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Lyn just left me a comment asking for my basic sourdough recipe, and I realised that I’ve never posted it here before!  Just for reference, here are formulas I use for almost all my sourdough baking.

Starter

I bought my sourdough starter from the US, and it arrived as a small envelope of white flakes. These were rehydrated by mixing the flakes with flour and water over a period of several days.

Now that it is mature, I feed my starter at a ratio of one cup of water to one cup of flour.  I’ve often thought about changing it to equal water and flour by weight (ie. 100g flour to 100g water), but I started with the former ratio, and it would be difficult to change all my formulas now.  In addition, my very liquid starter has never blown its top or grown out of the bowl it was being fed in.

Hydration

Most of the bread I bake uses a high hydration dough.

A quick explanation (with apologies to all my breadbaking friends who already know this) – the hydration of the dough refers to the percentage of total liquid to flour.  So if a dough has 750g of liquid (water, oil, milk etc) to 1kg of flour, the hydration of the dough would be 75%.  This is slightly more complicated with sourdough, as the amount of water and flour in the starter needs to be taken into account as well.

Higher hydration doughs are wetter and can therefore be harder to manipulate and knead.  I use the flip and fold kneading method for wet doughs (as described here), whereas lower hydration doughs require an old-fashioned pummelling.

Here is my standard formula for almost all the sourdough breads I’ve posted here – loaves, baguettes, scrolls, epi and more.  The sourdough focaccia is an exception, as it uses both starter and yeast, and follows the Dan Lepard recipe that Joanna posted on her blog recently.

. . . . .

Celia’s Sourdough Formula (74% hydration)

  • 200g starter (fed at a ratio of one cup water to one cup bakers flour)
  • 400g water
  • 50g olive oil
  • 700g bakers (bread) flour, or combination of flours
  • 10g fine sea salt

I routinely use a mix of flours in this recipe, and will often make the following variations:

  • half spelt flour, half bakers flour
  • 10% dark organic rye flour, 90% bakers flour
  • 500g bakers flour, 200g chestnut flour (see more here)

In conjunction with my starter (and so much of the look and taste of the finished loaf is determined by the starter), this 74% formula will produce a well risen, holey loaf with a chewy texture that my family loves.

. . . . .

When I need a lower hydration dough – useful if I’m trying to create a finished loaf that holds its shape or slashes – this is the formula I use.  It’s the dough I make when I’m shaping cottage loaves – a wet dough won’t work in that instance, as the two storeys simply prove into one amorphous blob.

Celia’s Sourdough Formula (60% hydration)

  • 300g starter (fed at a ratio of one cup water to one cup bakers flour)
  • 1kg bakers (bread) flour
  • 430g water
  • 50g oil
  • 15g fine sea salt

This lower hydration dough requires a more traditional kneading method, as it’s too firm to flip and fold.  It is a much easier dough to handle, and therefore a good formula to begin baking sourdough with, although it will produce quite a closed, tight crumb rather than a holey one.

One final note – out of personal preference, I’ve reduced the amount of salt in my sourdough breads.  The usual quantity of salt added is 10g per 500g flour, but I’ve reduced that to 7g. I thought it prudent given the large quantities of bread my sons eat every day!

Please feel free to ask any questions – I have so many wonderful breadbaking friends who check in here, so if it’s something I don’t know the answer too, I’m sure one of them will be able to help!

Edit: At Lyn’s request, here are brief instructions I wrote some time ago on how I make my 74% hydration sourdough.   They’re a little rough, but I don’t have time at the moment to edit them, so I hope you’ll excuse the lack of polish.  The instructions were written for a friend who was starting with dried starter – obviously if your starter is already active, it’s not necessary to feed it up for several days before using it.

Basic instructions for sourdough (74% hydration dough)

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