The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Hello and - first loaf I'm reasonably happy with

loydall's picture

Hello and - first loaf I'm reasonably happy with

Just thought I'd say hello as this is my first post on this site. I'm looking for a little feedback on my sourdough - I cooked a loaf yesterday I'm reasonably happy with (it's a long way off where I'd want to be but it seems to be heading in the right direction). 

I've found there are so many different recipes and methods on the internet that I'm not really sure where to start but this is the approach I've had most success with:

My starter was made a couple of weeks ago - equal parts flour and water every day for a week (it started bubbling within a day)

Then - I take some of that starter and add to a bowl with another cup of water and flour and leave overnight.

From that I make a dough adding extra flour and water (and salt).

Sorry if that last bit sounds vague but I'm still guessing at this point. I add enough flour to allow me to just about work with the dough but it's certainly still wet.

I then leave it for 20 minutes or so and then knead for 10 minutes and proof until it has doubled in size (overnight with this loaf).

I then knock it back, shape it and place in a proving basket (I recently bought a linen lined basket which has ended the problems I had with the dough sticking to the basket).

Once it has risen to a decent size (about 4 hours) it goes onto a hot stone, in my oven at 240c for 25 minutes with a tray of water at the bottom to add humidity to the oven.

Open the door to release some of the steam and then cook for another 20 minutes at 200c.

That's the best I've managed so far. I'm sure there are a load of mistakes in there - as I say, I've been overwhelmed with the amount of information on the internet that I thought I'd try to figure it out myself.

Anyway - here's a couple of pics:

Please be critical - I'm sure there's loads I could improve on and it really is early days for me.

Thanks in advance for any advice on this one.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

more like an instant dough than a sourdough recipe.  The loaf looks good, not bad at all.  Congratulations!


Look into Stretch and Fold techniques and be gentle with your degassing, no punching of sourdoughs and instead, incorporate stretch and folds to replace punching and kneading.  That might lighten up the loaf a bit.

I like to think of sourdoughs as a continuous rise that gets interrupted as it inflates and finally shaped making a distinct comparison to the bulk rise and knock down of yeasted doughs.  Compare sourdough rises to instant yeasted ones.  

Your sourdough starter is only a few weeks old, check into beefing up or increasing the yeast numbers now, while it is easier and not too set in its ways.  

Bottom of the loaf looks rather pale in comparison to the top of the loaf.  Can you get more heat directly under the loaf?  Lower the stone closer to the element or let it warm up longer?       

loydall's picture

That's brilliant - thanks for your input - most appreciated.

When you say it's more like an instant dough than sourdough, do you mean the technique I use rather than the ingredients?

And - how do I beef up the yeast numbers? Is it just a case of feeding it more flour? And - do I leave it in the fridge from now on for all the time?

Bottom of the loaf - I wouldn't have even noticed that! I guess I could leave the stone in the oven longer to get it up to temperature - that should fix that one.

Thanks again,


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

The wetter your dough the more you can benefit from folding the dough.

There are other threads too under:  beefing up starter

Refrigeration is up to you.  Once the starter is beefed up, it tolerates cooler weather or cold kitchens much better. 

ericreed's picture

I'm still struggling with sourdough myself, so I won't comment at that part, but as far as where to start, any recipe by Jeffrey Hamelman, Ken Forkish, Chad Robertson, or Peter Reinhart should be good. (There are others but those four seem to get the most mention on forums like this and around the web.) I have books by all of them, and like them very much. I found this site recently that has Hamelman's Pain au Levain sourdough with a handy calculator to change the total yield as you need. It's a good french style sourdough.

dabrownman's picture

starter, your bread sure came out well enough.  You have a very wet sponge / levain at 166% hydration that you have sitting out overnight a process we don't use so can't comment, but Mini Oven is right the less you handle the dough the more open and light the crumb will be. Jim Lahey's No Knead Bread is a prime example of what is possible without any kind of kneading at all. 

Make sure you take the steam out of the oven at the 15 mark once the dough springs and blooms to that it can color up to that deep crisp brown we love so much.  Also the stone lags the temperature of the oven air by about 15-20 minutes so to get the bottom brown make sure that you keep preheating the oven  for that amount of time once it beeps that it is a baking temperature - the bottom will then be a brown as the top.

Welcome and happy SD baking