Making a sourdough starter from scratch couldn't be simpler with our step-by-step recipe for a chewy, flavoursome loaf
- Prep:1 hrs
plus 8 days for the starter and 3 hrs rising
- A challenge
Nutrition per serving
- kcal 245
- fat 1g
- saturates 0g
- carbs 48g
- sugars 1g
- fibre 2g
- protein 8g
- salt 0.4g
- 700g strong white flour
- 500g strong white flour, plus extra for dusting
- 1 tsp fine salt
- 1 tbsp clear honey
- 300g sourdough starter
- flavourless oil, for greasing
It can take between one and five days for your starter to begin fermenting, depending on the temperature and environment. Persevere for up to six days – if you still don’t see any signs of life, or the starter smells unpleasant, throw it away and start again.Do I need a proving basket?
The dough will rise perfectly well in a bowl, but for the distinctive outline on the side of your loaf, use a proving basket (also called a banneton). Usually made from natural cane woven in a spiral pattern, they come in oval or round shapes. Make sure that you flour the basket really well before using, pushing flour into all the grooves, and never wash it – simply tap out the old flour after every use. You can buy them from cookshops or online at johnlewis.com.
If you plan to make sourdough every 2-3 days, keep it at room temperature, and feed it every day or two. If less often, keep the starter in the fridge, feed it once a week, then leave it at room temperature for 24 hours.
If using the starter from the fridge, leave at room temperature for 24 hours. Always try to use your starter when it is ‘hungry’ (has not been fed for 24 hours). Leave about 200ml of the starter in your jar for the next loaf.
Sourdough bread freezes really well, so if you know you won’t eat the whole loaf, freeze half for another day. Defrost on a wire rack, covered with a tea towel, so that the bread doesn’t dry out or develop a soggy bottom.
First, make your starter. In a large bowl, mix together 100g of the flour with 125ml slightly warm water. Whisk together until smooth and lump-free.
Transfer the starter to a large jar (a 1-litre Kilner jar is good) or a plastic container. Leave the jar or container lid ajar for 1 hr or so in a warm place (around 25C is ideal), then seal and set aside for 24 hrs.
For the next 6 days, you will need to ‘feed’ the starter. Each day, tip away half of the original starter, add an extra 100g of flour and 125ml slightly warm water, and stir well. Try to do this at the same time every day.
After 3-4 days you should start to see bubbles appearing on the surface, and it will smell yeasty and a little acidic. This is a good indicator that the starter is working.
On day 7, the starter should be quite bubbly and smell much sweeter. It is now ready to be used in baking.
Tip the flour, 225ml warm water, the salt, honey and the starter into a bowl, or a mixer fitted with a dough hook. Stir with a wooden spoon, or on a slow setting in the machine, until combined – add extra flour if it’s too sticky or a little extra warm water if it’s too dry.
Tip onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 mins until soft and elastic – you should be able to stretch it without it tearing. If you‘re using a mixer, turn up the speed a little and mix for 5 mins.
Place the dough in a large, well-oiled bowl and cover with oiled cling film. Leave in a warm place to rise for 3 hrs. You may not see much movement, but don’t be disheartened, as sourdough takes much longer to rise than a conventional yeasted bread.
Line a medium-sized bowl with a clean tea towel and flour it really well or, if you have a proving basket, you can use this (see tips below). Tip the dough back onto your work surface and knead briefly to knock out any air bubbles. Shape the dough into a smooth ball and dust it with flour.
Place the dough, seam-side up, in the bowl or proving basket, cover with a sheet of oiled cling film and leave at room temperature for 6-8 hrs, or until roughly doubled in size.
Place a large baking tray in the oven, and heat to 230C/210C fan/gas 8. Fill a small roasting tin with a little water and place this in the bottom of the oven to create steam. Remove the baking tray from the oven, sprinkle with flour, then carefully tip the risen dough onto the tray.
Slash the top a few times with a sharp knife, if you like, then bake for 35-40 mins until golden brown. It will sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Leave to cool on a wire rack for 20 mins before serving.