Crunchy sourdough made easy, step by step with pics

Does your sourdough come out like a brick with no big holes?Have you ever wondered if you are doing it right when making sourdough? It can be tricky making sourdough from scratch, especially if you are new to it. Do not stress! This step by step method with pictures takes you through everything. However you must have a sourdough starter. If not, there are instructions on how to make one on this website. If someone gives you a starter in a jamjar it will look like a sludge of flour and water with a few bubbles on the top.

Note: Fresh yeast is different - it is white and looks a little like tofu. Dried yeast comes in granules in an aluminium foil pack. Do not use either of these in this recipe.

Method overview: This method means you warm the starter first, by bringing it out of the fridge for a couple of hours, then you liven it up by feeding it flour and water. As soon as you have done that you autolyse the flour and water that is going to make the bread - this basically means mixing the flour and water together into a rough dough. (NO SALT OR STARTER at this stage.) Autolysing the dough means you develop the gluten in the flour by mixing it with water, and your bread will be lighter and better. After a two hour wait you will mix the starter and the autolyse together, add salt, and start the stretching process that will develop you dough into bread dough. The final part of the process is covering the finished dough with a damp teatowel and leaving it in the fridge overnight. In the morning take it out and leave in a warm place with a new warm wet teatowel over it to rise a little. Then you bake in a very hot oven on a pizza stone, lowering the heat after 20 minutes. After the bread is cooked you need to leave it for at least half an hour before you eat it.

How long will it take me? So this method of bread making can take (in lapsed time) eight or nine hours, then overnight in the fridge then another hour waiting for the dough to rise then 45 minutes baking it.It's a lengthy process in which you have to be around, even though each go at working the dough takes only a few minutes . So allow enough time.It's why I bake once a week, making four loaves. I keep two loaves in the fridge overnight, and another two for 24 or even 48 hours in the fridge wrapped in a damp teatowel and clingwrap so they don't dry out before I bake them. Then you can have freshly baked bread more than once a week.

White/wholemeal mix sourdough.

This recipe makes four loaves. The loaves freeze well, and also you don't have to bake them all on the same day as mentioned above. However halve these ingredients if you think this will make too much.


For the leaven

200 gms sourdough starter fed with equal amounts of flour and water.(100% hydration) to make 400 gms. That is:

100 mls water (tepid)

50 gms strong white flour (make sure the flour is bakers flour, not pizza or pasta flour)

50 gms wholemeal baker’s flour

For the dough:

400 gms leaven ( the revived leaven from above)

1200 mls water (tepid)

1.2kg strong white baker’s flour

400 gms wholemeal baker’s flour

40 gms salt.

For sprinkling on the bannetons:

rice flour.

Equipment: See my post on bread equipment. You will need bannetons, a pizza stone, a dough cutter, and a razor sharp cutter, although first timers can manage without any of these. Just replace with kitchen bowls, a metal oven tray, a big knife and a very sharp knife to slash the loaves before baking. You will also need a spray bottle of water to create steam


Step 1) Take the leaven out of the fridge and leave at room temperature, covered with a damp tea towel for an hour to warm up

Left My leaven straight out of the fridge and stirred. It hasn't been fed for a week but its still lively. I make my leaven with half rye flour, half white bread flour.

Above right: My leaven after it has warmed up for an hour. At this stage I have not added anything to it.Feeding the leaven is next.

Step 2) measure out 200gms of the leaven and feed it with 100gms flour and 100 mls of water.

1) (left) Measure out 200gms leaven

2) (Above) add 100 gms flour (50 rye, 50 white)

3) Below: add 100ml luke warm water and stir the mixture together

Step 3 - Autolyse your dough.

a) Measure out 1200 gms white bread flour. b)Add 400 gms wholemeal flour.

c) Add 1200 mls of tepid water and mix, d) Mix to stiff dough

using a wooden spoon then your hands.

f) Cover the dough and the starter with damp tea towels and leave for two hours.

Using this amount of water is 80% hydration, which means while the dough is harder to handle you get bread with lovely big holes and an aerated dough.It's the proportion that most professional sourdough bakers use.

Step 4. Meanwhile, with the leaven you are not going to use, throw half away, and measure the remaining starter. If, for example it is 400gms, add two hundred grams flour ( 1/2 strong white, 1/2 rye) and two mls of water. Stir and leave in the warmth of the kitchen for an hour to get activated, then cover and refrigerate. This is your starter for the next time you bake bread.

Step 5

Two hours later the dough will be a little more relaxed and the leaven should have risen.

Add the leaven and salt to the autolysed dough and mix with wet hands until you have formed a dough. Cover and leave for half an hour.

Step 6.Uncover the dough and pull up a piece of the dough and shake a little to stretch. It may tear a little at this stage. Fold to the middle of the dough, quarter turn the bowl and repeat until you have done a full circle. Repeat another full turn, quarter by quarter, then cover and leave for half an hour

Step 7 Repeat this procedure every half hour for one and a half hours ( in other words a total of four lots of double stretches). You will notice the dough gets stretchier each time, and if you have a dark rye starter like mine you will see it getting mixed into the paler flour.

Step 8. The last time you stretch the dough, leave it for one hour, cover then repeat meaning this process lasts for two hours.

Step 9.

This is the first time you will take the dough out of the bowl. Lightly flour the surface you will work on and shape the dough into a big fat sausage, then cut into four equal pieces with a plastic dough cutter. Shape quickly into rough balls and cover and let them rest, covered, for fifteen minutes.

Step 10 - Prepare the bannetons. These are cane baskets you use to shape your loaves and you can buy them online.If you don't have bannetons use a medium sized kitchen bowl. Dust the bannetons liberally with rice flour - this will stop the dough sticking when you turn the loaves out ready to bake them. Some people line their bannetons with tea towels sprinkled with rice flour but this way you won't get the nice lines on the bread you get from bannetons

Step 11 Shape the balls of dough into tight balls by folding the sides to the middle, turn, sides to middle, use both hands to make a ball. The idea is to create a tension for the dough to push against. The left-hand ball is completed the right hand lump has yet to be made into a ball and is thinner and stretched out

Step 12 Place the balls of dough upside down in the bannetons ( the joined side upwards, this will be the bottom of the loaf). Cover with a damp teatowel and put in the fridge overnight.

Step 13. The next day take two of the loaves out of the fridge, remove the cold teatowel and cover with a warm damp teatowel and allow to warm up for an hour. At the same time turn on the oven ( having placed the pizza stone or stones in) at 240C. Heat the oven and stones for an hour. Cover the other two loaves with clingwrap so they don't dry out and leave for up to 48 hours in the fridge.

Step 14

Tip the two loaves out onto a piece of baking paper or a bakers peel or a piece of metal dusted with rice flour. (I have an oven where the racks slide out so I put them directly onto the pizza stone.)

Slash the loaves with a sharp knife or razor, to create vents for the steam to come out. Slide the loaves onto the pizza stone.

Spray some water (using a conventional water sprayer) into the oven to create steam. Be liberal. Shut the door quickly.

The steam helps create the crunch crust, If you have room you can also place a tray of water in the bottom of the oven to maintain the steam during the cooking.

Step 15

Cook the loaves for 20 minutes at 240C, then turn the oven down to 220C and cook for approximately 20 more minutes until the loaves sound hollow when you knock on the bottom

Left - at one minute

Below at 15 minutes showing the oven spring created by the pizza stone

Step 16

Loaf looks ready at 40 minutes. Check by tapping bottom for a hollow sound.

Cool on a rack

Step 17, after half an hour to allow the bread to cool, cut the crunchy crust, and enjoy!

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