The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

My first sourdough loaf

crumbs's picture

My first sourdough loaf

(argh! just lost my post because I wanted to figure out how to add images and clicked on "more information about formatting options", which didn't open in a new window as expect. Try again I guess)

I am fairly new to these forums and started baking bread about three months ago. Currently I am focussing more on heavier wholegrain breads as I used to eat a lot of brown bread (whether it was wholegrain or not I don't know) back in England, and since moving to Japan, finding places that sell good brown and wholegrain bread is quite difficult, as most bread here seems to be soft white bread, although I have found a few nice places recently. Because of the scarcity (especially away from proper bakers) of wholegrain and brown bread here, it has been quite exciting for me to be making them at home.

Actually, I didn't know what sourdough bread was until I started reading Peter Reinhart's "The Bread Baker's Apprentice", but partly due to my girlfriend being into macrobiotic cooking and making almost everything herself, and partly due to the attraction of keeping a named pet that helps me bake bread in my fridge I decided to try making a sourdough loaf.

I started seeding my sourdough mother starter a few weeks ago, and after some initial troubles with it being very slow to show signs of life due to my cold apartment, it eventually sprung to life and now seems quite happy living in it's new refridgerated home. This weekend I thought he was ready to come out and help me bake some bread, so I ripped off a bit to use in a 100% wholegrain sourdough recipe, taken from Reinhart's "Wholegrain Breads" book.

Here are my first TFL pictures. The bread turned out very well and tastes great; It starts off a bit like regular bread but after a few chews the sourness becomes apparent. The only thing I would like to improve about it is the texture. Although the crumb looks pretty good and is definitely not too dense, the crust is a little chewier than I would like, as I prefer a bit more crunch to my bread. Maybe I can try steaming it next time?

Here is the recipe (heavily based on the recipe in Peter Reinhart's wonderful book "Wholegrain Breads"):



180g - wholegrain flour

40g - rolled oats / oatmeal

1tsp - coarse ground sea salt

200ml - warm water (I forgot to use milk. I had soy milk, but I am pretty sure I forgot and just used water)



100g - wholegrain Sourdough mother starter (a little more than the recipe called for)

150g - wholegrain flour (a little less than the recipe called for)

150ml - filtered, lukewarm water



all - soaker

all - wild yeast starter

60g - wholegrain flour

1tsp - coarse ground sea salt (all I had, normally I think fine grind would be more suitable here)

1tbsp - olive oil (instead of vegetable oil)

3tbsp - maple syrup (instead of brown sugar)


Note that I omitted instant yeast from the final dough, as I didn't really see the point in adding it to a sourdough bread. I didn't spot any notes saying that it should be left out if working with a wild yeast starter, but I presume that it is meant to be. Seemed to work ok anyway :)

I left the starter and soaker out on the table in my kitchen at night (I guess it would have been around 14-15C) for about 10 hours before I combined them to make the final dough. I used Reinhart's method of chopping up the soaker and starter and combining them in the bowl with the other ingredients and kneaded the sough by hand for about 15-20 minutes on the table. Maybe that seems a little long, but I tend to work extra flour in very slowly as I find adding a lot at once to a dough that is not super hydrated makes working the dough a real pain in the arse.

Once the dough was mixed, I left it for about 3 hours before I thought it was sufficiently risen for shaping. I turned it into a batard because my sandwhich loaf breads haven't been rising well recently and I wanted to try something else. Once I'd done that I left it for another 3 hours or so before scoring it, putting a little flour on top and then leaving it another hour for the cut to open a little more (I didn't expect an oven spring so I wanted to let it open a bit before baking.)

I baked it at 220C for 25 minutes, then when I noticed the top was very brown I covered it with aluminium foil and left it a further 35 minutes at 210C. After baking I managed to resist the temptation to cut it for 2 hours, so it had fully cooled when I finally cut into it.

As I said before, I am pleased with the result and will be trying this again, along with other sourdough variations. I spotted a sourdough bagel recipe that sounded rather a appealing...

Mebake's picture

Hey crumbs, that is pretty successful for a first attempt! Have you baked bread before? I love P.R. Wholegrain book, but iam starting to feel the daunting process of preparing a soaker and a biga, cutting them into pieces, and so on.. and yes, steaming should help,

crumbs's picture

Mebake: I've been baking bread a couple of times a week almost every week since last December, so I had gained a little experience before attempting to make sourdough bread. I'm still getting plenty of kind of flat loaves when using wholegrain flour though, but I think I will improve over time.

The epoxy method Reinhart introduces in "Wholegrain Breads" isn't really that much of a chore since it is prepared the night before and mixed the next day. Mixing the biga/starter and soaker really doesn't take long (maybe 15 minutes?) and total hands on time is not really any different to the delayed fermentation method he predominantly uses in "The Bread Baker's Apprentice".

Although I haven't really experimented much with retarding dough, maybe if play with time and temperature you can get your dough to ferment whilst you are doing other things and be ready for the next step when you get back. If you can somehow nail the timing the whole process of making bread can seem very short due to the small amount of hands on time it will require.

By the way, cutting the dough into pieces is something that takes very little time so long as you have a scraper. Before I got my scraper I was using a bread knife, which was quite annoying (and I was always worried about scratching my kitchen table), but with the scraper it's very quick.