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Making Sourdough Bread using the Tartine folding method and Banneton basket

Sourdough loaf using Tartine method

Sourdough loaf using Tartine method

One of the books that really inspired me and made me want to learn more about Sourdough bread is ‘Tartine Bread’ by Chad Robertson. It is a beautiful book, the magnificent pictures and great writing, make you want to go straight to San Francisco to the Tartine bakery and smell the bread and the fresh northern Californian air . But if that’s slightly too far away for the moment, you could try out some of the recipes. Chad Robertson has developed a very successful way of making Sourdough bread that involves folding the dough every half an hour for the first three hours. (So you either need to be at home for three hours, or be going somewhere where you can take your dough with you. Today I needed to go in to town to do some shopping and I took the dough in the car and left it on the front seat and folded it when I needed to- it worked great- but you do get some funny looks). The folding really helps the dough develop a good structure quickly. In the book he describes the process of getting  novice bakers to try the basic recipe and they all produce great looking loaves.  So it is a very encouraging book for anyone who is just starting to bake. The actual recipes however,  are all in very large quantities, in grams, and  are incredibly detailed. Below is my simplified version- in cups and just for one loaf.

There are two other new things I am introducing you to in this blog:

  • The first is using a banneton basket to prove the dough at the end. It holds the dough and helps it maintain its shape and also gives it those lovely rings round the bottom of the loaf ( a little hard to make out in the photo above I grant you). You can get bannetons from, if you live in the UK, but they should be fairly widely available on the net.
  • The second is using a ‘lame’ ( a sharp bladed knife) to score the dough before you bake it, so that you can control where it splits. (you can also get lames from bakery bits) I scored this loaf using a cross hatch. If you don’t have a lame you can use a very sharp knife.

You will notice that the proportions of flour to water and use of the starter are pretty similar to my previous recipe for using your own Sourdough starter to make bread

Getting your starter refreshed and ready

If you have neglected your starter for a while (over a week) then a couple of days before you want to bake, start refreshing it. This is just the same method as you used when you were making your starter.

1. In the evening,  throw ( or give) away all but around 1 tablespoon of starter. Add 1/4 cup of water and 1/2 cup of flour and mix well. Then leave at room temperature until the following evening.

2. Refresh again, just as you did last night, but this time just leave it until the morning.

3. Refresh again the next morning and by the evening you should have a lovely lively bubbly mass of starter ready to go. (If you don’t, just refresh it one more time)

Making the dough


2 tablespoons of starter

2   cups strong white bread flour

1 cup of whole wheat bread flour (you can vary the flour combinations)

1 1/4 tsp salt

1 1/3 cups water


1. Put the starter in a mixing bowl and add the water and mix so that you break up the starter into smaller pieces

2. Add the bread flour  and mix so that all the flour is hydrated and leave, covered with cling film or a shower cap, for 1/2 hour.

3. Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt and then fold 3 times, by pulling the dough up at one corner and folding it over and then doing this twice more

folding the dough

folding the dough

the dough has been folded

the dough has been folded

4. Add the rest of the salt and fold 3 more times and cover.

5. Then fold 3 times  every half an hour for 3 hours and then leave it covered in the bowl for another 2 hours- or until it looks like it has become  spongey and billowy

6. Turn it out on to a floured surface and stretch the dough to the right and then fold it back over itself and then do the same to the left and then from the upper edge and the lower edge, until you have an envelope parcel of dough

folded dough ready for bench rest

folded dough ready for bench rest

7. Then flip it over  so that the smooth side is on the top and the folded seams are on the bottom.

5. Move your hands slowly pulling the dough gently downwards to create some tension over the top surface of the dough, whilst you are shaping it into a round ball.

6. Let the dough rest, covered with an upside down bowl, or some floured cling film,  for half an hour. This is called ‘bench rest’

bench rest

bench rest

7. The dough should keep its basic shape and not turn into a sprawling pancake- if it does, then just fold it again and leave for more bench rest

8. Stretch and fold it again and flip it over and shape into a round ball and flour it.

9. Get your banneton and flour it inside and then put the dough in seam side up and smooth side down (if you don’t have a banneton yet then use a floured tea towel as in my previous recipes) and leave for half an hour

dough in the banneton

dough in the banneton

10. While the dough is rising, put a Le Creuset baking dish into the oven  and pre-heat to 245 degrees c. for half an hour

11. Take the Le Creuset out of the oven with oven gloves, take the lid off and gently place the dough inside and then quickly score it with a cross hatch shape using a lame or a sharp knife

the dough just scored with the lame

the dough just scored with the lame

12. Put the lid back on and bake at 245 degrees for half and hour, then turn the oven down to 200 degrees and bake for a further 15 minutes with the lid off.

13. Take it out of the oven and let it cool on a wire wrack

the sourdough loaf straight out of the oven

the sourdough loaf straight out of the oven



Making a Sourdough Starter, second refreshment

Its now the morning and my starter is looking good and is beginning to smell slightly sour. Here it is on its side.

