Your daily bread: Sourdough from starter


Food writer, broadcaster and author Caroline Hennessy has been focused on food and writing since editing Ireland’s first food website for RTÉ in 2000. Chair of the Irish Food Writers’ Guild, she established the award-winning Bibliocook: All About Food in 2005, is the author of two books about beer and food and has a column in the Irish Examiner in which she writes about small food producers and the ways in which they develop and maintain a sustainable local food system.

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15 Responses

  1. Kristin says:

    I love sourdough bread and wish it was as widely available as it is back home in the US. I’ve always been intimidated by all the long-winded recipes for starters, but you’ve inspired me to finally give it a go!

  2. I have a great sourdough starter which has been in existence for about 4 or 5 years now, at least. We made it using the recipe from the Moro cookbook, which involves red grapes & muslin (we did a lot of running around town looking for bloody muslin, in advance of it). Anyway the starter has done the rounds of my whole family & when our personal batch died from over exposure to heat, we took some of what we had given to my mother & fed it back up again. Anyway I have recently altered my sourdough recipe to follow one from a 1973 cookbook called the Whole Earth cookbook, which gets the job done in under 24 hours. You make the sponge up the night before with flour and starter, then the main recipe includes honey, melted butter, more flour, warm water & a very small amount of yeast. It makes the best sourdough I’ve had yet & you get 2 loaves out of the recipe, it is champion!!

  3. Caroline says:

    @Kristin I’m not sure that this is the shortest recipe in the world but I did try to break it down, step by step, and I do know that at least one of my Urru students had success with it. I’m always available for phone assistance too!

    @The Demagogue I remember looking at that recipe when I read the Moro cookbook and as I had neither red grapes nor muslin on hand, it was dismissed. Now, with Little Missy in the house, I have acres of muslin left over from when she was a teeny baby so it wouldn’t be quite as daunting.I like the idea of your Whole Earth cookbook recipe, sounds perfect if my own starter dies a death. I’m very much in favour of sourdough recipes that makes two loaves at a time!

  4. Clare says:

    I adore sourdough bread but am very initimidated with baking in general. But your step-by-step directions are making me think it’s possible! I want a sourdough starter mainly for pancakes; there is a restaurant in LA that serves silver-dollar sourdough pancakes and I dream of them. WIll have to attempt my own starter now!

  5. Caroline says:

    It was actually the Husband that started making sourdough, way back in 2003 when we first moved in together in Dublin. After making one edible loaf out of eight – I think now that the chlorinated water was a problem – he gave up (still working with yeast, though!) but I’ve been fascinated ever since.Hope you try it, Clare. Once you have your starter bubbling away there are lots of sourdough pancake recipes to try out. Came across this one which looks well worth trying. I’ve been siphoning off bits of my starter to add to various other bread doughs with good results so far.

  6. Geraldine says:

    I had great beginner’s luck a couple of years ago with a starter following the same method you have outlined. It made fantastic bread for a whole summer but I had to ditch it after I found 5 fruitflies partying in the layer of hooch on the top.

    You’ve inspired me to have another go!

    Ger x.

    • Caroline says:

      I can see why you’d have to get rid of that! I started my starter in the autumn when there weren’t too many fruit flies wandering about and always keep the jar lid closed so I haven’t had any problems like that, so far. Just realised, as I fed it up this morning for a new set of loaves later in the week, that it’s older than Little Missy!

      Best of luck with your new starter.

  7. Sammie says:

    I love sourdough bread and I’ve never tried making it at home. Thank you for the guidance on starters- it’s all a little intimidating!

    • Caroline says:

      When we first moved in together, the then Boyfriend randomly decided that he was going to make sourdough bread and it was, more or less, a complete disaster. I watched and learned!

      A lot of the recipes he tried involved throwing out lots of starter but don’t think that’s at all necessary so I went looking for something not so wasteful. Also, using non-chlorinated water is SO important. As I said in the recipe, you can – and I normally do – use regular tap water, poured into a jug and allowed to stand overnight.

      Best of luck with it!

  8. Mark says:

    Hi Caroline, I’ve just embarked on this and am hoping for great things ! One question : after the 5 days of adding little by little, you say to take off about 16 fl ozs of the starter and then add larger quantities. I had assumed that what was left continued its life in your starter jar. Then, after day 2 morning, you say to take off 30 fl ozs and keep the remainder as your starter. What happens to the small amount left over after you take the 16 fl ozs ? Does this get disposed of ?
    (hope you can understand this !!)


  9. Caroline says:

    I’m delighted that you got on so well. Those loaves look fantastic – and I’ll bet that they taste even better. The flavour of the starter only improves with age so I’ll wish you many more loaves in the future!

    • Mark says:

      Progress report – I’m still using this starter and it’s fascinating how the flavour has developed over just two and a half months. A great success so thanks again !

      • Caroline says:

        Glad to get your update! I love the way that the flavour intensifies as the starter gets older. The last time I made sourdough and put up a picture on Facebook, someone left a comment about a starter that’s coming up on its 70th birthday. Not sure my own one will last that long…

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