The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

My First Sourdough

Daisy_A's picture

My First Sourdough



It was exciting to make this first sourdough after all the work that had gone into nurturing my starters. I thought I'd lost the loaf at several stages but I learned so much through making it. There are many things I need to work on but it tasted delicious!

I'd like to thank TFL members for their encouragement and also QJones at Madrid tiene miga [Madrid's Got Crumb] for the wonderful recipe for Hogaza integral (con masa madre de centeno 100%) [Whole grain loaf (with 100% rye starter)]. As you can see on the latter website, in the hands of an accomplished baker, this is a beautiful loaf . An English translation of the formula and method for this bread is included in the chart at the bottom of this blog, with notes on my own attempt.

Like others here I arrived at TFL via SourdoLady's instructions on how to cultivate a starter, found on Google. I would like to thank you all for your help at every stage - welcome, answers to queries, encouragement to start my first loaf and also specialist advice via live posts and messages and the archives. Many people have helped me but I would particularly like to thank Ananda (Andy) for his specialist guidance and feedback.

I've lurked on several bread boards now but what really made TFL stand out for me was its strong building of mutually supportive networks across baking levels, which is mentioned by so many new participants. Thanks Floyd and Dorota for building this place!

While waiting for my starters to develop I read TFL archives,  baked several yeasted breads, including Jason's ciabatta and Floyd's hot cross buns from TFL and bollos preñaos from Madrid tiene miga. I also added to my baking equipment. I started with the 'hogaza integral' because it just sang out to me as a sourdough but also because I could bake it with the small selection of equipment I had at the start, which did not allow me to proof batards or safely cover loaves during baking.

One of the key things of this first foray into sourdough baking was getting to know how my rye starter, Rosie, worked to raise a loaf. As it happened she whipped through a projected 4 hour second proof in 1.5 hours. This meant that when the dough and Rosie were ripe and ready to go the oven was stone cold. I'd not wanted to preheat it for 3 hours. Mercifully as advised by Ananda and Andrew Whitley's Bread Matters, as well as many members of TFL, I was watching the dough intently through the second proof. I put in back in the fridge briefly then removed it to heat up in preparation for baking. Time was of the essence at that point as I could see that the skin was growing tighter. It became important to transfer it to the oven quickly. Previous to this I had developed some good shaping and peeling skills working on rounded Swedish rye breads. However I lost them in the stress and excitement of the moment.

The banneton, which had been a focus of interest in our household, supported and released the dough well. It was looking good - a nice, tight boule. By the time I'd slashed it weakly, taken an photograph of it, mis-peeled for first time ever, got the dough back onto board for a random reshape and re-peeled it, it was a teardrop miche shape with no evident slashing...Now I know that 30 seconds to get the dough into the oven means just that.

Another key thing about this bake was getting to know my oven. I had assumed from a temperature reading taken near the bottom of oven that it was under heating. When I baked my second loaf I took the temperature higher up at my DH' s suggestion and it was off the scale. Unknowingly, I put this first loaf into a really hot zone. It cracked into Maillard caramelization early then darkened. It also cooked more quickly than predicted by the recipe. I didn't think to use a probe on this first loaf so I had no idea what was happening in its interior. At this point I fully expected to be paving the patio with it. I thought I had nurtured a starter and worked for 1.5 days in order to produce a brick. I tried to be philosophical but it would have been a big disappointment not to have gained a loaf after all the labour. At that point I was just hoping for something edible.

When the loaf emerged from the oven its exterior was crackled, with a sort of dappled look due to the yellow maize flour dusting. I thought at first that the crackling was a flaw and do think it arose in some part due to the tightening of the dough while waiting for the oven to heat. I didn't like to look at it at first, as I was hoping for even and golden. However I was comforted by reading in Andrew Whitley's Bread Matters that crackling can occur anyway on loaves and can be attractive; also by looking at the lovely loaves in Jan Hedh's Artisan Bread, many of which have a pronounced crackle.

By the next day, I'd decided to embrace my crackled loaf, as a lovely thing. To convince myself in the first photograph I paired it with the melon that had just arrived in the organic box - telling myself these were two good, round, crackled yellowish things together! 

We had a wonderful surprise when I cut into the loaf. The interior was not rock hard. It was dense with the rye and I know that I need to work on creating more open textures through kneading. but no way was it inedible. I've been finding with some of my loaves that the outsides tend to have a more open crumb than the middles. As I get to know my dough and oven better this is changing. However the shot above in front of the bread bin is through the middle of the loaf and my knife isn't brilliant so it tore it somewhat. I wanted to keep the shot of the bread bin, as it sets the loaf in the context of our kitchen. However, this shot of a more 'cake like' slice gives a much better idea of the crumb in the loaf as a whole. 

