The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Ideas for a first sourdough go?

honeymustard's picture

Ideas for a first sourdough go?

I have a new and exciting joy about to develop. I'm making a sourdough starter.  Technically it's my first; I tried a starter before but the formula called for dry yeast in the actual starter, which tells me it's not really a true starter. In any case, I accidentally threw the entire starter into my preferment dough, so that was a fail anyway. Onward to better things, and I made a new starter based on this formula. So far so good! I'm on day four and everything is progressing as it should be. So while I'm not ready to make any bread for another day or two, I wanted to ask if anyone had any recipes that would be good for a first sourdough.

I'm up for anything! But if it's helpful to know, I'm using a starter that began with organic rye and has been replenished with organic whole wheat from then on.

I'm asking in a forum directly simply because my searches on here and elsewhere come up with two things: breads that involve additional yeast (which I'd like to avoid), or I'm unable to really understand the recipes because I don't know all the terms and all the processes of making sourdough bread to begin with.

I've got pretty good experience with non-sourdough breads, just not the sourdough. I appreciate the help!

cranbo's picture

I think a Tartine style country loaf, as described here, is a good first sourdough. The texture and flavor of the resulting bread is outstanding. 

Be aware that your first sourdough might not turn out that great. The "trick" with sourdoughs is that the rise times can vary wildly, so as others say, "lose the watch" and pay attention to the bread and when it tells you that it's ready for its next stage. 

Good luck!

jcking's picture

I set the watch/timer to remind me to check and see how things are progressing.


breadbythecreek's picture

Tartine is a great book to start with, especially the country loaf as the description is accompanied by lot of pictures that show exactly what the dough should look like at each step. Also, for unfamiliar terms and concepts, do check out the FAQ section on the home page here, as it includes information on baking processes as well as a glossary of terms.  If all else fails, just ask your questions. There is a wealth of knowledge here just waiting to help.  Mostly though, experience and your own mistakes will be your best teachers.  Pretend it's a science project and keep a lab notebook with lots of details on exactly what you did (recipes, rising times/temperatures, tasting notes) so you can refer back to figure out what works and what doesn't work for you in your kitchen.

-Happy baking


Syd's picture

Everyone is going to have their own favourite.  I am going to suggest using Flo's 1.2.3 Easy Formula for Sourdough because:

  • it really is easy
  • being simple makes it a cinch to remember so you don't have to refer to a recipe everytime
  • it is infinitely scaleable (up or down) without having to think about baker's math
  • you can vary the ingredients as you wish and the permutations are endless
  • did I mention that it was really simple?

Essentially the recipe is:

  • 1 part starter
  • 2 parts water
  • 3 parts flour

Don't forget to add the salt.  Flo adds 2%.

A lot of my sourdoughs are variations on this formula. I often use the following amounts because the resultant amount of dough is perfect for my banettons. 

  • 150g starter
  • 300g water
  • 450g flour
  • 9g salt (2% of 450g - the only slightly difficult calculation that you will have to make)

What flour (or combination of flours) you use is up to you.  I like to use a combination of rye, whole wheat and bread flours.  A typical everyday kind of sourdough for me ( and I never follow a written recipe when I make this...I go with what I have got or what I feel like adding at the time, but I keep with the 1.2.3 formula) might look like this:

  1. 150g recently refreshed, just-before-its-peak starter
  2. 300g water
  3. 450g flour (50g rye, 100g whole wheat, 300g bread flour)
  4. 9g salt
  5. 3g of diastatic malt (but only because the flour I use needs it - yours might not)
  • Whisk up the starter and water
  • Add the flour and malt (if using) and thoroughly incorporate until all the flour has been absorbed by the water
  • Autolyse for 50 mins
  • Add salt and knead until medium gluten development
  • Allow to bulk ferment for about 2 and a half hours with 3 folds 45 mins apart
  • Pre-shape, rest 15 mins
  • Shape and allow it to three quarter rise in the banetton
  • Retard in refrigerator for at least 12 hours
  • Allow to warm to room temp and complete proof
  • Meanwhile pre-heat oven to 230C
  • Bake on stone at 230C with steam for 10 mins, reduce temp. to 200C and bake for a further 30 to 40 mins without steam

It works perfectly for me everytime.



IBringThePain's picture

I highly recommend the pain au levain recipes from Daniel Leader in Bread Alone. They're very simple, although they are time intensive. There's some preparation the night before if you want to bake in late morning, or in the morning if you want to bake in the evening. But I love it because all it requires is good flour, water, and salt, and it is very good bread. The levain is just starter at a low hydration level (a stiff dough, really) that's been fed 8-10 hours before you start. I take a cup of roughly 100% hydration starter and add flour until I can't stir it.

Makes two long 14-inch loaves

Levain: 2 cups / 18 oz

Warm (not hot) water (the recipe calls for spring, but I use filtered tap water and it's fine): 2 1/4 cups / 18 fl. oz

Whole wheat flour: 1 cup / 5 oz (more as needed)

White flour: 4 cups / 20 oz (more as needed)

Salt (the recipe calls for sea salt, but I don't worry about it): 1 tbs / 3/4 oz

Combine levain and water in a large bowl. Break up levain with a wooden spoon or your fingers. Stir until levain is partly dissolved and slightly frothy. Add whole wheat flour and stir until well combined. Add salt and remaining flour to make a thick mass that is difficult to stir. Turn out onto floured surface and knead, adding flour as needed until dough is firm and smooth, 15 to 17 minutes. 

Let the dough rise in a greased, covered bowl for two hours, preferably around 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit. Deflate dough and knead briefly, then shape into tight ball and let rest, covered, on a lightly floured board for 30 minutes. The same temperature suggestion applies.

Flatten balls into disks, then shape into torpedoes. Let rise in for two hours, covered. Same temperature deal. 

Preheat oven and baking stone (if you have one; if you don't, I really recommend it) to 450 F for an hour (you want the stone to be HOT). Slash the loaves and put them in the oven. Steam however you like; the recipe says to spray with a spritzer bottle. That's what I do, but it's not as crusty as I'd like. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Good luck!

JerryW's picture

I'll vote for one of the Vermont Sourdough recipes from Jeffrey Hamelman's Bread.  I like them all.