Basic Sourdough Recipe

This is becoming my everyday bread. I am at the stage where I can never go back to the stuff they sell in supermarkets. It's got nothing on this.

What I look for in a good sourdough loaf is flavour, structure, rise, holes and crust. If it scores a ten on all five of these then I'm happy for the rest of the day. I really am.

This recipe uses the sponge method, where you make a preferment using half the flour from the main recipe and let it sit overnight.


Basic Sourdough

500g strong bread flour

330g water

10g salt

50g levain


250g flour from above with all the water and levain. No salt at this stage 


Use half the flour and all the water mixed with 50g active starter to make a sponge and let it sit overnight. Next morning add the remaining 250g flour to the sponge and work into a shaggy mix. Autolyse 30 mins before adding the salt with a misting of water. Bring together in the bowl for a few minutes, turning and folding until dough is smooth and silky.

Bulk fermentation – stretch and fold in the bowl at two-hourly intervals for six hours. Lift and stretch the dough into the centre. Rotate the bowl as you go and do this about six times until a neat round is formed. Each time you do this the dough will be more springy and bubbly. When the dough is looking silky and 'pillowy' it is ready to shape.

Ease the dough gently from the bowl and shape lightly for 10 seconds using cupped hands and rest for 20 mins. If it sticks to the counter, slide a dough scraper underneath to help the shaping. Coat with rye flour, place into a lined and floured basket and prove for one to three hours until doubled in size.

Gently turn out onto a baker's peel. Dust, score and slash, but again with great care... everything is done lightly to preserve the air in the dough.

Bake in a Dutch oven at 230c/450f for 15 mins with the lid on and 20 mins at same temperature with the lid removed.

Late night baker

Baking bread is commonly associated with early starts, but there can be a lot of faffing into the small hours too.

Sometimes the final prove takes forever, especially when the kitchen is almost as cold as the fridge.


I often find I am a late night baker. There must be a market for such a thing...

Quite pleased with the result above - 70% hydration, though the dough seemed wetter than normal. Maybe the low room temperature was a factor.

I've read that bakers in hot regions can go for 100% hydration or higher if the flour needs it. If I did that here, I'd end up with bread sauce.

Anyway, a good rise and the surface is showing the promise of some lovely big air bubbles inside.

I'm still learning all the time, and would love to hear your tips and tricks, especially where higher hydration is concerned. I haven't dared go higher than 75% so far.

If you're interested in learning more about sourdough baking, I've compiled a glossary of common terms and a basic equipment list for those just starting out.