The crust was very crackly as you can probably see from the shot above. However, having been introduced to sourdoughs via Moro sourdough, this is how we like it! (Thankfully I'm blessed with a DH who loves crackly crusts. The idea that they would be softer the next day doesn't appeal to him).

And the taste? Well I've been frank about the flaws in my bread making, so let's be honest about the good points. The taste was delicious. I can attribute part of our reaction to tasting the bread to our general excitement at eating our own sourdough for the first time. Maybe all home baked sourdough tastes like this? Well, after baking two more sourdough loaves I can say that it doesn't. All the loaves have tasted good and some of the milder loaves would be more to other people's taste. But we really like strong flavours and the bread really delivered on this front. I think this is due to the recipe. QJones notes how it really foregrounds the rye. The nutty notes of the rye mixed with sour were delicious. After all that cultivation Rosie had done a really good job of delivering a satisfying tang. And the flavour was complex. Like a good wine it coated the inside of your mouth and continued to deliver complex tastes long after the first bite of the bread.

I asked my husband whether he wanted anything with his first slice and his response was that a bread that tasted so good didn't need anything with it. For the crackle and taste reminded him of Moro's bread at its best (Wow - though they also have phenomenal gluten development [no rye]) My DH is no unbiased taster, obviously. However I can tell when he's faking it. If unsure of something I've offered him he cautiously says it's 'tasty'. Not so this time. As many have noted on TFL, it's a joy to share a good bread with friends and family.

After the first slices we tried it with Beenleigh Blue cheese and a green virgin olive oil. These foods are so strong in flavour they will see milder ingredients off the plate. The rye went well with them. I can see why rye is traditionally paired with cured meats and fish.

And yes, I confess, we ate the bread warm. I know there are reasons to avoid this but how many poets have romanticized about bread cold from the oven? That and the fact that the other half was more bulbous is the reason that there is only half a loaf in the pictures!

Well a lot learned there and lots to work on in the future but it was a good end to the first adventure. Thanks again.

(More technical information follows. I tried hard with the maths but it's not my strongest point. Any corrections welcome).

Total Formula


Bakers %

White organic bread flour

400 grams

Rye organic flour

100 grams

Whole wheat organic flour

100 grams


370 grams


10 grams


980 grams



Rye Starter                   


Bakers %

Rye organic flour

100 grams


100 grams


200 grams



Final Dough


Bakers %

White organic bread flour

400 grams

Whole wheat organic flour

100 grams


270 grams


10 grams

Rye starter

200 grams


980 grams



62% Hydration dough with 100% Hydration Rye Starter

Flours: Dove’s Farm white organic bread flour, whole wheat and rye flour, Dove’s Farm rye flour in starter.





Mix 12 hours in advance. Leave at room temperature


Mix all ingredients of final dough, except salt, to a mass.

Leave 30 minutes before continuing mix.

Mix Dan Lepard technique, short bursts with rests.

Dan Lepard 10,10.20,30,

1 hr 3 hrs = 5 hrs. 

1 hr = at the one hour mark i.e.

leave 30 mins., not leave 1 hr.



Perhaps raise to C21?
First Proof

5-5.5 hours

Fold and Shape

Shape and place in banneton

First use of banneton went well
Retard Retard covered in fridge 4.5 hours

Note: this was to accommodate baker’s schedule.

Not normally so long, although retardation does take place.

I retarded for 2 hours



Second proof

3 hours in proofing bath/box

With my rye starter, second proof

was over in 1.5 hours.

Not expected so oven not heated


10 minutes at 240C on a preheated metal tray

in a preheated oven with initial steam,

35 minutes at 200C then

10 minutes with oven off and door ajar.

My own loaf cooked more quickly.

Oven had probably heated higher than 230C


General notes

Difficult to coordinate proof and oven: thanks to advice was monitoring second proof closely. Skin was tightening by time oven fully heated.  Could have been a brick but mercifully wasn’t!

See above in notes column.

Notes on loaf

Loaf emerged with crackly, stippled crust. Miche shaped with some but not high oven spring.

Given the circumstances the crumb came out well. Some compaction in middle, which I would like to get rid of. However more even holes in cross section – see ‘cake’ shot.

Loaf suffered from being cut with a poor knife – need to get better one!

Flavour exceptional - a complex mix of rye, nutty overtones and sour, which lingered on the palate.

Focus for next time: slashing and transfer to oven.

