Sourdough and oil


Hi I,m new to using sourdough and was wondering why nobody seems to useany oil or fat in the recipe is there a reason for this,I always thought the oil helped to keep the bread for longer.

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farinam's picture
farinam 2012 January 30

Hello Brian,

Welcome to this world.

There is no 'ban' on using these things and if the recipe calls for it then it is a necessary ingredient.

I guess that most people find that the 'pure' sourdough bread of levain, flour, water and salt gives a flavourful, satisfying loaf of bread that keeps well of its own accord and does not need 'additives' to provide extra shelf life.  Alternatively, it is consumed so rapidly that it does not get a chance to stale.

What you add to your bread is very much a personal thing and while some discussions about 'additives' have gotten fairly vigourous nobody will object to your views/practices one way or the other.

Keep on bakin' and let us know what you are up to.


David Winter 2012 January 30

 Hi Brian


Most commercial bakers add oil to their recipes because they always have!! About 20 years ago, I enjoyed a meal with a respected baker at that time who changed my thinking. I only add oil to my Turkish dough. I firmly believe that if your dough is fully developed at the mixing stage, then given correct recovery time, then the loaf will exhibit excellent keeping qualities. 


I have just enjoyed a Pain de Campagne for lunch that we baked on Friday (it is now Monday). It tastes very good


If a dough is not properly developed, no amount of oil will help.


Food for thought!





Clarabba 2012 January 30

 I was given advice about this from the baker at Shipton Mill. He said that you can add oil if you want, but add it last so as to give the flour a chance to absorb water first. I usually put a scant tablespoon of grapeseed oil in, but I am shortly going to try making sourdough without. 

All the very best.

HopesHope 2012 February 1

 I always put Olive Oil in my bread not matter if the recipe calls for it or not.  I love the flavour.   

I think it's more preference than anything else.   I've also made bread without salt and it was very good, as well as with salt.   I didn't find that they lasted any longer with or without oil, or salt.   


By the way, salt is considered an additive, and is no different than adding oil.    

If you are a purest you don't need either one to get a great loaf of sourdough bread.  


ROBERT J LYNCH 2020 January 23

Salt is necessary for proper gluten development. 

I did an “accidental experiment” some years ago, with a really high hydration dough, in which I forgot to add salt.  No amount of kneading seemed to develop its elasticity.   I was just about to throw it away, unbaked, and then I reviewed my prep-notes.   Ah.. No salt.   Adding the prescribed amount (1.8%) was absolutely JAW DROPPING.   

Within a few minutes of easy kneading, the dough just magically became unbelievably elastic.  

Oil on the other hand, works against elasticity.  If you are trying to preserve the elasticity, and just have the added flavor of a deeply colored, highly aromatic olive, or toasted-nut oil, then choose a flour with enhanced protein (high gluten).   Name brand 'bread flours' are usually good enough.  Alternately, you could dispense with the oil and substitute a bit of whole-wheat flour, unbleached for the all-purpose stuff. 

I regularly use 25% WWF, organic, unbleached, Bob's Mill.  I also (but only sometimes) substitute 10% of the total-flour-weight with finely ground malted barley flour.  This gives a subtle-but-unmistakeable sweetness to the final loaf. 

When desired, lovely.  When not, then out of place.  

Lastly, I advise the benefits of making a poolish (or however it is spelled).   This is taking aside about ¼ of the estimated flour, all the sour-dough starter, and whatever (measured!) water needed to make a medium-flabby dough, the day before.  Indeed, once this is made, it can be made in rather larger quantities, and after a day's worth of fermenting, it can be divided and refrigerated.  I've refrigerated blobs up to a week, and without any negative impact.  

The poolish (weighed) is combined with a separately made but sour-starter-LESS dough on the day of baking, early in morning.  Combined meaning … stretch out the starter-less dough into a biggish square, and the little poolish into a similar sized rectangle.   Roll it up, like making cinnamon rolls.  push-and-pull the log into a much longer snake.  Flatten with a rolling pin - you don't have to be careful!.   Then roll this up again, lengthwise, to make a chunky pinwheel.  Let rest an hour, then treat it just like any dough needing its next, and final kneading.  Knead away!

Making and using poolish makes for a bread with GINORMOUS holes.  Legendary.  If this is what you're looking after, well … that's it.  If you're shooting for a less Holy Crumb, then after the roll-up, place dough in a KitchenAid mixer with dough hook, and let it mangle the blob for 10 minutes on LOW setting.   Then treat the dough as you ordinarly would.  Upon baking, the crumb will have much smaller holes.  

Just my 2¢ worth!

⋅-=≡ GoatGuy ✓ ≡=-⋅

SheepPerson 2020 October 11

Hi, I think I've come across this technique of laminating the poolish into dough. Have you written this somewhere else? Because its driving me carzy trying to find it.

Based on your description the poolish is not 100% hydrated? And how much sourdough starter you actually put in the poolish?

Thank you.

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