The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

A very simple sourdough recipe...

Anonymous baker's picture
Anonymous baker (not verified)

A very simple sourdough recipe...

A very simple sourdough recipe with great results. It doesn't focus on special techniques or open crumb etc. Rather it's minimal hands on with an old fashioned way of handling a dough approach but very flavoursome. First of all you'll need to build a stiff starter like so...

  • 45g flour (40g bread or AP flour + 5g whole wheat or whole rye)
  • 20g water
  • 10g starter @ 100% hydration 

Based upon a 100% hydration bread flour or AP starter. 

Allow the starter to fully mature and peak then refrigerate for at least 24 hours before moving onto the recipe. 

RECIPE:

  • Bread Flour 200g
  • Whole Wheat Flour 300g
  • Water 325g + extra
  • Salt 10g
  • Stiff Starter 15g*

*after its been in the fridge remove the top of the starter as it might be a bit dried out and use the fresher starter beneath. 

 
  1. In a bowl mix the flours and salt then make a well. 
  2. To the well add the starter then water. 
  3. With your hands break up the starter in the water then slowly mix in the flour forming the dough. 
  4. Knead the dough till full gluten formation. As you are doing this slowly add in more water till you're happy with the hydration. We aren't aiming for as high as possible, rather... just slightly stickier than tacky. It should still be kneadable. 
  5. Once the gluten formation is fully formed then leave it to bulk ferment overnight for 11-12 hours. The dough will have about tripled. It might look over done but it will still have a lot of strength. You'll see when it comes to shaping and utilising folds to build the structure back up. 
  6. Pre-shape and bench rest till the dough relaxes then shape into banneton. 
  7. Final proof till ready - will take about 2 hours but watch the dough and not the clock.
  8. Bake in a pre-heated oven either with steam or in a Dutch Oven for 25 minutes then without steam or lid till there's a lovely golden crust. Allow to fully cool before cutting.

Bon Appetit. 

 
Portus's picture
Portus

Hi Abe, glad to see you're no longer AWOL.  A picture resulting from your VSSDR.  Crumb shot and taste verdict to follow.  Joe  

Anon2's picture
Anon2 (not verified)

That looks great. Impressive oven spring and such a lovely colour. I'm so glad you tried it and look forward to both the crumb shot and taste report. Nice to be back after being AWOL. 

Portus's picture
Portus

The RT overnight slumber (19-20C) and very stiff starter (a rye seed with whole wheat build) combined to deliver a pleasant hint of sour, something I do not normally get with a fridge-chilled retard.  I confess to having added 5g diastatic malt, which perhaps accounts in part for the colour?  Sticky was achieved at about 70%, and one outcome was a loss of only 12-13% liquid compared to my usual ~15% for a bake at 235C, but this contributed to a nice, chewy crumb.      

The outcome, Abe, is that VSSDR has been added to my very limited bouquet of "go to", repeat breads, so thanks for sharing ;-).

Anon2's picture
Anon2 (not verified)

Very pleased it has worked so well and that it's made it on to your go to repeat breads. I love the simplicity with great results. The stiff starter will keep for a week or two and all you need to do is dip into it until it runs low and then feed it again. What I had in mind is high percentage wholegrain loaf, low maintainence starter, no fuss sourdough and of course flavourful. I'm glad you like it! 

Benito's picture
Benito

Beautiful crumb in your loaf.  Wonderful oven spring and crust as well.  Great baking Joe.

Benny

Portus's picture
Portus

Thanks, Benny, for your kind words; much appreciated! 

Benito's picture
Benito

That sounds like a great formula Abe.  It’s great that you use a stiff starter, I love the idea of making a large batch and taking small amounts from it each time you wish to bake this bread.  Amazing that the dough rises to triple the volume yet keeps its strength.  I’m amazed that the acid isn’t so high that the dough becomes proteolytic and loses strength.  But Joe’s bake of this proves that it certainly does not.  

