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Novice’s sourdough bread

>> Friday, April 27, 2007

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I know my first ever sourdough bread does have a funny shape. One part of the bread was puffed up during the baking process, most likely because my oven was too hot. But I am still very happy with the end result. After a week of nervously making my own leaven, finally I managed to make it! I am excited with crust and crumb! I wish the holes in my bread distributed a bit more evenly and my slashing skill was better… But hopefully with more practice I can achieve that one day.

This bread has everything I love about sourdough. If you like the Asian cottony soft white bread, this is not for you. This loaf is dense and rustic. With the combination of leaven, three different types of flours and a slow, very slow fermentation, the result is an earthy, nutty and sour flavor from the crust to the crumb… Dipping it in the best extra virgin olive oil you can lay your hand on and the taste is just brilliant. Nothing beats freshly baked bread, don’t you agree?

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Now let me calm down and tell you about my sourdough affair. It all started with one brilliant book, The Handmade Loaf, by Dan Lepard. Dan is a fantastic and enthusiastic baker, and this book is outstanding. The book is the work of passion (for bread making of course). If you are passionate about bread making, may I suggest you not to miss it? A word of warning though. Most of the breads require you to build and keep a leaven. But with Dan’s clear instructions and his own photographs of making leaven step-by-step, it is not an impossible job. Dan Lepard also runs a website and forum which he actively participates to answer questions from members. A lot of ideas and recipes are shared there, so do check it out if you love bread. (I am scheduling to make this soon :P)

Now, back to my bread which is essential Dan Lepard’s The Mill Loaf. I changed the schedule a bit by putting the dough (after mixing) into the fridge overnight. Not sure if it really helps with the texture and the taste, but I have heard from others that this action is good for sourdough. This bread requires slow fermentation, which takes the whole day.

Dan’s leaven recipe and other instructions can be found here (this is a firm leaven). And here is the recipe and my schedule for it… Note Dan’s method of not kneading the dough extensively at the start like conventional recipe.

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The Mill Loaf

Slightly adapted from Dan Lepard's recipe. I halved the recipe and make one loaf.


500g white leaven

550g water at 20C

600g white flour

300g wholemeal/whole-wheat flour

100g rye flour

2 ½ tsp fine sea salt


The night before: mixing the leaven with water. Add flour and salt. Mix together. Leave for 10-15 mins. Knead for 10-15 sec. Shape into a bowl, cover and leave in the fridge overnight.

The next day

Take the dough out, leave on kitchen bench for 30 mins.

  1. Knead the dough for 10-15 sec on a lightly oil surface. Cover & leave for 10 mins.
  2. Knead the dough for 10-15 sec on a lightly oil surface. Cover & leave for 30 mins.
  3. Knead the dough for 10-15 sec on a lightly oil surface. Cover & leave for 60 mins.
  4. Knead the dough for 10-15 sec on a lightly oil surface. Cover & leave for 60 mins.

That’s all for the kneading! Now, divide the dough into two and shape into two balls. Cover and let the dough relax for 10 mins. Then, shape the dough into a baton (click link for a very informative post on shaping). Place the dough seam-side-up on a floured cloth. Fold and pull the cloth up the sides of the load. Cover with a cloth and leave at room temperature (20C) until almost doubled in height – about 4 hours. Mine took about 6 hours, but it was a very cold day.

Preheat oven to 220C/425F. Put the baking stone in at least 30 mins before baking. Dust it with semolina. Upturn the loaf and cut two slash across it. Spray the top of the loaf with water. Carefully transfer it onto the baking stone. Bake for 50-70 mins. Cool before slicing.


Asha 10:33 PM  

Inside of the slice of sour bread looks yummy Anh!:))

Good one for a first try.I am making a rye bread today,fingers crossed!:D

Mandira 12:03 AM  

Anh, the bread looks delicious. I tried my hand at baking too - made the no knead bread!

Gattina 4:56 AM  

Anh, your bread is superb!!!!!!!
Thanks a lot for the link of his book, I'm gonna to check my piggy bank :D you said not to miss it, I know it must be good!
I haven't done any sourdough bread, but one time when I did some kind of long-whine french loaves, they said not to chill the dough for the last/second-last proofing, otherwise the bread will become sourdough, so I think your logic is correct too :D

Patricia Scarpin 7:08 AM  

My gosh, Anh! This is some amazing bread!
I've never had sourdough and this is a seriously good recipe, I should try my hand on it soon!

I love your passion for bread, I share it with you, my friend!

Y 9:01 AM  

Wow your sourdough looks great! I love sourdough, but am too lazy to attempt making it - all that preparation beforehand doesn't usually suit my work schedule.. or weekend frame of mind!

Anh 10:47 AM  

Asha, I am waiting to see your rye bread! :D

Mandira, thank you. Your bread looks beautiful!

Gattina, this book is really beautiful! You will love the history bit of it, too. And all the recipes are very detailed and simple... About putting the dough in the fridge, I have one recipe requiring 3 days of chilling :D Still not patient enough to try tbough. ;)

Pat, thanks so much for sharing the passion with me *hug*. Do try to make sourdough for once (at least!) and see the beautiful structure and taste wild yeast creates. It is truly lovely.

y, thank you. I am lazy, too... But the recent holiday gave me a chance to try making this. :)

Amy 4:32 PM  

Wow Anh, your bread looks so good! I love sourdough, especially as a bread bowl with clam chowder inside, yummmm! Making sourdough looks too daunting for me. I'm still at no-knead bread level. But you have definitely tempted me into trying it once. :D

Eva 10:13 PM  

No doubt, your bread is beautiful, too! I definitely have to defrost my sourdough culture (provided it's still alive...) and will give it a go very soon! Don't know if my culture is compatibel with the Lepard-culture but this might be just the right excuse to buy his book...

Sharmi 10:25 PM  

that looks so good and just like store made. what is white leaven?

steamykitchen,  12:35 PM  

Its a beautiful loaf! Maybe make a soup bowl of it next time?!

Cookie baker Lynn 1:15 PM  

Anh, Your bread is lovely. First time? Wow, good job! Thanks for the nice note on my blog, too. :-)

Anh 1:48 PM  

Amy, thanks sweetie. It took me a long time before I started the sourdough affair, too. :D

Eva, Dan's sourdough culture is firm. Not sure about yours. I really love your breads!

Sharmi, thank you. The white leaven is wild yeast culture that I developed over one week.

Steamykitchen, yeap, I am planning for it :D

Cookie baker lynn, thank you. :)

Angie 10:40 PM  

This is such a lovely loaf. Great job! I wish I had the time to make and maintain my own natural leaven, sigh...

Tim 8:20 PM  

Good job! :)

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