Sourdough – Update from December Daring Bakers Challenge

January 26th, 2012

I made the sourdough from the December Daring Bakers Challenge very soon after my last post about it. Although it did not really turn out particularly well, so I sort of held back on this post. And the next challenge is to be posted in tomorrow!

Back to the sourdough. After having the sourdough starter go mouldy whilst I was sick, I made sure this one didn’t. The starter was nice and bubbly and certainly smelt quite sour, so I was hoping I had nice active yeast in the mix.

My First Sourdough - not so great looking

My first bread came out of the oven – and it hadn’t risen as much as I had hoped, I still crossed my fingers, although after cutting it through, we found it was still quite dough-y inside. Nice flavour, but texture was all wrong. I still have the starter dough though, and Nick has been making bread every weekend with it – although adding yeast to it – and it has been rising quite well. I wish I could part more information for you on troubleshooting, although as a newbie myself, I am just going to try and keep the starter and continue to feed it and hope the yeast becomes happier. At the moment I have it in the fridge, as I am a little scared I will forget about it on the bench and it will mould again.

Even though the texture of this first bread was not so great, I still made the mushrooms from the given recipes and added some goats cheese on top, and you could hardly notice the bread’s heaviness once it was grilled and had a lovely topping on it.

Nick's sourdough - with a little yeast added

Thanks to our host (Jessica of My Recipe Project) for last month’s challenge – we are finally making sourdough – and I might just have the confidence to make more starter doughs…? 🙂

French Country Bread

Servings: 1 large loaf plus extra wheat starter for further baking

Wheat Starter – Day 1:
4 1/2 tablespoons (70 ml) (40 gm/1 ½ oz) stoneground breadmaking whole-wheat or graham flour
3 tablespoons (45 ml) water
Total scant ½ cup (115 ml) (3 oz/85 gm)

1. In a Tupperware or plastic container, mix the flour and water into a paste.
2. Set the lid on top gently, cover with a plastic bag, to prevent messes in case it grows more than expected!
3. Set somewhere warm (around 86 F if possible). I sometimes put mine on a windowsill near a radiator, but even if it’s not that warm, you’ll still get a starter going – it might just take longer.

Wheat Starter – Day 2:
4 1/2 tablespoons (70 ml) (40 gm/1 ½ oz) stoneground breadmaking whole-wheat or graham flour
3 tablespoons (45 ml) water
scant 1/2 cup (115 ml) (3 oz/85 gm) starter from Day 1
Total scant cup (230 ml) (6 oz/170 gm)

1. Stir the flour and water into the mixture from Day 1, cover, and return to its warm place.

Wheat Starter – Day 3:
4 1/2 tablespoons (70 ml) (40 gm/1 ½ oz) stoneground breadmaking whole-wheat or graham flour
4 teaspoons (20 ml) water
scant 1 cup (230 ml) (6 oz/170 gm) starter from Day 2
Total 1⅓ cup (320 ml) (230 gm/8-1/10 oz)

1. Stir the flour and water into the mixture from Day 2, cover, and return to its warm place.

Wheat Starter – Day 4:
3/4 cup plus 1½ tablespoons (205 ml) (120 gm/4 ¼ oz) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup less 4 teaspoons (100 ml) water
1⅓ cup (320 ml) (230 gm/8 oz) starter from Day 3
Total scant 2⅔ cup (625 ml) (440 gm/15½ oz)

1. Stir the flour and water into the mixture from Day 3, cover, and return to its warm place. At this point it should be bubbling and smell yeasty. If not, repeat this process for a further day or so until it is!

French Country Bread
Stage 1: Refreshing the leaven
1 cup less 1 tablespoon (225 ml) (160 gm/5 ⅔ oz) wheat Leaven Starter
6 tablespoons less 1 teaspoon (85 ml) (50 gm/1¾ oz) stoneground bread making whole-wheat or graham flour
1 cup plus 2 teaspoons (250 ml) (150 gm/5 ⅓ oz) unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 cup (120 ml) water
Production Leaven Total 2¾ cups plus 4 teaspoons (680 ml) (480 gm /1 lb 1 oz)

1. Mix everything into a sloppy dough. It may be fairly stiff at this stage. Cover and set aside for 4 hours, until bubbling and expanded slightly.

