The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Baking a Classic Sourdough in the UK

CAphyl's picture

Baking a Classic Sourdough in the UK

Back in the UK, and it's great to be baking again.

I was pleased with the crumb on the classic sourdough I made today.  My husband liked the crust as well.

I have revived my sourdough over months in the fridge in the UK and have started baking. Lots to do to make bread for family and friends.This one was for us, and it tasted great. I always worry about my sourdough starter when I have to leave it for so long, but it bounced back nicely. Thanks to Kiseger for giving me a great UK website to find some items I couldn't pick up at the store.

The bread made a great sandwich.  I pasted in my original recipe below.  I didn't use my covered baker (don't have one here in the UK), so I used the steam method instead. Hope to post more from here.  Best,  Phyllis

Makes: One 2 pound loaf.

Method adapted from: Classic Sourdoughs by Ed and Jean Wood.

I varied the recipe by using my active starter that was a 70/20/10 mix of AP flour, WW flour and dark rye at 100% hydration. I really liked this mix, as it added a bit of texture to the loaf as the original recipe starter has no whole wheat or rye. I also changed the cold fermentation, extending it considerably by adding a bulk fermentation phase.


Final Dough:

  • 230 grams (about 1 cup or 240 ml) active starter, 70/20/10 mix of AP, WW and Rye flours at 100% hydration
  • 300 grams water (Approximately 1 1/2 cups or 360 ml water)
  • 10 grams salt (about 2 teaspoons)
  • 500 grams unbleached all-purpose flour (about 4 cups)


  1. Mixing the dough. Pour the starter into a mixing bowl. Add the water and mix well.  Add the flour a little bit at a time until it starts to stiffen.  Hold some flour out to knead in a bit later.  Let the mix autolyze for 30 minutes and then add then fold in the salt.
  2. Kneading the dough. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead in some of the remaining flour if the dough is too sticky. Knead for about 10 minutes until it the dough is smooth and easy to handle.
  3. Bulk fermentation. Lightly coat a glass bowl with olive oil and place the dough ball into the bowl, making sure that the top of the dough ball has a thin coat oil. Cover and bulk ferment in the refrigerator for 24-48 hours.  I did two bakes of this bread in the last week or so, and I bulk fermented the first loaf for 72 hours, and it came out really great. The original recipe calls for it to proof at room temperature for 8-12 hours, so I made a major change here. Over this period in the refrigerator, the dough should about double in size.
  4. Shaping and final proof. Use a spatula to ease the dough out onto a floured surface. Allow the dough to rest for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, shape it into a rough ball, cover it with a cloth, and let it rest again for 30 minutes. Now, shape the dough into a boule and place it seam-side up into a banneton coated in brown rice flour. Put in a clean plastic bag and refrigerate overnight.
  5. Baking the loaf. The next morning, remove the loaf from the refrigerator and let it warm up before baking. You should be the judge of how long you need it to warm up.  My loaf needed to pop up a bit, so I let it warm up for several hours at room temperature before I preheated the oven. I used my Emile Henry covered baker, so I preheated it with the cover on at 500 degrees (260 degrees C).  When the oven and baker are at temperature, remove the lid and pop the loaf into the bottom tray. Score it in the pattern you desire.  I sprayed a light mist of water on the dough, trying to avoid the hot surface, as I was hoping for a really beautiful crust.  Bake at 500 degrees with the lid on for 30 minutes, and then take the temperature down to 450 degrees and remove the lid for the final browning, which is another 10-15 minutes, depending on the type of crust you like.  We tend to like a bolder crust, so I bake it a bit longer. Watch it closely during this phase. If you do not have a covered baker, you can use a baking stone or tray with parchment paper, but make sure you create steam by using your steaming apparatus or baking tray with boiling water from the start of the bake.  Bake the loaf at about 480 (250 C) degrees for the first 25 minutes and then reduce the temperature to 435 for the next 15-20 minutes, depending on how bold you like the crust.
  6. Cooling and slicing the loaf:  Remove the loaf from the covered baker tray or stone and let cool for at least 20 minutes before slicing.



isand66's picture

Looks perfect Phylis.  Nice crust and crumb.  I like your adaptation and it looks like it really worked well.


CAphyl's picture

I have been making this recipe a lot.  In fact, I am baking another for my sister-in-law and the gang as they will be coming together to watch the Liverpool game. I think it would be great with some excellent English Stilton! I did another adaptation today, which I hope turns out.  I have been leaving the dough to retard in the fridge for days at a time, and I think it actually turns out better the longer it is left.  We will see on the next one.  Best,  Phyllis

Kiseger's picture

Great that you got your starter up and running again!  So glad you got all the kit and flour etc, this bread looks perfect to me, I'm definitely up for the sandwich too!  Hope the rain stays away, but looks like Monday may deliver some nonetheless.....this is England after all!  Thanks for posting, nothing like a classic sourdough to get into the swing of things on your stay here!  Hope the weddings are fun and you're having a good stay!