Pre-heating of oven and use of stone.


dmsnyder's picture

Your loaf looks delicious!

And a nice write up of your maiden voyage to sourdough. I'm looking forward to your further adventures.


Daisy_A's picture

Hi David,

Many thanks for your encouragement and kind comments on the bread. It means a lot as yours is one of the blogs I have looked to for inspiration on the baking front and also as an example of how to present the information well.

Now I've got started I hope to post again as soon as I can. I also look forward to hearing more about your baking - the breads for the New York Jewish Bakers book look amazing!

With very best wishes,  Daisy_A

Monkeyphish32081's picture

Wow!!  I finally have my sourdough ready but I just havent had the time to bake bread.  I do plan on making some this weekend.  Also Im jealous of your notes, I wish I kept better notes.

Daisy_A's picture

Hi Monkeyphish and many thanks for your encouraging comments.

I'm glad your starter is up and running and wish you a really good weekend bake.

As far as the notes are concerned, I've read some of your posts and you do seem to note things in detail. I'm finding I'm still on a steep learning curve so I tend to make more notes when things go up and down. With loaves that work according to the recipe with only minor changes I have fewer notes and then I think - hang on I need to know how to reproduce that!

I know some people don't take notes and I'm like that with my general cooking - I just enjoy getting on with it but then if I don't make a dish for a while, I'm thinking 'now what spice mix did I use with that?' I have a notebook so should fill it in...With baking I'm finding that noting things down is really helping. For my own reference I would normally put more in the Notes column of the grid but for the blog I've pulled some of that up into the introductory description.

Anyway I guess the main thing is to enjoy the baking so wish you happy baking!

Kind regards,  Daisy_A


ananda's picture

Hi Daisy_A,

Faultless first post, and a very good read, of course.

I'd like to second your thanks to the builders, and all the community creators at TFL

Have you bought any masonry to put in your oven yet?

I note you made a comment about not pre-heating your oven for a long period in the posting.   Whilst acknowledging other TFL members don't pre-heat their ovens, maybe you are aware I am a big fan of this technique.   It helps to even the temperature out in your oven too, so you don't have hot spots,. or ridiculous levels of top heat.   But, mainly it allows a build up of stored, or, retained heat in the brick to give the best possible bottom heat lift in your loaf.

BTW the infra red device you showed me is top notch.   The poster who gave a negative reaction to these, should be aware that a core temperature reading has to be taken using a probe thermometer.   The beam literally reads the temperature at the point where the beam lands.   So, yes, you can get different read points around the oven to determine where the hot and cold spots are.   For core temperatures, use a probe, and look for 95*C.   As soon as the core is exposed, the temperature read is inaccurate, so the infra red device is clearly NOT designed for this purpose.

From your write-up, I would stick with rye based cultures, if you like the stronger flavour.   They are best used fully mature, whereas I like the wheat levain to be just peaking in terms of activity and development.   You can, of course, also experiment with different amounts of sour, so you get a feel for just how much pre-fermented flour is your preference in a formula.

Thanks again for posting; I look forward to more

Best wishes


Daisy_A's picture

Hi Andy,

Many thanks for your generous and encouraging comments on the post. They are much appreciated.

Thank you also for the technical observations and feedback. They are spot on as usual. In terms of heating up the oven - I wanted to avoid heating it for hours but did in fact want to heat it for a minimum of 1.5 hours, with a stone. The dough just outstripped me! I also put the stone in the middle for this first bake and that was too high in the oven. I now bake with a preheated stone on the lowest rack. My stone is a single slab of firebrick 5/8 of an inch thick.

Given that you note that the infra red device is a good one, I think I'll go with that. I understand they can also be used to test the heat in wood fired ovens, so might also be helpful if we go down that route at any time?

Thanks for your suggestions on the rye. At the moment I am using it primarily in formulae with mixed grains but am finding that I get the best results from a preferment. One of the most successful breads I've made, which I'm hoping to post on at some point, is Jan Hedh's lemon bread.That has 100g rye and 150g durum wheat in the preferment, out of 900g total flour. 650g of wheat flour is added to the dough on the second day.

Thank you again for your help and support. It would have been harder to get this loaf to the oven without it!

With very best wishes,   Daisy_A


DonD's picture

Congratulations on your first successful sourdough bake. Your presentation, clear and concise observations make for very good reading. I look forward to seeing many more of your future bakes.

ps. Warning, this could be addictive!


Daisy_A's picture

Hi Don,

Many thanks for your kind comments on the baking and on the blog. They are much appreciated.

As for the warning - too late - I'm afraid I'm already addicted!

With kind regards, Daisy_A