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Basic Sourdough


My basic wholemeal sourdough bread recipe is “Three, Two, One, Plus”:

  • Three parts wholemeal bread flour

  • Two parts warm water

  • One part sourdough starter

  • Plus salt and flavourings

A good starting point is:

  • 450g wholemeal bread flour

  • 300g warm water

  • 150g sourdough starter

  • 1 teaspoon salt

This quantity makes 2 small loaves or 1 large loaf. The total weight of dough will be a bit more than my basic yeasted bread recipe, but since sourdough rises a little less well, it still results in similarly-sized loaves. I find that sourdough already has a lot of flavour so it doesn’t need quite as much salt — a teaspoon is still enough in this amount.

If you are using white flour instead of wholemeal, simply reduce the amount of water slightly (eg 280g instead of 300g).


  • Mix together the flour, water, sourdough starter, and salt in a bowl until completely combined into a sticky dough. Cover and leave to prove.

  • At the same time as you mix the dough, refresh the sourdough starter with enough equal parts flour and water to make the same total weight as you removed for the dough. Mix thoroughly, cover, and leave to prove next to the bowl with your dough.

  • Every hour or so, add folds to the dough by lifting and stretching up one side of the ball of dough and letting it fall onto the remainder, then repeating 3 more times, turning the bowl a quarter-turn between each fold.

  • After 3-5 hours, shape the dough into a loaf or loaves and leave to rise in tin(s) or in well floured banneton(s).

  • After 2-3 hours rising, bake in a hot oven (220 to 240 C) for 30-40 minutes for small loaves or 45-60 minutes for a large loaf.

  • Return the sourdough starter to the fridge when you bake the bread.

Notes on the Method

See my basic bread recipe for general tips on making bread.

The timings above are deliberately vague — they will depend very much on how active your starter is and how warm/cold your kitchen is. Keep an eye on the refreshed sourdough starter sitting next your dough: shape the loaves when the starter has started to bubble and rise noticeably; bake when the starter has roughly doubled in volume.

The trick with sourdough is to relax and accept that it will take a long time, but with relatively little effort — exact timing isn’t critical. Find a schedule for mixing, shaping and baking that works with your routine and the conditions in your kitchen. For example: mix after breakfast; fold at coffee break and before lunch; shape after lunch; bake at tea-time. You can use less starter and prove for longer, or let the shaped dough rise overnight in the fridge, ready to bake in the morning. Be aware that longer, cooler proving will make the risen dough more fragile and likely to collapse, and the finished bread more acidic.

The dough will be very sticky — when folding, it helps to have wet hands and to use a dough-scraper to lift the dough. When shaping the loaves, avoid the temptation to use lots of flour on the worksurface, otherwise it’s too easy to incorporate lumps of raw flour into the finished loaf.