Sunday, 6 July 2008

Making Sourdough Breads

Making Sourdough Breads revisited on 3/7/2012

I revisited this bread again last night.  I used the same recipe and two different starters, but this time, I used a slightly different process. I’ve edited this post with the revised process and updated photos.

And so I began the process of making sourdough bread. It takes anywhere from 10 to 22 hours from start to finish depending on how long you let the sponge and the dough work, but it is definitely worth the time and effort involved. You just have to plan ahead to fit it in your schedule.


I keep my starters in the refrigerator and feed them periodically - about every two weeks unless I plan to make bread more often. I’ve had several starters over the past few years.  My first starter was a descendant of one that began its life over 250 years ago.  I’ve since let that one go preferring instead to use my own creations.

I’ve created several starters from scratch. I created my first starter using the formula from Boudin Bakery.  I still have that one and used it to make two of the loaves in this updated post.  More recently, I created an Apple Starter which I used to make the other two loaves featured in this post.

I can't really taste the difference in the two starters, however, the texture of the starters is different. The first one is more of a stiff levain and the 2nd one would be considered a liquid levain.  I like to keep them both alive and use them in my sourdough bread. They're like little pets in my refrigerator.

Begin the process by feeding your sourdough starter

Don’t have a sourdough starter? Try one of these starter recipes.

Feeding a stiff levain, (starter from Boudin Bakery) to use in this sourdough bread.

  • Up to 12 hours before beginning the recipe, stir the starter and discard* 1 cup.
  • Feed the remaining starter with 1/2 cup water and 1 cup flour.
  • Let it sit for 4 to 12 hours before using in bread.

Feeding a liquid levain (Apple Starter) to use in this sourdough bread.

  • Up to 12 hours before beginning the recipe, stir the starter and discard* 125g. 
  • Feed the remaining starter with 125g flour and 125g water or a 50/50 mix. (I use all-purpose flour and it works out well.)
  • Let it sit for 4 to 12 hours before using in bread.

*You can use the cup of starter instead of discarding it if you like, you'll just need to feed it and follow the instructions for baking additional loaves. I tried this before and ended up with starters all over the place, and I was exhausted by the time I finished baking the bread. I think I made six or eight loaves one weekend. I wouldn't recommend this because even though you're not wasting the starter, you end up using more flour not to mention energy. I had sourdough bread in my freezer for months. My family didn't mind though.

I started the process last night so the starter would be ready this morning. The starter has been resting on my counter all night. You get better flavor if you let it sit for a long time.

Here's what the starter looks like at this point. See how bubbly it is!


Use the amount of "fed starter" the recipe calls for (below), and feed the remaining starter per the instructions above, depending on which starter you are using. Let the remaining starter sit at room temperature for 2 to 4 hours, until bubbly, then cover and refrigerate.

  • Tip: If you're not planning to use your starter for over a week, take it out and feed it once a week. Start by discarding (or using) 1 cup of the starter. After mixing in more flour and water, you can return the starter to the refrigerator without waiting for it to get bubbly first. (I usually let it sit on the counter for a couple of hours even if I plan on returning it to the refrigerator because it gives it better flavor for the next batch of bread).


For more tips on maintaining a sourdough starter, check out Creating a Sourdough Starter.

Classic Sourdough Bread


Makes: 2 Loaves

Source: Courtesy of King Arthur Flour.

I've used other recipes to make sourdough bread, but I like this one.  It’s really easy!


  • 1 cup (9 ounces) "fed" sourdough starter
  • 1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) lukewarm water
  • 5 to 6 cups (21 1/4 to 25 1/2 ounces) All-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar (optional)
  • cornmeal to sprinkle on pans



Step 1: Making the Sponge

Pour the cup of starter into a large mixing bowl. Add the warm water and about 3 cups flour. Beat vigorously. Cover this sponge with plastic wrap and put it aside to work. This period can be very flexible, but allow at least 2 hours and up to 8 hours. A longer period (at a lower temperature) will result in a more sour flavor. 

Here is what the sponge looks like after it's been working for 8 hours.


Step 2: Mixing and Kneading the Dough

After the dough has bubbled and expanded, remove the plastic wrap. Blend in the salt, sugar, and remaining 2 cups of flour. Mix until the dough comes together.

I like to use a Danish whisk for this part. It makes mixing the dough a lot easier.

Add only enough extra flour to keep the dough from sticking.

sourdough_bread008 sourdough_bread011

  • Tip: Once you've mixed the ingredients and the dough comes together, it's best to let the dough rest for about 15 minutes (this is called autolyse). When you let the dough rest during the kneading process, you use less flour overall.

Knead, using your hands, an electric mixer, or a bread machine set on the dough cycle, until the dough is smooth and elastic.



Step 3: Bulk Fermentation

Place the dough in the bowl, cover, and let it rise until doubled, 1 to 2 hours.


Step 4: Shaping the Loaves

Divide the dough in half. Shape each piece into a round and let rest seam-side up on the counter for 10 minutes.

Shape each round into an oval loaf, and place on a lightly greased, cornmeal-sprinkled baking sheet. Cover, and let rise until doubled (this can take up to 2 hours).

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Step 5: Prepare the Oven for Hearth Baking:

Prepare the oven for hearth baking by placing a baking stone on the middle rack of the oven and a steam pan underneath. Then preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.


Step 6: Scoring the Loaves

Remove the plastic wrap, slash the tops, I scored the first two loaves with 3 diagonal (well sort of) slashes.

I scored the other two loaves with one long slash down the middle.


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Step 7: Baking the Loaves:

Once the oven is preheated, slide the breads (on the parchment paper) directly onto the preheated baking stone and pour 1 cup of water in the steam pan. After 30 seconds, open the door, spray the walls with water, and close the door. Repeat twice more at 30-second intervals.

Bake the bread for 20 to 25 minutes.  Check the breads during the bake and rotate them 180 degrees for even baking if necessary. Continue baking until the breads are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.


Step 8: Cooling and Slicing the Loaves:

Remove the loaves to a wire rack to cool completely (30 minutes to 1 hour) before slicing and serving.

These two loaves were made using the apple starter.



These two loaves were made with my original sourdough starter



I liked both of the loaves.  Here is a shot of the crumb.  This bread is really tasty. It’s chewy and sour, but not too sour. 



Happy Baking!


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