Sourdough - stay tuned, but don't hold your breath

13 August 2010
I rarely give up on anything.  I like to think that when a difficult household task presents itself,  I step up and work out ways around the problem.  Eventually I get things done.  Nothing should be too difficult.  Enter the sour dough loaf.  Grrrrrrr.  Over the years I have tried to make good sourdough.  I've made sourdough, but none of it is what I would call good.  If I get the taste right, the texture is not good.  If the texture is great, the loaf looks like a science project.  When I bought the artisan bread in five minutes book and used that recipe and method, I didn't like the taste at all.

I am fortunate to be part of my blog neighbourhood.  Recently one of my blog neighbours sent me a sourdough starter.  His name is Henry.  Henry has been producing good bread and developing in flavour for a number of years.  I renamed Henry, Martha, daughter of Henry, and have been carefully tending her since she arrived. 

Henry arrived safe and sound after a long trip from Victoria.

I read the note that came with him and followed the instructions.  This is Martha, daughter of Henry, after her first feed and in her new container.

Yesterday I made my first loaf using some of Martha - I was aiming for a sandwich loaf similar to the one produced in a bakery near here. I'll let the pictures tell the story.

As soon as I saw the texture of the bread, I knew I hadn't left it rise long enough.  I'll fix that today.  I also cut it the wrong way, again, I'll fix that.  And to be honest, we did eat the bread; the taste was good but the texture was a bit rubbery and dense.  So I'm guessing the starter is giving me the taste we want, I just have to work on my times, and I need to start the loaf earlier than my regular bread.  I also need to read more about hydration rates and I must be more accurate with weights. It's definitely given me a lot to think about, and that's not a bad thing.

I would like to make a loaf like this.  We are having Hanno's 70th birthday next month and I'd like to have a few of these loaves sitting on the table for everyone to enjoy.  I think I'll go back to making the sourdough in my cast iron pot, instead of the regular bread tin for now.  I WILL master this.  Stay tuned, but don't hold your breath.


  1. I have been adventuring back into daily bread making after a break for a few years- my babies were my excuse. My family is really enjoying homemade bread and I have been experimenting with different breads, I been making wonderful pita pocket bread all week that the kids love. I have also been trying to make a sourdough starter. Unfortunately every attempt has ended with mould on it before the first feed. I have been reading through and have some ideas on what to do next but haven't tried it again yet. Your post has given me the inspiration to do it today, thanks.
    Good luck with your sourdough bread.

  2. Hang in there! I was told some years ago that I could not make "good sourdough bread" in Arizona - too dry, too hot, whatever. I have done it - it took some trial and error, but it is GOOD sourdough bread! I began my first starter in 1968 and it moved from Arizona to Louisiana, back to Arizona, then to New Mexico and was going strong until some time in the early 80s when someone threw it out, thinking it was something that had gone bad! AAACCCKKK!!! I had to start over. Fortunately a good friend had been given some of my starter a couple of years before and she gifted me some back. I am pleased to say it is still going strong! Karin

  3. I love sourdough making, although I aim for a regular style loaf also.

    Not knowing what your instructions were for your starter, I always make a "sponge" before I make the actual "dough".

    My method is pretty simple:

    1 cup starter
    1 cup warm water
    1 cup flour

    I mix these and leave overnight in a glass bowl - or in summer, it only needs 2 hours on the bench.

    To make the dough, add to sponge:

    2 tabs olive oil
    1 tea salt
    1 tab castor sugar
    2-3 cups flour

    For a really sour flavour, add 1 tablespoon of Horlicks powdered malt. This really changes the flavour and I add this in the final stage I make the dough.

    I do two rises like regular yeast bread, and wonder if this is why I don't get the holes of traditional sourdough? The entire process takes at least 24 hours.

    What I've read about sourdough, to make a proper loaf (flavour and crumb) it cannot be a rushed process. The longer the natural leavens can work on the food supply (ie: ingredients) the better the final product.

    But I'm really just a novice sourdough maker. I've been meaning to blog about the entire process I use, but winter is a terrible time to take photos in my kitchen. The light is awful.

    Anyway, glad to see your perseverance - I know you'll develop your own method that works for you. How natural leavens actually work, are really based on where you live and even what yeasts you give off your own body.

    It's really quite a personal process. :)

  4. I've been making my sourdough for 4 years now using an ancient starter that was given to me, it was passed down several generations so I dare not let it die. I stick to a free form vienna style loaf, slashed across the top. I make the dough early in the day and allow at least 8 hours for rising. I've never achieved a high rise sandwich style loaf but the taste of the bread more than makes up. The texture is so different to normal yeasted breads. The addition of fruit, nuts and a little sugar makes a sweet sourdough which does not last long in my household. My reference book is 'Wild Sourdough' by Yoke Mardewi. She also has a website Lots of good advice on starters and amazing recipes.

  5. we are just learning how to make sourdough too and have been using the sponge method mentioned by another poster. The loaves have a lovely taste but maybe are not quite as risen as yours?
    You can read about my efforts here:

  6. I think you are all very, very smart people WOW!Well done you inspire me to think of making Normal Bread.Thanks

  7. I must say that, while I love everything about this blog, I truly appreciate reading posts about your less-than-successful endeavors and even the occasional bad day. In no way whatsoever do I mean that I wish you difficulties or unhappiness, I just mean that seeing your vulnerable, human side endears you to me even more. I remember thinking a while back that you seem so perfect, always with the right answer and attitude, and I wondered if you ever had a bad day. Realistically, I already knew the answer, but it's really nice when you are able to share that aspect of your life as well. It's the very reason your blog seems so accessible, and more of conversation with a trusted friend than a how-to on simplicity. I love that! Thank you!

