Sourdough - getting there but have questions!


Hiya all, 

I'm new to this joint.  I've dabbled for a while in baking but recently have made a commitment to stop buying bread from shops (best thing I ever did) and I'm improving loads but things defo aren't quite as I would like.  Please help

This is what I'm doing:

Preferment :  300ml filtered water, 250 gstrong white bread flour, a generous cup of starter. Depends how much I have in the pot.  I measured the other day it's about 200g.  I whisk it up to get air in then leave it overnight.

Starter is white flour, probably 50:50 water and flour but to be honest I do it by eye.  Its fed everyday and plenty of bubbles etc.  Its about 3-4 weeks old.

In morning :

Mix in 300 g more white flour, mix in kitchenaid for 5-10 mins on setting 6 until window test ok.  Let rest in mixer for 30 mins (half assed autolyse) then mix in 13g salt.  Its kind of a sticky dough but just handle able.  Feels soft and nice.  Then proof in mixing bowl in oven that's semi preheated to a warm ish temp for roughly 2-4 hours until almost doubled.  Then shape and final rise in Banneton for 1-2 hours.  Cooking I'm turning my oven on to full whack 240 degrees, have a cast iron griddle turned upside down with baking tray on top.  Once preheated I'm putting loaf on a silicone sheet (it kept sticking) on top of baking tray.  Then slashing, spraying surface and chucking a splash of water in bottom of oven.  It feels steamy and hot.  I'm baking at 240 for ten mins and resisting urge to open door (hard as my light is broken :(). Then turning down to 200 for 20 mins.  

I'm getting a pretty good oven spring and slashes opening up nicely.  The taste is really variable, always nice but can be really sour or can be hardly sour.  The inside of the bread is soft with a few holes but a pretty dense crumb.  I want bigger holes.

Things I'm after:  a sourer taste, bigger holes, bigger overall volume  (not much to ask eh!)

Some questions :

- is it the more starter the quicker the rise and the more sour taste?  Is more starter best?

- I'm putting my heat up really high could that be a bad thing?

- how the hell do you fit this into your lives?  I'm loving it and in for the long haul but I am a doctor with crazy shifts, and have two kids under 2!  I think the overnight fridge rise might help me.  Tonight I'm trying this.  Same recipe but preferment all day, mix in evening and then in fridge overnight hope to bake from fridge first thing tomorrow.  Anyone posting a recipe including timings or fridge rises would be very helpful 

- I'm up for trying a new recipe.  I got this one from Hugh frearnley's bread book.  But no bakers percentage s etc in it.  Looked on sourdoms thing but sourdough recipe seemed to have dried yeast in too.  Maybe I'm not finding it right?

- I'm trying really hard to upload a photo from my iPhone but not letting me...

Thanks anyone who can help me :) I'd really appreciate some tips

278 users have voted.


farinam's picture
farinam 2015 March 26

Hello Kimbolini,

Here is a link to the various versions of SourDom's recipes.  He also gives some very good guidelines to varying the schedule to suit your lifestyle.

Here are some approximate timelines that I use but you have to be prepared to adjust to suit your conditions and schedule or adjust the conditions to help suit your schedule.

Evening, after evening meal, prepare levain for a loaf. (90g of starter plus 45g flour and 45g water per SourDom).  Leave (covered) on bench overnight.  Morning, prepare dough (Pane francesa recipe - 500g flour, 320g water, levain and 11g salt).  Stretch and fold hourly till lunch time.  Shape and let prove.  Bake mid to late afternoon.  Heat oven to 270C and reduce to 250 when loaf goes in - then reduce setpoint by 10C every 5 minutes over 40 minutes (down to 180C).   Then turn oven off and prop door open 5 minutes - remove loaf and cool on wire rack.  Add steam if you wish by your preferred method.

Afternoon prepare levain as above but put in oven (or microwave) with light on for 1 hour then turn light off and leave for another hour.  Evening prepare and develop dough and shape  late evening and place in fridge (inside large plastic bag - one of those large clothes vacuum pack ones).  Morning, remove from fridge (should be proved but can be left on the bench for a while if you think it needs more).  Prepare oven and bake as before.

Generally, if you want more sour then time is your friend and the longer the time from go to whoa the more lactic acid etc is produced as well as other flavour producing substances.  Temperature and the amount of levain in the recipe will influence the amount of time taken.  In my experience, stretch and fold dough development gives larger holes (coarser crumb) than kneading either by hand or by machine.  The trade off is between energy input and time to develop.

Good luck with your projects.



108 breads's picture
108 breads 2015 March 27

1. Here's the easiest bread I have made. I have also adjusted the recipe various times for making it partly or mostly whole grain. 

2. There is no "best." Best is what you like, not what someone else prefers for whatever reason. 

3. Same recipe, different taste: Timing, temperature and humdity will result in different flavors. A long rise, with a long retard in the fridge, will bring out the sour flavors. The warmer the kitchen, the quicker the rise. However, if you decrease the amount of starter to adjust for warmer temperatures, then you can still enjoy nice, long rising times

4. Using more vs. less starter: Assuming the same room temperature and humidity, and the same oven conditions (whatever they are), more starter will require less rising time. It's as if you are using your starter as a preferment (sponge, poolish or biga) when you add 100 grams or more of it. That's probably about a cup. If you use a small amount of starter, say seven to 10 grams, then the whole dough needs more time to develop because so much less of it has been ripened, as it were, with a levaining agent. 

5. Even with just flour, water, salt and starter - the possibilities are endless. Enjoy yourself and eat some wonderful breads.

The Bread Shed 2016 March 31

When I started making my sourdough this was the best recipie and technique I found. It works a treat and uses the half-ass autolyse (what you refer to as a fridge rise). I turn out bread every week and it's getting better and better as my technique improves.

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