sourdough 17


Victoria Allcoat shares her experience making a sourdough starter and baking a sourdough loaf, based on Paul Hollywood’s recipe. 


So my latest bread-y project has been to grow my own little sourdough beasty (otherwise known as a starter dough) in the aim to produce a sourdough loaf. This is a very easy and simple process: you mix 70g of bread flour with 70ml of warm water in an air tight jar and leave it for a day. Then simply feed it the same amount again each day, leaving it in a warmish to room temperature place to grow for seven days in total.


When you want your starter to stop growing (because it burst its banks and explodes out of the jar you were using even after you’ve already given away half of it to friends in jam jars) just place it in the fridge. This will stop the little blighter from growing and oozing all over the place. You can keep feeding your dough for longer than a week, causing it to develop intensity of flavour and make better bread; however, your jar may not be able to contain the starter beasty for that long.


For my sourdough I’ve used a recipe from The Great British Bake Off daddy himself, Paul Hollywood. It’s very simple:

–        250g sourdough starter (the recipe here is only one of many ways to make a starter. I have a friend that swears by using milk, however I can’t quite get over how funky that would smell after a few weeks!)

–        350g strong white/bread flour

–        7.5g salt (a couple of tsps)

–        150ml warm water

–        Splash of oil for kneading and proving



Here’s my little starter baby, beautiful isn’t it? Check out all the air bubbles that formed as it grew!

Here’s my little starter baby, beautiful isn’t it? Check out all the air bubbles that formed as it grew!



1. Measure out your flour, add the salt, and then measure out and add the starter. Start mixing this combination with your hands and gradually add in the just enough water to make a soft smooth dough.



bread 2



Look at it all lovely and oozy!

Look at it all lovely and oozy!

Now you need to stick your hands in and get kneading the dough. Bring the mix towards you and then push it away with your knuckles, and later as the dough comes together, the palm of your hand and your wrists.



Screen shot 2013-10-01 at 8.37.07 AM


Screen shot 2013-10-01 at 8.38.49 AM

3. Once you’ve managed to bring it all together you should be left kneading something along the lines of this sticky blob:



4. At this point Mr Hollywood reckons that you need to pour olive oil on the surface and knead the sticky ball of dough with more wet sticky stuff. I was skeptical but I complied, and the result? One big sticky mess that needed a lot of flour to remedy it. Not impressed, Mr. Hollywood.



sourdough 5


5.  So after about 10 minutes of kneading to fix this sticky mess…(bringing it towards you with your left hand and pushing it away from you with your right)…



Screen shot 2013-10-01 at 8.45.27 AM


6.  You should end up with a lovely smooth elastic-y dough



sourdough 6

7. At this point plop the dough into a lightly oiled bowl and cover with cling film or a tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place for 5 hours. I shall now explain why I am wearing pyjamas: I realised at 11pm last night that this bread takes 5 hours on the 1st prove and 6-8 hours on the last prove. I then realised that instead of sleeping I needed to make my dough and let it rise overnight.

sourdough 7

8.  And then the dough and I both went to bed. And when I awoke, it was to this beauty:


9. When you reach this phase you need to knock the dough back, beating the heck out of any air in your bread. I do this by folding it on top of itself and gently pushing all the air out.

Screen shot 2013-10-01 at 8.55.29 AM

sourdough 9

10.  Once the air has been knocked out, knead the dough until it looks a little like this:

sourdough 10

11. Paul Hollywood reckons that you need to let your dough prove for a second time in a “banneton”. I had no idea what this was but upon googling this I found out its one of these:

sourdough 11



That’s right; it’s a fancy basket to let yer bread rise in! And when ya bake it, it’ll ‘ave a pretty pattern on it! But seeing as I don’t have a fancy bread proving basket I used a bowl. Dust your bowl (or your fancy basket) with plenty of flour. This will help you remove it from the bowl later.



sourdough 12



What you see here is actually the base of the loaf. You tip it upside down onto the tray after this prove, so it doesn’t matter that it looks all squished up–no one will see it!




12. Leave it to prove for 6-8 hours with a tea towel over it. I left mine for 7 ½ hours, and it looked like this after.



sourdough 13

13 . Tip it out onto a greased and floured baking tray.

sourdough 14


And score across it with a big sharp knife.



sourdough 15

14. You will need to bake your loaf in an oven preheated to 220c for 30 minutes, and then reduce the temperature to 200c and bake for a further 20 minutes. Half filling a shallow baking tray with water and placing it beneath the loaf in the oven will create steam and result in a wonderfully crunchy crust on your bread.

sourdough 16

15.  The loaf will be done when it’s golden and sounds hollow when you rap your knuckles on the bottom of it. Place it on a wire rack to allow it to cool.

16.  Slice and enjoy!

sourdough 17

Victoria Allcoat

Photo credits: Victoria Allcoat