  8. Hi Rhonda,
    I too have tried to make a good sour dough over the years and haven't yet come up with a result that is pleasing (some of them have been down right disasters!) Watching with interest to see how your next batch turns out.
    Good luck :)

  9. Hi Rhonda,

    Sourdough does take a lot longer than commercial yeast.

    Something I do to work around that is actually make the dough the night before and rest it in the fridge overnight. Pull it out of the fridge in the morning, kneed vigorously for a few minutes just to help things start to warm up. Shape and leave to rise.

    The only problem with this might be if you are not real fond of sour. The long slow overnight ferment will bring forward the sour in your starter.

    Kind Regards

  10. I admire your perseverance, and thank you for the link to Sourdough Companion--I hadn't seen that site before, probably because I haven't made sourdough in many years, though before that I did make it for decades, and I never stopped feeling like a novice. The family liked it dense and very sour, and I was always trying to keep that extra-sour flavor and get some lightness as well--never could do it. We noticed the flavor changing some time after we moved closer to the ocean. You are encouraging me to get back to this again.

  11. Sourdough companion is a great site- lots of inspiring stuff in there all the time.
    Keep at it Rhonda, the loaf looks good. I'm still relatively new to the sourdough cooking but really and truly love it. The list of things to make with a starter are just endless. If you are after a more 'holey' crumb, try a few more folds in between the proving time.I find the more folds, the more air pockets. Are you doing an over night ferment?

  12. I haven't made sourdough for a while now but another good site is
    it is worth having a good look around this site, I learnt quite a lot from it, like weighing ingredients to help get a consistent result. The main thing I think is to keep making it, practice makes perfect (or nearly so)

  13. Hi Rhonda,
    I will also be watching to see how you go with your next attempt. I love sourdough but am another that has not mastered the art of making it even though I have made many attempts.. I am more or less at the give up stage.

  14. I like my sourdough to have the taste and texture of regular yeast bread. I seldom manage to get no sour in it, but it often tastes very good with good homemade bread crumb - but most sourdough lovers wouldn't like it much because... it just tastes like bread! My goal was to not add any kind of leavening agent like baking soda. I have reached my goal! Well ~ most of the time. :D

  15. I made a go at sourdough a while back. Although my starter seemed to be fine, it was just so darn slow at raising the bread that I eventually gave up and went back to commercial yeast.

    I was interested to learn, while reading up on starters, that a starter will eventually take on the microorganisms of its environment. So a mail-order starter from San Francisco will originally have the unique microorganisms that give San Francisco sourdough its unique flavor, but after a few weeks or months, those microorganisms will be taken over by whatever is local to your area, and eventually the exotic sourdough will be basically the same as one you had started on your kitchen counter. I've never personally compared so I can't say for sure, but it was interesting to read.

  16. sounds like time for salad croutons

  17. i'm coming back to this post, i want to make sourdough bread. thank you for the info!

  18. Snap. I have been working on no-knead high hydration breads recently, with varying results. Now I intend to try my first sour-dough starter and see what I can make from it. I wish you success with Martha: I thought the first loaf looked really good, but the proof is in the eating I guess.

  19. Oh Rhonda *I'm sure* you can succeed with this, stick with it!

    My son (age 12) and I are currently doing the Sourdough e-course at GNOWFGLINS (perhaps you should take the course Rhonda!). We have a starter each - mine is fed spelt, DS1 feeds his wholewheat. The starters are doing great, yesterday DS1 starter was so bubbly and lively we were very excited about it!

    We are just about to do our first attempt at a recipe - tortillas and tortilla chips. Bread comes several weeks along in the course. I do recommend the course, the tutors are just mums with lots of sourdough experience and they seem to be having wonderful success baking sourdough baked goods - including lots of bread - for their families :-)



    The link above is to the Breadtopia site. It helped me out alot when I was working on starting a sourdough bread. You can even order some dried or fresh sourdough from him. There are videos to watch and he really explains alot. Hope this helps. Terry

  21. Sadly, I had to move my blog to a private location. It won't stay private forever but I need blog reader's email address to approve them to read it. You can read my old blog spot for more details. I really hope you will continue to follow!

    here is the new link to my new blog:

  22. Hi -- I have recently switched my flour supplier, and have found that my sourdoughs are turning out like yours. It's a denser, but quite smooth texture, very similar to a NY bagel. I think you are right that it is a hydration issue because I have had to add much more water to my dough to get the right dough-texture, but then when I bake it, it has a very different crumb.
    Trial & error, I suppose.
    Your starter looks quite vigorous, given the crack on the side of the loaf.

  23. I think you and I are alot alike in the sour dough bread department. I WANT to like it because it's sooo good for you and I would like to not have to depend on yeast all the time. But I make it and...well, you know.

  24. I don't know if this will help you but I happened upon it and didn't think it would hurt to share. Good luck. :)

  25. I've been wanting to make sourdough bread for awhile now. I got a bread machine around Christmas, and I am really enjoying the homemade bread we make (which has been infrequent lately). I just told my husband I wanted sourdough, and saw your post, so now I will just have to make it!



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