Benny

Anon2's picture
Anon2 (not verified)

Thank you Benny. Low hydration starters tend to give strength to a dough. Well that's what I find anyway. They also have very good flavour and keep for a long time in the fridge even after peaking. You can build up a healthy yeast population by allowing it to rise and peak then refrigerate for a week or two to use straight in the dough. This method works well because the inoculation is low. Rule of thumb when using starter straight in the dough, without a levain build, is the more recently matured starter can be used in larger percentages but the longer it's been less is more. With this recipe it's a long ferment anyway so no issue there as only 3% starter of the flour is used. And while the dough has risen beyond what is normally aimed for in a sourdough it is still strong and has built up good flavour. Hope you try it and let me know what you think. Enjoy! 

Benito's picture
Benito

I have little experience with stiff levains limited to my recent bakes of the purple sweet potato sourdough sandwich loaf.  What you describe as the strength of the stiff levain fits with everything that I’ve read about them.  The topic of bigas and LM have come up in the ciabatta CB making me think about trying to use them more and more.

Thanks again Abe for sharing your formula, I think I will give it a go soon.

Benny

albacore's picture
albacore

I'm really surprised at the loaf height and crumb for 60% whole wheat and such a tiny amount of starter. I've never been a lover of recipes with minute amounts of starter or yeast - I may have to revise my opinion!

Lance

Portus's picture
Portus

Thank you, Lance; I only saw your comment now.  I came back to this post to see if Abe had given any guidance about RT.  He has seemingly gone to ground again :-(, so best I settle on ~20C, which worked for this loaf first time round.

Abe's picture
Abe

Apologies. Haven't gone to ground just dealing with working on a substandard tablet. It's incompatible with lots of formats. So when I mean RT i mean 21°C average but if a bit lower or higher just increase or decrease the time till and ferment till mature. 

Abe's picture
Abe

This is what comes when one tries to answer many questions at once after not keeping up with the post. 

Starter Build: ferment till peaked whatever temp. Not very important. All you want us a fully mature low hydration starter ready to go. 

Dough: 20-21°C

Yippee's picture
Yippee

❓❓❓

Abe's picture
Abe

Apologies yippee and excuse my French but only one way to describe it. One day I'll have a computer. Till then we make do and work with the obstacles. 

texasbakerdad's picture
texasbakerdad

I want to second what Benny said.

I really like this post and the subsequent success and photos from Portus. This recipe challenges a lot of what I thought I knew about bread baking.

Can someone educate me as to why this recipe doesn't lead to the following problems?

  1. With such a large amount of whole wheat and a sourdough starter, how did dough maintain its strength after a 14 hour fermentation without succumbing to proteolysis? Is it the dry starter that keeps the dough from breaking down? I remember a previous post where it was discussed that there is more yeast activity in a dry dough and less of the other beasties.
  2. Only 2 hours proofing and 12 hours in bulk. How did those beautifully large holes in the crumb survive the shaping? Is Portus a master shaper?

 

Ilya Flyamer's picture
Ilya Flyamer

Very low inoculation? That's only 2% PFF in there. And I guess night temperature is a little lower, so doesn't get overfermented.

Maybe Abe will come back and provide his thoughts about this.

Abe's picture
Abe

Very low inoculation and a long bulk ferment. Get the timing just right and you'll get a wonderful loaf like Joe. There's other things going on inside a dough than just yeast injecting CO2. That's why increasing time makes for a great loaf. 

Ilya Flyamer's picture
Ilya Flyamer

Hi Abe!

What I was wondering after I wrote that answer is that you write you get tripling of the dough! So it's not that the fermentation is sufficiently slow that it just takes that long to ferment with low inoculation, but also you get amazing growth during bulk, way more than I've ever had in sourdough. Is that a feature of using the stiff levain, like suggested above, since it promotes more yeast over LABs, and the rise is huge without acid overload?

Abe's picture
Abe

Firstly I think when it comes to sourdough many BF are cautious. There's scope for being more generous when it comes to the BF. 

I'm also thinking that just like a starter with a small feed ratio to starter won't rise much simply because a higher percentage is prefermented then the opposite is also true. 

