Wednesday, 25 September 2013

How to make a sourdough loaf in 15 easy steps

Gluten! We loves it. Emmanuel Hadjiandreou.

This is following Emmanuel Hadjiandreou's technique. Which has worked like a dream for me. The great thing about his method is there is none of this throwing half the starter away rubbish. You don't have to waste flour. I always hated having to throw away starter.
Why is this? Effectively, once you have your live mother, you keep it in the fridge and just use a tiny bit every day to make a poolish or pre-ferment. (Yes poolish is connected to Poland. The person that invented this technique was a Polish baker living in France. Actually the French invented sourdough, someone took that to San Francisco, where they perfected their own sourdough). 

As stated in the last post How to cure a sick mother, you have taken 5g of your starter, and added 50g of flour (rye is best to get it going again, white is fine too) and 50g of luke warm water. You've covered it and left it over night.
You now have 105g of sourdough starter. But overnight your starter will have lost 10g so call it 95g.

What to do now?
1) Now take 75g of it. Put the rest back in the fridge. If you are not baking again for a while, you can add it back to your original revived mother. (If you are going to bake again very soon, you can keep the 20g and feed it with 50g of flour, 50g of water, leave overnight, do the whole cycle again.)

Get out your digital scales. Because you have some don't you? Seriously you need to buy these for any attempt at efficient baking. They don't cost much. I know my American readers are resistant to scales but look! You can buy them in America too! Only 25 bucks! You can change them from ounces to grams just for this recipe.
Babes, I want you all to be gram perfect. I want you to become anal about weighing. 

2) In a large bowl, add 150g of warm water to the 75g of sourdough starter.
Mix well. 

3) In a separate bowl add 250g strong white flour
4 g salt.
Mix well.

4) Add the flour/salt mix to the sourdough/water mix.
Mix well.
Leave for 10 minutes, covering with the other bowl. 

5) Then, ideally using a scraper, or your hands, start to shape the loaf.
(This is what baker Emmanuel Hadjiandreou does instead of kneading. But it works.)
Pull the side of your ball of dough outwards then tuck it into the centre. Moving the bowl around as you go, you do this 10 times going around the ball of dough.
If it starts to become stiff and the dough tears, then stop. 

6) Wait for the dough to relax for ten minutes, then do the pulling into the centre kneading technique again. Do this four times in total with a ten minute interval in between. 
At the end of this you should have a nicely smooth ball which is strong in structure and will rise.
Make sure you have scraped all the dough from the sides of the bowl into your round ball of dough.

7) Rest it for one hour.
8) Prepare your proving basket (I found this type works well, it ain't pretty like the others but the dough doesn't stick) or use a colander lined with cheesecloth, or a bread basket lined with a non-fluffy tea towel, by dusting it liberally, up the sides too, with wholemeal or rye flour. If you've only white flour, use that. This must be well coated with flour as you don't want your loaf to stick.

9) Dust the dough ball with wholemeal or rye flour (or white if you have nothing else).
Scoop it into your already prepared proving basket or the cheesecloth lined colander. 

10) Then leave this to proof for 3 to 6 hours or overnight or until doubled in size.

11) Preheat your oven to 250C. Place a shallow tray in the bottom and a flat baking tray in the middle.
12) When hot:
Place the dough ball, flipping it over, onto a pre-heated baking tray, dusted with semolina. 

13) Slash the top with a corrugated knife. (I always forget this.)

14) Bake at 250C, adding a cup of tap water into the hot tray placed into the bottom of the oven. This creates steam and gives you a crust.
After 10 minutes lower to 220C. (If you have an Aga, put in the cool shelf.)
Bake for 30 minutes in all.
Knock on bottom, it should sound hollow. You want a deep bassy sound. Emmanuel thinks we underbake loaves in this country. 

15) Place on cooling rack.
When cool, slice and enjoy. If you are impatient and can't wait till it cools, don't slice from the middle, slice from the end. While it's cooling you see, it's still baking inside, even though it isn't in the oven. 

