Myth Busters……Sourdough

Sourdough is everywhere these days, has achieved cult status and no self respecting restaurant, deli or bakery would be without it …the public are often in awe.Robert Rodrigues Sourdough

What is it? What makes it sour?

And how can you make it at home.




To explain.

When yeast feeds on carbohydrate the fermentation produces carbon dioxide and alcohol. It is the CO2 element that is the raising agent in most bread.

The alcohol content of wine comes from the fermentation of yeasts that occur naturally on the skins of the grapes. In the same way it is the yeasts that occur naturally in wheat that provide the fermentation for sourdoughs. However the small amount of yeast present requires a much longer fermentation time than breads made with the addition of cultivated yeast. The extended fermentation also produces alcohol and it is this that gives the bread a beery “sour” smell and flavour……… Hence Sourdough……..

……….and that’s it.

The secret behind the production of sourdough at home or commercially is really down to creating and managing an active starter culture. This provides the lift and sour flavour. It may take several days for the starter to kick in. When making a new starter I keep mine in the airing cupboard so that it is always warm. Use a large empty yoghurt pot or similar and make a few holes in the lid to let the gas escape. Feed as described in the recipe. Once it is nice and active, easy to spot, continue to feed for a couple of days and then store in the fridge. The starter will live for as long as you look after it and feed/use it. Mine is 7 years old but there are 150 year old starters in bakeries all over the world.

This recipe is adapted from one I received from an inspirational artisan baker Robert Rodrigues, the balance of flours can be adjusted to suit your own tastes. The dough is best made in an electric mixer with a dough hook as this is the most effective way to develop the gluten in the dough, provides structure, but I haven’t got one and always make mine by hand.

Check out the recipe and give it a go!


Rye Bread Sourdough

Adapted from a recipe by Robert Rodrigues

 Starter Culture                                           

100g Rye Flour (Dove Farm Organic)

100g Warm WaterStarter Culture

Keep warm and feed twice every day

To feed tip half away then add 50g Rye Flour and 50g water (100% hydration)

Stir, cover and keep warm

After a few days it will start to ferment and bubbles appear on the surface. Once the starter is active continue to feed for a couple of days then keep it in the fridge. If not in use feed once a week. Always feed before using, clean the container once a week.

Starter Dough

To get a starter dough you need to make a dummy run, say 10% of the recipe below, or hold some dough back from another batch of bread, don’t use it but just refrigerate for 24 hours.

To start the dough:

500g Organic Strong Flour (Wessex Mills or similar)

100g Rye Flour ( Dove Farm is best)

200g Allinsons Seeds and Grain Flour

325 ml Cold water

100ml Olive oil

250g Starter culture

200g Starter dough

10g salt

To make your final dough

Place all the above in a mixer, using a dough hook mix on a slow speed for about 10 minutes to develop the gluten in the flours. The dough will be very elastic and springy.

Place in a bowl, cover with cling film and refrigerate overnight

After that complete 2 wet folds each day as follows;

Wet the work surface, turn out the dough and pat down with wet hands. Complete 1 French fold and return to the proving bowl, cover and put back in the fridge. This strengthens the dough without knocking out any air.

This video might help!

On the 3rd day take out of the fridge and return to ambient (4-6 hours) complete a wet fold, scale, shape and place in a well floured bannetone (cane basket).Bannetone

Cling film and Leave to prove till doubled in size. Turn out carefully on to silicone paper or a non-stick baking mat.

Bake at 220.C, with steam if available till cooked, time will depend on the size of your loaf. For best results place on a baking stone, cast iron skillet or heavy metal tray in the oven. This will produce bottom heat and gives a better crust & finish.Sourdough Loaf

Always hold back some dough to use as your next starter dough and always feed the starter culture before putting back in the fridge.

The more you use your culture the stronger it gets.

The balance of culture and old dough (sour content and yeasts) and new flour (structure) provide the balance for the bread.

Useful Links & Further reading: