Sourdough recipe

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On a slightly different tack from most of the content on this site, I've had quite a few requests for my sourdough recipe cheekyso I thought I'd put it here...

I've been making sourdough from a rye-based starter for the past 6 years... I got the starter from Neville Chun (based in Wellington) through Trademe originally - was inspired by the series of interviews with him on RNZ, although you can create your own, too - all you need is water and rye flour in a bowl, some time, and an open window...

I usually my loaves proof in bannetons I got from Neville (via Trademe)...

Care and feeding of rye sourdough

The starter I use needs to be fed rye flour to keep it healthy and consistent, but the rye starter also loves wheat flour, so you can make all kinds of bread with it...

Storing it

I store my starter in a bigger glass or plastic jar (I use a screwtop home-made yoghurt making plastic container, but use whatever you've got handy with a lid).

I keep it refrigerated most of the time, just take it out the day before making a batch. Right after taking it out, I feed it. Usually right before putting it away again, I do the same.

When you get it out of the fridge, especially after sitting for a few days in there, you might have some dark liquid at the top - that's normal - just pour it off (don't worry if you lose a bit of the mixture

Feeding it

To feed it, I just add some water, say half a cup or so, and a similar amount of rye flour. You can always add more water and flour in more-or-less equal parts if you're running low. I stir it in with
chopsticks. The consistency should be like a very loose pancake batter. It should smell slightly tangy but quite pleasant... if it smells bad/foul, something's gone wrong (hasn't happened to me in 6 years, for what it's worth).

After you've fed it, if it's warm (i.e. not in the fridge) it'll perk up in an hour or two, and will even get a bit frothy.


My recipe is simple (and I play around with it quite a lot)... I have a little $20 digital cooking scale that I weight ingredients on - I recommend using them. The basic recipe - mixed in a plastic or ceramic bowl (not metal) with a wooden spoon (best to avoid using metal with sourdough), added in this order:

  • 720g flour (usually about 550g "strong" high grade white flour + other flours depending on my whim, including rye, spelt, buckwheat, and whatever else you think might be nice!)
  • 16g sea salt
  • 200g sourdough starter (warmed to comfortable room temperature (~20ish Celsius) and active) (if you're having trouble with it rising fast enough, sprinkle a teaspoon of active dried yeast on top of it) - update 2020-03-28: lately, to achieve a lighter loaf, I've been using a "premix" of 100g white flour and 100g water and 30g starter, allowed to site for a couple hours to "take". It gets poured into the mixture the same way.
  • 430g tap water (we have pure water here in Chch, in other places with chlorinated water, you could let it sit first, as it might affect the flavour, but it doesn't seem to affect the "bug" (the sourdough culture)). Note: lately (in 2021), I've been using extra water - up to 500g instead of 430, to get a looser dough. I then use my stainless dough scraper/cutter to scrape it off the bench top and fold it rather than my hands as it's too sticky. Once it's been mixed up, I pile it high and put the bowl I originally mixed it in over it (upside down) to keep it contained, and then check it every hour or so and give it another few folds before splitting it and putting it into my bannetons.

I sometimes include some seeds, (sometimes dampened in a bowl, although I don't generally bother - just put them in dry) in the dough... I use linseed, sunflower seeds, chia, poppy, sesame, and/or spices like caraway (traditional in rye breads, but surprisingly weird in wheat breads lacking rye), a bit of cumin, fennel, or whatever you fancy - you can also add a bit of mashed potato including the skin in place of a bit of the water or a few spoonfuls of plain yoghurt - it's yum!

Mix all together into a "shaggy" mixture, and turn out onto a benchtop. I mix by hand, adding a bit of flour to the benchtop and dough to get it just short of sticky.

Once mixed, I split it (use the back of a knife or a stainless steel bread scraper if you have one) into two and put each into a large dry soup bowl to rise (you could oil them if you have difficulty getting the dough out), usually for at least 10 hrs, or until about 2-3 times the size.

I turn the doughs carefully out (trying not to punch them down too much) onto a cooking sheet sprinkled with rock salt using a rubber scraper... I tend to shape them carefully into round or oval loaves.

I apply seeds to the outside (poppy or sesame) after spraying with salt water (I keep a carefully & distinctly labelled spray bottle in the kitchen).

Preheat the oven to its hottest bake setting. If you want the bread really crusty, add a pan of water to the bottom shelf and let it come to temperature, too - it should create steam (you can add a little water from time to time as you bake if it evaporates out).

Before putting them in the oven, I put a couple slices across the top with a sharp knife to stop the loaves splitting when baking. If they've been punched down a bit, I let them rise while the oven preheats.

I bake for 10-12 minutes at the oven's hottest temp. Then I turn it down to 210 for 15-18 minutes to bake them through. Sometimes I turn them after first step to ensure they cook evenly.

Then I take them out and put them on racks to cool (the bottom gets soggy if they cool on the baking tray).

Ideally, I let them cool for 15-20 minutes (otherwise the crumb compresses as it's still too moist), and it's time for a cheeky sample! Enjoy.

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