Starters in a hot and humid climate

 Hi everyone,

I'm a newbie in the field of sourdough (making not eating) and I'm wondering what to look out for in a humid and hot climate, Darwin, Australia. Getting Don's starter set up today I'm all excited and look forward to my first load of bread but also thinking if I should follow exactly the recipes or should take into account the humidity? What are your experiences baking real bread in a hot humid climate? Thanks


 I'm trying out various options and it appears feeding the starter in a 12hour cycle works better than the 24 hours. The starter is doubling in size and bubbles are forming but after one week it doesn't look ready yet for baking. It also doesn't double in size it's more like 1/3 before it collapses again.


Im not sure if I'm doing anything wrong as I'm following Dom's recipe.

If anyone does have experience with sourdough in this climate (32 degrees and about 75-80% humidity) I'd love to hear from you.




Hi Aggie, I don't always get it right, but keep the starter above the back of the fridge if it's warm.  They love constant warmth.  After seven days of adding more flour and water it sould be bubbly.  There's a good recipe on this website you could use exact ammounts.  It shouldn't take more than a week.  


yours Josho 

Hello Aggie3,

Haven't worked in the tropics but the higher temperatures will most likely mean that your time-lines will be shorter than those that people living in cooler climes will talk about.

I wouldn't worry too much about your starter not doubling - it depends on a number of things.  The area of your container for one.  If you put it in a jug or a beer glass, it might rise quite high but if you put it in a breakfast bowl, it might not rise much at all.  It depends on the strength of the dough/batter and the amount of support it gets.  Just like if you bake a cake batter in too large a tin it will sink in the middle because it doesn't have the strength to support itself with out the help of the edges. 

So provided that your starter is generating gas (is shot through with bubbles) and doesn't smell nasty or anything you could very well be getting close to being able to bake.

I would make up a starter for a loaf (180g - 90g of your stock plus 45g flour plus 45g water) in (say) a 500ml pyrex jug and observe how long it takes to reach its peak.  As a rough guide, if you are working at the same temperature, this is how long it should take to get your dough from mixing to baking with about half going to pre-ferment and half to proving.  The cavaeat is that you have to take notice of what the dough is telling you and extend or shorten as necessary.  If you are doing stretch and fold for dough development during the pre-ferment you will need to adjust the timing to suit - a two hour pre-ferment would call for 30 minute intervals between S&Fs.

A good simple recipe to start with is SourDoms Pane Francesa.  Practice on that until you get it 'right'.  Then the world is your oyster (or loaf of bread at least).

Let us know how you go.


 Hi Farinam and Josho


Thanks for your support- greatly appreciated! 

I think I'll go with your suggestion and give it a first try tomorrow, I've just fed the starter this evening again and will tackle the levian stage tomorrow morning. Thanks for the hint re timing until baking, I didn't know that before and will definitely go with that whilst keeping a very close eye on the dough.


Are you baking the bread on a baking stone and which temperature do you go for? I thought heating the oven to 250 degrees for the first 10mins than turning down - or is that too hot?


Thanks Aggie 

Hello Aggie,

I have a terracotta tile (unglazed) about 325 square as a 'stone'.  That has given me good service though it does have a couple of cracks but it is still intact.

I preheat the oven at 250C with a ceramic dish on the bottom shelf and the stone on the second shelf for about 45 minutes to give the stone time to heat up fully.  It acts to stabilise the oven temperature and supplies a consistent source of heat to the base of the loaf.

Five minutes before baking I add boiling water to the dish to provide steam for the early stages of baking.  If you do this be sure to use oven mitts and be very careful, as it spits and splutters quite a bit in the early stages.  Once the loaf goes in I turn the temperature down to 220C.  After 10 minutes, I reduce to 210C.  After 15 minutes I remove the water bath.  After 20 minutes I reduce the temperature to 200C.  After 30 minutes I reduce the temperature to 190C.  After 40 minutes I turn the oven off and prop the door ajar and leave for 10 minutes (Total time 50minutes) before removing the loaf onto a rack to cool.  This is for an electric oven and gives a nice golden crust.

If you left it at 250 for the first 10 minutes you would probably end up with a fairly dark brown crust depending a bit on your temperature reduction regime.  However each oven is a bit different in its baking characteristics and after your first bake you might need to modify the temperatures a bit.  I gather that cooking with gas is a bit different but I have no real experience other than what I have read.

Hope this helps.


 That certainly helps Farinam. Another option I was looking into was to bake e bread in a dutch oven. I'm currently reading the Tartine Bread book which recommends to use it. I've also read a few blogs and people speak highly of it.


I thought I'll try both and see which one works better.

Good point re reducing the temperature straight away when the loaf goes into the oven, I'll do that - thanks!


