Baking Sourdough Bread

Baking Sourdough bread is actually quite easy.
All it takes is flour, water and salt.
No baker’s yeast is required. Actually, baker’s yeast is counterproductive and shouldn’t ever be used to make sourdough bread, no matter what some recipes say.
Obviously, there are hundreds of different recipes out there and most bakers claim that theirs is the only true recipe. If you ask five people, you’ll probably get eight opinions.
My recipe is the one that works best for me. It’s a basic recipe that will work with most kinds of flour.
First of all you take your sourdough starter (to find out how to get that, please read my blog-entry on this topic).
For five days in a row, add 100g of flour plus 100g of water every day.
Stir with a wooden spoon.

Once the jar is nearly full, pour the dough over into a large bowl.
Reserve about 100g of dough in the original jar. This will be your new starter for the next sourdough bread.

Stirring the sourdough in a large bowl. Observe the bubbles in the dough,

When stirring the sourdough in the large bowl, you’ll notice that bubbles have formed within the dough. This is exactly what you want to see.
The lactic acids as well as the naturla yeasts in the flour are dong their work.

On the sixth day, you add about 200g of flour plus 20g of salt.
It’s very important to wait until the last day before adding the salt.
Salt has the effect of slowing down the fermentation process. If you add it too early, the bacteria will be very slow and your sourdough won’t rise properly.
Basically, this is all you need for a perfect sourdough bread.
Personally though, I find it a bit boring so I always add some seeds.
My favourites are pumpkin-, sunflower- and chia-seeds.

My favourite seeds

I add the seeds plus the additional 200g of flour and 20g of salt to the dough.

I then let my machine do the work. You can also do this by hand but it’s a heck of a lot of work if you do.
I carefully add more flour until the dough doesn’t stick to the sides of the bowl anymore.

The machine does the work

For baking, the dough is then placed into a special basket.

A standard baking basket. These come in different shapes and sizes.

To prevent the dough from sticking to the basket, I use baking-paper which I shape the same way the basket is shaped.

The basket, clad out with baking-paper

I then cover the dough with flour and put it into the basket.

The dough is then covered with the baking paper and is set aside in a warm location (25C – 28C are perfect) for between 6 and 12 hours.
During this time, it’ll rise nicely.

The dough has risen in the basket

I then turn it upside down on a thin wooden bard with which I will later push it into the oven.

To make sure it will keep the right shape when it rises in the oven (it will rise a little bit because the air inside the bubbles will slight expand through the heat), I cut some stripes in the top of the loaf.

Cutting stripes into the loaf

I put a so-called pizza-stone into the oven.
In addition, a bowl of water is placed at the bottom of the oven.
This water is needed to give the bread its traditional crust. It evaporates and the steam goeas onto the dough, causing it to form a crust.
The oven is the heated to 230 Degress Celsuis.
Once it has reached that temperature, the loaf is put onto the hot pizza-stone.
Be careful when opening the oven. Keep your face back a bit as otherwise you’ll catch a load of boiling hot steam. You wouldn’t want that, trust me.

The loaf is in the oven

After 20 minutes, turn down the temperature to 180C and remove the bowl of water.
I think I don’t need to mention that this bowl is extremely hot, so be very careful.

Keep the bread in the oven at 180 Degrees for 50 more minutes, then remove it and place it on a metal grate to cool out evenly from all sides.

Letting the bread cool down on a metal grate.

Finally, after cooling down, the first slice is cut.
Awesome!
In this case I used spelt because I didn’t have any rye flour left, that’s why the colour is rather light.

As this is the first cut, the crust looks rather thick. Another two cuts and it’ll be normal.

Making your own Sourdough Starter

All you need to make a sourdough starter is this.

