Loaves of bread with butter and knife

White sourdough

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(36 ratings)

Prep: 1 hr Cook: 40 mins plus six days feeding the starter, chilling and cooling

A challenge

Makes 2 loaves (12-15 slices each)

Master the art of making sourdough bread with our step-by-step recipe. Learn how to create a starter, levain and the loaf itself with our expert tips.

Nutrition and extra info

  • Vegetarian
  • Vegan

Nutrition: Per slice (12)

  • kcal171
  • fat1g
  • saturates0.1g
  • carbs35g
  • sugars0.2g
  • fibre1g
  • protein6g
  • salt0.8g
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Ingredients

    For the starter

    • 250g strong white bread flour, preferably organic or stoneground

    For the levain

    • 1 tbsp sourdough starter (see above)
    • 100g strong white bread flour, preferably organic or stoneground

    For the bread

    • levain (see above)
    • 1kg strong white bread flour, preferably organic or stoneground, plus extra for dusting
    • 20g fine sea salt

    Method

    1. Day 1:

      To begin your starter, mix 50g flour with 50g tepid water in a jar or, better still, a plastic container. Make sure all the flour is incorporated and leave, semi-uncovered, at room temperature for 24 hrs. 

    2. Day 2:

      Mix 50g flour with 50g tepid water and stir into yesterday’s mixture. Make sure all the flour is incorporated and leave, semi-uncovered, at room temperature for another 24 hrs.

    3. Day 3:

      Mix 50g flour with 50g tepid water and stir into yesterday’s mixture. Make sure all the flour is incorporated and leave, semi-uncovered, at room temperature for another 24 hrs.

    4. Day 4:

      You should start to see some activity in the mixture now; there should be some bubbles forming and bubbling on top. Mix 50g flour with 50g tepid water and stir into yesterday’s mixture. Make sure all the flour is incorporated and leave, semi-uncovered, at room temperature for another 24 hrs.

    5. Day 5:

      The mixture should be very active now and ready for making your levain. If it’s not bubbling, continue to feed it on a daily basis until it does. When it’s ready, it should smell like yogurt. 

    6. You now have a starter, which is the base to the bread. You’ll need to look after it, but naming is optional! Keep it in the fridge (it will stay dormant) and 24 hrs before you want to use it, pour half of it off and feed it with 100g flour and 100g water. Leave it at room temperature and it should become active again. The longer the starter has been dormant, the more times it will need to be refreshed – the process of pouring off half the starter and replacing it with new flour and water – to reactivate. If your starter is ready to use, a teaspoonful of the mixture should float in warm water.

    7. For the levain

      Mix 1 tbsp of the starter with 100g flour and 100g water (this is the same process as feeding the starter, but you should do this in a new, separate bowl, keeping the original starter as back-up, as this is the mixture you'll use to bake your bread). Leave the levain for 8 hrs at room temperature until it becomes active. When ready, a teaspoonful of the mixture should float in warm water.

    8. For the bread

      Pour 600g tepid water into the levain and stir with a rubber spatula to mix together – don’t worry if there are unmixed bits of levain. Tip in the flour and mix everything together with a rubber spatula to make a rough dough, ensuring all the flour is incorporated evenly and that there are no dry bits up the side of the bowl. Cover and leave somewhere warm for at least 30 mins, or up to 4 hrs.

    9. Sprinkle over the salt and add 50g water to the dough. Pinch and scrunch the salt and water through the dough with your hands. If the dough goes stringy (like old chewing gum), just keep working it until it’s one smooth texture. Leave for another 15 mins. 

    10. Wet your hands, grab the dough from one side and stretch it over itself, then repeat with the other side. This stretching technique helps develop the gluten. Pick the dough up and curl it around onto itself, then cover and leave for another 20-30 mins. Repeat this process two more times (three in total), then leave the dough for another 2-3 hrs until it’s risen by about 30% and looks bubbly and soft. 

    11. Using a rubber spatula, scrape the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and split in two. Fold each piece onto itself to create a ball, then leave uncovered for 30 mins. The dough balls will spread during this time.

    12. Dust two bread-proving baskets generously with flour.  Scrape one of the balls of dough off the work surface, then fold it onto itself to create a tight ball that’s trapped in all the air. Lift the ball into a basket, seam-side up, then transfer to the fridge to chill overnight, or for up to 18 hrs. Repeat with the other dough ball.