I was also searching for a rye bread recipe but not with much success, I'll keep digging. 

This is all very exciting - thank you for all your suggestions and hints, that's wonderful and I appreciate it!


It can get quite warm and humid in Sydney at times, too, and the main thing I've noticed is that yes - everything is sped up: you have to feed more often and use shorter intervals for the stretch and fold. If you find that it means your loaf is not as sour as you wanted you should think about retarding in the fridge in some stages as that will slow things down a bit.

As for the dutch oven, as an alternative you could use a cloche - that also means you don't need to create steam. A cloche is just a cover over your loaf as it bakes - I use an upturned large metal bowl but anything similar would do.

 Woohoo it worked! Got my very first sourdough today. It turned out ok, not perfect by no means but yummy tasting like real bread. I'm so excited I'm going to bake another loaf tomorrow. 


A few hiccups: - more time needed for the bulk fermentation

- note to self, don't forget to slash the loaf before putting it in the oven

- try to bake the loaf in the Dutch oven

- get a banneton for the proofing 



thanks everyone for your support, tips and hints :) 

Hello Aggie3,

Just knew you could do it.  We'd all love to see you work - good, bad and indifferent.  Look forward to some happy snaps some time.


 Thanks Farinam, I did take 2 pics (got all inspired by your splendid efforts and decided I'll do that too - take 'action' shots LOL of the loafs. Now I just have to figure out how to upload these...


Yeah, I'm thrilled 

 Ok let's see if the pasting of a pic works - my first (slashed free) sourdough:

Hello Aggie3,

It seems that if you hit reply you get a different edit box without the icons at the top and copy/paste doesn't work.  If you post a new comment you have the icons and it does.


Hello again Aggie3,

Another test and it seems that you might have to select reply and then page back to where you started and then for some reason the new comment edit box has the icons.  Go figure!


 Now I'm confused - I shall persist 

 Strangely enough the pics are getting pasted in, I can see it and save it but the moment I refresh the site the pic doesn't show.

Let's see what happens when I post.

Certainly appears in the edit box.

 Your bread looks beautiful (there is probably a censoring that only good looking loafs will get uploaded- LOL just joking). How exactly are you going about uploading the pics? I've copied the photo and pasted it into the comment box. As I've said it showed up but when the site was refreshed it didn't display. 


 It looks like my photo pasting efforts might have improved. Below is the whole loaf. By the way I've got my second loaf started last night with the bulk fermentation in the fridge over night. Will see how that loaf turns out later today.


Hello Aggie3,

That is something of a mystery.  I am inserting a screen shot of what I am seeing as I write this so that you know what I am talking about.

Basically, as you say, all I am doing is a copy/paste.



 I think at this point I'm going to shift my photographic uploading skills (or lack thereof) back to baking. 


Ive made my second loaf today which turned out better than yesterday's. This one I've mixed the dough last night, had a few S&F before putting it in the fridge until this morning. Nice taste not so good look.

Now my question is if you are using a banneton for the proofing? 


Thanks Aggie 

Hello Aggie3,

I just use a tea-towel dusted with rye flour.  For the batardes, it goes into a long skinny cane basket.  For a boule, I use an ordinary colander. For baton, baguette and ciabatta, it just goes on the bench and either just pinch the cloth up between loaves or I have some lengths of wood that I use as spacers and extra support under the pinches.  For proving, I put the lot (batarde and boule) into one of those big vacuum packing bags with the zip-lock top.  I have put the others on a tray and bagged them as well but loosely covering with a damp towel is OK.  If I feel a need to make a tent, I have a frame made from wire coat-hanger but have been known to use upturned glasses.

In terms of publishing, provided that you can get the edit box with the icons as I showed, you can insert them from a web based repositary.  This could be your Gallery on this site or some other such as Flickr or even DropBox (I think).  If you have them in the Gallery, you will have to note the URLs (if more than one - if only one you can copy it before you start posting) or have two instances of the site open so that you can go back and forth to copy the URLs.  I don't think there is any easy way to just go back and forth unless you save your post (which publishes it) and then come back and edit it again with the copy of the URL.  If you have them elsewhere on the web, then you can just have two tabs open and travel back and forth between the two as required. 

To publish the images you click on the icon with hills and sun and that takes you to a dialog box where you have to enter the URL  and alternate text and then Bob's your uncle (or at least your aunt's live in lover).  Let me know whether you can get to an edit box with the toolbar.

Hope this is clear and helps.


 I only had two goes with my new starter so far before we headed off on a holiday. I've replenished the starter before we headed off and put it in the fridge. Yesterday when we came back I've fed it again and it started to bubble up and grow immediately - yeah, good stuff! I'm going to bake a bread tomorrow again and this time let the rising be in a bannaton (got one as a present when we came back).



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