Sour Dough Bread

Sour Dough Bread
Sour Dough Bread

The basis for any authentic sour dough is a living starter of fizzing and bubbling natural yeasts. It smells boozy and looks thick and sticky. The resulting bread has a unmistakable sour tang. Although the method is fairly straightforward, making your own sour dough takes a fair amount of time as there are many different stages involved in bringing it to life. Here they are:

Stage 1 – making the starter

  • Day 1: Place 50g of strong white flour and 50g of strong wholemeal flour in a bowl.
  • Add enough warm water to make a thick batter – think double cream.
  • Cover the bowl with cling film and leave for 24 hours in a constantly warm spot (airing cupboard). This is important as the natural yeasts need a warm temperature to grow.
  • Day 2: The next day it should have a film of bubbles on the surface. Add 100g of strong white flour & enough warm water to maintain the thick batter consistency.
  • Leave for another 24 hours at room temperature (the natural yeasts have established themselves now so a cooler environment is preferable.
  • Day 3: The following day discard half the starter. Add 100g of strong white flour and enough water to maintain the batter.
  • Day 4: The following day discard half the starter. Add 100g of strong white flour and enough water to maintain the batter.
  • On Day 5 you have our starter. It should be bubbly, thick, sticky and smell hoppy and boozy. If it smells unpleasant you will need to start again.

Looking after your starter

  • Your starter is alive and has needs. You don’t need a double buggy, or piano lessons, but you do need to look after it or it will die.
  • The best thing to do is keep it in the fridge and feed it every few days, either by replacing the starter you remove to make the bread with fresh flour and water, or by discarding some and feeding it as in stage 1.

Stage 2 – making the sour dough

  • The night before you want to make your bread – mix 150ml of starter with 250g of strong white flour & 275ml of warm water in a large bowl.
  • Cover & leave overnight at room temperature – it should be bubbly, thick & sticky.
  • Add 300g of strong white flour, a teaspoon of salt, a tablespoon of olive oil and knead for 10 minutes.
  • If it is too sticky add a little more flour.
  • Place in an oiled bowl, cover with clingfilm, and prove until it doubles in size.
  • Knock the the air out of it and shape into your desired loaf.
  • Cover with greased clingfilm and place on a baking sheet lined with greaseproof paper & dusted with flour.
  • Leave to prove until doubled in size. The slower this happens the more flavour. At Inside Restaurant we prove our bread overnight in the fridge. The results are amazing.
  • Score the top with a sharp knife and dust with flour.
  • Bake at 220C for about 30 minutes until golden and crispy. Turning the oven down after 20 minutes if it colours to much.
  • Remove the loaf. It should sound hollow when tapped.
  • Place immediately on a wire rack. This allows the steam to escape, keeping the bread light and the crust crispy.

Good luck! In just 7 days you will have a delicious loaf of homemade sour dough. To most people this is madness, but if you’ve read this far then you are the sort of person who understands why it’s worth the trouble.


6 thoughts on “Sour Dough Bread

  1. Tasty looking loaf Guy – I’m going to give it go with my starter this weekend – just wanted to check, as its not my normal recipe, in the second bullet of stage 2 – do you leave it out or put in the fridge the first night? I’m assuming keep it out?

  2. Hi Guy. I am very new to sourbread baking, but I am loving it!! I have a few questions (I hope you don’t mind):

    My first loaf (4th August) I made came out beautifully, the sourness was subtle. I have been keeping the starter in the fridge, feeding it weekly and as you suggested. My second loaf (23rd of August) I decided to experiment a little. I added wholewheat flour to the sourdough mixture (you specifically mention white) is this a problem (1)? And added a few seeds (I would imagine this wouldnt be a problem and it is a case of preference and the proper way of preparing a sourdough bread). I found the sourness to be less subtle in the second loaf (which I did expect) but is there any way to control how sour you want your bread to be? I read that this is indeed possible and one has to experiment with the levels of acid that develop in the bread and this you can manipulate by adjusting feeding schedule; increasing the frequency (how many times a week should I then feed? 2x or more?) (2), the amount of starter in the dough (the more starter you have in the dough, the shorter the rising time, the less acid produced. Can I add more starter and how would this affect the rest of the ingredients?) (3) and the rising time (variable and difficult to predict). Do you have any suggestions to the above questions and recipe to help make the bread a little less sour? I would appreciate any advice and your time!!! Thank you Guy! (Love your website by the way!! :-))

    1. Hi Taryn,

      I’m not sure what the effects of adding whole-wheat would be as I haven’t tried it.

      From personal experience the sourness is something you get a feel for over time. The starter is a live thing and will change it’s flavour quite radically over time – it tends to get mellower. In general the slower the dough proves the sourer the loaf will be, but try proving in the fridge overnight as that can really improve flavour without the sourness taking over. Adding extra starter will speed it up but the starter can be very sour and that will effect the flavour. The best thing to do is experiment. Try with a smaller amount of starter and prove in the fridge overnight. Leave for 20 minutes at room temperature before baking as normal and see what happens.

      You could also try dividing the starter and feeding more flour and water to one batch than the other, then test both and and see if the levels of acidity have calmed in the more diluted one).

      Hope that helps,


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