    13. Heat the oven to 240C/220C fan/gas 9 and put a lidded casserole dish in the oven to heat. Cut a sheet of baking parchment into a square slightly larger than the base of one of the loaves. Carefully remove the hot casserole dish from the oven and remove the lid. Invert one loaf onto the baking parchment, then, working quickly, score the top at an angle. Use the corners of the parchment to lift the loaf into the casserole dish. Cover with the lid and bake for 30 mins, then carefully uncover and continue to bake for another 10 mins (or longer for a darker finish). Carefully lift the bread out of the dish using a spatula, transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool to room temperature before slicing. Repeat with the second loaf. 

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    Comments, questions and tips

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    Alexandra04
    2nd Jul, 2020
    5.05
    I’ve had to resurrect this account via another account just to say how good this recipe and instruction is ! Thanks so much Barney! Thanks to you I started sourdough this lockdown and feel much more confident with it . I don’t waste - I use it enough to take 100 g of it and put back in fridge. Effectively missing out the levain stage. 2 days before I want to make a loaf I take the starter out of the fridge to feed , usually one or two feeds is enough then put 100 g of the starter in a bowl with 300g of water then mix I. 500 g of flour. Then the rest goes back in the fridge, I have excess this week after 2 feeds so can give 100 g or so as a gift to someone who wants it !
    scaryjane's picture
    scaryjane
    24th Jun, 2020
    I have just finished making the starter and the levain is on the go. I have just read the recipe on here and the amounts of water/flour required is double the recipe in the magazine, what quantity did everyone use? I don't want to end up with loaves galore in one go.
    ReluctantBaker
    29th Jun, 2020
    4.05
    Making two loaves at the same time is a real time saver and I'd recommend it. Have successfully frozen loaves as well (just pop them in the oven for a little bit after defrosting).
    Barney Good Food's picture
    Barney Good Food
    26th Jun, 2020
    5.05
    Hi, The recipe in the magazine makes one loaf and this recipe makes two. Hope that helps, Barney
    wydfoh
    13th Jun, 2020
    3.05
    The instructions for the starter are OK although it took me around 2 weeks of experimentation to find the right combination of temperature (mine needed a cool room) and feeding frequency (small amount twice a day). I found the instructions for making the bread too complicated so I use a Good Housekeeping recipe instead...https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/uk/food/recipes/a559244/sourdough/. The routine that works best for me is to feed the starter in the morning then use it to make dough around lunchtime, leaving it to prove for the afternoon. Then sometime in the evening I knead it briefly, wrap it in a floured tea towel, pop it in a colander and leave it to prove overnight (not in the fridge though - that seemed to be too cold for my dough) so that it is ready to bake in the morning and we have fresh bread for breakfast. The bread is sooo delicious - it is definitely worth persevering.
    1cooking1
    5th Jun, 2020
    I am surprised at the number of positive responses. I have an active of my own and it is highly recommended that nobody uses it to bake with within the first two weeks because a starter takes 14-21 days to become fully active. The amounts listed are highly wasteful, especially under lockdown restrictions with supplies. The float test is highly dubious as method of testing a levain, you should assess as to whether your starter doubles in size reliably. I certainly would not use 1 tbs of starter to bake a 1kg loaf.
    Amanda Platts's picture
    Amanda Platts
    5th Jun, 2020
    5.05
    I tried other starter recipes before I came across this one (more faffy ones) and they all failed on me. I was about to give up on sour dough then I found this. Soo happy that it finally worked and the loaves were amazing even though I had no proofing baskets or dutch oven. I used steel bowl and tea towel as proofing bowel and oven proof pan with a tray on top instead of Dutch oven
    gangajay
    31st May, 2020
    5.05
    This is the most effective recipe for baking sourdough that I’ve found. already had my own starter going so I only used bread making part. I’ve even tried making focaccia using this basic version and it’s come out really well.
    anilparekh
    28th May, 2020
    5.05
    Works just as well with Spelt & White flour mix (I used 70/30 ratio given what was in the cupboard), and a little more water than the recipe suggests. Added a table spoon of honey and fennel seeds. Oiled the cling film lightly during the initial raising to prevent sticking. Dough perfect and had lovely bounce. Highly recommended.
    John Crofts's picture
    John Crofts
    17th May, 2020
    I've found that more water is needed to get a good first rise. It seems it might be too wet at first but stick with it.

