rye sourdough with sultanas

Sourdough breads

In this class we will look at

What is sourdough?

Sourdough is the name given to bread made without adding yeast to the flour. This method of producing bread relies on yeasts present on the grain. As well as these naturally occurring yeasts, other acidic bacteria build up in the bread dough giving the bread its characteristic sour taste.

Sourdough starters

The yeasts on the grain need nurtured in order to multiply enough to bake bread so they need the best conditions we can create.

Making your own starter

You only need to do this once, then just keep it going. Use a clean container big enough to hold 1litre and with a lid (or use cling film). It helps to label containers with their weight or note it somewhere.

The last image on the left shows rye starter being added to flour and water to make enough starter to bake rye loaves next day.

Why increase the amounts?

If you add the same small amount of flour/water to existing starter each day there will not be enough fresh flour to get all of the yeast active. The lactic bacteria will then predominate which increases the acidity of the starter, ie the sour taste. This is why sourdough instructions bizzarrely tell you to throw away two thirds of your starter. This is just to keep acidity in check. If you are not baking frequently enough to use the growing jar of starter then either resort to throwing away half to two-thirds or store it in the fridge or make sourdough pancakes with the excess.

Is it working?

If there is liquid on top then the starter maybe too cold or needs fed If the starter has deflated sponge look, wrinkly it probably needs flour & water and maybe a cooler place. An awful smell is OK, just stay with it. Wholemeal leavens generally smell sweeter. If nothing has happened ie no interesting smells and no bubbles after 3 days then you need to try again with a different flour.

Storing a sourdough starter

Short term - keep it somewhere warm if you are going to bake with it in the next day - may need more flour & water Longer term, put it in the fridge which will slow activity down but the yeast won’t die, even after a month or two. Either stir in or pour off any liquid which has formed at the top. Stirring in will give you a more acidic starter.

Sourdough bread recipes

Each person in the class bakes

Rye sourdough Dark and delicious with sweetness from sultanas shown in header photo.

A wee white sourdough cob A gently flavoured sourdough as in the "drunken sunrise" image.

Equipment and ingredients

The strong white flour and dark rye flour are from Shipton Mill. The wholemeal flour is either from Shipton Mill or from Mungos Wells in east Lothian. All these flours are available from Pillars of Hercules organic farm/shop/café just up the road.


breadinfife logo happy loaf
lively wet dough
refreshing starter