Brigit Strawbridge's Sourdough Loaf

Brigit Strawbridge's Sourdough Loaf

by James Strawbridge

This wonderful sourdough recipe is from acclaimed Cornish chef James Strawbridge’s new book Salt and the Art of Seasoning. Wholemeal flour is a great addition to any sourdough loaf. You won’t get the same large holes and oven spring as a white loaf, but the flavour and nutrition are much improved.

James introduces the recipe and his mother:

"I love baking at home but there’s nothing more comforting than bread baked by your mum – so I’ve asked my mum, Brigit Strawbridge Howard, to share her sourdough recipe here in her own words….

"There are as many different recipes and instructions on how to make a sourdough loaf as there are varieties of flours you can use in it, but once you get the hang of the basic principles, you can play with the ingredients and timings and make the recipe your own. I always use a rye starter, for instance, but other starters would doubtless work just as well. I also make a point of using the most wholesome ingredients I can find, preferring non-chlorinated water, organic flours made from ancient grains such as spelt, and Himalayan salt flakes, but these are not prerequisites, just preferences.

"I ran out of salt, once. As I had already weighed out the other ingredients, I carried on, thinking it would be fine without. Big mistake! Without the salt to slow it down, the yeast ran wild overnight and when I came down in the morning, the dough had spilled over the edges of the bowl and begun to spread across the table. It was almost impossible to work with and I ended up with another ‘pancake’. Worst still, the pancake tasted like cardboard. Anyway, the recipe and method below is the one that always works best for me. I hope it works for you, too. And thank you, James, for including it in your book.”

Makes 1 loaf / serves 4


For activating the starter
  • Active rye sourdough starter (find a recipe in James’ book The Artisan Kitchen or use Wakelyns Sourdough Starter - just add a third of the starter weight in water to convert it to a 100% hydration starter and refresh with Wholemeal Rye Flour.)
  • 100g Tepid Water
  • 100g Light Rye Flour
For the sourdough loaf


Stage 1 - in advance of baking day
  1. Day 1 morning: Activate the starter. Remove the starter from the fridge and measure 50g of it into a large jar or glass bowl. Add 50g of the tepid water and 50g of the rye flour and mix together. Cover and leave for 24 hours at room temperature (around 21°C/70°F). I usually put mine on a sunny windowsill. By the time you to go bed, it should have doubled in size and be looking quite ‘bubbly’.
  2. Day 2 morning: Discard half the starter. Add the remaining 50g of tepid water and the remaining 50g of rye flour to the active starter you have kept, mix together, then cover and leave again at room temperature for around 6 hours till late afternoon/early evening. You are now ready to start making your loaf.
Stage 2 - mixing the dough 
  1. Day 2 late afternoon/early evening: For the sourdough loaf, put the tepid water, agave syrup (or sugar) and 75g of the activated starter into a large bowl (put the remaining activated starter back in the fridge). Mix together with a spoon or a hand whisk.
  2. Add both spelt flours and the salt. Mix together to form a ‘shaggy’ dough. Mixing doesn’t take more than a minute or two and I use a Danish dough whisk for this stage, but you could use a wooden spoon. Cover with a tea towel or polythene bag and leave to rest at room temperature for an hour.
  3. After an hour, stretch and fold the dough ten times in the bowl. Cover again and leave to rest at room temperature for another hour. Do three more stretch and folds with 30 minutes rest between each. Cover the dough as before and leave overnight at room temperature.
Stage 3 - baking day 
  1. The dough should have risen overnight. I pop mine in the fridge for an hour when I come down in the morning, to help firm it up before handling again.
  2. Sprinkle a 22cm/8½in round (8.5cm/3¼in deep) proving basket or banneton with white spelt flour. If you don’t have one of these you can use a glass mixing bowl.
  3. Using a plastic scraper, first dip it in flour, then use to scrape the dough out of the bowl onto a floured surface. Bring the four edges of dough in on top of each other, turn over and shape into a boule. Keep shaping the boule till it’s nice and tight (this part is really important to help stop it spreading in the oven).
  4. Using a plastic scraper, scoop up the dough and tip it, top-side down, into the floured proving basket/banneton/bowl. Place the proving basket/banneton/bowl inside a large polythene food bag (or cover with a slightly damp tea towel) and leave to prove for 1–1½ hours, depending on the temperature of the kitchen.
  5. Preheat the oven to 230°C fan/480°F/gas mark 9½ and preheat a baking tray. Use the ‘steam’ mode if you have it, otherwise add a shallow roasting tray filled with boiling water to the bottom of the oven.
  6. Remove the hot baking tray from the oven and sprinkle with a liberal amount of rice flour (rice flour is brilliant because it doesn’t burn at high temperatures like other flours).
  7. Flip the dough onto the tray (if the dough is sticking to the basket/banneton/bowl, sprinkle a little rice flour around the edges to ease it out from the edges). Score a cross on the top of the boule with a sharp knife.
  8. Bake for 15 minutes, then turn the oven down to 190°C fan/410°F/gas mark 6½ and bake for another 30 minutes or until dark brown and the loaf has a hollow sound when you knock the bottom of it. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely, then serve in thick slices.
  9. The loaf will keep fresh in a bread bin or sealed in a food storage bag for up to 7 days. Try toasted sourdough with cheese and chutney, smoked mackerel pâté or with a bowl of pumpkin soup.

    This recipe and abstract is an extract from James Strawbridge’s new book Salt and the Art of Seasoning (Chelsea Green Publishing, May 2023) and is reprinted with the kind permission from the publisher.

    James Strawbridge
    James Strawbridge


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