How to make Sourdough Bread

How to make sourdough bread

Make your own homemade Sourdough Bread

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Learn how to make homemade sourdough bread using wild yeast, flour, salt, olive oil, & water.

The sourdough starter I made back in June is still going strong, even with a couple of long stints of living at the back of the fridge. The smell has definitely matured into what I’d describe as a warm yeasty wine and the flavor has only grown more delicious as time has gone on.

I’m feeding my starter about once a week now – either directly after using some of it for bread-making or sometimes by just replacing half of it with new feed (whole-meal flour and water). When I’m planning on not using it for awhile I put the starter into the fridge where the yeast’s metabolism will slow down and I’m able to leave it for up to a couple of weeks.

How to make Sourdough Bread

Sourdough Starter


Is Sourdough better?

Sourdough bread is a great alternative to conventional bread for a number of reasons. First of all, it’s said that sourdough is more nutrient rich and digestible than bread made from ordinary dry yeast. Sourdough is also a cost-effective option since if you treat it well, you can keep the same batch going for life, saving money on having to buy yeast in.

It’s a Labor of Love

The one real downside of sourdough is the time it takes you to make a loaf of bread. Making a loaf using dry yeast purchased at the shop takes approximately three to four hours start to finish. Sourdough yeast works at a much slower rate and so a finished loaf will need about twenty-four hours in total. Making sourdough is an exercise in patience.

How to make Sourdough Bread

The Sourdough Sponge after sitting in a warm place overnight


Sourdough Bread

Makes two loaves

To make the sponge
1 ladle (about 1/2 cup) Sourdough Starter
625 ml warm water
500g Strong Bread Flour

To make the dough
The sponge you made overnight
600g Strong Bread Flour
25g Sea Salt
1 Tbsp Olive oil

Step 1: Make the Sponge

The first step in making a loaf of sourdough takes place the day before you plan to bake it. You measure 500 grams of bread flour with 625 grams of warm water along with a ladle full of your sourdough starter into a bowl. Then mix it well, cover the bowl with an air-permeable layer, such as a cloth, and leave it in a warm place overnight. While you’re sleeping the yeast will be actively multiplying and by the time you wake up the entire mixture will essentially be a fresh batch of sourdough starter – technically called a sourdough sponge.

How to make Sourdough Bread

The dough is wetter than other bread doughs

Step 2: Make the Dough

You then mix into this sponge 600 grams more flour as well as the sea salt and olive oil which will then transform it into a dough. Knead it as you would any other bread dough – the only difference between this dough and others is that it is much wetter so flouring your hands and work surface are important.

After the kneading is complete the dough should be elastic, shiny and pliable and can be fairly manageable without leaving your hands covered in goo.

Step 3: Form the Dough

Now form your dough into a round ball, tucking any loose ends underneath; pour about a half teaspoon of olive oil on top and gently rub it all over the surface of your dough – this will help keep the dough from drying out.

How to make Sourdough Bread

Kneading the dough

Step 4: Let the Dough Rise

Rinse out your mixing bowl and fill it with hot water – leave it for a few minutes or until the heat has been absorbed by the bowl. Pour out the water, wipe the bowl down with a clean kitchen rag and oil the bowl with about a teaspoon of olive oil. Put your dough inside the bowl and place a damp kitchen rag over the top before placing it in a warm area of the house and allowing the dough to rise.

Step 5: Punching the Dough

After an hour, dump the dough out onto a clean work surface and punch it down flat with your fingertips. Form it back into a ball and place it back into the bowl with the damp cloth over it – leave it to rise for another hour before punching the gas out again. You’ll need to repeat this step four times.

How to make Sourdough Bread

Allowing the dough to rise


Step 6: Proof the Loaves

After the fourth rising and punching is complete, take your dough out of the bowl and divide it in two. Shape the loaves and place them into oiled containers to ‘Proof’ — basically to rise for the final time. You could use a bread tin that you plan on baking the bread in or a ‘Proofing Bowl’. That’s just a bowl that will help the dough maintain a shape while it’s rising. You’ll empty the dough onto a baking tray to bake if you’re using a proofing bowl.