    Pages

    Vyvan27
    15th Jun, 2020
    I've made this a few times now and at point 12 I always leave the dough overnight in the fridge then bake first thing in the morning. I'd like to be able to do the process from point 8 to baking in one day. What's the shortest time the dough needs to have in the fridge before baking? Thanks
    lulu_grimes's picture
    lulu_grimes
    19th Jun, 2020
    Hi, The fridge rest makes the flavour more sour, you can cook the loaf in a day if you like. Shape and put the dough into your proving basket (if using) at point 10, once the dough has proved and looks bubbly and soft you can bake it. Lulu
    Bev1208
    12th Jun, 2020
    I’m on Day 8 and the mixture will still not pass the dropping in warm water test. Any suggestions please ?
    Vyvan27
    15th Jun, 2020
    I've made this successfully 3 times now and have not got the starter to float once! If it smells fermented/like yoghurt and it's got bubbles on the top it should work anyway. Try just doing half the dough amount so its not as much of a waste of it doesn't work. Good luck!
    Bev1208
    11th Jun, 2020
    I am on Day 7 since I started the process of making the starter. The ingredients resemble a batter and are bubbling a little but still do not pass the dropping in warm water test. Do I carry on adding ? Could it not be warm enough in my kitchen ? Shall i carry on feeding ? Thanks
    lulu_grimes's picture
    lulu_grimes
    19th Jun, 2020
    Hi Bev, As long as the starter is active it will work, you can mark a line on the container when you feed the starter, you'll see it rise above the line when it gets active. Floating shows the starter is really active. Lulu
    Maz120
    28th May, 2020
    Do you remove the loaves from the fridge an hour or so before baking or can they go straight in the oven from the fridge? Thanks
    lulu_grimes's picture
    lulu_grimes
    29th May, 2020
    Hello, If you are going to bake your bread in a casserole then yes you can. Take it out of the fridge when you put your oven on and the casserole in. When your casserole and oven are up to heat you can put the loaf straight in after scoring etc. Lulu
    Natalie's picture
    Natalie
    26th May, 2020
    Can you use plain flour? Or does it have to be bread flour? I have loads of plain and some wheat gluten if this can be combined to make the same outcome? If not I’ll buy it
    lulu_grimes's picture
    lulu_grimes
    29th May, 2020
    Hello, Yes you need the stronger bread flour for this recipe. In theory you could add gluten to plain flour but I'm afraid I have no idea how much, it would be safer to buy bread flour. I hope this helps, Lulu

    Pages

    ReluctantBaker
    29th Jun, 2020
    4.05
    I have tried the recipe a few times now with great success having never baked sourdough bread before. There are a few adjustments that I've made that seem to work for me so thought I would share: 1. Using part of the reactivated starter directly instead of making a separate levain - I've noticed that other soughdough recipes will use the reactivated starter instead of making a separate levain. I felt like I was throwing a lot of starter away at times with this recipe so tried just using ~100g of reactivated starter directly (with an extra 50-100 ml of water in the dough to keep the hydration level up) and it worked very well and saved 8 hours. Obviously you can't do this all the time or you'll end up with no starter, but it did save a bit of flour when you had a lot of starter. 2. Getting a crisp crust - I found I was struggling to get a crisp crust when following the baking instructions (probably my oven). I found that, after the initial 30 minute covered bake, if I completely lifted the par-baked loaf out of the cassarole dish directly onto a holed pizza tray, removing the parchement and then placing the cassarole dish full of boiling water below it in the oven I got a much crisper and evenly coloured loaf. Again I got this idea from other recipes that recommended steam baking for a crisp crust. I generally had to bake for at least a further 20 minutes after uncovering and I suspect many people's ovens aren't quite as effective as the oven used by Barney. Now I'm getting use to handling the dough, which is much wetter than a standard bread dough I'm going to try experimenting with some higher hydration levels as well. I've seen recipies that call for 80% hydration, which must be very difficult to handle, but it is claimed will produce a lighter bread.