Sourdough Newbie

SourYumMum's picture

I'm new to trying to make sourdough bread, but certainly not new to enjoying it!

And I've paid a few visits to this website - I'm glad to see that there seems to be an increasing interest in it.

However, Graham, I'm wondering if maybe you can create a special 'beginners' section before the website and its forums become so big and so complicated that finding the information you need just to start right from the beginning becomes impossible!

I know that all the contributors will have their own ideas/recipes for making a starter, for example, but perhaps just 2 or 3 BASIC RECIPES for beginners would be fantastic.

Sourdough for Dummies, perhaps!

I have made a starter and used it for a couple of months, but never quite to my satisfaction, but now that I'm seeing all these WONDERFUL photographs that people are posting on the site, I'm inspired to start again and make great sourdough!

If I achieve this, I will save an absolute fortune on buying Stephen Arnott's Morpeth Sourdough (sorry Stephen, you're sending me broke!).


Many thanks,

Lake Macquarie

241 users have voted.


SourDom 2006 March 21


have a look at [url][/url]

If you aren't sure if your starter is up to scratch have a look at [url][/url]

You will make great tasting sourdough (and you will have bubbles!) if you stick with it. Sourdough takes a bit of persistence to get right, but the folks on this forum are testament to it being entirely achievable

let us know how you go


Bill44's picture
Bill44 2006 March 21

Carol, I'm only at Gorokan, if you need some direct help we can arange some tuition. Send me a PM if you like.

SourYumMum's picture
SourYumMum 2006 March 21

Thanks for the replies! I love reading what you all have to say ... and it's obvious some of you have been at it for years!

Thanks for the offer of assistance, Bill, I'll see how I go with this new lot, but it's good to know that there are brains to be tapped!

It's just that for beginners, jumping into the website and seeing you lot chat about some of the perhaps more difficult or advanced issues can put one off a bit! And I'm sure you don't want to discourage anyone who desires to be making 'real' food for their families ... or themselves!

And thanks Dom for the link ... I just loved your 'starter blog' and the three different specimens!


Graham's picture
Graham 2006 March 21

Hi Carol

You have pointed to a big gap in this resource at the moment. I have to admit to being amazed at the high level of knowledge that came into the forum almost from the very first day (it sent me running back to my books). Fortunately the knowlegeable people have shown they are keen to help beginners (thanks all).

A beginners zone with a few simple basic 'warm up' recipes and techniques sounds like exactly what we need. In the next few weeks we will work towards achieving this. Sourdough is really such a simple process and that will influence our approach to creating the beginner zone. Thanks Carol. Graham

SourYumMum's picture
SourYumMum 2006 March 21

Hi Graham,

And it would appear that the contributors to your website are very friendly and very pleased to help beginners ... which is fabulous!

I just seemed to me that it would be a real shame if all the basic, simple beginner stuff 'got lost' in the ongoing forums and building of the website.

Dom ... I am going to follow those step-by-step instructions you pointed me to. It's hilarious, but absolutely what I need to do!

Cheers, I look forward to perhaps one day posting a photo of some really good sourdough!


SourYumMum's picture
SourYumMum 2006 March 22

Thanks Teresa,

I have been looking at your site, too. If need be, I will certainly try your starter! I find the discussions and debates over starters to be entertaining ... but I guess like most things in life, it just depends on your 'beliefs' - so to speak!

I've generally become lots more interested in cultures and ferments - I've recently made my own labna (soft middle-eastern cheese) and found it both a satisfying process and delicious product! I have two small boys, so we get through lots of yogurt! And they both love tasty sourdough!

Sensible boys.


COFFIN GIRL's picture
COFFIN GIRL 2006 March 22

beginners zone...... brilliant!!! I can sort of understand a lot of what you so called pros are on about, but like carol (hi and I am new too) am just a beginner. Love the site & check it each day to see what gorgeous creations you guys are making. COFFIN GIRL

SourYumMum's picture
SourYumMum 2006 March 22

Hi Coffin Girl,

Absolutely! This site is such a great resource ... but will be even better when Graham gets stuff 'filed' so to speak! I already have a new starter sitting in the kitchen after getting re-inspired by the clever folks here!

I was speaking with Alison Arnott yesterday (Morpeth Sourdough in NSW ... and yes, her husband - the baker - is one of THOSE Arnotts! It's a great story!) and her words of encouragement were, "Keep trying! Eventually ... you will get a great sourdough!" Mind you, she's a microbiologist, so I think she finds bacteria a little easier to fathom than I do! But she said that she and Stephen spent ages getting their 'mother' just right!

I'm assuming your username means you're down where the fantastic scallops and oysters are?!


SourDom 2006 March 22


sourdough is an ancient way of making bread. Bakers across the centuries have found that flour and water left to their own devices will ferment and can then be used to 'leaven' doughs.You don't need a university qualification in microbiology to make a starter. (those who are obsessed with sourdough like yours truly may rabbit on about yeast and lactobacilli, but this is a very natural simple process that, given the right conditions works by itself.)

