The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Basic White Sourdough

Raluca's picture

I haven’t started with my first breads as there isn’t much to tell you, so I am starting with the breads I baked this year.

First I started by cultivating my own sourdough starter. It is now a 100% hydration starter with a mix of 90% whole wheat flour and 10% dark rye flour.

I will try to write a different post on how I made the starter soon and to explain all the terms, utensils and about the baker’s percentage.

Today let’s just talk about the bread above, which let me tell you from the start, it’s not a success (I’ll tell you why, of course).

For this recipe I used a recipe for a white sourdough bread from the Weekend Bakery.

Time schedule:

Day 1: Make the preferment leave for 12 hours at room temperature to mature

Day 2: Make the bread

  • Mix the preferment with the water and flour.
  • Leave to rest for 20mins (autolyse)
  • Add the salt and mix for 4 minutes
  • Leave to rest for 50mins
  • Perform 1st stretch and fold
  • Leave to rest for 50mins
  • Perform 2nd stretch and fold
  • Leave to rest for 50mins
  • Shape the bread
  • Proof it for 150mins
  • Bake at 230C for 45mins


Recipe for 1 loaf (aprox 65% hydration)

Ingredients for the preferment

For this bread a preferment is needed.

IngredientQuantityBaker’s %
Strong white wheat flour115gr100%
Sourdough culture15gr10%


Dissolve the sourdough culture with warm water (you shouldn’t feel the water when dipping your hand in) and add the flour. Mix until all the flour is wet. Cover with kitchen foil and leave at room temperature for 12 hours.

Ingredients for the bread

IngredientQuantityBaker’s %
Strong white flour340gr100%

Final baker’s percentage (including preferment)

IngredientQuantityBaker’s %
Strong white flour455gr100%
Sourdough culture15gr3.29%

For this bread I used an organic strong white wheat flour from a traditional British mill Shipton Mill.

Method for the bread

I dissolved the preferment in about 2/3 of the water and then added it to the flour. Mix and add the rest of the water until you have quite a weird and not smooth mass of wet flour coming together. Do NOT add the salt at this point.

I covered the bowl and left to rest for 30 minutes for the autolyse. The recipe calls for 20 minutes autolyse, but I couldn’t get around to the next stage after 20 minutes, as I was busy around the house. Anyway I don’t think it’s anything bad with a longer autolyse.

When the 20 minutes are up add the salt and mix for around 4 minutes. I use a Kitchen Aid with a hook attachment usually, but this bread in particular I kneaded by hand as the lil’ one was asleep and I didn’t want to risk waking her with the Kitchen Aid noise. I think I probably should have kneaded longer by hand, but I only did it for about 4 minutes.

Baker’s tip: use fine salt as it will be easier to incorporate it in your dough.

Transfer the dough to a clean greased bowl (I used an oil spray to grease the bowl), cover it with cling film and leave it to rest for 50 minutes.

When the 50 minutes are up you are ready for your first stretch and fold. If you are not familiar with this technique watch this video from the Weekend Bakery, that I find really useful.

I did my stretch and folds directly in the bowl, but you can either tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface or you can initially place your dough in a large rectangular container so you can do them directly in there.

Now cover the bowl again and leave to rest for another 50 minutes. Do another stretch and fold (the last one) and again leave to rest for 50 minutes.

It may seem like a lot of work, but it’s not really a massive amount of active work, you just need to have the time to take care of your bread. And let me tell you with this cold weather in London I had some time to bake  .

After this final rest you need to shape your bread. Now shaping and scoring are still a mystery to me.. You can find loads of clips on shaping and scoring online. I shaped my white sourdough as a boule, here is a clip from the Weekend bakery on boule shaping. You can find another clip on both shaping and scoring of a boule here.

For this particular bread I did a very bad job at shaping and therefore the bottom came out with a massive number of cracks….The scoring though was not so bad. To score the bread I use this bread scoring tool.

I use bannetons to proof my bread, so I moved my shaped boule in a floured banneton, covered it with a tea towel and left it to proof for 2 hrs and 30 minutes.

You will need your oven to reach 230C so start pre-heating sometime after the proofing period has started, depending on your oven.

To bake the bread I use a 3cm thick granite baking stone, that needs at least 1h20 minutes in a 250C oven to heat up properly. However for this first time I only pre-heated my oven and stone at 230C for about 20 minutes, which was clearly not enough, as my bread was white on the bottom when it came out of the oven, cracked and undercooked.

So, after the 2hrs and 30 minutes of proofing, I tipped my bread on a baking sheet (that I use to transfer the bread to the I don’t have a peel yet) scored it with a cross and put it in the oven.

I also keep in the oven one of the trays, while it is pre-heating, so it gets hot hot. Then, immediately after transferring the bread on the stone, I add a cup of hot water to the tray below to create some steam and shut the door quickly.

I baked this bread at 230C for 45 minutes. To get a nice crust open the oven door 5 minutes before the baking time is up, to release some of the steam.

I didn’t need to reduce the temperature of the oven this time, because the pre-heating period was short, but usually I need to do it as my oven is really small and burns the top of my loaves.

Resulting bread:

Because of the bad shaping and the short pre-heating time the bread came out with a very cracked bottom. Also, as the baking stone was not hot, it came out white on the bottom and undercooked. It was also a bit too dense (not sure exactly it could be a lot of reasons..still learning), but smelled nice, had a lovely crust on top and was very tasty.