CAphyl's picture

Kiseger:  Thanks again for the web site, a great find.  I did not know what to do without brown rice flour for the banneton. There has been no rain for more than a week, so this must be a record.  I know it is for me.  It has been a very good visit so far, but we are bummed that we missed the filming of the Antiques Road Show here in Liverpool yesterday.  We could have walked over, but read about it in the newspaper too late.  I did spot a Sean Lennon concert in the paper after dinner the other night, and my husband went over and saw the show.  He really enjoyed it.  Funny that Sean was playing with his band a few blocks from where his Dad got his start....More adventures to come, I hope.  Best,  Phyllis

dabrownman's picture

starter comes back and the first loaf of SD bread comes out of the oven!  Makes one feel right back at home again.  You must be a master at it by now with homes so far apart.  The jet lag must be a killer but the bread has ti help that too :-).  Another nice loaf for sure.  Well done and

Happy Baking Phyllis 

dmsnyder's picture

Your experiments with multiple, long retardations show a lot of courage, curiosity and persistence. All admirable traits! And, to top it all, you get really nice-looking results! 


CAphyl's picture

I am thinking of trying your famous baguettes next!  Fingers crossed they turn out well, and my starter continues to perform.  I was thinking that the long retardation periods are working because my starter may a bit weak.  It is so hard to say.  Sounds like a good question for Mini Oven!  Thanks for your comment.  Best,  Phyllis

Katnath's picture

Hi. I have a question for you. I'm in the same boat as you, with a second home in the uk. I'd like to bring my starter over and use it while there and then maintain it for long periods without feeding or use. Any suggestions on what is the best way to store it? And if it can be revived after say 5-6 months, can I put it back in hibernation repeatedly? I assume that over time it will lose its strength.
Thanks for your help. Your loaves look beautiful too.

best, katy

CAphyl's picture

Katy: I brought my starter over the the UK more than a year ago, and I do leave it for very long periods of time.  I put it in checked baggage with a sticker, "sourdough starter," and the TSA opened it up and left me a note that they opened by bag.  The starter was not bothered and came through with flying colors.  I have left it for more than six months at a time (not really recommended!).  After this period of time, the white starter (I keep two; one all All Purpose flour and one a mix of AP/WW/Rye (per David) gets a dark liquid on top (the alcohol) and the mixed starter gets a bit dark on top.  At this point, you can do two things:  pour off the liquid and throw out a little starter or stir it down before you feed it.  This time, I stirred it down, fed it (twice) and it popped back nicely.  I took the dark bit off the top of the mixed starter, fed it and it came back like a champ after one feeding.  I used the starters in this loaf (and others), and it seemed to work well.  It could weaken over time, and I will watch this. So, the long answer is, you can bring it, leave it and refresh it when you return, but don't panic when you first see it.  Work with it, and it will revive!  Good luck and let me know if I can be of further help.  I need to shape my next sourdough now. All the best,  Phyllis

RobynNZ's picture

Hi Katy

You may find it useful to read  Paul's report on preparing and reviving dried starter, when he moved countries.

Dried starter as a backup helped me out one year when I returned from several weeks away to a 'dead' fridge in the middle of summer. I'd recommend everyone to take the precaution of preparing a dried backup.

Cheers, Robyn

CAphyl's picture

I have not tried drying starter. I have read about it. Perhaps this does make more sense as I have to leave it for long periods. Best. Phyllis

Katnath's picture

Hi Phyllis and Robyn. I'm going to try to do both. Refrigerate a portion and dry some and then see which one holds up better. Of course I won't know for several months. Right now I've just arrived in England and am going to find bottled water to feed my precious starter. I fgure it would be too much of a shock for my precious to get a glug of nasty London water! Cheers. Katy

bakingbadly's picture

Good to hear that your starter is doing fine after months of disuse. Love the crust colour on your loaf! Although, it looks like the bottom crust didn't form as well as the upper crust. Just a few minor tweaks and that can be fixed. Despite that, I'm sure the bread was super tasty! ;)

Take care and jolly bakings!


CAphyl's picture

Zita: The dough stuck to the banneton, and it hit the rim of the baking stone, so it was by no means perfect. Good spotting by you! Best, Phyllis