Classic White Sourdough
Have you always wanted to try making sourdough but not sure where to begin? Try out this recipe for Classic White Sourdough, developed by our Test Kitchen. Don't be intimidated by the length of the recipe - it's perfect for beginners, with everything you need to know, clearly laid out step-by-step. It makes a beautifully flavoured and delightfully crusty loaf, and is an excellent starting point for various recipe adaptations. We recommend trying this recipe and when you are confident with it, then testing out some of our other speciality bread recipes - or coming up with your own!
This recipe makes two generous loaves weighing approximately 750g each.
100g active, bubbly starter
650g water at room temperature
1,000g AllGrain Bakers Flour
20g salt (non-iodised)
1. Early in the morning, or around breakfast time remove your starter from the fridge and feed it – 50g starter + 50g Bakers Flour + 50g water. Stir with the end of a chopstick and leave to activate. (This will become the 100g of starter you need for the recipe).
2. In about 4-5 hours (depending on the temperature and how active your starter is) put 100g of the active, bubbly starter (See Note 1) in a large bowl and add 650g water. Mix together with a whisk. Then add 1,000g AllGrain Bakers Flour. Mix with a round dough scraper for a few minutes until there’s no dry flour remaining. The dough at this point will be very rough and shaggy. Cover with a damp towel or shower cap and rest for 30 minutes to autolyse. This is the official commencement of your bulk fermentation.
3. After 30 minutes rest, add 20g salt with a little water (no more than 20g). Push wet fingers into the dough and sprinkle salt and water into the holes. Hand mix for about 5 minutes to incorporate. Cover and rest for 30 minutes.
4. Now perform at least 3 sets of stretch and fold (See Note 2) resting the dough for 30 minutes after each set. After the final stretch and fold, perform the windowpane test (See Note 3) to check the dough has enough strength and elasticity. Once the dough has passed this test, cover and leave it to complete bulk fermentation (See Note 4).
5. Pre-shaping - at the end of bulk fermentation, gently ease the dough out of the bowl using a rounded dough scraper or spatula onto an unfloured bench (See Note 5). Divide into two equal portions using your bench scraper and then shape each portion by performing envelope folds on each side and then rolling the dough to create tension. (There are many tutorials on YouTube demonstrating a variety of shaping techniques and also many videos about “creating tension”.) Cover with a damp towel and leave to rest for 20 minutes.
6. Final Shaping – flip the doughs over in one smooth action and then repeat the envelope folds as previously and build tension again with rolling. In one smooth action lift the doughs and place seam side up in lined and well dusted bannetons. Many sourdough bakers find Rice flour to be the flour of choice for dusting bannetons as it doesn’t absorb moisture from the dough and we’ve certainly found this to be the case in the FPM test kitchen. Cover with a damp towel and rest for a final 15 minutes.
7. Stitching – stitch the dough firmly to ensure good tension and an impressive ear (See Note 6).
8. Cover the bannetons with shower caps and place in the fridge for an overnight cold proof (See Note 7).
9. The next morning preheat the oven to 250° and allow time for it to reach this temperature. Remove the bannetons from the fridge, sprinkle the doughs with Bakers Flour and cover with a piece of non-stick baking paper. Carefully invert the bannetons onto your work surface, brush off any excess rice flour with a soft brush and then score the doughs with a very sharp razor blade or lame. Keep the blade as flat as possible on the dough to assist with creation of the ear. Using the baking paper to lift the doughs, transfer them into your roasting pans, spritz with water and cover with the lids. Bake for 20 minutes at 250°, then remove the lids and bake for a further 15-20 minutes at 200°, watching carefully until they reach the desired level of brown and look well cooked. Be careful as they do burn easily!
10. Remove the loaves from your pans and leave to cool completely on a wire rack before cutting – they continue to cook while cooling and trying to slice the bread at this point should be avoided if possible.
Stitched loaves ready for overnight cold proofing
Leave the loaves to cool completely on a wire rack
Recipe Notes (Tips & Tricks!)
1. One of the most important aspects of sourdough making is using an active, bubbly starter. Depending on the weather your starter will take somewhere between 3-5 hours to activate after feeding. One sure test to determine whether the starter is ready is to drop a small amount of starter into a glass of water – if it floats on the surface, it’s ready, if it sinks, you’ll need to be patient for a bit longer! Don’t even consider using starter if it’s not ready – you’ll be wasting your time and ingredients.
2. Click here for a video demonstrating this technique.
3. The windowpane test is used to determine if enough strength and elasticity has been developed during the stretch and fold process. A piece of dough is stretched until it becomes a very thin membrane through which light can be seen – without tearing the dough! Check out this video for further information.
4. Knowing when bulk fermentation is finished is one of the great challenges of sourdough bread baking! The general rule is that the dough should have doubled in size, it should look pillowy, it should be domed on top and pulling away from the sides of the bowl and, if using a glass bowl – there should be plenty of visible air bubbles dotted through the dough. The length of bulk fermentation depends on a lot of things but most importantly the temperature. In summer in Tamworth, bulk fermentation generally takes about 5 hours (measuring from when the starter is mixed with the water and flour). In winter it takes quite a bit longer!
5. It seems counter intuitive to avoid dusting the work surface with flour prior to removing the dough from your bowl. Working on an unfloured surface will mean that your dough will tend to grab or stick – and this is precisely what you need when shaping your dough. Flour on the bench will cause the dough to slip and slide around while you’re trying to shape it and this will make it difficult to create tension in the dough. Using your metal bench scraper and even a little sprinkling of rice flour on your hands will make shaping easier.
6. The biggest breakthrough in the FPM test kitchen was consistently achieving an impressive “ear” on our sourdough loaves. If we can suggest one thing – it’s to create tension in the dough. The stitching mentioned in step 7 has been a game changer for us. Once again, there are lots of videos on YouTube that demonstrate this technique, as well as this Facebook video.
7. Cold proofing can last anywhere from 12 hours to 3 days – so if you have the patience, you can delay baking the bread until a time that suits your schedule. Supposedly the extended cold proofing results in an improved flavour, however we haven’t put this theory to the test yet!