Sourdough Bread: A Guide To Baking The Perfect Loaf

Bread has been a staple in human diets for centuries, and there are countless variations and techniques that have emerged throughout history. One such technique that has gained immense popularity in recent years is sourdough breadmaking. Sourdough bread offers a unique flavour, a chewy texture, and an irresistible aroma. In this article, we will delve into the art of breadmaking, focusing specifically on the techniques for creating the perfect sourdough loaf.

What is sourdough bread?

Sourdough bread is a type of bread made through the process of natural fermentation. It is leavened using a sourdough starter, which is a combination of wheat flour and water that captures wild yeasts and lactobacilli bacteria from the environment. The natural fermentation process creates a unique tangy flavour, chewy texture, and distinct crust.

Sourdough bread is known for its longer fermentation time, resulting in a more complex and flavourful loaf compared to breads made with commercial yeast. Unlike commercial yeast, which provides a quick rise, sourdough starter, or "leaven," relies on wild yeast and lactic acid bacteria present in the environment and requires time to develop, resulting in a more complex flavour profile.

The history and origin of sourdough bread can be traced back thousands of years. Ancient Egyptians were known to use wild yeast to leaven their bread, and evidence of sourdough fermentation has been found in archaeological remains from ancient civilizations such as the Babylonians and Romans.

Throughout history, sourdough bread has remained a staple due to its ability to withstand various climates and its rich flavour. In France, sourdough is used to create crusty baguettes, while in Germany, it forms the base for hearty rye breads. Each culture has its own unique sourdough traditions, shaping the diverse flavours and techniques associated with this bread.

Tips and tricks to make the perfect sourdough bread

Now, let's delve into ten tips and techniques that will help you master the art of making perfect sourdough loaves:

Create A Strong Starter

A healthy and active sourdough starter is crucial for a successful loaf. Start with equal parts flour and water, feeding it regularly to keep it alive and active.

Maintain A Consistent Feeding Schedule:  

To ensure the vitality of your sourdough starter, establish a consistent feeding schedule. Feed it with fresh flour and water at regular intervals to keep the wild yeast and bacteria thriving.

Autolyse For Enhanced Gluten Development

Autolyse refers to the process of mixing flour and water and allowing them to rest before adding the starter. This technique helps develop gluten, resulting in better structure and texture.

Use Folding Technique

Instead of traditional kneading, use the folding technique to develop gluten and improve the structure of the dough. Gently stretch and fold the dough at regular intervals during the bulk fermentation stage.

Consider Hydration Levels

Finding the right hydration level for your dough is essential. Adjust the amount of water in your recipe based on factors like flour type, humidity, and personal preference.

Embrace Long Fermentation

Allow your dough to undergo a long fermentation process to enhance the flavour and texture. This slow process helps break down complex carbohydrates, making the bread more digestible.

Rest Overnight In Refrigerator:

After shaping the loaf, place it in the refrigerator for overnight retardation. This technique enhances the flavour and helps develop a beautiful crust during baking.

Master The Art Of Scoring

Prior to baking, score the top of the dough with a sharp knife or razor blade. This allows the bread to expand during baking, creating an attractive pattern and preventing uneven splitting.

Create Steam For Crispy Crust

Create a steamy environment in your oven during the initial stages of baking to achieve a crispy crust. Place a pan of hot water in the oven or use a spray bottle to mist the dough.

Patience Is Key

Making sourdough bread requires patience. Embrace the process, learn from each bake, and adapt to the unique characteristics of your environment. Practice and experimentation will help you perfect your technique.

Mastering the art of sourdough breadmaking takes time and practice, but the rewards are well worth the effort. The unique flavour, texture, and aroma of a perfectly baked sourdough loaf will make it a centrepiece in any culinary experience. So roll up your sleeves, gather your ingredients, and create your own masterpiece of sourdough bread with this recipe:

Sourdough Starter

The fermentation process of creating a sourdough starter can vary depending on various factors like temperature, humidity, and the wild yeast present in your environment. Adjustments to the feeding ratio and frequency may be necessary based on the behaviour and characteristics of your specific starter. Here's a recipe for creating a sourdough starter:


  • 50 g of whole wheat flour
  • 50 g of all-purpose flour
  • 100 g of non-chlorinated water


  • Day 1: In a clean glass jar or container, mix 50 g of whole wheat flour and 50 g of all-purpose flour. Add 100 g of water and stir until well combined. Cover the jar loosely with a cloth or plastic wrap and let it sit at room temperature (around 70°F/21°C) for 24 hours.
  • Day 2: After 24 hours, you may start to see some bubbles and fermentation activity. Discard half of the starter (50 g) and add 50 g of each flour (whole wheat and all-purpose) along with 100 g of water. Stir well, cover, and let it sit for another 24 hours.
  • Day 3 and onward: Repeat the process of discarding half of the starter and feeding it with equal amounts of flour and water (50 g each). Stir, cover, and let it sit for 24 hours. Repeat this process daily until your starter becomes active and vigorous, which may take around 7–10 days.
  • As the starter becomes more active, you may notice a sweet and tangy aroma, increased bubbling, and rising volume after each feeding. Once it consistently doubles in size within 4-6 hours of feeding and has a pleasant sour smell, it is ready to use in sourdough bread recipes.
  • To maintain your sourdough starter, you can keep it at room temperature and continue feeding it daily. If you don't plan to bake every day, you can store it in the refrigerator and feed it once a week. When ready to use, take it out, let it come to room temperature, and feed it to reactivate before baking.

Sourdough Bread


  • 500 g bread flour
  • 350 g water
  • 100 g active sourdough starter
  • 10 g salt


  • In a large mixing bowl, combine the bread flour and water. Stir until a shaggy dough forms. Cover the bowl and let it rest for 30 minutes to an hour. This is called autolyse and helps with gluten development.
  • Add the sourdough starter to the dough and mix until well incorporated. Cover the bowl and let it rest for about 30 minutes.
  • Sprinkle the salt over the dough and incorporate it by folding and gently kneading the dough until the salt is evenly distributed.
  • Perform a series of stretching and folding the dough every 30 minutes for the next 2–3 hours. To do this, grab a portion of the dough, stretch it up, and fold it back onto itself. Rotate the bowl and repeat this process several times.
  • After the final stretch and fold, cover the bowl and let the dough rise for about 2–3 hours, or until it has doubled in size.
  • Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and shape it into a round loaf. Place the loaf into a proofing basket or a bowl lined with a well-floured cloth. Cover and let it rise for another 2-3 hours, or until it visibly expands.
  • Preheat the oven to 450°F (230°C) and place a Dutch oven or a baking stone inside to heat up.
  • Carefully transfer the proofed loaf into the preheated Dutch oven or onto the baking stone. Score the top of the loaf with a sharp knife to allow for expansion.
  • Cover the Dutch oven with its lid or use a large heatproof bowl to cover the loaf on the baking stone. This creates steam and helps with oven spring.
  • Bake for 20 minutes covered, then remove the lid or bowl and bake for an additional 20–25 minutes, or until the bread is golden brown.
  • Once baked, transfer the bread onto a cooling rack and let it cool completely before slicing.

Enjoy your homemade, perfect sourdough bread!

Note: Sourdough bread requires time and patience due to the fermentation process. Adjustments to the recipe may be necessary depending on your specific sourdough starter and desired flavour and texture.