Sunday, 6 November 2011

Not So Sour Sourdough Bread !

I recently went on a sourdough bread class with my friend Victoria. We had a super day and made some lovely things (you can see them here). However, I found that the 1/2 and 1/2 wholemeal and white sourdough loaf we made was pretty much inedible to me. It was just TOO sour. 

I love the idea of being able to grow and nurture wild yeast. I like the fact that it can live dormant in the fridge for practically months at a time without a feed and yet can still be resurrected. Why use commercial yeast after all when you can make your own ? Convenience is of course a big factor ... and dried yeast offers that. It's not so convenient though when you've run out and forgotten to replace it !

I've been messing around with some starter and sourdough over the past two or three weeks trying to find the best way to make a tasty sourdough with a MILD tang that is not overpowering. Most people who love sourdough will be shaking their heads in disbelief I'm sure ..... as many aim to make it as sour as they possibly can. I know this is not the accepted way of doing things, but I'm sure there are probably many other bakers like me who find the taste of sourdough too strong......

For anyone who has not eaten sourdough before, it has a crispy / crunchy crust and a chewy interior. It's very different from commercially produced breads or those made with dried yeast !

There are various websites that list info for making a starter. Basically, it's just rye flour and water mixed together. Each day, 1/2 is thrown out and replaced with fresh to feed the growing culture. By the end of 5 days or so your should have created your own wild yeast which will be bubbly and lively. Unless you are planning on baking, this can go into a tub in the fridge and sit in a dormant state.

To bake with it, you need to take a tablespoon or two of the gloop in the fridge and add twice the volume of  flour and water and mix to a paste. Cover with cling film and leave to sit on the kitchen counter for 12 hours or so until it starts to get bubbly.

Most recipes seem to then add more water and flour and leave overnight to make a sponge. More flour and water, sugar and salt are added to then make a dough. I've skipped that step.

Here is my Not So Sour White Sourdough Recipe.

2 tablespoons of starter from your vat in the fridge
5 well rounded tbsp of strong white bread flour
1 well rounded tbsp of rye flour
mix with enough luke warm water to reach a dropping consistency (much like cake batter !)

Cover with clingfilm and leave on the kitchen counter overnight.

It should be nice and bubbly by the morning. Discard about half (of put it in another bowl if you intend making more than one loaf and do the next following steps to both lots of gloop).

To the remaining gloop, add about 2 > 3 times the amount of white wheat flour and enough water to get it back to dropping consistency. Leave for about 6 hours and it's then ready to bake. If it's not bubbling nicely, this step can be repeated. As long as there are a good amount of bubbles there, don't worry if it is not as foamy as it was after sitting for 12 hours. I've been doing this bit by eye as above and without weighing.

For the bread dough :

500g white bread flour
30g rye flour
10g salt
265g water
tablespoon of honey (or golden syrup !)
220g gloop as above

This can be mixed together and kneaded by hand - or shove in a Kitchen Aid with dough hook for 10 mins. I know, I know sourdough should be treated softly softly... but it is not always as convenient to do the lot by hand. I had several things going on tonight in the kitchen whilst my trusty Kitchen Aid worked my dough.

Once the dough is kneaded and has become soft and silky, put it back in the mixing bowl and cover with either a plastic shower cap or some cling film and leave for approx 3 hours until risen by about 50 > 75%

Take out, knock back and shape as required. You can see the air bubbles in my dough. I've knocked it back a bit, but don't want to be so harsh as to knock all those lovely bubbles out. There were much larger surface bubbles than this, but unfortunately my photos were out of focus.

Place on a baking tray, cover with cling film and leave for around another 1.1/2 hours before baking. You need a relatively warm kitchen for bread to rise. I've currently got my tumble drier on to dry the washing - so the dough is rising slowly but steadily.

Alternatively, you can let it rise in a banneton cane basket before turning on to a baking tray just prior to putting in the oven. DON'T PUT THE BANNETON IN THE OVEN !

A banneton will put artisan rings on your loaf and helps it keep shape and not spread. The dough will stick to the cane unless the banneton has been sealed with a slip of cornflour and water before first use. To the dough I put in these bannetons, I added a handful of roughly chopped kalamata olives.

This recipe makes approx 1kg of bread dough - enough for one large loaf or two small ones. 

Once risen, you can either leave as is, or glaze with egg wash. On the large loaf shown below, I've slashed it diagonally a few times with a serrated bread knife.

I bake at 220deg C , turning down to 180deg C after 10 minutes until done. Just before you put the bread in the oven, pour some boiling water into a roasting tin and place on the shelf below the bread. It's the water in the tray that helps develop the crust.

My large loaf takes about 40 mins and the small ones about 25 to 30mins. They are done when you tap the bottom and they sound hollow.

This is how the large glazed loaf turned out.

I was a bit stupid turning the ones out the bannetons. I turned them out on to my hands (unfloured) and the dough typically stuck to my hands ! By the time I transferred the dough to the baking trays - it was rather distorted .... 

Oh well - as long as it's edible - I'll forgive it for not being beautiful !

And here are the smaller distorted loaves made from the second batch of dough (with Kalamata olives). You can see both loaves sliced together at the top of the blog post.

Sarah-Jane Nash, November 2011 -


  1. I do love sourdough...defintely my favorite bread! There is just something so fascinating to me about the bread making process! This looks fantastic!

  2. Look delicious, I love make bread!

  3. Incredibly soft bread. Looks like a lovely crusty top too....I love bread making and of course eating them :)

  4. Hi Sarah-Jane :) I am loving this post and you make it sound so easy. Sourdough has been on my lists of breads to learn and you really are encouraging me. I think they turned out really nice,all those air bubbles are gorgeous. As someone who just loves bread I wouldn't mind the chances you made to get a less sour bread. Good for you!

  5. Thanks Nancy

    I'm really chuffed with my "holey" bread. It makes the most awesome toast .... especially with a bit of olive tapenade.

    It has a really crunchy crust. Oliver hates crusts on bread - but for some reason loves it on this and asks for more !

    It's got a very mild tang which is exactly what I hoped to achieve. Properly sour sourdough is not at all to my palate.

    Do have a go :-) I'm hooked now. It's great fun working with the yeast you made yourself.

    If you want me to try drying / posting some of my starter .... you are more than welcome x

  6. Lorraine - Thanks :-) I've only recently discovered sourdough and it's an acquired taste for sure. I'm adoring the texture and crust though. I'm loving using my own grown yeast.

    Gloria - I love making bread too. So therapeutic !

    Malli - the bread I normally make is like eating clouds it's so soft and fluffy. Sourdough is odd stuff. Incredibly crunchy outside and chewy in the middle. Gives your jaws a good work out.

  7. Hi Sarah
    You know I love making bread and ever tried making sourdough bread, unfortunately I can't eat it. Just like you I find it too strong for my taste.
    I love the way yours turned out and I may follow your steps next time I feel adventurous and want to make some sourdough bread. Thanks for sharing

  8. Hi bread lovers,

    I’ve recently started working with Sourdoughs International and I’m learning the difference between using authentic wild yeast and commercial yeast (bakers yeast) the taste and appearance is so different it is absolutely amazing! I totally recommend that you check it out at, EnJoY!!


I hope you have enjoyed my blog and found it useful. Please do leave any comments you may have - your feedback is much appreciated. Thanks for visiting !