The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Sourdough Bread Blues

Clemicus's picture

Sourdough Bread Blues

I'm new to making sourdough bread and I've been less than thrilled with the results. My starter is going on 6 weeks old and it bubbles beautifully. It floats like a bar of Ivory soap so I'm fairly confident it's feisty. My issues arise from some conflicting information I've been getting from recipes found on the Internet. Nearly everyone is slapping and folding but there are those who are full out kneaders. I've tried both methods but no matter, I'm just not getting any rise to my loaf. The loaves are dense. I'm using a Dutch Oven.

I'm having questions regarding hydration rates. I notice some recipes have a 40% hydration while others are as high as 78%. To keep things simple I'm using King Arthur bread flour.

What's a good recipe for an airy well risen loaf?

julie99nl's picture

What kind of bread are you wanting to make? A sandwich loaf baked in a tin with a soft fluffy crumb and golden crust?? Or,  a round artisan style loaf with a crispy crust and chewier crumb?

Clemicus's picture

Thanks for answering my posting Julie. I appreciate it. I guess the answer to your questions is both. Presently, I'm working on the round artisan loaf with the crispy crust and chewy crumb. I wanted to employ a Sourdough Starter to my baking and attain the flavor one can only get from wild yeast. Once I get this loaf mastered I will venture forth with the sandwich version.

BaniJP's picture


100% flour

60% water

2,5% salt

50% mature starter (100% hydration)

Mix until dough is somehow smooth and comes off the bowl. If you mix and knead with hand, just knead for 10 min., its practically impossible to overknead dough with hand.

Bulk-ferment for 4-5 h (should double in volume and show bubbles on surface), folding it maybe 1-2 times.

Portion, pre-shape, rest covered for 20 min.

Shape, proof for ~1,5-2 h (do the poke test)

Score and bake at 240°C for 20 min. with lid on, then without lid until dark brown and crisp.


This is my basic recipe and it always works. I assume you know how to proof, fold, shape and score properly. If you want more details, just ask, happy to help! :)

For the sandwich bread (if you are talking about toast), that is another story. Those loafs are enriched with usually milk, butter and sometimes egg. Basically a brioche. 

I don't have a clear recipe for that, but you could start out with:

Replace a part of the water with milk (maybe a third, start low) and add sugar (maybe 10-15%), then mix the dough further until really smooth, then add 10% room temp butter, one tablespoon at a time. Mix until fully incorporated, then proceed as normal. Brush with eggwash when baking if you wanna be super decadent. Might need to adjust some proofing times.

I can look up a proper recipe in my baking bible if you want :)

Clemicus's picture

Thank you for your quick response. It's much appreciated. I will use your recipe in my next attempt and return with my results. Keeping all fingers crossed.

DanAyo's picture

Clem, here is another formula that we’ve posted as a good sourdough starter bread. It is very basic simplistic. A perfect bread for someone trying to succeed for the first time. It is similar to the bread Banji posted. You may want to take a look.

It is a good idea to pick a simple loaf and bake it until you get it right. Success is the quickest route to confidence. And confidence is necessary for mastery. Even though mastery is seldom, if ever attained. LOL


Clemicus's picture


Thanks for your input. I agree with you about confidence. My wife keeps asking me why I soldier on with baking bread using a starter when it's giving me such problems. My response is "success can not be had without failure." I am determined and will succeed.

Be well.