Now put both of these containers of dough into a plastic bag, which helps keep the dough moist, and place them back into that warm part of the house to rise. This final rise will take anywhere from four to eight hours depending on a number of factors but mainly on the temperature of your home, how active the yeast is and how large you want the holes inside the bread to be. Ideally you want the dough to at least double in size.

How to make Sourdough Bread

Dividing the dough and moving to smaller supporting containers

How to make Sourdough Bread

How the dough looks after it’s final rise

Step 7: Prepare the Oven

When you think the dough is nearly ready, put a baking tray onto a rack in the oven and place a shallow pan that can hold liquid at the bottom of your oven. Now pre-heat your oven to 250°C/480°F.

When the oven has reached the right temperature you can slash the top of the dough in the loaf tin a few times – this optional step will allow it to expand easier when it’s baking. Next, heat about a cup of water boiling in the kettle and fill a clean food-safe spray bottle with cool water.

Step 8: Bake your Bread

Take the pre-heated baking tray out of the oven and up-end the dough from the bowl on top. It’s quite possible that the dough will flop out and go relatively flat. It will perk back up when it begins baking though.

Place both loaves in the oven and spray them lightly with water. Pour the boiling water into the pan you set at the bottom of the oven then close the oven up and bake for ten minutes. The steam from the water will help set the crust and keep your loaves moist as they bake.

After ten minutes, turn the temperature down to 180°C/350°F and keep baking for another 35 minutes. Take the bread out of the oven and allow to cool to room temperature before slicing.

How to make sourdough bread

Sourdough loaf

How to make Sourdough Bread

Sourdough made in a bread tin

17 Discussion to this post

  1. That looks delicious! I haven't made sourdough in a long time…you make me want to try it again!!!

  2. I might try this tanya – I do buy it from the supermarket and I love the taste. I do make spelt bread sometimes and I love it too.

  3. Heather – Maybe you have a friend who can give you a bit of her starter? It's much easier to start off if you don't have to begin completely from scratch!

    Pat – I haven't yet seen sourdough for sale in the shops on the Isle of Man – lucky you! I have a bag of spelt flour to experiment on myself but haven't tried it yet. Any tips for me?

  4. I read a novel once about a woman who was obsessed with sour dough bread – fascinating. My now deceased Italian neighbour had a starter that she had kept for years. I'm afraid I haven't enough patience for this – but well done you.

  5. Jo says:

    It looks delicious, but far too faffy for me, it takes me all my time to make a loaf in the breadmaker.

  6. Elaine – What an interesting sounding book…maybe you could pass the title on to me?

    Jo – Completely understandable 🙂 You do need to have a real dedication to sourdough to keep it going…as well as time!

  7. hello tanya
    your sourdough bread looks delicious.
    it reminds me on my sourdough.
    great blog.
    have a nice day,

  8. Skeeter says:

    You are making me hungry with all your bread and other goodies! I love sourdough bread but must admit, it looks like a lot of work. We have a bread machine that we play around with at times. But we do not eat the bread nearly quick enough and it drys out within a day or so. Only seems to be good when eaten as soon as it comes out of the oven. Banana bread seems to last longer though…

  9. Regina – Thank you 🙂

    Skeeter – Do you have a microwave? If so, store your bread-machine bread in there to keep it fresher for much longer! My microwave doubles as my bread bin and a homemade loaf can last a good week in there before going stale/mouldy.

  10. We often buy sourdough. This looks like a lovely rainy day recipe to try. I bet the smell of it baking is lovely.

  11. Lorna – It is lovely…and there's nothing like homemade 🙂

  12. Barbara dewoody says:

    What do you mean by putting the bread tin on top of the round tin?

  13. Petra says:

    I made my starter 2 weeks ago. I started last night and right now 4 loaves are on the 5th and final rise!!!! I have been studying various bakers on how to make sourdough, from pros to homemakers and your instructions were very clear and easy. I am 4 hours from putting them in the oven and they look lovely!!!! You are right, it is a commitment but it has been well worth it!!!! Thank you so much. I will post the outcome with my husband’s review….lol

  14. Petra says:

    Well, the sourdough bread is a Great Success with the husband!!! Thank you for the ideas for making other items with the extra starter. 🙂

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