Hello Sourdough lovers!

This site is dedicated to baking with wild yeast only. You’ll find advice, recipes and a vast array of information to help you with your sourdough baking. 

This is also the support site for our Sourdough Facebook community, with almost 80,000 members, some newbies and also experienced bakers providing support and inspiration and everything in between. Please feel free to join us there.

If you found us through Facebook, then welcome to your support site, we hope you find this a good additional resource! 

Sourdough - Traditional bread making

If you are just starting your sourdough journey, be prepared – you’re in for a whole load of challenges, frustration, lessons in patience, and frequent bewilderment, but it will all be worth it, as you will soon be rewarded with bread and other baked goods which taste delicious, but are also much healthier.

Breadmaking with wild yeast has been a part of daily life across the globe for millennia – you’ll discover there are many ways to produce a sourdough loaf … in the end, everyone finds their own preferred way.

Although processes vary, achieving a tasty, attractive loaf is based on combining three simple ingredients, flour, water, and salt with a little know-how, and patience.  How you choose to combine these elements is what creates variety, and a range of flavors and textures.

We’ll walk you through the basic process, along with some alternatives, in a clear and easy-to-follow way; once you understand the basics you can adapt and experiment to find what works best for you. Before you begin though, you will need a Sourdough Starter.

Stick with us and you’ll be baking healthier, tasty, and beautiful bread in no time!

More advanced sourdough bakers, you can view or add recipes.

Get Answers

Ever wondered why sourdough is often preferable to commercial yeasted bread, and what the health benefits are? 

Get the answer to this and many other popular questions.. 

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This site is a work in progress, we will be editing, collating and correcting as necessary. 

You can make it even better by contributing articles, recipes, and images to the gallery to help others, your contributions will be credited to you. 

A Quick Overview of the Sourdough Process

It’s important to understand that there are many methods to baking sourdough sucessfully. 

We have chosen three popular methods, but everyone finds their own way and their own preferences for what and how they bake. Once you understand the process and learn to adapt timings and ingredients to your personal circumstances and lifestyle, you’ll soon be munching away on your own tasty loaf. You can click on any of the stages in the processes to see more details.

Autolyse Method

Autolyse Method

Flour and water are combined and left for at least 45mins (the autolyse) to rest and amalgamate before the salt and starter are added to the dough, and the process continues.  Whole wheat flours benefit greatly from this as the bran has time to soften and there is less chance of it tearing the gluten strands later in the process.

STEP 1 - Make Your Starter
STEP 2 - Autolyse
STEP 3 - Stretch and Folds
STEP 4 - Bulk Ferment
STEP 5 - Pre-Shaping
STEP 6 - Final Shaping
STEP 7 - Final Prove
STEP 8 - Slashing and Scoring
STEP 9 - Baking!
All-In Method

All-In Method

This is by far the quickest and easiest method, however you won’t get the benefits of the Autolyse or Tartine Methods and will probably lose some flavour. In one bowl whisk the starter into the water, in another bowl weigh out flour/s and salt, mix well, combine the wet and dry ingredient into one bowl, leave for 45 mins and continue with stretch and folds.

STEP 1 - Make Your Starter
STEP 2 - Combine All Ingredients
STEP 3 - Stretch and Folds
STEP 4 - Bulk Ferment
STEP 5 - Pre-Shaping
STEP 6 - Final Shaping
STEP 7 - Final Prove
STEP 9 - Slashing and Scoring
STEP 9 - Baking!
STEP 1 - Make Your Starter
STEP 2 - All Ingredients In
STEP 3 - Stretch and Folds
STEP 4 - Bulk Ferment
STEP 5 - Pre-shaping
STEP 6 - Final Shaping
STEP 7 - Final Prove
STEP 9 - Slashing and Scoring
STEP 9 - Baking!
Tartine Method

Tartine Method

This is a popular method, based on the popular SanFrancisco sourdough method, it creates a delicious, crusty, chewy centered bread with complex flavors. Basically a strong leaven is created and then added to the flour and water and left for up to an hour.  The salt is added later in the process

STEP 1 - Make Your Starter
STEP 2 - Create a Leaven
STEP 3 - Build Your Dough
STEP 4 - Add Salt
STEP 5 - Stretch and Folds
STEP 6 - Bulk Ferment
STEP 7 - Pre-Shaping
STEP 8 - Final Shaping
STEP 9 - Final Prove
STEP 10 - Slashing and Scoring
STEP 11 - Baking!

Here are some very useful articles on topics we find often come up in the sourdough community. View all articles.

Already Addicted to Sourdough Baking?
Check out our recipe section

Visit our recipe section for  sourdough leavened breads, flat breads, and what to do with that extra starter, aka ‘discard’. You can also submit and share your favorite recipes. 

A gallery of triumphs and disasters. See what other’s have achieved. Your prefect may be someone else’s disaster – it all depends on what you want to achieve.

Find answers to the most asked questions we see on the Facebook group. Let us know if you have any others we could add.

Finding it difficult to get going with your Starter, or can’t get that elusive ‘ear’? Check out the common problems people have and how to fix them.

We have a range of items which are useful for sourdough baking and also links to informative books and other useful stuff.

Disclaimer: Whilst we hope the information provided is helpful and informative, we cannot guarantee that all details will be 100% accurate.  There are many schools of thought and conflicting ideas on many of the sourdough processes and methods.  This site is simply meant as a broad guide to baking sourdough, and is not a scientific reference.

Also, please forgive the mixed US and UK spellings throughout. We have a team from various countries working on this site.This site may contain affiliate links. 

Contribute to the site.

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Made with Sourdough ❤

Lame

noun

A special sharp knife, or tool which holds a razor blade, in a curved or straight manner. You use it to score the dough before baking.

Dutch Oven

A Dutch Oven is generally understood to be a covered earthenware or cast-iron container for cooking casseroles. They are ideal for bread as they can accommodate bread dough and be covered to help generate the steamy environment requiredto encourage the dough to rise. Enamel roasters with a lid, covered pyrex dishes, or even a flat tray with a bowl over the top of the dough, are equally effective.

Bakers’ Percentages

Sometimes called baker’s math, this is a method to express the different ingredients as a percentage of the total amount of flour. It makes scaling a recipe or building a recipe very easy once you know the total weight of the flour, and also allows you to know the ‘hydration’ of your dough.

Example: If you build your dough with 1000 gram flour, 670-grams water, 20-gram salt, and 8-gram yeast. According to bakers percentages, that will be 100% flour (the amount of flour is always 100%), 67% water, 2% salt, and 0.8% yeast.
You divide the amount of the different ingredients with the amount of flour.

Banneton / Brotform / Proofing Basket

A type of basket or container used to provide structure for shaped loaves of bread during proofing. Banneton baskets are also known as ‘Brotform’ or ‘proofing baskets’. It is normally used for doughs that are too soft or wet to maintain their shape while rising. They come in a range of sizes and shapes. Look for ones that fit the size of loaves you want to bake.

They are often made of natural rattan, or wood fiber. You can also use any container lined with a well-floured tea towel.

Oven Spring

The final burst of expansion of dough upon being introduced to a hot oven and where the yeast activity is increased during the first few minutes. At approximately 60C/140ºF degrees the yeast is killed off, but up until that point, dough can expand in the oven in the first phase of baking if it’s not over-fermented and still has dough strength. Many factors can impact oven spring including the length of fermentation, gluten development, and the hydration of the dough.

Stretch-and-Folds

An alternative to traditional kneading used to develop gluten. The process is performed periodically in the bowl throughout the bulk fermentation. Take a side of the dough and gently stretch it up and over, to fold it upon itself, rotate the dough 90º, and repeat, then turn the bowl 45º and the same stretch and fold. Once all four corners of the dough have been stretched and folded, gluten development and a smooth, elastic dough are underway. Also, see ‘Folding’ and ‘Coil Folds’.

Bulk Ferment

Most loaves have two fermenting cycles. One before and one after the loaves are formed. Bulk fermentation is the first cycle, with a long fermentation period of the dough after the initial mixing of flour, water, starter, and salt and often comes during and after a period of kneading or ‘stretch and folds’.During this stage we are aiming to create dough strength, structure and flavor. The dough should feel alive, strong, airy, spongy and the surface shouldn’t feel sticky.

The bulk fermentation generally takes place at room temperature, unless otherwise noted in the recipe and is a longer period of time (4 -12 hours) than the final proofing period. This step may be referred to as the first prove or first rising. Acetic acid, an organic acid is produced by bacteria in the sourdough culture during the fermentation process. The presence of acetic acid helps to gives sourdough its characteristic acidic tang. The warmer the environment, the faster the development of the dough will be

Window Pane

The window pane test is one of the best ways to tell if you’ve sufficiently stretched and folded your bread dough. Pull a small piece of the dough and using both hands and your fingers stretch the dough very thin if it holds its shape without tearing the gluten is well-developed and your dough is ready to be pre-shaped, shaped and rest for it’s final prove.

Starter / Starter Culture / Sourdough Starter

A mixture of flour and water used to leaven bread that contains bacteria, yeast, and organic acids. Made either by inoculating with an established colony of bacteria or by capturing wild bacteria and yeasts over a longer period. Sometimes also called Leaven / Levain.

Autolyse

verb

Autolyse (pronounced auto-lees) is a process in which a portion of (or total) water and flour in a bread recipe are gently pre-blended and set to rest for a period of time.

This resting period gives the dough special processing characteristics and improves the overall quality of the baked goods.

During autolyse process, several events can occur in the pre-mixed water/flour mixture:

  1. Continued flour hydration. Water molecules work their way into damaged starch, intact starch granules and proteins.
  2. Protein bonds continue to develop as a consequence of adding water, creating more gluten strands without mechanical work. This leads to better gluten structure and gas retention.
  3. Flour enzymes (mainly proteases) acquire time to adapt and work on the gluten by breaking down protein bonds.Protease activity is higher at low pH (acidic conditions). This is why autolysed doughs that contain yeast or pre-ferments (e.g. poolish) often experience greater protease activity. Such doughs are more extensible, weaker, softer and show less resistance to deformation than autolyzed non-fermented doughs.2
  4. Finally, as a result, the dough feels less sticky and very smooth after the autolyse.

As a general rule, the longer the autolyse time:

  • The shorter the dough mixing time (less mechanical development of gluten-forming proteins in needed). This means less energy consumption during mixing.
  • The shorter the dough stability duration
  • The less tolerance to overmixing. Breakdown is more pronounced once peak (maximum strength) is attained.
  • The smaller the P value in the alveograph test
  • The more extensible and less elastic the dough becomes at the end of autolysis
  • The better the sheetability and machining of dough during lamination of croissants
  • The easier and faster the dough expands during oven spring (better volume)
  • The lower the need for dough conditioners
  • The better the flavor and aroma of the finished product
Leaven/Levain/Sourdough Starter
noun
  1. A substance, in this case a wild yeast starter, that is used in sourdough baking to make dough rise.
  2. Some methods of baking, such as ‘Tartine Method’ require a sourdough leavening agent be made from a sourdough ‘mother culture’ (aka your Starter). This technique is often employed to boost the yeast activity of the sourdough starter by feeding a small amount of starter a larger quantity of flour and water. For instance, if a recipe calls for 1 cup of sourdough starter, a leaven can be prepared 8-12 hours before the dough will be mixed by combining 1 Tablespoon of sourdough starter with ½ cup flour and a scant ½ cup of water. This leaven can then be used as the sourdough starter and will be quite active come baking time.
verb
  1. cause (dough or bread) to rise by adding leaven.