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Now its  ready to be refreshed  again. So, you just need to do exactly what you did to refresh it last night.

1. Discard 2/3 of it (yes, I said 2/3, as painful as this may be)

2. Add 1/4 cup of water and 1/2 cup of white bread flour

3. Stir until all the flour is hydrated

4. Cover with the lid, but don’t screw it on

Thats it – nothing more to do. Just leave it all day and then refresh again tonight

Making a Sourdough starter, first refreshment

I do hope your starter has started growing well and that you can see signs of cultures coming to life in the form of gas bubbles throughout the dough.  It should smell richly creamy at this stage

Here’s a picture of how mine looks today, lying on its side

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And here it is pictured from the top. You can see the beginnings of a crust  forming and its slightly dome shaped.

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It’s now ready to be refreshed. So here is what you need to do.

1. Discard 2/3 of it (yes, I said 2/3, as painful as this may be)

2. Add 1/4 cup of water and 1/2 cup of white bread flour

3. Stir until all the flour is hydrated

4. Cover it with the lid, but don’t screw it on


Thats it – nothing more to do. Just leave it for 12 hours or so. I’m going to leave mine overnight and I will refresh it again in the morning

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And here it is, now it has been refreshed

Goodnight and hope you will join me in the morning!

If you have any questions, just let me know and I’ll see if I can answer them

Making a Sourdough Starter from scratch

There are many ancient myths about making and keeping a healthy sourdough starter, but let me warn you, most are completely untrue. For example, when you go on holiday you do not need to get someone to babysit your starter and keep it fed regularly and you certainly don’t need to pay good money for it to go to a sourdough starter hotel service (which I believe they do in Sweden). Once you get your starter off to a healthy start you can leave it in the back of your fridge in a tupperware container for many weeks ignoring it totally. I have done this and it does go a little grey and pasty, but if you throw away practically all of it and feed it flour and water it will bounce back in a day or so ( but more of how to feed your starter in a later blog) One thing that I think is important is that once you have got it going, don’t keep it in a glass jar with a tightly fitting lid- it is full of live cultures and therefore grows as it produces gases, so there is a risk of minor explosions in your fridge. I keep mine in tupperware.

The reason why I’d like to teach you how to make a starter is that ultimately if you love artisan bread, nothing, absolutely nothing beats a chewy sourdough loaf with a strong and complex taste. Its great when its freshly baked eaten on its own or dipped in olive oil and later in the week it makes the best toast and croutons.

I find I get best results using organic rye flour because its high in nutrients and fermentable sugars and therefore helps get the culture off to a good start. I discovered this through reading  ‘Bread, a baker’s book of techniques and recipes’ by Jeffrey Hamelman. This is a pretty scholarly tome, full of great advice, theory and recipes. My recipe below has been adapted from his recipe for developing a ‘Stiff Levain Culture’


1/4 cup organic whole grain rye flour

1/4 cup strong white bread flour

1/4 cup of water ( I use tap water, but make sure your water isn’t full of chlorine)

Glass jam jar


1. Put the flours in the jam jar and mix together with a teaspoon

2. Add the water and stir to form a moderately stiff dough

3. Tip the dough out on to the work surface and knead it briefly until it all comes together and just about all the flour has been hydrated

4. Gently place the lid on the jar without screwing it on

5. Leave for 2 days on your counter top and enjoy having a look at  it periodically to see if you can spot any signs of life in the form of small air bubbles (hence the glass jam to start with)

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In a couple of days, I’ll show you how to do the first feeding.

Join me in making a Sourdough starter from scratch, starting Saturday

Making a Sourdough starter from scratch is really straightforward. You don’t need grapes or pineapple or sour milk. I find it works best with organic whole grain rye flour and water in a medium tupperware container, or glass jar.  I promise you- thats it. The trick to this is how long you leave it, what quantities you use and how often you refresh it.

I am going to start making a new starter this Saturday, and I’ll post every time I do the next step, which will be  every 2 days to every 12 hours2013-05-16 21.00.59.

Its going to be fun, think of it as a chemistry experiment, that you’ll be able to eat!

So do join me.

Let me know how you get on and feel free to ask me questions if you need to  and I’ll do my best to try and help.

Now’s your moment to sign up to follow my blog so that you will get an email each time I post.

French Rustic Bread, using cold fermentation

This is another slow fermentation bread, but this time you put it in the fridge and you can leave it there until you are ready to bake it (although probably not more than a week). This means you have much more flexibility over when you bake it. There is something about cold fermentation that turns the starch in the flour to sugars even more than in  the basic no-knead recipe, and it therefore has a slightly sweet taste and chewy texture.  In order to give it some structure ( and by that I mean an ability to keep its round shape and not sag into a pancake) you stretch and fold it a few times before you put it in the fridge.

I’ve called this French Rustic Bread, because the technique used is a simplified version of a classic way to make French bread with the addition of ‘old dough’ saved before the previous batch of bread was baked and added to the next batch. For more details go to one of my favourite books ‘The Village Baker’ by Joe Ortiz.


3 cups of strong bread flour

3/4 tsp instant yeast

1 1/2 cups of water (tap water is fine, as long as its not too full of chlorine)

1 1/4 tsp salt


  • Put the flour, yeast and salt in a large bowl and mix
  • Add the water and stir until all the flour is hydrated
  • Cover it with cling film or a disposable shower cap and leave for 15 minutes
  • With a large metal spoon, reach in to the bottom of the dough and pull upwards and then fold across back into the centre of the dough. Then fold the dough another 2 or 3 times, starting at different corners

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  • Cover and leave for 15 minutes and do this folding procedure again. Repeat in another 15minutes
  • Now its ready to go in the fridge for a 10-12 hours (or longer if you want)
  • Once you have taken it out of the fridge let it slowly come back to room temperature, this will take about 2 hours
  • Empty the dough out on to a lightly floured surface and stretch to the right and fold into the middle and then to the left and fold into the middle

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  • Now sprinkle with flour and shape into a round ball, by pulling your hands round the dough in a downwards direction to tighten the upper surface, tucking the pulled dough underneath

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  • Flour a clean tea towel and place the dough on to it, seam side down (i.e. the side which was already the bottom as you were shaping it)

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  • Cover with the corners of the tea towel and leave to rise for 1/2 hour
  • Put a medium to large heat proof covered pot (Le Creuset works well) into the oven and pre-heat it for 1/2 hour  to 250 degrees C, (or as hot as it will go)
  • Take the pot out and take the lid off. Uncover  the dough and sprinkle a bit more flour on the top and lift up.  Gently let it slide off the tea towel and place it in the hot pot seam side up

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  • Put the lid on and put it back in the oven to bake for half an hour
  • Take the lid off and turn down to 200 degrees and bake for another 15 minutes
  • Take it out of the oven and on to a rack to cool, for at least 15 minutes before slicing and demolishing
  • If you put your ear to it when its just come out of the oven you may be lucky enough to hear little crackling sounds

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No Knead Bread

This is the recipe that got me started on my obsession with bread making and I have experimented with different flours. If you want to try using some spelt or rye in your mixture, then use less water (1 1/3 cups) I use American cups,(8fl oz/240ml). You could use a large teacup, and if this were a little larger or smaller, it should be ok because the most important thing is the proportion of water to flour.

There are two key things about this recipe. The first, as the title suggests, is that you don’t knead it- instead you leave the dough for a long time to ferment. This way the flour begins to break down into sugars  and the gluten (which makes the dough stretchy) develops as the yeast feeds and grows slowly. The second is that its baked in a covered pot (any heavy heat proof pot with a tight fitting lid will do). Bakers use special steam ovens to get a good crust, and baking this relatively wet dough in a covered pot creates its own steamy atmosphere as it rises. The dough therefore remains wetter on the outside for longer  and will have more time before it hardens and stops expanding. So you get a better rise and a better golden crust.


  • 3 cups strong bread flour (any combination works, for the bread in the photos I used 3 cups white )
  • 1/4 tsp instant dry yeast (it comes in sachets, make sure its not past its use by date)
  • 1 1/2 cups of water
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt


  • In a large bowl stir together the flour salt and yeast. Add the water and stir with a spoon until all the flour is hydrated. The dough will be sticky. Cover the bowl with cling film (or, better still, a disposable shower cap). Let the dough rest for 12 to 18 hours at room temperature. (I often start Saturday early afternoon, and I can then bake it on Sunday morning). This long slow fermentation is what is going to give your bread great flavour and texture.

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  • The dough is ready when its surface is covered with bubbles.
  • Now sprinkle flour over your work surface and scrape all the dough out on to it, in a scraggy heap. Flour your hands and pull and stretch the dough out to the right and fold it in to the middle, then do the same to the left.

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  • Now flip the dough over, so it seams are at the bottom,  and shape it as best you can into a ball shaped loaf. Now sprinkle flour over it and under it and make sure it is not sticking to the work surface.

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  • Get a clean tea towel and flour it and place the dough onto the tea towel, seam side down (this is important as the dough will push out through these seams when its baking). Cover with the edges of the tea towel and leave for 1/2 hour to rise.

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  • Pre-heat the oven to 245degrees c for 30 mins. Put a heavy covered pot (Le Creuset works well) in the oven as it heats. Leave the dough rising while the oven heats and just before you put it in the oven sprinkle a little more flour on to the top of it. At the end of the 30mins pre-heating time,  take the pot out of the oven and lift off the lid. Now lift up the dough with your hand underneath  the towel and invert it as gently as you can, so that the dough drops off the towel into  the pot seam side up . It may loose its shape a bit in the process, but thats ok.
  • Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes at 200 degrees, until the loaf is beautifully browned.
  • Remove the bread and let it cool on a rack before slicing.2013-04-21 21.19.312013-04-21 21.25.48

Adapted from Jim Lahey at the Sullivan Street Bakery, New York

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