What do you guys think? Any comments welcome!

varda's picture

Over the last month or so I have been chasing the elusive yeast water open crumb.   I was working under the theory that one could replace a regular poolish with a combination of yeast water and flour and then bake as usual.   This ran into some technical problems - namely aggressive protease action.   In trying to figure out how to respond to this, I came upon the following enlightening sentence in Hamelman: "Protease is an enzyme whose function is to denature protein, and in a loose mixture like poolish, protease activity is relatively high."  I think this means that protease is generated by yeast as it tries to digest (i.e. denature) the proteins in flour and that in a poolish environment at 100% hydration and with an unknown quantity of yeast in my yeast water  that I was overdoing it.   This time, I pulled back on the amount of yeast water and the hydration of the poolish but not on the hydration of the bread.    The result was much better.  

I have still not got the cuts to open as I would like, but I am quite happy with the flavor which has a lot of depth and somewhat happy with the crumb.   Suggestions for improvements are most welcome.








Final Dough









Yeast water


























Mix yeast water and flour night before.   Leave on counter for 12 hours.   Add flour and water for final dough and mix to develop dough.   Autolyze 1/2 hour.   Mix in salt and mix again.   Ferment for 30 minutes, then stretch and fold in the bowl.   After 30 minutes stretch and fold on the counter.   Gather dough together and do a loose shaping.   Do a third stretch and fold after 30 minutes and another shaping.   Let ferment for 30 more minutes.   Cut in half and preshape.    Rest for 20 minutes.   Shape into batards and place in couche.   Proof for just over an hour.   Bake for 20 minutes at 450 with steam, 25 minutes without. 

A few notes about this.   The dough was quite liquidy until the first counter stretch and fold when it came together pretty nicely.   This was despite two 3 minute mixes in a kitchenaid at progressively increasing speeds.   It was difficult to slash because it was quite sticky and the blade got caught.   

smasty's picture

I'm in the middle of my very first SD bake.  I'm using Hamelman's Vermont Sourdough recipe, which uses a levain.  I grew my levain for 7 days (he says in the book that it should be ready to use on day 6).  The thing is, I didn't really see much rise in the bulk ferment stage.  There was a change in the dough structure, but very little growth (2.5 hours with 1 fold).  My shaped loaves have been sitting for 2.5 hours and though smooth and elastic looking...still not much growth.  The oven is heating right now...if I don't see miraculous oven spring, these are going to  be really small heavy loaves.  Maybe my levain didn't grow for long enough....too soon to start guessing until they come out of the oven.  Needless to say, I'm on pins and needles until these babies go in the oven.  More to come....


Update: geez, it looks like I will have 3 pounds of flatbread.  What happened?  Levain not mature enough?  It had bubbles and a delightful smell, sort of like yogurt.  I have it (my levain) in the fridge now, I can continue to feed it 2x a day (at room temp) for another that a good strategy?  I'm a bit bummed. 

janij's picture

Looking for a sourdough sandwich loaf

June 25, 2009 - 6:14pm -- janij

I am looking for a soudough sandwich loaf formula.  I really like the white sandwich loaf I make now, but would like to add some starter to it.  So does anyone have a white sourdough sandwich recipe?  Or can anyone tell me how to convert the formula I have now for sourdough.  I maintain a 100% hydration starter.  The recipe I use now is something like this:

5 1/3 c water

1/2 c sugar

1/2 c fat

1 c nonfat milk

5 t salt

2 T yeast

16 c flour

I use all kinds of stuff in the 16 c flour.  This makes 4 loaves.  So what do you think?

janij's picture

More Sourdough woes

April 16, 2009 - 1:58pm -- janij

So i posted about a month ago about my sourdough being too acidic and turning into yuck.  The dough got really stringy and never rose.  So I threw it away and started over.  I followed the SOurdough 101 tutorial.  After about a week I had a starter that was doubling ever 4-6 hrs.  So I thought I was in business.  So I used the Sourdough recipe from KA.

1 c feed starter mixed with 1 1/2 c water, 3 c ap flour.  Let rise 4 hrs then retard in fridge over night.

Add 2 c flour, 1 T sugar, 2 1/4 t salt.  Knead, let rise 2-4 hrs. and so on.

rryan's picture

Retarding sourdough loaves overnight

March 9, 2009 - 8:13pm -- rryan

I have recently started baking sourdough bread, and have thoroughly enjoyed the process.  Each loaf has been a "success", but each loaf has been very different from the others.  My wife and I have very different opinions about whether or not a loaf is a success.  For me, the crust should be a beautiful brown, and very crispy/chewy.  The crumb should be open, with some large, irregular holes.  My wife, on the other hand, prefers a bread with a golden colored, soft, delicate crust, and a finer crumb.

rryan's picture

Second Sourdough Loaf - Great Flavor, Great Crust, But Lousy Scoring -- and Still Hooked

February 26, 2009 - 10:02am -- rryan

A few days ago, I posted about the success my first sourdough loaf, and the fact that I am now totally hooked. I baked a second loaf today, and I am both ecstatic and disappointed by the results. Ambivalent feelings aside, the bread tasted great, and the crust was that delightfully crunchy-yet-chewy texture I was looking for. The crumb was moist and delicate, but there were no large and irregular holes that I would like to have seen. The flavor was mildly sourdough (as expected), and the oven spring was amazing.

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