Posted by: edibleplanet | August 6, 2009

Sourdough Success

I have been meaning to make sourdough bread for ages. I make a lot of normal bread with yeast but kept putting off making a sourdough starter. Last week I decided it was time. I was still fairly heavily under the influence of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall so after checking my Alison Holst bread book decided to go with his starter and recipe which you can find here.

I was unnerved by the lengthy list of comments underneath that had gone unanswered in which many people seemed to have trouble keeping their starter going beyond day 3. But I liked Hugh’s recipe because the starter is just flour and water, no yeast added at all, leaving everything up to the wild yeasts of our house. We thought this could be quite good for our place with the amount of bread baking and brewing that has gone on in recent months – good yeasts are surely in the air.

The starter you are suppose to feed and grow for seven days. Day 3 it smelt sweet and nice (as the recipe describes for day 7), and being concerned about possible day 3 death of my starter, I decided to try a loaf with some of the starter and continue feeding the rest. Sourdough is not a modern world recipe – it takes time. I did the sponge step for a day and then you have to leave it all day to double in size. I left it for half the day and it looked kind of double so I moved onto the second rising, which can take up to four hours. Again it looked good after a couple of hours so I went with it and cooked it. Then you are suppose to wait until it is cold before cutting up. I couldn’t wait then either so cut it hot. Nice flavour, rubbish texture and the oven was too hot for the cooking.

The starter didn’t die and around day 5, I tried again. I was more patient this time and did all my risings over long periods – 3 days later and a beautifully flavoured loaf.  I didn’t wait for it to cool down before I cut into it and while the texture was better, it still wasn’t a marvel to behold and I still felt the oven was too hot, despite what the recipe said to do.

So day 7 the starter smelt glorious on this day. I was going to be really patient this time. I did all the risings for long periods. I used part wholemeal flour as suggested. I didn’t have the oven as hot. I let the bread cool completely before I cut into it. Perfection! A superbly tangy flavoured loaf, with a soft, chewy texture.

Sour dough is worth persevering with. It may seem to take days to get a loaf of bread but each day the actual hands on time is minimal – around ten minutes. The taste is worth it.

Recently there has been some cheese making going on in this house too (hopefully more about that later). It seems these old artisan techniques don’t require hours of work but do require a lot of patience and waiting – something I am not used to. Though I did wonder what ancient Egyptians (who are said to have been the first to cook sour dough bread ) would have thought of me doing all these steps while in my fridge sits yeast that could help make bread within hours.




  1. I find your last line really interesting. Besides taste & texture, I think the fermentation aspect of Sourdough (which makes it more digestible) is the major benefit.

    Good luck with your starter!

  2. Great post. I too have recently ventured into Sour Dough making (and cheese for that matter) and I have to say it has taken a good 5 or 6 loaves before getting what is a damn good loaf. The others were good but suddenly we had something light, airy and not at all too heavy. Good luck with the rest of your sour dough ventures and BTW: not cutting the bread while hot really does help ; – )

    • Thanks for your comments. It’s fun taking on these cooking projects isn’t it? 🙂

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