We've also developed a strong gluten at the beginning so it can ferment longer. 

 

Ilya Flyamer's picture
Ilya Flyamer

Interesting thoughts, thank you!

Abe's picture
Abe

😂

So true! At the end of the day you've gotta do what works! 

Benito's picture
Benito

That is the best Ilya!

Yippee's picture
Yippee

👍👍👍

texasbakerdad's picture
texasbakerdad

Ilya,

You are probably right.

I thought the introduction of water alone was enough to start breaking down the dough. But, I guess the starter supercharges the whole process.

To be fair, I attempted a few bakes with really long ferments and had poor results, and with those bakes, there were lots of other variables that might have been the cause of the poor results. I have yet to go back to trying a long ferment, Abe's recipe and Portus' success inspire me to try again.

First on my todo list though, I keep hearing great things about dry starters, I really want to give that a shot in the near term.

Abe's picture
Abe

Joe did a superb bake. You'll be surprised how strong the dough still is when you look at the dough come morning and it's risen so much more than usual sourdough recipes ask for. Just fold the dough carefully and it gains back the strength for a nice oven spring come baking.

headupinclouds's picture
headupinclouds

Me too.  I'll be running some similar experiments with cool dry starters with whole wheat baking, and am interested in hearing any observations you have from your efforts.

Portus's picture
Portus

Duplicate post

Portus's picture
Portus

Here's both crust and crumb of my VSSR#2 (somehow my original posting disappeared 😬). Crumb not as open VSSDR#1, but still has a delicious hint of sour:

 

 

Abe's picture
Abe

Another beautiful loaf. Glad you're enjoying this technique and making it work for you. The recipe is more of a technique and of course is open to personalisation. When you say you used fresh yeast instead of IDY like you did last time, where does the yeast come into play? Are you making it as a sourdough, a yeasted pre-ferment or a hybrid? I've just done a nice spelt recipe which was a bit of a throw together. Went something like this...

  • 400g wholegrain spelt 
  • 100g wholegrain rye 
  • 450g water
  • 8g salt 
  • 60g mixed seeds
  • A dollop of unfed 100% hydration starter 

In the afternoon I put the dough together as an off the cuff last minute throw together recipe (the above is an estimation) and formed the gluten with stretch and folds over an hour and a half then refrigerated till evening. Took it out if the fridge before bed and allowed it to bulk ferment through the night. Shaped and final proofed in the morning.

I'll attach photos later. It's cooling so will wait till I slice into it. 

P.s. everyone I write a comment not only do I go through a rigmarole when it comes to the captcha but my tablet goes to another screen and I have to approve it. I have a work laptop for home but I don't wish to use it for anything other than work. We make do with what we have and look at the funny side of it. 

Portus's picture
Portus

Abe, I confused this post with my other weekend bake, Bouabsa's baguettes, where I switched out IDY for fresh (am running a parallel project comparing IDY to fresh in various guises of breads).  I since edited this post to rectify.  My error was mental, not technical, so yours are forgivable, mine are not :-(.

Abe's picture
Abe

Juggling breads I can see. Hope the babousa baguettes turned out as good your AVSSR bake. Here is another variation on theme (as above) but with photos. 

[Now how do I make my tablet stop thinking that TFL is a suspect website?]

Portus's picture
Portus

Crunchy, borderline crispy crust and sweet crumb, Abe.  You are not alone regards suspect website issues.  When posting earlier today, a screen message appeared asking if I really wanted to enter an unsecure website, or words to that effect.

Ilya Flyamer's picture
Ilya Flyamer

I've had that when replying from my phone, never had problems from my computer though.

Abe's picture
Abe

Same kinda message but new format. Great... My tablet updates with new issues. Suppose it makes a change and keeps things 'interesting'.

Abe's picture
Abe

That is a fantastic crumb Joe. Right up there with the best baguettes I've seen. Looks delicious. 

