The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

First attempt at sourdough

Petrichor's picture

First attempt at sourdough



Amateur baker here with my very first attempt at making bread. I have been building a 100% hydration rye starter for about 8 days and decided to make my first loaf this weekend. I followed the Tartine country bread recipe, except I didn't have any whole wheat flour so the dough was made with Kialla plain white unbleache. (aapprox 10.5% protein).


The folding during bulk ferment went really well.

However shaping the loaf after bench rest proved very challenging. The dough was very sticky and despite rice flour on the bench I struggled to get the dough into a nice ball with any surface tension..


As a result, when inverted the banneton, the loaf pancaked out into the combo cooker pan, quite flat.


I didn't score the loaf as it already had a few fissures on top from my poor shaping attempt.


It looked not great going into the oven, but the end result im pretty happy with for a first ever attempt at bread.  I probably cut the loaf too early, crumb had some nice holes and was quite chewy with a subtle sourdough taste.




I'm looking forward to improve my techniques. Il try and attach a pic soon.


Here is my steps set out below.


 Levain: 1 Tbsp starter 100% hydration rye (fed 10hrs prior) 100g water 26c 100g Kialla white plain flour unbleached Overnight ferment @ 26c for 12hrs 

Next day

  Dough  100g levain 350g water 25c 500g Kialla plain white flour

Autolyse 30min 

10g salt 50g water 26c


Bulk ferment for 3hr with fold every 30mins. Temp 78.8f

Preshape into rounds with envelope fold Bench rest 30mins 78f 

Shape loafs using envelope fold. Rice flour on bench. Sticky side of dough up.  Place into lined banneton.  Proof 3hr @ 80f or until dent test passed.

Preheat lodge combo cooker 480f  Bake 20min covered @450f 20min uncovered 440f.  Allow to cool on rack until room temp.



Flutistry's picture

Petrichor, your first attempt looks delicious. I have only been making sourdough baked goods (boules & bagels) for about 1.5 years. I came across this website and YouTube channel which helped me immensely in understanding the importance of shaping as well as a very good technique. You may find it useful as well!

BaniJP's picture

For your first attempt, that's amazing! Nice color and even crumb! If you go only further from this, you will be an expert in no time!

I would recommend you lowering the hydration a little before you are comfortable with shaping. Currently it's at ~82%, which can be quite challenging for beginners. I would lower it to 70% at least.

Also do you only incorporate salt, then bulkferment or do you mix it a little? Because even with higher hydration you can get amazing oven spring (= tall loafs) if your gluten was developed enough. So after autolyse I would also mix for a few minutes and add the salt during that mixing, just to develop gluten a little.

idaveindy's picture

Excellent photo!  I like the orange hue on the right side of the loaf. It looks like you used natural sunlight for that.  Good photography there.


I looked up the Basic Country Bread formula on page 48 of Robertson's Tartine book.

It looked like you halved the recipe, except...... you forgot to halve the 50 g of water that is added with the salt.

1. So your dough had 25 grams of extra water, and that made it too loose or slack or wet.

Then, two more things that also required small reductions in water:

2. By not using any whole wheat flour, you also reduced the dough's "need" for water.  White flour doesn't absorb as much water as whole wheat flour.   So there was maybe, just guessing, another 5 to 8 grams of "extra" water in the dough because of that.

3.  10.5% protein for All Purpose flour is okay, but it is a little on the low side for sourdough bread.  For sourdough bread,  All Purpose flour works better if it is 11% to 12%.  (King Arthur All Purpose flour is 11.7% .)  In the Tartine book,  Robertson doesn't specify the exact protein percent like some other cookbook authors.  For example, Ken Forkish, in his FWSY book, says 11% to 12% protein.    Other things being equal, lower protein flour (usually) absorbs less water than higher protein flour.  So, again, there was maybe, just guessing, another 10 to 15 grams of "extra" water in your dough that it likely did not need.

In his next book, Tartine Book No. 3, on page 24, Robertson specifies 11% to 12% as "medium-strong" flour.


Hence for next time, if you  use the exact same flour, remember to use only 25 grams of water when you add the salt. But... also reduce that initial 350 by 23 grams (8 + 15) at the initial mix.  And if your dough  needs more water, it is easy to add it back in when you add the salt+water.

Welcome to TFL, and bon appétit!

Petrichor's picture

Thanks for the tips and advice. Good pick up on the excess water and the omission of whole wheat flour, I was wondering about that!


That might explain why it was so hard to shape. I've made pizza dough at 65% hydration and it was easy to make nice rounds so I was a bit challenged by this high hydration beast haha.

I regards to the mixing, I used only my hands to squish the salt and water into the dough until I couldn't feel the salt granules. Probably only about 2 minutes. The rest was just folding during the 3hr bulk ferment.


There is another brand of flour here that is about 12.5% protein so I'll give that a try next time.


Thanks for the photo comments, late afternoon sunlight through the window is to thank.



Petrichor's picture

Here is my second attempt after taking into account the helpful advice given by above posters.

I made sure I used 10% whole wheat and 90% white for the dough, all the other steps where the same as above.


In addition I tried a different technique when I got my dough out onto the bench, as Ive noticed there is a few ways to skin a cat here.


The first time I tried the way Ken Forkish explains in his book, dumping the dough onto a lightly floured bench and keeping sticky side up and doing the folds from there.

This time I eased the dough out onto a clean unfloured bench, kept the sticky side down and lightly floured the sides,top. I then worked quickly with the bench scraper to preshape into balls. (I think getting the hydration a bit lower helped here as they seemed to hold tension more easily than the first dough I made where I omitted the whole wheat component).

Having the sticky side down made it easy for me to drag the dough across the bench with the dough scraper, developing tension much better.

Still working on my scoring technqiue. I used my sharpest Gyuto knife smeared with a tiny bit of oil.

I have the second dough ball proofing in the fridge tonight, will bake that one in the morning. It will be interesting to see if there is any difference in taste with the overnight fridge proof..



Martin Crossley's picture
Martin Crossley

If any of my early attempts had looked as good as that, I’d be a very happy baker indeed!

idaveindy's picture

AWESOME!   Post those pics to EVERY social media account you have!   You even nailed the coveted and much sought-after "ears." 

Your next assignment, should you decide to accept it, is to get a copy of Robertson's Tartine Book No. 3*, and bake some mostly whole wheat loaves.

* currently on sale in Kindle format for only $2.99, normally like $15.


That Lodge combo cooker is great.  I have the 3.2 qt model with the long handles.   I invert the pot over my banneton, and flip them over together, and the dough just plops in.  I bought 2 bannetons to match it, an 8" inner diameter banneton to match the pot, and a 9" inner diameter banneton to match the lid for when I bake on the lid.