Another sourdough experiment

Sourdough loafSourdough loaf

This is another sourdough experiment, continuing on from some previous experiments I made on this San Francisco sourdough recipe, thanks to the weekend bakery website. I was previously experimenting with different levels of hydration and different approaches to shaping the dough after the first prove. This loaf is the 4th experiment, which I’ve finally gotten round to writing about (I’ve been getting distracted with brioche and laminated doughs!
So many croissants I have made!).

For this 4th experiment, I increased the hydration to 75%, to make a slightly wetter dough – and I found this made it easier to stretch and fold. It might possibly be due to the absorbency of the flour I was using, or possibly I’m getting too used to working with higher hydration doughs, but the original recipe at 66% hydration gave a really stiff dough. I also gave the dough an additional stretch and fold after the first rise, and was a little more firm in shaping it to get good surface tension.

Personally I think this is the best out of the four different loaves because it has a nice open crumb, the dough is not difficult to handle and the flavour is still great! The crumb is more open at the top of the loaf compared to the bottom, and I think this is a fairly common feature of all the sourdough experiments I’ve done with this recipe, so it’s either a result of uneven heat distribution in the oven (not fan assisted so this is possible) or maybe it’s in my technique!

The photos also provide evidence for the fact that some random neighbourhood cat also came by to have a look see (see picture on the right, above)! It stared at me for a long time so I stared back at it in the hope that it would interpret this as ‘this is not your territory!’.

This does take four days to make, but it’s worth it for the excellent flavour you get. And most of those days there’s minimal work so it sounds like a more arduous process than it really is! It is possible to scrimp a bit on the time the sponge is kept in the fridge, though this will give a less sour, less
developed flavour!

I’ve been trying to find a good staple sourdough loaf recipe, and I think this may be it!

The original recipe had excellent instructions for the time scale – here is a recap:

Day 1: At 11pm start preparing the starter/sponge and leave to ferment at room temperature for 9 hours.

Day 2: At 8am, put the sponge in the fridge, which is where it will stay for 34 hours. (Yes – 34 hours!)

Day 3: At 5pm, take the sponge out of the fridge and mix with the rest of the ingredients. Knead until just combined. Let rest for 15 minutes. Do one stretch and fold. Rest for another 15 minutes. Do another stretch and fold. Then let the dough rest for 40 minutes at room temperature. You should finish at 6.40pm – at this time put the dough back in the fridge til morning.

Day 4: At 10am, take the dough out of the fridge and leave to come to room temperature for two hours. At 12am shape the dough and place into the banneton. Let rise for about 3 hours, then you’re finally about ready to bake at around 3pm in the afternoon of Day 4.

Ingredients-wise, all I have altered from the original recipe is the amount of water used and the overall hydration level, as well as using strong wholemeal bread flour instead of spelt. I calculated that the original recipe contains 452g of flour overall, and 299g of water, so that’s about 66% hydration. I’ve added 40g of water to give 339g overall, instead of 299g – this gives the bread an overall 75% hydration.


24g sourdough starter (100% hydration – should be bubbly and active)
126g white bread flour
83g water

All of the sponge (total weight about 233g)
264g white bread flour
50g wholemeal bread flour
244g water
9g salt

Starting on day 1 of the plan at 11pm, mix the ingredients for the sponge starter together. Cover, and let stand at room temperature for 9 hours.

Day 2 at 8am, transfer this to the fridge, and leave to ferment for a further 34 hours.

Day 3 at 5pm, mix the sponge with the rest of the ingredients and knead until all the flour is incorporated (about 5 minutes). It doesn’t need to be kneaded for a long time because the slow rising periods and stretch and folds will develop the gluten for you. It may be helpful to mix the sponge with the water first, just to loosen it. Let the dough rest for 15 minutes. Then perform one stretch and fold. Rest for another 15 minutes. Do another stretch and fold. Then let the dough rest in a bowl (covered with cling film) for 40 minutes at room temperature. This should be finished at around 6.40pm according to the plan – at this time put the dough back in the fridge till morning (15 hours)

Day 4 at 10am, remove the dough from the fridge and let it warm to room temperature (about 2 hours). Then perform an extra stretch and fold and shape the dough. Roll it up tightly and stretch the surface to form a smooth skin. Place the smooth side face down in a well-floured banneton.

Sourdough loaf

(picture taken part-way through proofing – still a while to go!)

Cover lightly with cling film, and let rise at room temperature for about 3 hours (depending on temperature of your kitchen). Turn the dough out on to a baking tray/stone (I just use a baking tray).

Slash the top of the dough, and then bake for about 10 minutes in an oven preheated to 240C, then a further 30-35 minutes at 230C. It also makes a difference to put a pan of boiling water at the bottom of the oven at the same time as when you put the dough in, to encourage steam and good oven spring during the first ten minutes of baking. Take the pan out after 10-15 minutes (or when a crust has started to form on the dough).


sourdough loafsourdough loaf

sourdough loafsourdough toast

Pictures of slices of the crumb and a toasted slice! Yum! It IS a four day process of watching the dough develop – it’s really worth it dough!

I think it’s helpful to do because it really reminds you how robust sourdough is, yes it can spend all that time in the fridge and still be in good shape! Even better so, actually – in terms of flavour. It’s kind of like putting it through bread bootcamp!

And here’s the same loaf but pictured with the sourdough couronne made previously. There’s another shot of the crumb towards the centre of the loaf, which is a bit more evenly distributed I think:

sourdough baking

Thanks for having a look 🙂


4 thoughts on “Another sourdough experiment

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