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The Art of Making Sourdough Bread: A Comprehensive Guide


There’s something undeniably special about sourdough bread. Its distinctive, tangy flavour and chewy texture set it apart from other types of bread. But what many people don’t realise is the art and science involved in creating this culinary delight. This article will delve into the process of making sourdough bread, offering a comprehensive guide for both beginners and seasoned bakers.

The Science Behind Sourdough

Sourdough bread is unique because it does not rely on commercial yeast to rise. Instead, it uses a sourdough starter, which is a fermented mix of flour and water that contains wild yeast and lactobacilli. These microorganisms feed on the sugars in the flour, producing carbon dioxide (which makes the dough rise) and lactic acid (which gives sourdough its characteristic tang).

Crafting Your Own Sourdough Starter

Making your own sourdough starter is a simple process that requires only flour, water, time, and patience. Here are basic steps:

  1. Mix equal parts flour and water: Combine ½ cup flour with ½ cup lukewarm water in a large jar or container. Stir until smooth.
  2. Let it sit: Cover loosely with a cloth or plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 24 hours.
  3. Feed your starter: Discard half of the mixture (about ½ cup), then add another ½ cup each of flour and lukewarm water. Stir well.
  4. Repeat daily: Continue feeding your starter once a day, discarding half and adding fresh flour and water.

After about five days, your starter should be bubbly and have a pleasant sour smell. Now it’s ready to be used in your sourdough bread recipe.

The Process of Making Sourdough Bread

Once you’ve got your starter ready, you can commence the process of making sourdough bread. It’s important to note that this is a long process, often requiring 24 hours or more due to the slow fermentation of the dough.

1. Mixing

In a large bowl, combine your active sourdough starter with flour and water. Mix until all ingredients are incorporated. This mixture is known as the autolyse, which allows enzymes in the flour to break down starches into sugars that will feed the yeast and bacteria in your starter.

2. Bulk Fermentation

Cover your dough and let it rise at room temperature for 12-14 hours (this time may vary depending on the temperature of your kitchen). During this stage, known as bulk fermentation, the yeast and bacteria in your starter will ferment the dough, causing it to rise and develop complex flavours.

3. Shaping

Once your dough has doubled in size during bulk fermentation, it’s time to shape it. Gently deflate the dough on a lightly floured surface, then fold it onto itself several times to form a tight ball or loaf shape.

4. Proofing

The shaped dough needs another rise – or proof – before baking. This can take anywhere from 2-4 hours at room temperature or up to 24 hours in the refrigerator (which slows down the fermentation process and can result in a more tangy flavour).

5. Baking

Bake your proofed sourdough in a preheated oven, usually at a high temperature (220-230°C) for the first 20 minutes to achieve a nice crust, then lower the temperature for the rest of the baking time.

The Artistry of Sourdough

Making sourdough bread is as much an art as it is a science. It allows bakers to experiment with different types of flour, hydration levels, fermentation times, and shaping techniques, resulting in loaves that are unique and personal. Moreover, scoring – or making deliberate cuts on the dough’s surface before baking – can create beautiful patterns on the crust, adding an artistic touch to each loaf.


Gerard is a distinguished individual with a passion for the written word. With a Bachelor's degree in English Literature from the University of Sydney and a Master's in Creative Writing from the University of Melbourne, he has a firm grounding in the classics as well as a modern take on storytelling.

Gerard's career began in journalism, where he honed his skills in research and narrative, eventually transitioning into blogging to share his insights on a more personal platform. His blog, "Illusions of Wisdom", has become a popular source of commentary on a variety of topics, ranging from contemporary literature to societal observations, all infused with his signature wit and thoughtful analysis.

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In his downtime, Gerard is an amateur chess player and enjoys the strategic depth of the game. He also finds solace in the calming strokes of watercolour painting, a hobby that complements his writing by allowing him to express himself in a burst of colour.

Through his blog, Gerard continues to inspire his readers, encouraging them to find beauty in the mundane and to always remain curious about the world around them.

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