Image of a baked loaf of sourdough

Master the perfect loaf with our simple guide, using a classic starter and sponge method.

This traditional step-by-step sourdough recipe takes you through the stages of making and feeding a flour starter, using a small amount to create a sponge, then kneading and shaping a classic sourdough loaf. Once you’ve got the hang of this failsafe method, you’ll use it time and time again.

INGREDIENTS

STARTER DOUGH

  • 600g to 1kg strong white bread flour

SPONGE

  • 300g strong white bread flour

SOURDOUGH LOAF

  • 350g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
  • oil, for greasing

METHOD

For the starter, combine 200g of the flour with 200ml of lukewarm water in a non-metallic container – a glass jar is perfect. Leave it uncovered, and store somewhere warm overnight.

Image of sourdough starter flour and water being combined

The following day, ‘feed it’ by discarding half and adding a further 100g of flour and 100ml of lukewarm water.

Image of starter in jar stage 1

Repeat this feeding process each day until you see bubbles throughout the mixture (this is where a glass jar comes in handy). It will take a few days, possibly more, for the mixture to pick up the natural airborne yeasts and really start living. Don’t lose hope – it will happen!

Image of jar of starter for making sourdough

Remove 100g of the starter to make your loaf then put the rest in the fridge, covered, but with a hole for it to breathe. You’ll need to feed this once a week – bring it up to room temperature first, allow it to bubble up, then recede (somewhere warm) for 30 minutes to 1 hour, then return it to the fridge within an hour or so. A liquid layer (called hooch)may develop on top; stir it in if you like, or pour it off.

Image of flour and salt being mixed in a bowl to make sponge for sourdough

To make the sponge, bring the 100g of starter up to room temperature. Combine the 300g flour and ½ teaspoon of sea salt in a bowl, then add 300ml of warm water and the starter.

Image of starter being added to sponge

Cover with a towel and leave it to rise somewhere warm for 3 to 4 hours, or until doubled in size.

Image of sourdough mixture covered with a tea towel to rise

In the meantime, top up the starter with 50g of flour and 50ml of lukewarm water (the weight you removed), allow it to bubble up and down as in step 3, then return it to the fridge.

Either use your sponge straight away or chill it, covered, overnight.

Now to make the sourdough bread. Bring the sponge up to room temperature (if needs be), combine it with the flour and 2 teaspoons of salt, then turn it out onto a floured surface.

Image of sourdough sponge being mixed with flour and salt

Knead for 10 minutes, or until smooth and elastic. Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover and leave to rise in a warm place for 2 to 3 hours, or until doubled in size.

Tip the dough onto a floured surface, knock out the air, then shape it into a round loaf on an oiled baking sheet.

Cover and prove for about 1 hour in a warm place, or until it doesn’t spring back when prodded.

 

VIDEO: HOW TO PROVE DOUGH

Preheat the oven to 220°C/425°F/gas 7.

When the dough is ready, place a tray of water in the base of the oven (this will help it develop a good crust) and score the top of the loaf with a sharp knife.

Image of kneaded dough being scored

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until it’s golden and sounds hollow when tapped. Cool on a wire rack.

Image of baked sourdough