Freestyle Sourdough

I’ve been battling with trying to find the idea sourdough recipe to achieve a lovely plump loaf with caramelised ears and an open crumb with big air pockets to show off the power of naturally leavened dough.

The holy grail for me has been the open crumb.  I’ve tried various starter cultures, dough recipes and kneading techniques, following each to the letter with little success; frustrating considering the amount of commitment required.  Finally, in frustration, I threw all caution to the wind and decided to completely wing it; no recipe or timings; do it all based on feel and availability of my time – and I got the best result yet.


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If you’re used to baking with fresh or fast action yeast, then you get an idea of flour, salt and water ratios, which helps.

Here’s the method I winged:

  • Sourdough starter – 100g (50/50 stone white flour and water made up over a week)
  • Flour, strong white – 400g
  • Flour, rye –  150g
  • Water – 250g + extra as needed
  • Salt – 2 tsp
  • Mix the starter in with the (blood temperature) water
  • Mix in the flours by hand until combined and leave covered to autolyse for [a time that suits] – 30min to 3 hours – add more water until you get a workable consistency
  • Flatten out the dough on a work surface and sprinkle over the salt
  • Knead for 10 minutes using the ‘stretch and fold’ method *
  • Shape into a ball, place in a bowl and cover with clingfilm and leave in the fridge overnight until you’re ready for the next chapter.
  • Remove from fridge and leave out to warm up.
  • Stretch and fold in one direction, turn 90 degrees and repeat – repeat this twice more at 20-30 min intervals – as suits
  • Shape into a ball and place seam up into a floured proving basket in a warm place for 3-4 hours to prove – check it now and again to see if it is approaching double original size (I put mine in a luke warm oven)
  • Heat oven to 2ooc with a pizza stone if you have one and place a baking tray in the bottom
  • Gently tip onto the baking surface and slash a couple of times **
  • Add some water to the baking tray in the bottom of the oven to generate steam***
  • Bake at 200c for 20 min
  • Reduce heat to 180c and bake for a further 20-30 min, until the ears around where you slashed begin to caramelise


*(If you’re unfamiliar with this, it is a gentle method of kneading which incorporates air into the dough – here’s a succinct instructional youtube video demo from american Jacob Burton “Holy oven spring batman” being my favourite baking related exclamation

**Check out @minskitchen on instagram for some truly inspirational ear designs.

*** a steamy baking environment improves the crust of the loaf, helps it rise and even improves the shelf-life of the finished loaf.