Making sourdough bread at home.

Freshly baked bread is one of those things that many people think is really hard to do. Further to my previous post about Home made bread, there is another method of bread making that we relish … Rye starter sourdough!

If you want to go into the in’s and out’s of sourdough … look it up on the Internet. This post will be all about baking your bread once you have some starter. We sell a Rye starter at our Farm Gate in our DIY Sourdough kits.

Storing your starter.

Treat your starter like yoghurt. When you’re not using it, seal it and store it in the fridge. It keeps for several weeks in the fridge as the fermentation process slows down. If you do not intend to use your starter for more than a few weeks, you can also freeze it. To reactivate a frozen starter, simply defrost it naturally (no microwave, people) and then follow the next step: Activating your starter.

Activating your starter.

Consider your starter as a replacement for yeast. Like yoghurt, it contains bacteria which ferment and create bubbles, making your bread fluffy. So before making your bread, you need to “wake up” your starter. This process is called activating it. We usually activate our starter just before going to work, so when we get home up, it is ready to use!

To make a small loaf of bread, you will only need about half a cup of starter. This is how you do it:

  1. Take your starter out of the fridge. If it is not in a container that is at least 500mL put it in one. Make sure it is not metallic.
  2. Add half a cup of room temperature water to your starter and mix it up. Tap water is OK for this but filtered is better as too much chlorine can kill off the bacteria in your starter.
  3. Add 4 heaped tablespoon of light rye flour to the mixture and stir it in. Don’t worry if there are some flour lumps, that is fine.
  4. Cover your starter with a loose lid and leave it on your kitchen bench. If the lid is sealed onto the container, as your starter starts to ferment, the gasses will build up and then pop the lid off. Old fashioned bowls with glass lids or small casserole dishes with lids are perfect for this. You can also recycle plastic 600mL cream bottles. They are perfect for storage in the fridge later too.
  5. Your starter will need to ferment for around 4 hours. If it is warm, it will need less time. Conversely, cold weather will mean that it takes longer. Your starter is ready when it is no longer reacting and there are plenty of bubbles on the surface. You can tell it has stopped reacting because the mixture will slowly start to “deflate” and leave a “tide mark” on the bowl it was fermented in.

This is what an active starter looks like when ready to use. Nice and bubbly and you can see that the starter has started to deflate since there is a sludgy tide mark halfway up the side of the bowl.

Activated sourdough starter ready to use.
Activated sourdough starter ready to use.

Making your dough.

You can substitute yeast for sourdough starter in any bread recipe you have. Just leave out the yeas, then when you measure the wet ingredients, substitute at least half a cup of starter for every 600 – 750 gram loaf (regular loaf tin).

We like being a bit lazy in our bread making technique, so here is a recipe you can follow if you don’t like kneading. You can do steps 1-8 right before having breakfast if you want fresh bread for dinner, then steps 9 – 11 as soon as we get home. Alternatively, if you’re an early riser, do steps 1-8 before going to bed then 9-11 as soon as you get up so that you can have fresh bread for breakfast.


  • Half a cup of rye starter
  • 3\4 cup of water
  • One cup of light rye flour
  • One cup of white flour
  • 1 teaspoon of salt


  1. In a non metallic bowl, measure out half a cup of active sourdough starter. Add the water and mix well.
  2. To the water and starter mixture, add your flour on top then sprinkle your salt on the flour. If the salt comes in contact with the starter, it will kill off the bacteria.
  3. Mix your flour in so that it becomes a sticky ball like this…

    Bowl of soughdough dough, mixed and ready to rest.
    Bowl of soughdough dough, mixed and ready to rest.
  4. Let it rest for 15-20 mins. This is important, especially for wholemeal flour, as it allows the flour to absorb the water.
  5. Get a small bowl and add around half a cup of rye flour to it. Rub a part of your kitchen bench top with vegetable oil (we prefer olive oil but others are good too) and then lather your hands with oil.
  6. Using your hands, sprinkle the surface of the dough liberally with flour (yes your hands will get flour stuck to them), then turn out the dough onto the kitchen bench and sprinkle more rye flour on the sticky side.

    Sourdough dough sprinkled with flour before kneading.
    Sourdough dough sprinkled with flour before kneading.
  7. Lift and slap down the dough onto your bench for about 5 mins. This is a form of kneading which we find very therapeutic when we are upset – very good for anger management. Your dough will become elastic. If it still feels too wet and sticky, add a little more flour to the surface and keep slapping it down.

    Slapping down dough on the bench top ... great for anger management.
    Slapping down dough on the bench top … great for anger management.
  8. First rise: Once the dough is nice and elastic, shape it onto a floured board and then cover it in a moist cloth or tea towel. Leave it to rest for 4-6 hours, away from any cold draughts. Longer is fine. If you want to be lazy at this point, you can place your dough into a loaf tin instead and skip step 9. This will mean that your bread will have larger bubbles in it rather than little ones. It should easily have doubled in size.
  9. Second rise: Line a loaf tin (or you can just line a cookie tray if you want a home made shape) and place the dough into the tin. Leave it to rise for 2 hours.
  10. Bake: Place the bread into a cold oven. Turn your oven on to 230 C and bake for 15 mins. The mouth watering aroma of fresh bread will have started to fill the house by now, so turn the heat down to 190 C and bake for a further 20 mins. We use a fan-forced oven which provides consistent heat quickly.
  11. Your bread is cooked when you tap on the top and it sounds hollow. Take it out of the oven and turn it out onto an airing rack. Leave it for at least 10 mins! It is still cooking inside. If you cut a fresh loaf as soon as it is out of the oven, you’ll find that it is still doughy and does not have a nice texture. You’ve waited this long, so just hang in there for a few more minutes.