Sourdough consists of only two ingredients: Flour and water.
The most used are wheat and rye. I personally prefer rye because it has just so much more aroma than wheat.
If possible, use organic flour for your sarter. Organic flour hasn’t been treated and may contain more lactic acid bacteria than processed flour. The more lactic acid bacteria the flour contains, the better your sourdough will be.
My personal favourite is organic Rye-Flour type 1150.
Whole grain flour is great for baking but the bacteria have some trouble working through it. For a starter, that’s not what you want, therefore you should go with the standard Type 1150 for the starter, even if you want to bake whole grain bread.

Making your own sourdough starter is actually easier than you’d think, as long as you stick to some basic rules:

  1. Use a large glass-container which can be closed with a lid if required.
    You want to use glass so that you can also see the progress your starter makes from the sides where the bubbles develop. This jar should be heat proof so that it can be properly cleaned.
  2. Don’t use metal spoons for stirring. For some reason metal seems to irritate some of the lactic acid bacteria. I’m not sure if this is scientifically proven but I observed that my starters will develop far better if I use a wooden spoon instead of a metal one.
  3. Keep everything extremely, surgically clean. Any contaminations may give unwanted bacteria a head start, leading to mould and causing your sourdough to become a stinking blob of black goo. Trust me, I’ve been there. You don’t want that.
    Clean out the jar with boiling water. Make sure you pour boiling water all over it so that also the outside is clean.
    Pour boiling water over the wooden spoon. If possible, keep the spoon in the boiling water for a few minutes.
    As wooden spoons aren’t all that hygienical and can collect a lot of bacteria over time, this is actually something you might want to do with your wooden kitchen accessories every now and then anyway.
  4. Make sure your starter is kept at the right temperature.
    This chapter devloped into a bit of a chemistry-biology-class but it’s worth reading.
    Keeping to the correct temperature is vital for the sourdough to develop properly.
    Some recipes will tell you that you should keep your starter at a temperature between 20 and 30 degrees. This may work if you’re lucky but it might just as well fail.
    The proper temperature is in a window between 24C and 28C.
    The reason for this is that there are different kinds of bacteria as well as wild yeasts in the flour.
    Between 26C and 28C, the wild yeasts develop very well.
    Lactic Acid bacteria develop best in the lower spectrum between 24C and 26C.
    These will also keep unwanted bacteria at bay which would otherwise cause mould to develop.

    Below 24C, you give unwanted bacteria an advantage over the lactic acid bacteria, most probably spoiling your sourdough starter by turning it into mould.
    In my experience, the best temperature to keep your starter at is around 25C. This will give the lactic acid bacteria a good start, keeping mould at bay. Your wild yeasts will still develop, but you mainly get that great sour flavour in your dough.

If you bear these points in mind, the rest is easy.
Take your clean jar, put in 50g of flour, add 50g of 25C-warm water and stir with the clean wooden spoon.

Just mix flour and water

Make sure the sides of the jar are clean. wipe them down with a paper towel. All dough inside the jar should be in contact with the main dough as otherwise they might develop into mould if they contain too few lactic acid bacteria.

Now put it into a place with a constant temperature of 25 Degrees Celsius.
Leave the lid slightly open. It needs oxygen to ferment plus the gases must be able to go out.
That’s it. No big deal really. If you now stick to the proper temperatures, you’re fine.

Done. The first part of the starter is ready.

The biggest problem probably is to find a place with the right constant temperature.
Your heater isn’t the best place as it probably will drop its temperature during the night.
You may have to search a bit but a good place is usually the closet where your Wifi-router or internet-router is located.
These devices are a constant source of heat. Depending on the size of the room they’re located in, the temperature may be ideal.
If it isn’t quite warm enough, you might want to try putting a larger cardboard box over the router and the jar which contains your starter.
Be careful though, you don’t want your router to overheat if the box is too small.

24 hours later, again add 50g each of flour and warm water, stir and then put it back into the warm location again.

That’s basically it. You now have a good starter that already smells slightly sour.
To make bread out of this, you can use any flour, my personal favourite being organinc whole grain rye flour.

Adding flour and water every 24 jours will keep it alive and give you perfect dough for that incredibly bread you want to bake.

Preserving Sourdough
Sourdough is a bit like a pet. I wants to be fed ever day and it needs a pat now and then.
This means that you’ll need to be at home and can’t just go on a vacation if you want your sourdoug to survive. Well, you could of course take it along on your vacation but I’m not sure what the security people at the airport will make of that.
So, you’ll need to preserve your sourdough over a certain period of time.
To do so, there are two possibilites:

  1. Keep it cold:
    You just close the lid firmly to ensure it’s airtight, then put it in the fridge.
    This will preserve your sourdough for max. two weeks. Ten days if you want to be on the safe side.
  2. Dry it:
    This is my preferred way of preserving sourdough if I don’t plan to bake sourdough-bread for a longer period of time, e.g. because I’m traveling or I simply need a break from baking.
    To do so, just spread your sourdough very thinly on some baking-paper and let it completely dry.
    When dry, remove it from the paper and crumble it to turn it into a flour-like powder.
    This you can store in an airtight jar for basically as long as you like. I’ve sored some for a year and it was still good (as long as it’s really totally dry).
    To start it again, just mix it with it’s own weight in water and you’s sourdough is back. You can immediately start feeding it again to bake some new bread.



Book: “The Sourdough School” by Vanessa Kimbell

Title: The Sourdough School

(Unpaid Advertising)
This is my favorite book on baking bread.
Like other books, it contains a lot of tasty recipes.
Unlike others though, the largest part of the book deals with what happens „behind the scenes“.
Reading this book, you’ll learn a lot about chemical and biological processes, ingredients like grains and sprouts, as well as milling, vitamins and minerals, fibers and a lot of other topics around sourdough bread.

Contents: The Sourdough School


The author, Vanessa Kimbell, has a very interesting background.
She spent some time in France where she worked in a traditional bakery.
After she returned to the UK, she continued working as a baker.
When she became ill and couldn’t digest any wheat anymore, she had to give up baking and followed a gluten-free diet for many years.
At some point, she returned to France to show her then husband her former French home. There, she couldn’t resist the smell and ate some freshly baked bread, expecting the worst.
Interestingly, it seemed as though her problems were gone and she could eat as much bread as she wanted to without any problems.
Back in the UK she bough a loaf of bread, ate some and promptly fell ill again.
It was then that she realized that while she had no problems with the French bread, while the commercial bread from the UK was indigestible for her.
This led her to take a scientific approach to the matter and to find out what was causing this and what the differences were.
One result of these efforts is this book which not only is a collection of recipes but also answers many questions and helps you understand what sourdough actually is and why it’s far better for you and your body than commercial bread made with baker’s yeast.
Highly recommended!

Baking: Yeast or Sourdough?

Nowadays, bread is mostly baked using baker’s yeast. The main reason for this is that it’s easier, less time-consuming and the bread is sure to rise nicely. Less time means less cost, leading to higher profits but not necessarily to healthy bread.
In my point of view, that’s the only reason why someone would actually use baker’s yeast to bake bread.


In the past, this was different. Sourdough is one of the oldest known form of fermentation, going back thousands of years.
It’s based on the lactic acid bacteria that naturally exist in flour. These bacteria ferment the sugars in the dough, producing gases which in turn cause little bubbles to form in the dough. This makes the sourdough bread rise naturally.
When baking, these bubbles expand, causing the bread to rise even more.
Sourdough is considered to be tastier and healthier than conventional bread.
Because it’s fermented, i.e. pre-digested by the bacteria, it’s much easier to digest by the human body.
Sourdough fermentation will also degrade Gluten to a certain extent, far more than baker’s yeast, making it not Gluten-free but at least very low on Gluten.

There is also a difference between refined and whole grain flour. This has an influence on the nutrition composition.
Simply said, bread made of whole grain flour is considered to be more nutritious than that made of refined flour indepent whether it’s based on sourdough or baker’s yeast.
Therefore, I’d always go for whole grain bread whenever possible.
Even though it’s made from the same flour as regular bread, sourdough-bread is considered to be more nutritious.
At this point we need to dive into the chemistry of baking, but it’s worth it to understand why things are done in a certain way.
Whole grain bread contains a lot of minerals. Unfortunately though, the body can only absorb a certain quantity of these minerals. How much it can absorb depends on the level of phytic acid in the bread, as this binds to minerals which in turn makes these minerals inabsorbable for the body.
Using baker’s flour, the advantages of whole grain flour over refined flour are mostly lost becaouse of the higher level of phytic acid in regular bread.
In sourdough-bread, the lactic acid bacteria significantly lower the quantity of phytic acid.
Compared to this, bread that was baked using baker’s yeast may have twice as much phytic acid, binding far more minerals.
Also, the lactic acid bacteria in sourdough can release antioxidants during fermentation.
All this plus the sourdough-bread’s probiotic-like properties make it easier to digest than conventional bread.
In addition, it contains a good percentage of non-digestible fibers that feed the beneficial bacteria in your gut.
As a result, regular consumption of sourdough-bread supports and improves the health of your gut, having a positive impact on your digestion.

That’s why personally, I only bake sourdough-bread, if possible.

One final important point that needs to be mentioned here is that a large percentage of the so-called sourdough-bread available in commercial bakeries actually isn’t real sourdough-bread at all. In many cases, the fermentation-process is only very short. Just long enough to achieve a slightly sour smell and taste but too short to actually lower the quantity of phytic acid. To make the bread raise, usually baker’s yeast, so-called “flavour-enhancers” and other chemicals are added.

Conclusion: Bake your own sourdough-bread. You need time, approx. seven day, but the result is absolutely worth it.

Why bake your own bread?

Nowadays, with the whole world going into lockdown, people have started baking bread on a large scale.
On the one hand this is great. People start relying on their own skills instead of buying everthing pre-made.
On the other hand, the prevailing shortage of yeast shows that ago-old techniques for baking have been largely forgotten. People seem to think that yeast is required for baking bread. This is a misconception though.
All that it takes is flour, water and salt. This will give you a very good basic bread which is far better digestible than bread that is based on yeast.

Why have these skills been lost?
Many small bakeries went out of business in the past years. They were replaced by baking-factories or bakery-chains which supply their outlets with semi-baked bread that just gets finished in the outlet.
These outlets need to process large quantities of bread to be profitable. This means that the bread can’t rest for the normally required period before it gets baked, but rather needs to be ready within minutes.
This is achieved by adding yeast and lots of chemicals, additives, so-called „flavor enhancers“, etc.
The final product looks and smells like bread. For the body though, it’s much harder to process and to digest than naturally made bread.
Even small bakeries need to use these additives to be able to compete.
After all, baking a proper sourdough bread takes about one week from the first preparations until the dough is ready for baking. Commercial bakeries, even those supplying organic bread, simply don’t have the space to store these quantities of semi-finished dough.
People seem to think that for a self-baked bread to be good it needs to taste similar to a bread you buy at a bakery.
They couldn’t be more wrong.
For a bread to be good, it must be very different from what your bakery sells you.
So, nowadays there is nearly no alternative to baking your own bread if you want something good.

How can you tell if a bread is actually a „proper bread“ or an industrially produced loaf of flour plus heaps of chemicals?
That’s actually easy.
An industrially made bread won’t taste fresh for very long. After two or three days it will have los a lot of its flavor and will probably have started becoming dry.
A proper bread will remain fresh and edible without getting too hard for at least a week, if not longer. It doesn’t need to be wrapped in plastic, etc.
After cutting off a slice you just stand it on the cutting-side so it doesn’t dry out there.
You wouldn’t even need to wrap it in paper if it weren’t for hygienic reasons.

That’s why it’s important to bake your own bread in a different way from how commercial bakeries do it.