Ambient temperature for sourdough - too warm and too cold


In Dan Lepard's forum overnight jakelly asked

For years we have made a sourdough bread using starter that was created in a warm cupboard, and bread dough raised in a similarrly warm place -- probably around 35 to 40 degrees Celsius. It yields a good enough bread, but never with the acid bite of the best sourdough-dough, and with rather small air bubbles.

I have just come across a reference recommending much lower temperatures, even around 15 Celsius, which would be a bit difficult here in Queensland.

Can readers advise whether we should cease the warm cupboard preparation of the starter and rising of the dough, in favour of the coolest environment that we can arrange?


Jack Lang (doyen of British home sourdough baking) has always advocated strongly that temperatures should be kept at 30C for maximum sourdough activity. (see [url][/url])

I have been thinking about temperature again, but from the other point of view, because as the weather starts to get a little cooler here (in Melbourne) my dough takes a lot longer to do anything. Houses here (including my house) are unheated, and I don't have the luxury of a heater cupboard or similar. Temperatures in the kitchen are often in the teens during the day, and around 10C overnight (in spring, it will get colder in winter). What do other people do to keep their leaven or dough warm in cool weather?

Do any bakers from the warmer parts of Australia have any other suggestions for jakelly?


301 users have voted.


FlourGirl 2006 April 22

Hi Dom,

on the German Sourdough Forum that I read, I saw some pretty amazing constructs of warming cabinets. Some of them involved styrofoam boxes, eskies, thermostats for aquariums, light bulbs, warming pads (for reptiles or snakes), etc. People go through a lot of effort to make a nice comfy home for their darlling sourdough.

I have decided for the moment, that will try adjusting my sourdough to the surrounding. In Sydney it is not particularly cold yet, so haven't really tried with the cold yet.
What I will be trying though is to adjust the relationship of leaven to flour/water. In summer I found that 1 part starter to 4 parts flour and 4 parts water worked really well. I will now try if in colder whether eg. 1:2:2 works better.
When I do want it warmer for leaven or dough, I preheat the oven to the lowest setting (about 50 degrees) then turn it off and put the dough in. For leaven probably turning the light on in the oven will be about right.
Lots of testing and measuring to be done, as we don't want to kill our little pets

Happy experimenting, -FlourGirl

SourDom 2006 April 23

Flourgirl, Bill,

thanks for your suggestions.

I'm probably going to stay low-tech. Although your suggestion Bill sounds intriguing, I have vivid images of cardboard boxes spontaneously combusting and incinerating dough, box and house. Though I am sure that the creation of a dimmer switch/light bulb heating box isn't that complicated, my DIY skills are such that I would probably electrocute someone (most likely myself).

I too have tried switching oven on and off, and I think that probably works OK, though it is a little hit and miss getting it warm enough but not too warm.

I wonder about putting a hot water bottle underneath the banneton?

I think I read Dan Lepard write about traditional ways of keeping dough warm including putting it underneath the doona [duvet or quilt for those readers from other parts of the world] I am not sure if that was with sleeping individuals, or perhaps after they have vacated and left a warm spot in the bed.


Bill44's picture
Bill44 2006 April 17

I'm fortunate enough to have a thermostaticaly controlled heater box for the cooler months, but the simplest heater box of all is:-
Get a large cardboard box, the thick type that a TV or something has been in. Then get a small plastic lunch box and mount a light socket on the top and a light dimmer on the side, get your local sparky to wire it up for you with a lead on it. Use a low wattage light bulb and with a thermometer you adjust the dimmer to give you the temperature you want. You would be suprised how much insulation a heavy cardboard box gives.

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