Month: January 2021

Sourdough starter


A sourdough starter is the key to give a sourdough bread its distinct taste, its unique chewiness and crispiness as well as its long shelf-life. As the oldest leavening agent, it’s only made out of two ingredients: flour and water. This makes the sourdough starter to a natural and very simple leavening agent. Although it is simple in composition, it is extremely difficult to buy: the easiest solution to that is to make it yourself!

Sourdough starters can be made out of any type of flour. I myself started with wheat and recently added a rye starter to my collection. The process is the same for any type of flour: therefore even if I use wheat for this recipe, it is adaptable to any other type of flour. Every type comes with a distinct flavour profile, so you should try out different flours!

left: rye right: wheat

Step one: starting the starter

In the sourdough starter, lactic bacteria becomes active. If you feed your starter with fresh flour, the bacteria will feed on it and create gas. This gas will allow the dough to rise.

In order to produce these bacteria, there needs to be a fermentation process. This works best with whole meal organic flour. Organic flour is less processed, so you have a higher chance of it containing the right elements to feed the bacteria. This goes the same with whole meal compared to plain white flour.

Day 1
  • 20 g whole meal wheat flour (organic)
  • 20 ml water (you should use water without chlorine. If the tap water where you live has a high chlorine content, you should consider using mineral water. The chlorine kills bacteria, which is definitely not good for a sourdough starter.)

How it works: in a jar or tupperbox, mix both flour and water thoroughly. cover it loosely and put it in a dark and warm place to ferment for 1 to 3 days.

day 2-4

When small bubbles start to appear on the surface, you can proceed to the next step:

  • 40 g whole meal wheat flour
  • 40 ml water

Mix this with the existing starter. After a day or so the starter should have risen and fallen again.

The next day
  • 80 g whole meal wheat flour
  • 80 ml water

Mix everything together again. After less than a day your starter should have made a cycle of rise and fall.

If your starter doesn’t smell funky and has risen and fallen again, you can proceed to step 2: stabilizing your starter.

Step 2: stabilizing (1 week)

In order to stabilize your starter, you should get into a routine and repeat these steps everyday at roughly the same time:

  • discard everything except for 2-3 tablespoons of starter
  • add 1 tblsp whole meal wheat flour, 1 Tblsp plain white wheat flour and 2 Tbsps water to the remaining starter.
  • after a week, your starter should seem stable: it rises and falls at roughly the same height and time in the day and it does not smell weird or looks bad.
  • After a week you have successfully stabilized your starter, you can now use it for baking bread!

Step 3: taking care of your starter

In order to keep your starter healthy, active and alive, you should feed it regularly, ideally everyday at around the same time. The easiest way is to integrate it into your daily routine: I feed mine after breakfast for example. You should follow these three points:

  • Every day, add 1-2 Tbsps of a mixture of whole meal and plain white flour as well as the same amount of water. (the balance of the two flours keeps the balance between nutriments (whole meal) and the sugars (plain white).
  • You should regularly discard some of your starter. If you keep too much, it won’t get enough to eat and will get weak.
  • If a skin forms on the surface, don’t panic! just discard it before refreshing your starter. It just means your starter hasn’t been used for baking in a while.

Now you have made it, congratulations! This starter is now ready to be used for your very own sourdough bread 🙂

If you want to watch a good video on sourdough, I recommend you the youtuber Alex. He did a very interesting series on sourdough, from which this article is very largely inspired.

Categories: Bread

Sourdough bread


For an amateur home bread-baker, sourdough bread is next level: it tastes and smells and feels just like a loaf fresh out of the bakery oven, but you also get the satisfaction of having made everything from scratch with only three ingredients: flour, water and salt.

What is sourdough?

In the world of bread-baking, there are two different factions: yeast and sourdough starter. Both are leavening agents, it means that the bacteria they contain feed on the sugars in the flour and produce gas that leavens the dough. baker’s yeast, fresh or dried, can be found in any supermarket. Since it makes the dough rise fast and strongly, you can make good loaf within two or three hours only.

For sourdough, it’s a whole other story: the dough needs a lot more time to rise and requires much more resting time. The lactic bacteria active in the sourdough starter are obtained by the fermentation of flour mixed with water, which makes sourdough a natural leavening agent and very simple in its composition. It takes time to make a sourdough bread, but it is definitely worth it! The taste is more intense, the crust crispy and the inside very chewy. It also has a longer shelf-life than yeast bread.

The idea is quite simple: instead of yeast you mix sourdough starter with water, flour and salt, and after much waiting and kneading it bakes in a very hot oven.

Time management

To successfully bake a fluffy and tasty sourdough bread, patience is key. It is possible however to bake a loaf within a day, but you have to start early! Here is a diagram showing the different steps start to finish:

I usually start around 7 or 8 in the morning, and I take my bread out of the oven around 8 or 9 in th evening. Therefore it takes around 12-14 hours minimum for a good loaf.