Good resources in the UK: 
Bakery Bits (ships worldwide)
Emmanuel Hadjiandreou and others in:
North West London at The Baking Lab
or Nottinghamshire at the School of Artisan Food 
London and other places: Jane Mason's Virtuous Bread
Northhampton: Juniper and Rose cookery school (lessons by Dan Lepard and Vanessa Kimbell)

A note: The teen made her first sourdough loaf last week using this method. I do believe, after learning to read, write, count, use a computer, that teaching your kids to bake bread is one of the most useful things a parent can do for a child. It should be obligatory at school. 
I do recommend getting a hands on lesson if you can afford it. It made all the difference for me. 
I baked these this morning. Yeah I forgot to slash again.


  1. I used to work in a bakery. It's a really good idea to slash them because you get a more even and often better rise in the oven. You do have to use a really sharp serrated knife and be confident with it.

    1. It's not lack of confidence, I literally forget every time.

  2. I always had a problem with my dough spreading out and not having much oven spring (the initial burst of rising when the heat hits the dough and it begins to bake). My oven isn't up to scratch basically, so now I always use a cast iron lidded pot (think some people call them Dutch pots), so creating an oven in my oven.

    I put the pot with lid in the oven to heat up. Once oven reaches temperature, I tip the dough into the pot, slash the top if I remember to, replace lid and bake at 250C for 35 mins, then remove the lid, lower oven temp to 220C and bake for further 25 mins.. I make a loaf twice the size of the one in your recipe, so that's why the baking times longer, so adjust to suit a smaller loaf. I get really reliable results this way and great oven spring.

    1. I did the Dutch oven technique for a while but with Emmanuel's technique I now have well structured loaves that don't spread out into pancakes. I like this size loaf, it's perfect for someone living alone too!

    2. I'm very fond of my retro English Electric 60's oven (with teal coloured splashback) and I've learnt how to get good results from it. No doubt most people are more up to date than I am and have ovens that are more efficient.

  3. Thank you twice over - for the chef-resurrection advice and also for this recipe, both of which worked a treat. So little effort compared with other sticky-sourdough-up-to-the-elbows experiences I've had. Plus a really great crust.

  4. Great, thats look easy steps. Thanks ;)

  5. Thanks for that. Just want to point out that the French did not invent sourdough. Sourdough goes back to ancient Egypt. Before sourdough was discovered they only ate unleavened bread. Then in Ancient Egypt it was discovered that flour and water mixed together and left for a few days began to bubble and rise. Leavened bread was born. Yes, many methodologies have been invented over the years of which Poolish is one but by no means does this mean Sourdough is French.

  6. Hi, can you explain what do you mean by doesn't need to throw away half of the starter? Do you mean in the process of culturing the starter we dont need to discard any at all? At which day of the starter can I start this? Thanks.

    1. Once you have a starter, however long it has taken you to make, or get one from someone else, usually the technique is to keep 'refreshing' it by throwing away most of it and adding flour and water. With this technique, you make a pre-ferment and you need very little starter to get a pre-ferment going. Literally a few grams.

    2. Hi,

      Can I ask you at what stage you're at. Do you wish to make a starter or do you have one and wish to bake with it?

      In the process of making a starter, and keeping it, many find they have to discard to stop building too much. But with careful management we can keep this to a minimum or not at all. Depends on how often you bake and how you use it.

      If you wish on more advice then feel free to ask.

    3. Gee thanks for the patronising comment

    4. Do you mean my comment replying to original question by Anonymous!

    5. I didn't realise you were replying to another Anonymous! Sorry! (why is everyone bloody anonymous anyway?)

  7. Great, thats look easy steps. Thanks ;)

  8. late posting:
    The starter has to be fairly active to get the major ferment going, which is why I thought folks kept it refreshed.... and wasted a lot of flour.....
    going to give it a go as I am a Dutch pot user, my freestyles blow out one side.... not a good look.
    Good stuff K

    1. Haha...yeah mine aren't beautiful shapes either. Got to back on the sourdough thing this autumn. Too darned hot right now.

  9. Do you have a gluten free sourdough recipe?


    1. I don't, I'm sorry. I've made gluten free bread once, using Doves gluten free flour. It made me feel extra sorry for all the coeliacs!

    2. I'm never sure about Rye. Is rye OK?

    3. Rye has gluten in it. But you can make sourdough with rye.

    4. If sourdough rye is OK then should be quite easy. The trick with rye is very high hydration and make it like a cake. Prepare your rye starter, mix everything into a batter, go straight into final proofing and bake. You need to go as high as 90% hydration. So off the top of my head...

