Sourdough bread

Discover what makes sourdough bread unique, and the equipment you need to bake a beautiful loaf at home. If you need to learn how to make your sourdough starter click the text to find out more.

What is sourdough?

In its simplest form, sourdough is a leavened bread. This means there is a substance used to produce fermentation in the dough, which leads to the bread rising. 

With most breads, commercial yeast is the levain, whereas in sourdough, it is a starter made with naturally occurring yeasts.

To make sourdough bread, you need only a few key ingredients:

The process of making sourdough bread first involves making a starter which you can learn more about here.

It’s worth noting that there are numerous methods and recipes for making sourdough bread, and you’ll learn which way you prefer the more you bake. The recipe we’ve explained uses the folding method, and an overnight prove in the fridge.

Equipment you need for making sourdough

Sourdough Loaf Dutch Oven

There are a few key pieces of equipment which will make your sourdough experience easier and more efficient.

  • Preserving jar: This clip-top jar is ideal for sourdough starter. You can keep the lid ajar letting the starter breathe, and also keep securely closed when storing in the fridge. A glass jar is great for letting you see how much the starter has grown each day.
  • Dough scraper: Use a dough scraper to keep work surfaces clean from any excess dough and to portion your dough into loaves.
  • Banneton: A banneton bread proving basket turns out beautiful loaves of sourdough bread, with distinctive concentric ridges. The second prove develops the texture and shape of your bread, which is why you can do it in a banneton for perfectly shaped loaves with crunchy crusts.
  • Lame or scoring blade: Before baking your sourdough, you need to score it. This helps the bread expand. You can hold the blade in two ways, curved or straight, great for if you want to create patterns on your bread.
  • Dutch oven: For baking sourdough, you want a pan with a lid. The lid keeps the steam in, letting the bread rise. Cast iron is a great material as it retains high heat, perfect for achieving a crunchy crust.

    How is sourdough bread different from other bread?

    As well as being made with a levain, there are a few other key differences to sourdough bread:

    1. Sourdough bread is not made with commercial yeast, hence fewer ingredients, and some people find it easier to digest.
    2. The proving time for sourdough is a lot slower. The slow prove makes the final bread more flavourful, and also chewier.
    3. Sourdough bread keeps for longer before going stale.
    4. Studies of sourdough bakers’ hands show the microbes on their hands mirror that of the microbes in their starter, meaning the good bacteria is present when you eat and make the bread.

    How long should I prove sourdough bread for?

    Sourdough Prove

    Once you’ve got your dough ready, you can either bake straight away, or give the dough a second prove. This second prove is done in the fridge, overnight. A banneton helps the bread keep its shape, while the overnight prove lets the flavours slowly develop at a colder temperature. Even a few hours in the fridge is enough!

    How to bake sourdough bread

    When you bake the sourdough, you want the oven to be at its highest temperature and steamy. The steam prevents a crust forming at the start of cooking - giving the loaf the best chance to rise. And the high heat results in a crunchy, crackling crust. 

    If you don’t have a steam oven you can do in one of two ways:

    1. Bake the sourdough in a pre-heated dutch oven with a lid. The lid keeps in water that evaporates from the bread, so the Dutch oven fills with steam, giving the loaf the best chance to rise. 
    2. Place a roasting tin in the base of the oven, and 5 minutes before you put the bread in to the oven, pour a mug of boiling water into the roasting tin (taking care not to burn yourself as the steam evaporates)

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Can sourdough be frozen?

    It’s hard to resist sourdough when it’s fresh out of the oven, as it’s this point when the bread will have the crunchiest crust and chewy interior. If you won’t eat an entire loaf within a couple of days, it’s best to follow these instructions for freezing to prevent it from going stale.

    1. Slice your sourdough.
    2. Wrap each slice of bread in parchment paper, and place a few slices into a reusable freezer bag.
    3. When you want to eat it, remove from the freezer and leave to defrost at room temperature.

    Frozen sourdough bread is great for using for toast as well as making into breadcrumbs.

    Is sourdough bread better for you than other types of bread?

    When you’re making any kind of bread at home, it’s good because you know exactly what you’re putting into the dough, however sourdough has some slightly different properties.

    Gut health is the biggest claim people link to sourdough. Some people can react poorly to commercial yeast, however as the fermentation process in sourdough is much slower, it makes the gluten easier to digest, and, those who struggle to digest gluten, may find sourdough easier on the gut.

    Shop all bread making kit, and try our rye bread recipe.


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