For the sourdough starter:

  • about 100 g of your own sourdough starter (fed the day before)
    *you can find the recipe for the sourdough starter here.
  • 75 g whole meal wheat flour
  • 75 g plain wheat flour type 550
  • 150 ml water

For the dough:

  • about 250 g of the sourdough starter of the day
  • 400 ml water
  • 100 g whole meal wheat flour
  • 500 g wheat flour type 550
  • 15 g salt


Step 1: the starter
  • Put all your sourdough starter (you should have refreshed it the day before) in a measuring cup.
  • Add 75 g of whole meal wheat flour, 75 g of white wheat flour and 150 ml water. Mix well.
  • cover loosely and put it in a warm and dark place to proof.
  • After an hour or so small bubbles should start to appear. The starter should double in size before you continue with the recipe, otherwise your dough won’t rise properly. In my case it takes around 4 to 6 hours, but it all depends on the temperature and the activeness of your starter.
  • A good test is to drop a bit of your starter in water: if it floats, it’s ready.
The starter floats on the surface, it’s ready to use!
Step 2: the dough
  • mix around 250 g of your starter with 400 ml of water. You can put the rest of the starter back in a jar, mix it with a bit of flour and water again and use it as your starter base for the next loaf!
  • And the flour and mix roughly until there are no big lumps of dry flour left. Let the dough rest for 30-4 5 minutes. This step is important, the flour and water are getting acquainted, it takes some getting used to :).
  • Now add the salt: you can first sprinkle the salt on the dough, then add a bit of water to dissolve the salt. It hen becomes easier to incorporate the salt to the dough.
  • Drop the dough onto a flat surface and knead it for around 10 to 15 minutes. A good technique goes as follows:
    1. pull the dough towards you.
    2. fold the pulled part of the dough onto the other part.
    3. grab the dough on the right side.
    4. rotate the dough 90°, so that the fold faces towards you and lift the dough up. Then slightly slump it down on the surface again.
    5. repeat the process.
  • The dough will be sticky at first but if you work fast it shouldn’t stick to your fingers to much.
  • After a while the dough will get more elastic and homogenous: now you can put the dough back in the bowl, cover and let it proof for 3 to 4 hours.
Step 3: the loaf
  • After 3-4 hours the dough got a bit looser, and it might have risen a little. The dough is probably stickier as well. Now you should form the loaf: put the dough onto a floured surface.
  • fold the four sides of the dough towards the middle, so that each side covers a bit of another.
  • flip the dough so that the folds stay under the dough.
  • cautiously hold the dough with open palms and roll the dough towards you. The seam should always stay at the bottom. By rolling the dough you should be able to create some tension on the surface: this helps to trap the air inside the loaf for a better rise and gives the dough strength to keep its shape.
  • sprinkle the dough-ball with a bit of flour and put the bowl upside-down on top of it. Let the dough rest for 20 to 30 minutes. The ball will flatten a bit.
  • You can repeat the process 2 to 4 times, always making sure to always fold the same side and keep the seam down. The dough will get stronger each time and will flatten less.
Step 4: baking!
  • At this point you have two options:
    1. put the dough in a bowl to rest in the fridge overnight and bake it in the morning.
    2. Or let the dough rest another hour after the last fold and bake it now.
  • While the dough rests one last time, preheat your oven to 220°C. If you have a dutchoven, you can preheat it in the oven as well. Baking the bread in the dutchoven will help keep the moisture around the loaf, giving it a better crust.
  • Alternatively you can preheat a simple tray and put a bowl with water underneath it to create steam in your oven.
  • When the oven and the dutchoven are hot, place the dough quickly in the dutchoven, scorch the dough generously and spray some water onto the dough. Close the lid and put the dutchoven back in the oven.
  • After 25-30 minutes your loaf should have risen quite a lot. You can now take off the lid or remove the bowl with water, so that your loaf can get crispy.
  • Bake it for another 25 minutes and it’s done!

If you can resist the temptation, you should definitely wait another hour at least to let it cool down before you slice it. Otherwise it will loose all its moisture and it will loose its structure.

Alternatives – Variations

This recipe is just one prototype: you can play around with different ratios of whole meal and white flour, and you can also try different types of flour, not only for the loaf itself but also for the sourdough starter! For example, rye is a good alternative (Although for the loaf you should start with a mix of wheat or spelt and rye flour, since rye gets very very sticky and is very difficult to work with.) You will get a different loaf and a different taste with each new try!

The golden rule is: just try it out! Even if you fail and your dough doesn’t rise properly, it will still always taste good, and with each time you will get better, improve your technique and knowledge.

Categories: Bread