Testing My New Sourdough

So it’s time to get to work on my new sourdough for our new local sourdough pizza restaurant Sodo.

My original plan was to just refresh it this weekend and then try baking with it later. However after my mum complained recently about the terrible quality of canteen bread I’ve decided to take her some nice bread when we visit this weekend.

So I’ve hit the books and blogs looking for advice on wheat starters: and boy are they different from rye! My rye sourdough is kept at 200% hydration, gets 6 times the weight added during refresh, and takes 12-24 hours to refresh. Most wheat starters seem to be kept around 100% hydration, get 2 times the weight added during refresh, and take only 4 hours to refresh. This matches well with the 90% hydration of the sourdough starter instructions I got from Sodo.

Then to complicate matters I read the book that my rye sourdough comes from: Bread Matters. In it Andrew Whitley recommends a 50% hydration starter, and helpfully gives a simple system for refreshing and making a basic sourdough loaf. Given how well his rye version worked, I trust him with my new starter. Problem is I really want a roughly 100% hydration starter to make it easier to follow recipes that assume that sort of level…

So what to do? The obvious answer is that I’m going to become the sort of person who has 3 different types of sourdough starter in their fridge…

Let’s start with the easy Bread Matters version where I have simple instructions for what to do. His mix of white and wholemeal flour is similar to the Sodo recipe, plus he suggests a variant with some rye, which is also in the Sodo starter, so I’m going with that version. The refresh consists of:

  • 160g starter @ 50% hydration (although this first time it will be the 90% from the  Sodo starter)
  • 125g white bread flour
  • 50g wholemeal bread flour
  • 25g rye flour
  • 120g water

This gets mixed together and allowed to rise for 4 hours in w warm place. Apparently it shouldn’t be allowed to over-rise and collapse, so you have to be careful in very warm weather, and probably only rise for 3 hours.

This gives 480g of refreshed starter.

To bake a basic sourdough loaf you need:

  • 300g refreshed starter (the other 180g goes back in the fridge)
  • 300g white bread flour
  • 100g wholemeal flour
  • 7g salt
  • 300g water


Note that there’s no rye in here, as he suggest you refresh with that just help get a better yeast reaction, rather than being added for flavour. I can always experiment with rye for the actual loaf once I’ve got the basics down.

Everything but the starter gets mixed together and kneaded. Only once it’s formed a dough do you mix and knead the starter in. This will still be sticky after kneading (so I plan on using the mixer!).

You then wet a counter top and place the dough on it, and cover it with a wet plastic bowl, and leave for an hour for the gluten to form. I think I see what’s going on here: there’s some of that autolyse trickery going on!


Anyway after an hour you do some stretch and folding (also often used with the autolyse trickery). You stretch out one edge of the dough as far and you can, then fold on top, and you repeat until you’ve done left/right/up/down. This is often repeated in what’s called the ‘stretch and fold’ method, but in this recipe it’s only done once (probably because some kneading takes place earlier).


After the stretch and fold you roll the dough in wholemeal flour and put in an oil-sprayed plastic bowl (as my banneton is being used for the other loaf!) to proof for 4 hours or so.


After 3 hours I’ll put the new baking stone in the oven and heat for an hour at the maximum 230C fan.


Then you turn it out gently onto a baking sheet, score the top, and transfer to the oven.


In theory… The dough was incredibly wet, and stuck to the bowl when I turned it out. Try to score it was pretty pointless as it just flowed back in on itself! And then when I put it into the oven the dough was over the edge of the baking stone… I’d have been better off using the old thin round one! Not much I can do about that now… so I carry on.

Once in the oven I turn it down to 200C fan and bake for 10 minutes, then down to 180C fan for another 30 minutes “until a nice brown crust has formed”. Well we’ll see…

After time was up it didn’t look that browned, so I gave it an extra 10 minutes. Then I checked the temperature… high 90s! Maybe it didn’t need the extra 10 minutes…


Well it’s certainly got that rustic artisan look!

So now onto the more free-form territory of trying to do a roughly 100% hydration version based on the numbers I was given the by guys at Sodo. They converted their recipe that’s all in bakers’ percentages down to what they thought would be a more appropriate amount for a home baker. However as their version would give me 2kg of starter on a refresh I had to divide it a few times!

So for the basic refresh I get:

  • 250g old starter @ 90% hydration
  • 175g white bread flour
  • 50g wholemeal bread flour
  • 25g rye flour
  • 225g water

This all gets mixed together and, as per the blogs I read, allowed to refresh in a warm place for 4-8 hours.

So far so simple… But now what? A tour of a number of books and blogs led to me find that most basic sourdough recipes have a 5/3/2 ratio of flour/starter/water. Or putting it in the strange bakers’ percentages:

  • 100% flour
  • 60% starter
  • 40% water

I’m really not sure that percentage is the appropriate description… Anyway, assuming I want a 1kg loaf (as bread matters uses) that means I’ll need:

  • 500g flour
    • I’m going for the authentic Sodo mix here, so…
    • 350g white bread flour
    • 100g wholemeal flour
    • 50g rye flour
  • 300g starter
  • 200g water
  • 10g salt

My plan was to copy from Bread Matter here and mix everything but the starter and knead, then add starter and knead (all in the mixer), then onto a wet counter under a wet bowl for an hour, then stretch and fold, then proof for 4 hours.

However the dough was much drier, so I’ve just given it a regular knead, rolled in wholemeal flour, and popped in the banneton to proof for 4+ hours before cooking.


Baking times and temperatures vary on every recipe I’ve read… so I’m just going with the Bread Matters system. As the stone is already 180C from the previous loaf I give it 20 minutes at 230C fan, then bake for 10 minutes at 200C fan then 30 minutes at 180C fan.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESNow that’s looking more like it! Proper bannetone shape and scored nicely.

Without the extra 10 minutes the bread was already in the mid-nighties.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESYay – it looks like a proper sourdough! It looks like I should have scored deeper to let it open up more, but still: looks the part :)


Next morning is time for testing. Let’s start with the crumb…


So the one that looks like a sourdough on the outside just looks like regular bread on the inside :( The ‘rustic’ one has the proper sourdough holes though.


The taste test involved some simple butter on the bread… plus scrambled eggs and sriracha! They both taste great and have a good crust.


Well they both aren’t quite right. The Bread Matters version is a nightmare to get in the oven, and doesn’t keep its shape. My version is much easier to handle and looks the part… until you cut into it.

Next time I’ll adjust the amount of water in them: less in the Bread Matters one and more in my Sodo one. My hope is that I can work out the Sodo version so I can just keep the 100% hydration starter and not have to mess about with the third starter!

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