It really isn't as complicated as it might seem. Sourdough bread is far more flexible than yeasted doughs in terms of timing. (Tastes better too)

You are on your way!
keep us posted


qahtan 2006 March 23

Hi Carol...
Just throwing 2 cents worth in. Sour starter as far as I am concerned there were times when I thought it is just NOT going to work for me..
Believe me, have faith it does, it takes a little patience and perseverance, but it works in the end.
I have finally "got it" but until recently I must have killed off /dumped down the sink more sour starters than I care to think about.....
Hopefully now never to do that again.......

qahtan. Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada.

Not only do I read the posts but I like to see where the posters are coming from.. :-)))

Bill44's picture
Bill44 2006 March 23

Well if it is any consolation to you "Newbies" my stock starter is very old, but each summer I still try 3 or 4 times to get a new starter on the off chance that I will capture something really special. Just this summer I had 2 in a row that were complete disasters, absolutely indescribably foul, and I would have taken a flamethrower to them if I had one.

COFFIN GIRL's picture
COFFIN GIRL 2006 March 23

hey carol.
I am a coffin bay girl and if you have ever been here you will understand that it is one of the most beautiful places in this beautiful country we all call home. It makes me so pleased to realise someone else is fumbling along as I am. I have just pulled 2 x 700 g loaves and some wholemeal rolls out of my shitty little westinghouse-nearly-had--it oven and I reckon they are so close to what I want......... I am genually excited. And the fact that the bread is STILL really nice after 2 or 3 days is shocking me.

Had a friend that used to make really fab fruit sour dough. Coffins grows THE BEST organic fruits you have ever tasted and I now have peaches, nectarines, sultanas and gorgeous figs dried and ready to go in my bread. Still playing with it cos it just aint rising like I would like but I am trying. Have visitors over for a few days at present so it is great ---- more guinea pigs to taste test. Best of luck with your baking.... let us know what you are up to cos I AM INTERESTED. Coffin Girl

Bill44's picture
Bill44 2006 March 24

CoffinGirl, so you pig out on my favourite fish eh? King George whiting.

Tell us all some details about your rising problems, is it at the proof stage or the baking stage or both. A few details about your recipe and method would help also. The forum is here to help each other.

COFFIN GIRL's picture
COFFIN GIRL 2006 March 24

Hi Bill.
yes King George Whiting in beer batter with oven fried Coliban potato chips (straight from my garden) - a beautiful way to go. We moved here for the fishing not reallising we were in a haven for growing fresh produce with absolutely no chemicals needed - I am now in heaven - love it here

Anyway.... my fruit bread
It is okay but not to the standard of my wholemeal loaf and I think my ingredients are fine. We have a local flour mill and I purchase all my flour from there and all my fruits are homegrown and dried. Again - no chemicals whatsoever.

I take my starter out in the morning about 6.30, feed it up once, then again about 6.30 that evening.
Next morning... mix it (about 2 cups ) together with 1 tbsp sugar, 1 tsp salt, 1 tbsp virgin olive oil, 1 tbsp cinnamon, 1 tbsp mixed spices and 3 cups of my gorgeous fruits. Then I start adding in my flour - abour 3 - 3 1/2 cups and give it a good stretch and pull knead for 10-15 minutes.
Into a floured bowl and on the kitchen table where it gets the morning sun. About 2 in the arvo I give it a gentle knockdown and knead and then divvy it up into loaves. I have been weighing all my loaves at 700 gms just so I had a really good idea of how much rise I am getting. The flavour is brilliant, but neither rise fantastic. Is it too much fruit or am I doing something not quite right, I used to buy a fabulous fruit sour dough at Moruya Market when we lived in NSW but its a bit far to go to get it now and it was not a cheap purchase and I make a great yeast fruit bread so really want to conquer this too. Thanks COFFIN GIRL

Bill44's picture
Bill44 2006 March 24

Aha! It would be the cinnamon and the cinnamon and cloves in your mixed spice that is the culprit. You know how clove oil is used to dull a toothache? Well it has a drugging effect on yeast too and so does cinnamon!
If possable I would try kneading it in after the first rise, put the salt in then too. Salt has a little effect on gluten structure, usually not enough to worry about, but we want all the early dough development we can get in this case.
Bear in mind also, that is a lot of weight of fruit for the dough to hold up.
Give it a go.

COFFIN GIRL's picture
COFFIN GIRL 2006 March 24


SourDom 2006 March 28

Those who have read my posts previously in this forum would know that I am a huge fan of Dan Lepard, and his book 'The Handmade Loaf' (don't have any shares in it, just think that it is a fantastic book).

Dan has just posted on his forum an article that he wrote for 'The Caterer', a UK cooking magazine. It contains a simple recipe for creating a leaven, and a basic recipe for his Mill loaf.

I can't think of a better way to get into sourdough baking.
The text can be found at [url=]dan lepard's forum[/url]

Text and pictures can be found at [url=]The caterer's website[/url]


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