any thoughts?

  11. I do a few stretch and folds after the bulk fermentation (first rise) to bring it back together: even if it is a very slack dough, it goes nicely tight quite readily and no flour is needed. I leave this alone on the work surface for about 10 minutes or so to relax just a touch before repeating and then shaping.

    And for shaping, I pat the dough down to a rough square, bring in the left edge to just past the middle, then the right edge over that a little. I rotate the dough 90 degrees, pat down again gently and repeat. Then seam side down, lightly roll on the work surface with my palms to form a boule, for example, and place in banneton etc.. The dough always holds it shape very well when it is later turned out onto the baking stone.

  12. Hi I made a starter in summer and I’m really struggling with it the bread never holds it’s shape and has a rubbish crumb. the starter smells like paint stripper and I get hooch on it every day. Was wondering where i’m going wrong. Thanks

    1. Hi Louise,

      This is a very high hydration recipe for an all white sourdough. Try dropping the hydration down to 60-65%.

      400g Strong White Flour

      200g White Sourdough Starter

      200g – 225g Cold Water [60-65%]

      10g Salt

      And about your starter. Although the author says there is no pre-ferment I would like to ask what the starter is? A starter is a pre-ferment. A pre-ferment that is kept going indefinitely. What is the difference between feed your starter and taking some off to put into a dough or taking some off to build a pre-ferment?

      May I suggest your turn your starter into a 100% hydration whole rye starter. This type of starter keeps better than other flours. I never get hooch on my whole rye starter. After you have turned it into whole rye then keep about 90-150g at any one time and keep it in the fridge. When it comes to baking just take a little off and build a pre-ferment with the flour asked for in the recipe. Then when your mother starter in the fridge runs low simply take it out and feed it. Allow it to bubble up for a few hours and return it to the fridge. Then repeat the process.

      This way you aren’t slave to your starter. You can keep a whole rye starter and simply build pre-ferments which is just taking off some starter and feeding it with the required flour and hydration. No difference to building a pre-ferment or feeding a starter except this way you are in control.

  13. I’m trying this full recipe for the first time today, after spending a while practicing with a very simple single-rise version after a friend gave me my starter as a present last year. Quite excited to see how it turns out – the single-rise loaves have been awesome.

    Louise, when I got my starter I forgot to feed it for several days, and by the time I got to it it smelled like that. Even after I started feeding it it would smell like brandy (honestly, eye-stinging) and kept producing hooch.

    I eventually caught on that it was hungry, and started feeding it more, from once a day to twice a day (breakfast time and bedtime), and also started weighing in the flour and water to make sure I was using equal weights – I think I was adding too much water before.

    Hope that helps, I’m very far from an expert but my starter is very happy and bubbly now, and has even recovered from a Christmas sleep in the fridge which led to more hooch and brandy-smell. I just kept feeding it and taking out the excess (I turn it into crumpets), and now it’s back to fighting form.

  14. Nice straight forward recipe. High ratio of Starter with strong bread flour.

    However, saying it is easy because it has no pre-ferment but then going on to say your starter should be kept at room temperature and fed everyday etc.

    If you feed your starter or take off some starter to build a pre-ferment is the difference between a 6 and two 3’s. A starter is a pre-ferment that is kept going indefinitely. And what we call a “pre-ferment” is simply taking off some starter to build with. Both are preferments and both get fed with flour + water.

  15. I have this recipe book and have made most of the non-sour recipes very successfully, I particularly like that there are timings that allow me to go to work and still bake fresh bread. I have tried this white sour dough loaf twice. The first time I got a hockey puck (my starter looked bubbly to me but I had no basis for comparison). The second time my started was much more active and I got a good rise (overnight in the fridge it had doubled in size) and I was quite hopeful… but after proving it in a bowl with a floury tea towel, the bread wouldn’t keep it’s shape and made a frisbee shaped loaf. It was tasty and had a nice texture but it was only about an inch thick. Any helpful thoughts?

  16. Hi there, I know it’s awful but can you do the kneading in a mixer? I have arthritis and find it very difficult to do the kneading by hand

  17. I took considerable shortcuts, and it still turned out surprisingly well! A brief knead at step 2, then into the fridge overnight in a covered mixing bowl. In the morning, I skipped step 4; just another brief knead, and back into the same bowl, to sit out (covered) on the counter all day. In the evening, I turned it out from the bowl directly into a cornmeal-dusted Dutch oven, and baked it. The dough was too sticky to score the top at first, so I scored it at the time when the lid came off. And in the end, the resulting boule was more than good enough – it was great!

  18. Hi James, I have your excellent book and have just about perfected my sourdough bread making using your recipe, but two questions I would like to ask, if after the first kneading I just placed the bowl in the refrigerator how long can it be left in there before I would need to bring it out and shape it, and then once the loaf has been shaped and again placed immediately into the refrigerator how long can this be left before I bake the loaf? Look forward to your reply.

  19. I see you don’t monetize your site, don’t waste your traffic, you
    can earn additional bucks every month because you’ve got high quality content.
    If you want to know how to make extra money, search for: Mertiso’s tips best adsense alternative

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *