rustic sourdough: the secret to making amazing bread at home
[5 ingredients | simple baking]

rustic homemade sourdough bread rustic homemade sourdough bread and butter

This post has been a long time in the making. Back in March when my Irishman and I decided to give it another go, we came up with a brilliant plan. We would try and swing things so we could live 3 weeks every month in the snowy mountains where my Irishman works and spend the other week based in Sydney. All my life I’ve dreamed of having the balance between city and country living. I couldn’t believe we’d figured it out so soon.

All my life I’ve also dreamed of being able to bake amazing bread. So with this move to country living, with no access to good local bread, the time was right. My first port of call was the wonderful Bourke Street Bakery cookbook to get my sourdough culture going. And while the results were OK, flavourwise. The texture was no where near as light and airy as I would have liked. Plus it was wickedly time consuming kneading each loaf for half an hour.

For a week or so I battled with my minimalist tendencies to not acquire any more kitchen equipment and the need for a stand mixer with a dough hook to improve my bread making attempts. And then I had a stroke of genius. Years ago Mark Bittman had written about a no-knead bread that the blogosphere went a bit crazy about. Maybe that was the solution?

My first attempt, using yeast was so wonderful. I almost couldn’t believe that I’d been able to make such a gorgeously imperfect loaf. Actually it starred in a post I wrote about living on $2 a day.

The next logical step was to take this method and convert it to a sourdough recipe. And the rest is history really.

sourdough bread video

rustic homemade sourdough
makes 1 loaf

In the early days of your starter you can use it for the extra flavour but you’ll need to use 1/4 teaspoon dried yeast to work it’s magic. But once your starter is active and bubbling away, you can ditch the yeast. Just make sure you don’t put any of the commercial yeasted dough near your starter or these stronger strains will takeover. Good idea to always use a clean spoon when making your starter.

I prefer to use unbleached, stone ground organic bread flour and filtered water, but I’ve also used supermarket flour with great results.

325g (11oz) bread flour
200g (8oz) sourdough starter, recipe below
275g (10oz) water
1 teaspoon find grained salt
semolina, optional

1. In a large bowl combine flour, starter, water and salt until just mixed together.

2. Cover with cling wrap and leave overnight for at least 8 but preferably 12 hours.

3. Form your loaf. Place a generous amount of flour on your kitchen counter. Scoop dough out onto the flour then sprinkle generously with more flour. Gently fold the edges from the outside in to form a round loaf.

4. Place more flour on a clean tea towel. Place loaf with the rough top side down. Sprinkle with semolina, if using, or more flour. Cover.

5. Place a large oven proof dish with a lid in the oven. Preheat oven and the pan to the highest setting for at least 1/2 hour.

6. Carefully remove the hot pan from the oven. Remove lid. Sprinkle a little semolina, if using in the base of the pan. Gently place loaf in the pan inverted so that the rougher surface is now on top. Don’t worry about smoothing it out or having it centered – it will work itself out in the oven.

7. Pop the lid back on and bake for 30 minutes.

8. Remove the lid and turn the oven down to 200C (400F) bake for a further 15 minutes until the loaf is deep brown.

9. Cool on a wire rack uncovered for at least 30mintues if you can wait that long.

rustic homemade yeasted bread
makes 1 loaf

The method is basically the same, but instead of the starter you just use more flour and water and some yeast. This is a great way to see how wonderful homemade bread can be.

425g (15oz) bread flour
375g (14oz) water
1 teaspoon find grained salt
1/4 teaspoon dried yeast
semolina, optional

1. Follow method above but add the yeast at the same time as the salt in step 1.

how to make a sourdough starter video

sourdough starter

From day 3 you can start using your sourdough starter to add flavour to your bread and keep supplementing it with yeast until it is active enough to go it alone.

Once you have the starter established, just keep it in the fridge and feed it about twice a week, or more often if you’re making bread regularly. If you need to go on holidays you can give it a massive feed but I wouldn’t be keen to leave it for longer than a week. You’ll know if it dies because you’ll get awful looking mould growing on the top. It happened to my first culture. But don’t stress if you have a starter death on your hand. You’ve made it once you can make it again.

This would be a great project to do with children. It’s like having a new pet that doesn’t need toilet training!

The wonderful flavour of great sourdough is a result of particular strains of lactic acid bacteria. To encourage these little creatures to grow in your culture, I like to use natural yoghurt. But if you wanted to keep it dairy free you could skip the yoghurt or use a few organic grapes.

bread flour
water
natural yoghurt

day 1: In a clean bowl or jar, mix together 50g (2oz) flour, 50g (2oz) water and 2 tablespoons organic natural yoghurt. Cover with cling wrap and leave somewhere warm.

day 2: Using a clean spoon, add 100g (4oz) flour and 100g (4oz) water. Mix to combine. Recover and leave in a warm place.

day 3: Today you can make your first loaf. But you’ll need to use some yeast as well. When you’ve removed 200g starter. Replenish with 100g (4oz) flour and 100g (4oz) water. Mix to combine. Recover and leave in a warm place.

day 4 onwards: Remove 200g starter and either use it to make bread or throw it away. Using a clean spoon replace with 100g (4oz) flour and 100g (4oz) water. Mix to combine. Recover and leave in a warm place

somewhere between about day 10 and day 15
Your starter should start to show signs of life. Basically it will start to bubble. When this happens you can stop using the yeast in with your bread. And you can start to keep the starter in the fridge and stop feeding it everyday. Aim to feed it (remove 200g (8oz) and replace with 100g (4oz) each flour and water) twice a week or more often if you’re baking more frequently.

rustic homemade sourdough bread & butter
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Have had a wonderful response to my Stonesoup Virtual Cookery School. I have a mother and daughter signed up to learn together – maybe it’s something you could share with a loved one. The price covers everyone in your household. If you haven’t already done so, why not check out the very first class called Solve Your Dinner Dilemma starting October 24th.

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{ 100 comments }

chkee October 11, 2010 at 5:11 pm

Hi Jules, since I live in a very hot (32C) and humid (90%) country, I wonder if the starter will actually get “alive” faster?
By the way, how “warm” is your warm? :)
Thanks!

jules October 11, 2010 at 5:16 pm

absolutely!
warm is just normal room temp – ideally around 20C. For you, you might only need to let the dough rest for 6 hours – best to just do some trial and error

Antony Perring October 11, 2010 at 5:31 pm

Hi Jules.
Again a beautiful post, and thanks for the video.
I gave ginger beer a go last summer and loved having that slightly scary alien starter living in my kitchen. You’ve just inspired me to give the bread making a go – a different type of alien in the kitchen.
thanks for doing what you do with thestonesoup.

Wei-Wei October 11, 2010 at 7:56 pm

I was going to try to start a sourdough starter, but I don’t think that my family eats bread that much and plus, I’m not sure I like the flavour of sourdough. Heh. But I’ll give it a try as soon as I have more experience with sourdough… in eating it, at first. :D

jules October 11, 2010 at 10:24 pm

anthony
you’ve just reminided me I bookmarked nigel slater’s ginger beer recipe – brilliant idea swap

weiwei
If you like regular bread you could just try the yeasted version – it’s really awesome but less intense flavour – and you don’t need to faff around with the starter

Alexa @ Sohdalex October 11, 2010 at 11:06 pm

This bread looks great! I love the rustic look ;)

Rachel October 12, 2010 at 1:51 am

Thank you for the great bread making instructions! I’m about to move away from reliable bread supplies and need to learn how to make my own. This post is going to be very helpful!

sarah k. October 12, 2010 at 6:50 am

I just made my first loaf from the Bittman/Lahey recipe this week, and while I liked the simplicity of it, I made the mistake of trying to healthify it with some whole-grain flour. The result had a not-unpleasant flavor, slightly sour, but a strange, almost rubbery texture. It still went over well with the kids and spouse, but next time, if I want sandwich bread, I’ll just stick to my regular kneaded bread, and if I want a crusty loaf, I’ll try this one with only white flour!

jules October 12, 2010 at 7:03 am

hey sarah
I wonder if your wholegrain flour was not so fresh? because of the germ it’s more sensitive to rancidity which could have caused the sourness. But you’re right the texture is always heavier with wholegrain because there’s more fibre and less gluten.

pleasure rachel – you’re going to love this.

Zoe October 12, 2010 at 7:27 pm

Your timing is amazing jules. We have recently discovered the no-knead recipe in our house (only 5 years later than the rest of the world) and loved it. But 2 recent attempts to sour-dough-ify it were massive fails. I can’t wait to try your recipe and will report back when I do.

Ros October 12, 2010 at 9:00 pm

Zoe, absolutely agree about the perfect timing. I’ve been using the no knead all this year and I am a complete convert, but my only attempt at a sourdough take on the recipe was in brick territory. So this has arrived at exactly the right time. Need to rush…gotta feed the starter. :) ps Jules – recipe 2 of the Julie and Julia challenge – red lentils with tomato and spinach. Yum. Even yummier with some cumin.

Sayer October 13, 2010 at 9:31 am

Thank you for such a detailed post. I’ve been putting off sourdough for a while, but now I have no excuse.

Helen Andreatta October 13, 2010 at 8:22 pm

Jules- have tried your recipe today and I’m so thrilled with the result! Perfecto!!A neighbour gave me some of her sour dough starter so have this on hand. In the past, I was unable to achieve such a lovely oval shape to my loaf. My efforts looked as though it had been sat on. Now I have the answer!
As it so happens, I have an enamel pot which used to have a prisitine white interior, but after unitentionally leaving it on low gas all night, it’s now grey inside!! ( I’m sure that being cast iron ensured that our house didn’t go up in flames)
It’s in perfect working order and it now has a new use- our bread baker! I loved your very detailed instructions. I highly recommend this recipe- GO for it!!!

Brian October 13, 2010 at 11:32 pm

Wow,

What a pleasant surprise to find your site and blog this morning…thank you Jules! I look forward to digging in!
~Brian

rosalia October 14, 2010 at 12:43 am

jules,

i’ve read your posts for a while now & the food looks so beautiful & yummy. i just wanted to let you know that i can’t wait to try out your recipes after we move into our new place. i got very lucky in finding your site. thanxx for sharing your wisdom!

Free Recipes Online October 14, 2010 at 1:36 am

oh wow that does look good and the recipes seem easy so I’ll be giving it a try really soon. Thanks for sharing this with us.

jules October 14, 2010 at 7:32 am

Ros
Yes how good are the red lentils – keep me posted with how you go on the Ros|Jules project!

Helen
Yay – glad the bread worked well for you – how lucky are you to have a neighbour with a sourdough starter.

S@buttered-up October 14, 2010 at 2:54 pm

This is really cool. I’ve never made a sourdough starter despite wanting to learn for a while. I’ve used yeast a lot though to generally good results. Thanks for sharing. :)

mitch October 15, 2010 at 5:27 am

Hi,

I was browsing into your site and the making of sourdough bread seems really interesting and easy to make. Thank you for showing how to do it via video and I will try to make my own sourdough bread from now on ^_^

april October 17, 2010 at 12:45 pm

Hey, has anyone mentioned that the New York times and Cooks Illustrated has a brilliant video and recipe for “No-Knead Bread”? It is amazingly easy with no starter! I have made several loafs; the only deal is that I need to remember to make it the day before because it is best if it rises overnight. Thanks for just a great blog site!

Franci October 17, 2010 at 9:33 pm

OMG! It looks gorgeous! My sourdough makes usually very heavy breads even if I knead the dough for ages but you… in a couple of minutes made this wonder!

Anju October 20, 2010 at 2:55 am

Out of curiosity, just how large a dish did you use?

jules October 20, 2010 at 6:31 am

april
I hadn’t seen the video – thanks for sharing

franci
I know, I went through the whole kneading thing. You won’t look back!

anju
great question its a 26cm diameter pot but a slightly smaller one would be fine as well

Therese @ artistta October 21, 2010 at 6:03 am

Hi, Just found your site while looking for sourdough recipes. I’m curious, have you ever tried making this recipe with 100% whole wheat? I’m thinking of giving it a go this evening. I’ve been wanting a recipe that gives me a crunchy bread on the outside, but soft and chewy on the inside and this looks perfect.

If it works, I’m hoping I can share this recipe on my food blog soon.

Thanks and I”m glad I found your site!

jules October 21, 2010 at 7:28 am

Hi Terese
Yes I have made it with 100% whole wheat. The texture was a lot denser and the flavour more brany, but it wasn’t all bad – still had the rustic crust.

Therese @ artistta October 26, 2010 at 10:05 pm

Hi Jules, so I’ve now made this recipe several time with both white bread flour and whole wheat and LOVE them both. This was the perfect bread for a picnic loaf recipe I was sharing on my blog.

If you want to check out the post, here’s the link.
http://artistta.blogspot.com/2010/10/nutritious-and-delicious-on-go.html

I gave you the credit and perhaps it will send some traffic your way. The post was actually for a food blogging contest I’m in. On my blog I focus on making everything or close to everything from scratch using as few processed ingredients as possible. This recipe was the first bread recipe that I found that actually gave me a delicious crunch on the outside and a soft chewy texture on the inside and was so easy to make. Truly perfect! I did do 1 1/2 times your recipe amount so my measurements are larger than yours. I needed a little larger loaf than what I got doing the recipe straight up.

Again thank you!

jules October 27, 2010 at 5:53 am

thanks for the feedback and the link terese.
So glad rhe bread worked out for you!

Rae October 29, 2010 at 12:50 pm

Jules,

I have tried to make the starter twice now and both times by day 4ish I get mold growing on the sides of the container. What am I doing wrong?

Rae

jules November 3, 2010 at 6:50 am

Rae

Sorry I’ve taken a while to get back to you.

This is mysterious the mould you have growing.

A few questions.
Are you covering your container with cling wrap or something?
Is your flour fresh? – That could be a source of the mould spores
Would the container previously have had any sources of mould spores? blue cheese?
Are you using yoghurt? And was it from a freshly opened container?
Do you get any other signs of life in your starter or is it just the mould growth?

Cheers
Jules

Majeeda November 7, 2010 at 12:53 pm

I’ll have to mark this for later use because I have always wanted to do a sour dough. I actually tried to make a starter once but it turned out putrid ): I don’t know what the issue was but I’ll give it a try with your instructions.

Is it usual for sour-dough to have such a long kneading time? I ask because I make other breads all the time and I probably do only 10-15 mins of kneading altogether. I like the sound of ‘no’ kneading though :P I can hardly believe it.

Jure Merhar November 7, 2010 at 11:38 pm

Hi, Jules,

Thanks for this amazing recipe! I don’t think I’ve ever eaten better bread. However, I might have taken your “don’t stress about the flour” comment a bit too literally.

I’ve only made this bread twice now, but I can already see that choosing the right flour (mixture) can make a world of difference. The first time, I used plain white flour only (http://goo.gl/EQO2S), and the bread was OK, but nothing special, really. So I decided to use rye flour (http://goo.gl/PQX7o) for my second loaf. I mixed 200g of rye flour with 225g of plain white flour, and added some seeds as well (linseed, pepita and sunflower seed mix). Wow! This time, it came out unbelievably good.

So far, I’ve only done the yeasted version, since I never thought I’d bake bread very often. Now, I’m seriously considering making a sourdough starter. :)

Greetings from Slovenia,
Jure

jules November 8, 2010 at 10:27 am

jure
glad you’ve been experimenting with differnt flour – the rye sounds lovely

majeeda
the reason for the super long proofing time is that we’re getting the dough ‘kneaded’ by the action of the yeast & bacteria producing the gas (CO2) and ‘stretching’ the dough – it’s such a wonderful alternative to hours of kneading

Chris November 17, 2010 at 3:05 pm

I discovered this recipe a couple weeks ago and I’ve been testing it out with different amounts of ingredients. I baked my first rustic loaf following your instructions and I haven’t been able to stop ever since. I know I should be expanding my knowledge and trying new things, but I’m in love with this. My bread consumption has never been this high. Who knew making bread could be so easy and rewarding. Thanks!

Amy November 19, 2010 at 4:45 am

So I’ve been trying to bake my first bread using a starter. I have a beautiful bubbling sourdough starter, and I baked a loaf that looked just stunning yesterday in my dutch oven. The inside was almost… spongy. It was extremely dry, and just overall bad. Very disappointing. Have you ever had this problem? How do you (and I) fix it?
Thanks so much for your help!

jules November 19, 2010 at 8:32 am

Hi Amy
That’s weird that the crumb was really dry – No I haven’t had that problem. It sounds like it was either overcooked or there wasn’t enough moisture in the dough to begin with.

If you’re sure you used the right amount of water, next time try baking at a lower temperature – maybe you have a super powerful oven – try setting at 230C (450F) for the first stage of baking and then turning down as per the recipe for the lid-off stage

jules November 19, 2010 at 8:32 am

ps. let me know how you get on

Stacy November 27, 2010 at 9:06 am

Hi Jules. A quick note from a fellow sydney-sider to thank you for your blog. It’s inspiring – amongst other things, you’ve got me making sourdough for the first time. For some reason my dough is beyond wet – practically liquid! – but after being chased around the countertop with a doughscraper and loads of extra flour it bakes up well. I’ll keep experimenting and I’m sure I’ll have a flat side and a folded side before too long :) Thanks so much for all your work and dedication – I’m off to buy your e-book.

jules November 30, 2010 at 10:32 pm

glad you’re enjoying stacy
it’s meant to be super liquid – that’s the secret
thanks for supporting stonesoup!

Renee December 2, 2010 at 4:42 am

Hi Jules,
I make the no-knead all the time with yeast. But I’ve tried twice to make this with the starter and both times I end up with flour soup hours later, which cannot be formed into a loaf for baking. When I make this recipe with the yeast, it starts out looking like a wet dough which later forms the loaf. The a lot of irregularity in the consistency of starter so it’s difficult to determine how much water to add. Do you have any tricks for this issue?

jules December 2, 2010 at 6:54 am

Hi Renee
That’s strange. I haven’t come across this problem – I’ve made it both ways.

Although it sounds like your starter isn’t active enough to produce the gas needed to form a loaf. Is your starter bubbling and looking like it’s fermenting?

If you’re a bit unsure you can add a tiny pinch of commercial yeast to the bread and still use the starter. You’ll still get flavour benefits from the starter but the commercial yeast will make sure you get enough gas production to get things happening.

Let me know how you get on!

Stacy December 4, 2010 at 11:10 am

I was having the same problem with the sourdough recipe as Renee – the dough was so wet it was all I could do to stop it running off the counter with a doughscraper, and had to work in at least another cup of flour at the loaf-forming stage to be able to handle it at all. Maybe there’s something in common with the flour we’re using? (I have none of your expertise in this Jules!) But for what it’s worth, I’ve fixed it by increasing the flour to about 350g, and it’s working beautifully – I make all of our bread at home using this recipe with the tiny flour quantity adjustment. Notwithstanding possible starter problems, maybe worth a go?

jules December 4, 2010 at 9:11 pm

thanks for sharing stacy
glad to hear you’ve found something that works for you.
it could be a flour thing – different flours definitely absorb water at different rates. I have tried a few different flours but I guess at the end of the day they’re all australian so not exactly exhaustive – although will be keen to try this when I’m in the northern hemisphere next year.

Craig B Buttle December 18, 2010 at 1:34 pm

Thanks for the inspirition to have a go at the $2.00 meal, it works I currently spend $28.00 per fortnight on bread, marg, vegemite and milk, having Vinnies provide some food, but hey thats is Ok, I am better and more energetic riding a bike too, having moved into a country house at Launching place vic. Most of the rest of my capital goes into my business, saving up for a car.

jules December 22, 2010 at 8:27 pm

wow craig
$28/fortnight is pretty amazing…
good luck with saving for the car!

Alicia January 4, 2011 at 12:57 pm

Hi!
Thanks for the great recipe, except i also had the same issue with a very runny dough. The bread turned out to be very moist and had an almost crumpet-like texture…
do you know the reason for this? is it because the dough was so wet, or did i just not bake it for long enough?

Lois Kramer January 15, 2011 at 8:04 am

Thanks for posting the sourdough recipe. We have been having delicious bread for the past week. I will post a picture of some creative things I did with the recipe. We really enjoy fresh garlic, pepperoni, jalapenos, olives, herbs, etc. in the bread to make it extra great.

http://kramerzzzz.blogspot.com/

I do have a question: Do you have any other recipes for using the starter? Would be nice for a new twist. Can it be used in something sweet or is that defeating the purpose of the sourdough taste. Thanks….

jules January 18, 2011 at 3:51 pm

alicia
the dough is meant to be super runny. not sure about the crumpet texture though… have you tried it with a longer baking time?

lois
so glad you’re loving the sourdough. I’m actually planning on running a breadmaking class in March that will look at different variations including a sourdough fruit loaf. http://stonesoupvirtualcookeryschool.com/calendar/

Elisa gollatz January 27, 2011 at 11:22 am

Hi Jules,
I love this recipe! I have only made it with fresh milled hard white flour. I mill it on a pastry flour setting so much of the graininess is gone. It also makes a great rye as well if you substitute 1/3 of the hard white flour for fresh milled rye flour and add some caraway seeds.
It is exactly what I have been searching for! -Finally a recipe for artisan style bread using only fresh milled flour!
Mmmmm!
My family and I thank you!

Vintage Macaroon January 29, 2011 at 1:26 pm

Very inspiring. I like your videos, you make it easier to see how simple it really is. Must get a sourdough starter going I guess. Thanks.

bernie January 29, 2011 at 4:22 pm

I cannot wait to try this!

Bernie

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