The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Midweek Sourdough

Anomalous's picture

Midweek Sourdough

I've been refining the technique for making sourdough during the working week so that it's out of the oven in time for dinner. It's going pretty well now, and I'm regularly turning out loaves that I'm really pleased with.

It starts off the evening before, when I put 100g of sourdough starter and 200g strong white flour and 200g water into a tub, give it a mix and put the lid on to mature overnight ar room temperature. It seems that the longer I mature this levain, the more of a distinctive sourdough tangy quality shows up in the final loaf, but I'm not 100% sure of this. At the same time, I put 300g of strong white flour and 9g salt in a separate dry tub, just to save time next morning, and 100g water in a third container. Sometimes I use 100g wholemeal spelt or a bit of Kamut instead of some of the white flour, or I might toast some hemp seeds, crush them and put them with the dry flour for tomorrow.

Next morning.

07:00. The levain in the tub is nice and bubbly. I tip in the dry tub of 300g flour and 9g salt, plus the little tub of 100g water, then it gets a good mix for a minute or so, the lid goes back on and I go and shower.

07:15. The dough has developed a little. I tip it out onto the board and stretch and pull each corner of the dough up and into the middle as though forming a parcel. This goes on for a minute or so then I flip it over and form a round by scooping my hands half under it and pulling it toward me so the friction of the work surface pulls the surface of the dough taut. This takes about a minute and a half. I cover it with a bowl and get my breakfast.


07:30. The dough has relaxed a bit.

I flip it over and repeat the parcel-forming pulling and stretching then flip it again and form a round. This takes about a minute. The bowl goes on to cover it again and I go and get dressed.

07:45. The dough has more structure now.

Flip, pull, stretch, form a round, cover. This takes less than a minute. I finish getting ready for work.

08:00. Now the structure is more apparent. For the fourth time, I flip the dough, stretch and fold, form a round and now it's looking really taut and elastic.

I flour my proving basket and put in the dough, top side down, dust with a little semolina and put it in a big ziplock plastic bag, then into the fridge. Off to work.

19:00. 11 hours later the dough has nicely risen in the fridge. Not so much this time as it often does, but it will be OK.



I put the oven on to heat for 20 minutes at 230C with the cast iron combo cooker in the oven.

19:20. I dust the skillet of the combo cooker with semolina and tip the dough into it then slash it, put on the lid of the combo cooker and put it in the oven.

This seals in all the steam that would otherwise be lost, and prevents the crust from forming for the first 20 minutes so as to allow the maximum expansion of the dough.


19:40. I take the lid off, so that the crust can form. When the lid comes off, a cloud of steam escapes and the loaf is fully formed, though pale and soft.

Back in the oven. I usually turn it after another ten minutes so that it's evenly browned.

20:00. Finished. Out it comes and onto a rack to cool for at least 30 minutes.

I love the craggy, caramelised crust produced when using the combo cooker. You can hear the crust crackling as it cools.

It's a really nice loaf with a good shape, nice sourdough taste, but not the most tangy I've had, and a good, moist, open crust but without too many impractical big air holes. This is bread for sandwiches and I don't want everything to fall out.

The starter is one which was given to me on a training day at a Hackney bakery. I feed it with equal quantities of filtered water and stoneground wholemeal rye and I keep it in the fridge.

The technique works well for me and I can keep up the sourdough production during the working week, though only because of my leisurely one-hour pre-work routine.


dabrownman's picture

method really works well for you time and bread wise.   Very nice baking.  I like the no muss no fuss approach.  Your results are great inside and out.

Nice baking

Second Cooking's picture
Second Cooking

Awesome job, making it fit your schedule.  The pictures look great.

Take care, Todd


Janetcook's picture

I really like your photos of how the dough developed after each S&F.  People write about the changes but your photos show just how quickly and easily the dough comes together into a wonderful bread dough.  Amazing process compared to how we used to knead dough for what seemed like ages to get the same result!!!

Beautiful final loaf too.

Nice demonstration of how easy it can be to bake within the ones work/life parameters.  So many people I talk to still think baking bread simply takes up too much time.  (They don't know about S&Fing or using the refrigerator to ferment/proof a loaf and how that makes it a much simpler process.)

Thanks for the post!


Anomalous's picture

Thanks for the comments! It works well for the first part of the week when I have a short bike ride to work, but on Thursday and Friday I have a one-hour cycle commute (down the canal towpath) so it's a quick breakfast and exit, showering at work, leaving no time for the development of the dough. If it would work with a final retarded proving of nearly 24 hours rather than the paltry 11 hours I have been using so far, it can be worked with an even more rushed morning routine, the stretch-and-fold routine taking place one evening and the baking the following evening. More experimentation to follow.

Anomalous's picture

Now, I think I needlessly complicated this. It turns out that the dough is quite happy taking even longer on its final rise in the fridge: 20 hours or so seems fine, without any hint of over-proving. This means one can quite easily do the stretch-and-fold routine over the space of an hour one evening having set the sponge going that morning, then bake the following evening. That makes it very easy for those rushed mornings!

Now I'm experimenting with double-retardation: making the sponge one evening, leaving it in the fridge til the following evening, forming the dough and leaving it to rise in the fridge until the second evening, making a total of 48 hours. We're half way through and it's looking good so far... 

Anomalous's picture

This seems to be working out quite well. On the first evening I put 100g of refrigerated 100% hydrated stoneground rye starter in a tub with 200g flour and 200g water, give it a good stir, put on the lid and put it back in the fridge. On the second evening I add 120g water, 9g salt and 300g flour, then we go into an hour's worth of the stretch-and-fold-and shape at 15 minute intervals until it's ready to go into the banneton, bagged, and back into the fridge. On evening three, I turn it out into the combo cooker and bake it. The result is just as good as with the single retarded fermentation. I need to do it a few more times until I can work out whether there's a different taste.