Sourdough Virgin


 Hello all,

So I decided to start baking a sourdough - this is all due to the radio 4 programme - it was quite good and inspiring (link will only work in the UK).


I bake my own bread a lot - but have only ever used yeast and in a bread maker (only on the dough setting as I don't really like the baking).  The bread maker is good because you are always guarenteed that the dough will rise (weather is always a bit variable).  


My mother is german so used to make her own sauerteig brot.  But I don't know where to start.  I have made my own starter - basically by adding some flour and water and leaving it on the side.  I am ok with feeding it but I do have a few questions:

1.  I am going on holiday - what can I do with the starter (do I ask a friend to babysit it?)

2.  Why do most of the recipies not include sugar? (as with using conventional yeast).

3.  Can anyone recommend a good first recipie - I seem to be going blind with the huge amount of recipies available. I would prefer an easy, white recipie - my other half doesn't like brown breads.  


Thanks for the help you can offer.  


109 users have voted.


vegetariancannibal 2011 August 7

 I'm a fellow newbie. I can hopefully help answer some of the questions though:


1. I went on a one day trip. I double fed the starter so it had more to eat, (that is, repeated the feeding procedure twice in a row) and added less water to make a drier starter for this time. it worked, and there was a little alcohol smell, but it baked some admirable bread for me just today, so it's fine.


2. Sugar is used to give the yeast a good first meal after their hibernation in the dry yeast pellets. It's quick energy. Already living, happy, fed yeast don't need this: They're fine eating your flour. Sugar or honey can be added for flavor, but it doesn't need to be for the yeasts health.


3. I adapted mine from the basic kneaded bread recipe over on Here is the basic jist of the recipe:


1 cup starter

3 or so cups unbleached white flour

olive oil (about 4tsp or less)


Take 1 cup starter, 1 1/4 cup water, and mix the two. When well mixed, add 1 1/3 cup flour. Let sit until it becomes light and fluffy and bubbly, up to 14 hours, but I usually go about 5. Add 2/3 cup flour. Knead well over floured bench (that's where the rest of the flour comes in). Once well kneaded, fashion into a ball, coat with olive oil, and place into a bowl. Wait a good while until it rises to about twice its size. Coat a bread pan with olive oil. Roll the bread, then roll it up to be placed in the bread pan. Wait another good while until it rises to fill the pan. Put in oven, and heat to 400. When it reaches 400, brush top lightly with water. After 15 minutes, turn. After about 10 further minutes, check to see if it's done. 

farinam's picture
farinam 2011 August 7

The starter is pretty robust.  I left mine in the fridge for a month while I was away recently.  It needed a few feeds to get its vim and vigour back but was none the worse for the 'neglect'.  Fundamentally the yeasts and bacteria present go into hibernation when the food runs out but if you can persuade a friendly neighbour to babysit then all well and good.

As VC said sugar is not necessary particularly if you are a sourdough purist.

For a simple recipe for a beginner I don't think you can go past the Pane Francesa recipe contained in SourDom's beginners blogs on this site.

Let us know how you go.


panfresca 2011 August 9

... of flavour. The reason for that is that sugar speeds up the fermentation process, not really something you want to do, as a slower fermentation gives greater flavour. So, sugar is just not necessary. 

Funnily enough, I would say the same even for bread made using commercial yeast - a long fermentation gives far better flavour than a quick one.

Merrid 2011 August 9

If your starter is active - if it's made a satisfactory loaf of bread for you - you can shove it in the fridge for weeks. The longer you leave it in the fridge, though, the more feedings you will need to give it once you're back to get it nice and active again.

If your starter is still in the "just starting up" phase, you don't actually yet know what your colonies contain. You could ask a friend to take over creating this starter for you, but it's a big responsibility and you may just need to start again when you get back.

As for the sugar, the other reason it's included in breads made with baker's yeast is for the keeping quality. You don't need that with sourdough as the acidity will keep the bread nicely, thank you very much.

I only ever really make white sourdough as I'm not wild about the flavour of rye and I find wholemeal can be very heavy. You could also try the 1-2-3 bread recipe noted elsewhere on the site, as it's a nice simple one - just search the forums.

tranquillity's picture
tranquillity 2011 August 10

Just to let you know I'm in the USA and the radio link worked fine for me.  And was most interesting.  Thanks for the post. Hv

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