French Country Bread

Stage 2: Making the final dough
3/4 cup less 1 teaspoon (175 ml) (100 gm/3 ½ oz) stoneground breadmaking whole-wheat or graham flour, plus more for dusting
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (510 ml) (300gm/10 ½ oz) unbleached all-purpose flour
1¼ teaspoons (7½ ml) (7 gm/¼ oz) sea salt or ⅔ teaspoon (3⅓ ml) (3 gm/⅛ oz) table salt
1 ¼ cups (300 ml) water
1 ¾ cups (425 ml) (300 gm/10 ½ oz) production leaven – this should leave some (1 cup) for your next loaf.
Total 6 cups less 2 tablespoons 1415 ml (1007 gm/35 ½ oz/2 lb 3½ oz)

1. Mix the dough with all the ingredients except the production leaven. It will be a soft dough.
2. Knead on an UNFLOURED surface for about 8-10 minutes, getting the tips of your fingers wet if you need to. You can use dough scrapers to stretch and fold the dough at this stage, or air knead if you prefer. Basically, you want to stretch the dough and fold it over itself repeatedly until you have a smoother, more elastic dough.
See my demonstration here:
3. Smooth your dough into a circle, then scoop your production leaven into the centre. You want to fold the edges of the dough up to incorporate the leaven, but this might be a messy process. Knead for a couple minutes until the leaven is fully incorporated in the dough. See my demonstration here:

production leaven

4. Spread some water on a clean bit of your work surface and lay the dough on top. Cover with an upturned bowl, lining the rim of the bowl with a bit of water. Leave for an hour, so that the gluten can develop and the yeasts can begin to aerate the dough.
5. Once your dough has rested, you can begin to stretch and fold it. Using wet hands and a dough scraper, stretch the dough away from you as far as you can without breaking it and fold it back in on itself. Repeat this in each direction, to the right, towards you, and to the left. This will help create a more ‘vertical’ dough, ready for proofing. See my demonstration here:
6. Heavily flour a banneton/proofing basket with whole wheat flour and rest your dough, seam side up, in the basket. Put the basket in a large plastic bag, inflate it, and seal it. Set aside somewhere warm for 3-5 hours, or until it has expanded a fair bit. It is ready to bake when the dough responds to a gently poke by slowly pressing back to shape.

7. Preheat the oven to hot 425°F/220°C/gas mark 7. Line a baking sheet with parchment, then carefully invert the dough onto the sheet. I like to put the baking sheet on top of the basket, then gently flip it over so as to disturb the dough as little as possible. Make 2-3 cuts on top of the loaf and bake for 40-50 minutes, reducing the temperature to moderately hot 400°F/200°C/gas mark 6 after 10 minutes.

8. Cool on a cooling rack.

Garlic and Oregano Roasted Mushrooms and Pancetta on Toasted Sourdough

Servings: 4

4 large or 8 medium field mushrooms, sliced
2 red onions, peeled and cut into wedges
2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
4 sprigs oregano, leaves only
100 gm (3 ½ oz) pancetta, cubed (optional)
2 tablespoons (30 ml) extra virgin olive oil
4 slices sourdough bread
butter, for spreading
freshly ground black pepper
sea salt

1. Preheat the oven to moderately hot 400°F/200°C/gas mark 6. Place the mushrooms on an oiled baking sheet, with onion wedges scattered beneath them. Sprinkle over the garlic, oregano, and pancetta, drizzle with olive oil and season with black pepper and sea salt. Roast for 25 minutes until the mushrooms are tender.
2. Toast your bread in the toaster. Butter the toast, and then pile your mushroom mixture on top.

A Twist: Instead of roasting your mushrooms, you can also sauté them in a pan and, just before serving, stir in a dash of cream for a rich, warm treat!


  1. Choclette says:

    It takes a while to get the knack of sourdough – it did me anyway – a couple more attempts though and you’ll never look back. Your sourdough topping looks delicious.

  2. Jeanne says:

    It looks pretty good, especially with the mushroom topping! Sourdough can be so tricky. It took me about a year to finally get my starter to raise itself. I had no idea what was wrong with my starter until one day I started using a different brand of flour and suddenly my starter got lots of energy! Just keep experimenting, you’re on the right track! 🙂

  3. Jenni says:

    Congratulations on your first loaf! It looks pretty good! Just keep feeding it and it will get better. And try a different recipe, I found that the given recipe was a hard one. Check out Wild Yeast and Bewitching Kitchen for some good loaves, that is where I usually get my recipes from. And remember to keep your dough nice and toasty warm while proofing!

  4. Congratulations on your sourdough efforts – it’s on my list of things to try baking in 2012 so I’m lapping up all the information I can get!

  5. marcellina says:

    Congratulations on your persistence! It took me a while to realise how long it takes for sourdough bread to rise ( like 5 hours!). And I killed 2 of my starters but after a while you realise they like a lot of warmth and sometimes need to be fed more often. Good luck! Though I not sure I would make sourdough all the time I still enjoyed it and have my starter still going.

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