Sourdough bread

This is the sourdough bread homepage of the site. Discover everything about sourdough baking at home on this page. Included are beginners step-by-step guides on making your first sourdough starter and sourdough bread.

Sourdough recipes, my equipment recommendations, sourdough techniques explained, troubleshooting tips and my sourdough blog.

Sourdough starter

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Sourdough recipes

Sourdough techniques

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Sourdough Equipment

What is sourdough?

Sourdough bread is naturally leavened, meaning that it does not use yeast to rise. A starter made from fermented flour develops wild yeast and lactic acid bacteria is used to raise the bread. The fermented flour acts as a dough conditioner which improves the bread's texture, flavour and flavour. A tangy taste and chewy texture is common in sourdough breads.

Making sourdough bread at home

I started making a few loaves in my kitchen. After a few disasters, I managed to master how to make sourdough, a few years later I was selling them in my new artisan bakery.

Making a sourdough starter

To make sourdough bread you need to create a starter which takes 7-14 days to develop enough activity for it to raise bread. The sourdough starter will be added to the bread recipe. There is no need to add any bakers yeast.

Many sourdough recipes only contain flour, water, salt and sourdough. Making sourdough bread takes longer than yeast made bread. Typically a minimum of 6 hours is needed to sufficiently proof sourdough bread dough.

Where does sourdough come from?

The legend has it that some wet wheat grain was left on a rock in ancient Egypt and the farmers noticed it turned into a gassy substance. They discovered the mixture would rise and that when the heat increased further, it hardened.

This lead to the start of bread across the world, and it’s a fairly plausible explanation too! Wheat was being harvested during this period and the climate would have been warm enough to ferment bread.

As time evolved, kneading and baking the dough on the fires proved to making a popular food that was cheap to produce.

A couple of centuries ago sourdough was the only way to raise bread. Commercial yeast overtook sourdough bread production due to its ease of use and reliability, but we know that sourdough bread tastes better!

Get started with sourdough baking

To make sourdough bread, first you'll need to make a starter by mixing flour with water, leaving it for 24 hours, removing a portion and feeding it with fresh flour and water. The feeding process is repeated each day and after a while the starter becomes a levain that's strong enough to raise bread. A portion of the starter is removed and used to make bread, while the rest is retained and fed.

A sourdough starter will last forever if correctly maintained. It’ll take 7-14 days of regular feedings to develop enough natural yeasts in order to use your starter. You can view my basic sourdough starter recipe to get exact measurements and timings.

Equipment list for making sourdough bread

You can make sourdough bread with the equipment and utensils already in your kitchen but getting some some basic tools will no doubt make things easier and more consistent.

Here’s a list of the bits I use, I’ve included links to these recommended products on Amazon if you want to check them out. If you buy through the links I'll receive a commission which I really appreciate - and won't cost you a penny more!

Scales

Weighing in grams is essential for controlling consistency

Banneton bread proofing basket

Used in proofing so the bread holds its shape

Bakers lame

Using a lame to score bread is more accurate and rewarding than a knife

For more equipment take a look at my sourdough baking equipment recommendations.

Baking sourdough in a dutch oven?

Using a dutch oven is a great way to bake as it retains the moisture required for a good oven spring. High quality breads are frequently made by bakers in dutch ovens.

Providing you are happy making only one shape, they are a very good reliable tool.

Selecting the ingredients to make sourdough

Many sourdough bread recipes only use flour, water, salt and sourdough. If you cultivate your starter correctly there is no reason to make sourdough bread more complicated. It'll taste fantastic without adding anything else. Selecting the right flour, water and salt can make a difference.

What flour should I use for making sourdough?

Bread flour in the region of 11-12.5% protein is ideal. Lower protein or all purpose flour can be used providing the bread is made slowly. High protein flour (12.5-13.5%) is ideal for building your starter as they contain more ash minerals to feed the active levain.

If the flour is extra high strength for baking, 14% upwards, the bread can sometimes be dense and chewy. Organic flour has more bacteria which will speed up the rate of fermentation and develop a stronger depth of flavour - but it isn't essential.

One of the my favourite tips that I share in the Sourdough Starter Is Not Rising troubleshooting post is to add some wholemeal or rye flour along with white flour to a starter. The extra minerals and bacteria enhance the lactic acid to create a stronger starter.

When it comes to baking, a dough made with white flour is easier to start off. It'll rise better in the oven and is more forgiving. Whole grain flours such as wholemeal, spelt and rye make excellent and healthy sourdough breads, but master how to make white sourdough loaves to start with.

Does tap water work in sourdough?

Tap water is all I ever use in my bread making. If you have high quantities of chlorine in your water it can kill the helpful bacteria and slow down your yeast production. If you believe this to be the case, try a change to bottled.

The temperature of the water should be cool, if it’s really warm, ice cold water can be used and if the room is overly cold, it is best to use warmer water.

Which salt should I use?

I use sea or kosher salt in most of my breads, preferably small grains if you find them without any additives. Table salt contains anti-caking-agents which can affect the structure of the bread. I personally have never noticed a difference when I've used table salt, I just prefer to keep my ingredients as clean as possible.

My sourdough journey:

I first embarked on my sourdough journey when I used to prepare par baked sourdough boules in a supermarket bakery I worked in. We’d plonk the frozen bread on a tray and bake for 25 minutes. The taste was pleasant, but not remarkable and I quickly forgot about sourdough.

A few years later I went to an artisan bakery and took a sourdough loaf home. When I cut into it I was amazed at the strength of flavour, a compassionate combination of acid and warmth, yet frustrated that I'd underappreciated sourdough bread for so long.

Sourdough beginner FAQ’s

How long does it take to learn how to make sourdough bread?

Some bakers master baking sourdough on their first attempt. But this is rare so if you give it a go and it doesn’t work out the first time, don’t let it put you off. To help you there are several articles in this sourdough section that will accelerate your theory and practical knowledge of sourdough. Most people get something they are happy with after the third or fourth attempt.

Do I have to use the fridge for making sourdough?

Not at all. The reason I use the fridge in many of my sourdough recipes is twofold:

  1. Cold proofing brings out more flavour in the dough
  2. The dough can be prepared in the evening, left in the fridge overnight and baked the following day.

Can I use a tin to bake sourdough?

Yes! Sourdough bread baking is usually proofed in a banneton. A baking tin can be used for sandwich style bread. It will be a little bit denser than yeast made bread, but much more flavoursome.

Can you make sourdough bread in a breadmaker?

Pop all the ingredients in the maker and mix. Leave to rest inside for 5 hours and then commence with the rest of the program and, breadmaker might do the work for you. But it might not.

Sourdough is unpredictable so I wouldn’t recommend making it in a breadmaker, if you can start each stage manually you might have some joy.

How to store my sourdough bread?

Best way to store sourdough bread is wrapped in a clean tea towel and placed in a cupboard or bread bin. This allows it to breathe a little whilst slowing down the oxygen flow which would make it go stale quickly.

About me

I'm Gareth Busby, writer, baker and founder of Busby's Bakery School. When I'm not baking bread at home I'm writing about it on my website.

See the about me page to learn more about my baking credentials. Join us on social media to tell me how your bakes are going!

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