      500g rye flour
      442g water
      10g salt
      150g mature rye starter at 100% hydration

      Prepare your rye starter the night before: 30g starter + 60g rye flour + 60g water

      Next morning...

      In your dough bowl mix the 150g mature rye starter into 442g water.
      In another bowl mix the 500g rye flour and 10g salt then add to the starter/water mix.
      Stir until completely incorporated and its a thick batter.
      Then transfer to suitable loaf tin and smooth over.
      Then go straight into final proofing. When small wholes begin to appear on top it is ready to bake in a preheated oven. But don't wait till too many appear.
      Or you could sprinkle with rye flour after you have transferred it into a loaf tin and when it rises the flour will crack and look like a map. It'll be ready to bake.

      I think I have an all rye sourdough with raisins recipe which I'll have to find. I'll post it asap.

  10. Raisin Rye Bread by Emmanuel Hadjiandreou


    150g dark rye flour
    100g rye sourdough starter
    200g + 1 tablespoon cold water
    200g dark rye flour
    6g salt
    200g sultanas / golden raisins
    150g hot water (not boiling, hot!)

    900g loaf pan greased.


    1. In a bowl mix the 150g dark rye flour + starter + 200g and 1 tablespoon water. Cover and leave to ferment overnight. This is the wet mixture.

    2. Next day... In another bowl mix the 200g dark rye flour + salt + sultanas. This is the dry mixture.

    3. Tip the dry mixture into the wet mixture. Do not mix yet!

    4. Carefully pour the 150g hot water over the dry mixture.

    5. Quickly mix together and form thick batter.

    6. Spoon the mixture into prepared loaf pan.

    7. Dip plastic scraper or spoon into water and smooth over.

    8. Cover and let rise for about 2 hours.

    9. About 15 minutes before baking preheat oven to 240C (475F). Place a roasting pan on the bottom of the oven to preheat. Fill a cup with water and set to one side.

    10. When the dough has finished rising remove the covering.

    11. Place the loaf in preheated oven, pour the cup of water into the roasting pan and lower the temperature to 220C (425F).

    12. Bake for about 30 minutes or until brown.

    13. Take the loaf out of the pan and set on wire rack to cool.

    14. Bon Appetite :)

  11. I tried Hadjiandreou's starter method. I did the tablespoon from the mother and added 1 cup of flour and 2/3 water. Bubbled beautifully but then as a dough (in both proofs using Ed Wood's recipe) it did not rise. Only rose a bit in the final baking, and that not much.

    1. hmm. I know what you mean. After a while I had the same problem. I'm not sure why.

    2. If the starter bubbles then the bread will rise. However there are so many variables one must take into account...

      1. Are you allowing the starter to mature enough?
      2. Going by the dough and not the clock have you allowed enough time for the bulk ferment?
      3. Again, judging by the dough and not the clock, have you allowed enough time for final proofing?

      Judging by the minimal info given it sounds as if you've under done the starter build or bulk ferment. Everyone's starter is unique and you need to learn what the starter and dough, looks and feels like, during each stage.

      As a very brief guide you should do the following...

      1. Starter should peak and just begin to fall.
      2. Or you can drop a bit of starter into some water and see if it flats.
      3. The dough should have full gluten formation and be aireated before going onto final proofing.
      4. Gluten formation is done when you gently press the dough and it springs back immediately.
      5. It'll have fine veins in the dough.
      6. It'll be billowy but not necessarily doubled.

      Try and try again. Best of luck.

  12. I have made bread from this recipe and it has been good !! But there is one thing I am not certain about....I keep the 'mother' in the fridge and have had it for 2 moinths now without problem and when I want to make bread, I take 15g and mix it with 150g flour and 150g warm water to create the 'poolish'. However, as I only makee one loaf at a time, I have loads of 'poolish' left. Do I just throw this away ?

  13. I have made bread with this recipe and it is very good but I have one little area where I am not clear:

    I use 15g of 'mother' mixed with 150g flour and 150g warm water to create the 'poolish' but as I only make one loaf at a time, I have too much 'poolish'. What do I do with this, throw it away?


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