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Sourdough unleashed: “A how to” to help you get baking your own at home

Sourdough: Let’s get you baking the king of breads at home…


A photo of our friends from LoveBread CIC


At the last Cake and Bake Show in Manchester, our cement mixer made a re-appearance!! over the course of 2 days, over 120 people went home with their own sourdough starter to get them going with the Bread Revolution.

Read this post to find out how to get baking your very own sourdough at home.






What on earth is it? 

Sourdough is an ancient method to leaven bread which dates back centuries, long before the availability of baking yeast.

How do I get one going?

If you were not lucky enough to attend the Cake and Bake show where we made some live to take home then starting your own is simple enough.
In it’s basic form sourdough starter or mother as it’s called is simply flour and water left to sit out to benefit from all the wild yeasts that are around us. I  time, it will start to ferment which you will notice through a bit of an acidic aroma and bubbling starting to occur. This means it is alive! ! 
To create your own from scratch simply combine 50g of flour and 50g of water and put in a container with a loose fitting lid.


Photo courtesy of Emma Nichols


A kilner jar without the rubber seal is ideal. You can always incorporate a teaspoon of either natural bioactive yoghurt, or a decent honey or even a squeeze of sweet citrus juice (grapefruit is ideal). These will help to get the starter going a little more quickly.







Keeping it alive

Like all living things your starter (which you should christen with a name by the way!!) Needs feeding.
A feed is done by incorporating equal quanities of flour and water to your exisiting starter mix.
Keeping around 400 or 500g of starter is ideal, and you will aim to take what you need from your jar for the recipe, and then simply feed it back with the amount taken out to get back to your original volume every time.  So if the recipe requires 300g, simply feed your starter with 150g of flour and 150g of water when you have taken what you need out for that day’s baking.

Where to store it

If you are baking daily then your starter can be kept out somewhere at room temperature. If however you are baking once a week or even less, then simply put it in your fridge after taking what you need from it for your day’s baking.
If you are keeping it fridged then take it out the day before you intend on baking and feed it. This will get it back up to strength to produce a delicious loaf.

Happy starter or sad starter?


Photo courtesy of Vanessa Kimbell showing a sad starter… panic not!


A happy starter should have a bubbly appearance. When added to your recipe it should float in the water you are weighing up. Using your starter 8hrs or so after feeding you will usually have it at it’s best.
A sad starter is one that is flat, very liquid and lifeless. Fear not! ! If this is the case then give it a feed and it will soon be back up to strength.
Your starter may sometimes develop a liquid on the surface. Most often this is because you are leaving it for extended periods of time between your baking. This is called “Baker’s hooch” (quite alcoholic but I would’nt advise having a shot of it!!). If this occurs simply stir it back into the mix, feed your starter and this will get it back up to full strength.




Going on holiday? 

If you are going away, then it can sit in your fridge for a few weeks. Better still why not give a friend or relative the task of looking after it, and give them a recipe to bake some of their own? You wouldn’t leave your pet alone when going away would you?
Another option is to freeze it as when defrosted and fed it will come back to life.

Let’s get baking!!

Ok so you are all set to bake. Let’s do this!


690g strong white bread flour
300g sourdough starter
350g water
18g salt


There are hundreds of recipes out there, and almost as many differing methods. This is one I like as whilst ot does require more time, no kneading is required!

1. Combine flour, water and starter in a bowl. Roughly bring mix together (a valw shaped hand with spread fingers works well). Cover and leave to sit for 15mins. This will allow the flour to absorb the water.

2. Spread the dough out on your worktop and sprinkle over the salt. Bring the dough back together and give a gentle knead. At this stage it should be all combined but tear quite easily. This is because the gluten hasnt developed.
At this stage you can decide to get physical and knead it. Or allow time to do it’s thing. Leave for 30mins at room temperature,  covered with plastic (a carrier bag is ideal for this).

3. Folding. This and time is what allows the gluten to develop to get you a beautiful, stretchy, strong dough.
Turn out on to the table and stretch the dough out bit by bit as much as it will go without starting to tear. Then fold it back in on itself and shape back into a a ball.
Repeat this process 3 or 4 times, leaving for 30mins each time until the dough feels nice and stretchy.


Photo courtesy of new baker Allan Redoble. Great work!


4. Shape. I won’t go into detail here as there is plenty of information out there but portion and shape your dough as desired. Remember that shaping your dough well and producing a loaf with a tight seem will give it structure and will produce a plumper lpaf with better definition.
When done set to prove, seam side up in your proving vessel lined with a floured baking cloth, or couche.






5. Night night. Put your loaf to sleep in the fridge. Either overnight if made when you get in from work or for the day if made at breakfast. A minimum of 8 hours but anything up to 24 hrs. 
During this time the magic will happen. Remember time = flavour. If your dough is quite wet it will alsp allow it to firm up.

6. Bake!! Take out of fridge and preheat your oven to 240′C. Put a baking or roasting tray in the bottom of your oven.
When your oven is up to temperature turn your loaf out gently onto a baking tray or better still baking stone, apply dusting of flour and score as desired and load into oven. Pour a third of a mug’s worth of water into the roasting tray and then close the door immediately. This will produce the steam which encourages the loaf to burst and helps to produce the fantastic crust.
Baking times will vary but looking at around 30-45mins. Listen for that hollow sound when tapping the base of the loaf and an even all round crust. 
Set to cool (dont give into temptation just yet) and then EAT!!

You’ve done it!!!
Now, we would love for you to share your experiences with us. To do so, or for any more tips, joining our burgeoning group of bakers on our Facebook group. Simply search for “Friends of the Thoughtful Bread Company”. We are also on twitter,  @thoughtfulbread.

Well done, you have now joined an elite.

Happy baking