Funny thing is, other problems aside, this one is a new one. I've had similar messages before but this pops up in another window before I can post anything. Oh well. I'm sure it's my tablet and not the website. It permanently likes to change for change sake. 

Portus's picture
Portus

Gosh, thanks Abe. Bouabsa and AVSSR are coupled on the tote for me: extremely rewarding, and low energy consumers in the kneading department.

Benito's picture
Benito

Joe wow on the crumb for your baguette, that is truly gorgeous, it is so open with a nice thin crust.  You would wow them in the CB for baguettes with that or on Instagram.

Benny

phaz's picture
phaz

The site needs a valid security certificate. I believe this is a recent update to chrome - the flagging the site that is. That's when I started seeing it. I haven't looked yet, but there may be a work around - but I wouldn't recommend it to the causal user.  That's a good security warning worth heeding on most of not all sites. Enjoy!

Testing 123

They was easy. An exception can be made for tfl. 

456

Abe's picture
Abe

What I like most about the crumb is when its even. That is a very nice crumb indeed! Very even, perfect for anything you wish to put on it and it's a 50:50 whole wheat and bread flour. You don't want great big gaping holes in bread. I'd be very happy with that. 

Portus's picture
Portus

Thanks, Abe. No desire to prove Newton's gravity laws with toppings falling through any gaping holes!. Am intrigued by the slight separation of crumb from crust in left of picture #2; either the crumb shrunk a bit or expanded at a slower rate?  BTW, the mix was 60:40 whole wheat to white flour.

Benito's picture
Benito

Incredible baking there Joe, so impressive.  The crumb is perfection.

Benny

Portus's picture
Portus

Thank you, Benny.  The challenge revealed with the baguette example, of course, is to achieve consistency - something I guess we all aim for. But for that I need more practice, hence my somewhat limited number of stock-in-trade recipes, to which VSSDR has now been added.

Ilya Flyamer's picture
Ilya Flyamer

Abe, have you tried this recipe with any of the ancient grains? I don't see why it wouldn't work, I guess just hydration might need to be adjusted a little, but that's true of any recipe for particular conditions anyway.

Abe's picture
Abe

However this is more a technique then an exact recipe and I did use a similar approach for my latest spelt sourdough. Obviously tweaks will always need to be made when swapping flours but I can't see why this wouldn't work when swapping the wholegrain wheat for wholegrain kamut or emmer. As always when adding the water start off with less and you can always add more. 

Ilya Flyamer's picture
Ilya Flyamer

Great, thanks! That's what I thought. I have too many bags of different flours, I'm thinking to use some of them up.

Ilya Flyamer's picture
Ilya Flyamer

Hi, so I just baked another couple of loaves using this approach: 40% emmer with 80% hydration. And after proofing they didn't hold their shape and flattened out into pancakes in the first minute in the oven. There was some oven spring so they are not completely flat, but just wondering what the thoughts are why it could happen? I developed the gluten well in the evening with slap&folds, and bulk was at ~21C for around 11-12 hours, proof was ~1.5 hrs at around the same temp - so even shorter than I used previously, and when poked seems fine to bake. I'll post pictures when it cools and I can cut it.

My main hypothesis is the starter - I refreshed it, and it only spent one day in the fridge before I used it, while previously it had been many days. Is that likely?

Or is it to do with emmer? But surely emmer would be easier than barley that I used previously...

Ilya Flyamer's picture
Ilya Flyamer

Looks exactly like what I used to get in the early days of baking, with a row of bigger holes in the upper part of the crumb. Tastes great, a little tangy a slight emmer sweetness, and the sesame seeds are delicious as always.

I blamed this old problem on overproofing. But actually now I think it's more likely underproofed? Some quite dense areas. And I didn't see a huge volume increase in bulk, as it would be expected... But then surely a more recently fed starter would be more active than the one that was sitting in the fridge for a week. So a bit confusing! Thoughts?

Benito's picture
Benito

Yes you’re right Ilya that is underproofed. It is characteristic of underproofed crumb with the dense crumb and then large alveoli towards the upper half of the loaf. 

Abe's picture
Abe

Looks under fermented to me. Just needed a longer bulk ferment, then perhaps a shorter final proof with a closer look at the hydration. 

Ilya Flyamer's picture
Ilya Flyamer

Thanks both, Benny and Abe! I should have paid more attention to the dough, was a very hectic day with two bakes, and preparing a dough for tomorrow for 10 pizzas! So I noticed that bulk didn't look as light as before, but just went ahead without thinking more.

Wondering why the fermentation would be so different this time... Maybe barley causes faster fermentation relative to emmer?

Abe's picture
Abe

If a dough spreads a lot it's either one of three, or combination thereof, things. Too hydrated, over fermented or not enough strength. 

Well it's not over fermented. I'm sure you judged the hydration correctly and built up the gluten plus it had enough time on its side to do that. So I'm thinking with Emmer it might be a good idea to stretch out the bulk ferment and go easier on the final proof like spelt. Emmer is the parent of spelt and might share that characteristic. 

You made 10 pizzas and decided it wasn't enough? Lol.

Ilya Flyamer's picture
Ilya Flyamer

I think I might have gone just a little too heavy on the hydration, it was a touch more slack than the barley bakes, but still felt very strong and nice after slap&folds, so I thought it was fine after all.

But indeed, emmer's gluten is not very strong - it doesn't have the extensibility of spelt though. I did shorten the final proof and did it at lower temp than before, since the last bake it was on the verge of overproofing I thought... Should have just proofed in the fridge during the day, I used to always do that, just recently started warm proofing. I guess cold dough would behave much better! That's how I used emmer before, and didn't have so much spreading out.

Ilya Flyamer's picture
Ilya Flyamer

I just mixed the dough and warm bulked it for pizzas today, just putting it in the fridge to bake later :) Also have two stollens in the oven right now, that was a heavy dough to rise! I'll post later, had to bulk all day and it still didn't double... And might have witnessed gluten degradation when shaping for the first time. Should have done multiple levain builds to maximize the strength.

Abe's picture
Abe

Two stollens as well. Are you starting a baker Ilya? 

I'm due for another sourdough bake in a day or two. And here me thinking about one loaf. 

Ilya Flyamer's picture
Ilya Flyamer

You are not the first to suggest that, but as you can see above I still need a lot of practice! Well, it was a coincidence: we ran out of bread, then decided to make pizza for some guests for Christmas (since starting all the baking never been able to share homemade pizzas with anyone, so really excited to finally have someone over once), and also suddenly decided to make stollen.

I thought "Bread is easy, doesn't really count, I'll just do the simple recipe!" - and here we are discussing why it didn't work well.

Stollen process was easy, except I have no idea how it's going to work out, that's first time for me. Surprisingly, kneading in butter was not difficult at all. It's almost done baking now.

Benito's picture
Benito

Wow Ilya you really are challenging yourself with that much going on at the same time!  Good for you.  There’s no shame in misjudging bulk once in a while, I’ve done that more times than I’d like to admit.  Then you also had the challenge of dealing with dough for ONLY 10 pizzas and then two stollens.  With using emmer for the first time in a newish recipe to you along with everything it happens.

As I always say now, we learn more from our failures than our successes.  You’ve learned a lot in a short time and are doing great.  I’m sure your guests will be impressed with the dinner you are providing them.

Merry Christmas

Benny

Ilya Flyamer's picture
Ilya Flyamer

Thank you Benny, always such kind encouragement from you.

I must have misjudged bulk loads of times early on, and still do occasionally. But these are the flattest breads in a few months probably, I thought I finally nailed that - but no, the dough is smarter than me :)

10 pizzas will be fun to bake one after another! The biggest dough I've made yet (almost 3 kg total), but with 00 flour was not difficult to mix, it hydrates really easily. Really hope I am not misjudging anything there, would be a big waste! But I hope pizza is less demanding to getting fermentation just right.

But definitely a challenging day overall with a lot to learn, you are right, as usual!

Hope you have a good festive few day too!