Sourdough Review : Mix - Wait- Bake. Are these three simple steps to great sourdough?

Welcome to another step-by-step recipe from BreadClub20. Why not drop by our main Facebook page by clicking here.... If you like what you see and enjoy the recipe, we hope you go on to join us by 'Liking' and 'Subscribing'.

This is part of a series of 'worked examples'. I've taken a particularly interesting recipe, either from YouTube© or from a printed source and worked it through. Hopefully, you'll see any 'pressure points' where I've had to consider alternatives or make some sort of allowance for factors that were not immediately apparent. 

This is Sourdough - Mix, Wait and Bake. Three simple steps to great sourdough. 

I have to thank Michiel Leijnse for this recipe. I want to sincerely thank him. 

Why? Because he's made me stop and think.  

For many months now, I've been having all manner of conflicting feelings about the way we approach the making of sourdough and, for the inexperienced baker, how easily it is to be intimidated by science and very experienced fellow bakers. 

Let's go back to basics. Sourdough is the oldest form of leavened bread. Our first recordings of it being made by a civilisation go back to the Egyptians of around 1500BC; although the oldest piece of sourdough dates back to 3700 BC and was 'excavated' in Switzerland. 

This is ancient bread. You can't imagine that a Neanderthal in Neuchâtel threw a chunk of sourdough bread out bcause the he had had problems with his lamination and coil-folding at the back of a draughty cave or because he couldn't remember where he'd put his aliquot jar! 

The more I read, the more I find myself resisting the hype, the smoke and the mirrors that exists alongside the genuine search for further enlightenment but only seves to intimidate those starting out on their own sourdough baking journeys. 

People worry about how their loaves look....why are they that shape or this....should they be this colour or that....what about the starter...or is it a levain..or a poolish...or a biga? 

They go out and buy a large hard-covered book and read recipes where techniques abound that may well be on a par with delicate key-hole surgery or rocket science. 

Then, they open the oven door, or lift off the lid of a very expensive Dutch Oven or ceramic cloche and can be, too often, faced with the disappointment of a charred frisbee. 

I'd imagine that most home bakers only want  to be able to look at a half-decent loaf that tastes lovely and find themselves with the skills to deliver the same quality over and over again. 

Come on...this is but bread, after all. 

When I set up BreadClub20 I wanted to try and encourage people to start baking or to get back into baking. I wanted to do what I could to support people's well-being. Complicated recipes or procedures don't exactly make this easy. 

And then, I came across Michiel Leijnse. The baker with the 42 word recipe. The baker with a three word slogan. 

Mix - Wait - Bake

We've had a lot of three word slogans this year: Hands, Face, Space; Cook, Eat, Repeat.....

But I'm signed up to this one.....Mix - Wait - Bake. 

Here is the video that inspired me to write this post and to add my contributions to Michiels's recipe:

A word before we start. I'd advise you to watch the YouTube© video a couple of times or so. I have. Then I have adapted what I've seen to suit my own circumstances. Of course, you're free to do the same. Hopefully, my experience will help you form your own way through what is to come. 

You'll see he has a limited range of equipment:

A mixing bowl - I use a large plastic Addis bowl - one with nice smooth interior. 

A suitable lid - I discovered an Ebay site that sold XL showercaps - designed for people with dreadlocks. They're big enough to cover the bowl and substantial enough to last a long, long time. 

A set of scales - try and find ones that have a TARE setting (it goes back to zero even when there's already a bowl and ingredients on it)

A spatula - I'd buy to use and one with which to to clean the other one!

Flour - I use strong white bread flour. You can add wholemeal, spelt, rye....whatever you you'll see below. Also, buy some rice flour - it's the Teflon of flours - nothing sticks to it!

A Banneton - the banneton serves a different purpose in Michiel's recipe. Usually, the dough is allowed to rise in the banneton, so it has to be large enough to hold the dough at its fullness. In Michiel's recipe, it is simply a container in which to temporarily hold the dough on its journey from the worktop to the oven. Yes, the dough benefits from the patterns, so it's handy to have. For those of us in the UK, there used to be good financial reasons to source bannetons from beyond these shores, but sadly, those days seem to have gone. 

A Dutch oven of Ceramic cloche - both Dutch Ovens and ceramic cloches are things of beauty. Buy them if you are committed to bread making. If you can't afford them or want to 'see how it goes', fair enough. You can more than get by with a standard pizza stone and a stainless steel mixing bowl, inverted to form a cover. It will work perfectly well to retain the steam and to help the oven spring. 

Parchment Paper- there's nothing better for helping dough our of something and into something else. Mind you, in saying that, i have now fashioned bread slings out of silicone baking mats, cut to shape and size. They work extremely well and will last for many years. 

I'd also advise buying a cooking thermometer. 

And that's it. Now let's move on. 

First of all, let's take the ingredients. 


I'm doubling Michiel's original recipe as I want TWO loaves but you can scale up or down to suit yourself. remember HALF of everything will make ONE loaf and then just scale up accordingly. 

1000 gms of bread flour. (For one loaf - always make sure you have at least 350 gms of strong white and then make up the remaining 150 gms with equal proportions of other flours. Or, simply use 500 gms of white bread flour. A happy medium and a starting point might be 400 gms of white and 100 gms of wholemeal? To double up....double up! ))

750 gms of water (I always use tepid, filtered water or own-brand bottled still water. Try and avoid one that has been 'treated' by the water board)

20 gms of salt. (this is 2% of the total weight of flour)

150 gms of active starter (you will need to remember to refresh your starter by feeding it and give it enough time before baking to make sure it's active. I always feed mine about 8 hours before I need it. I feed it with equal portions of flour and iced slows down the yeat activity nicely so I can get a night's sleep....100 gms old starter to 100 gms of rye flour to 100 mls of water : ratio 1:1:1)

Don't forget....keep some starter back to put into the fridge for the next bake. 

OK that's the end of the ingredients.



Into a large mixing bowl, add the starter and the water. Give it a stir.

Add the flour and the salt.

Bring everything together into a sticky clump.

Cover the bowl with a cloth, a shower cap or a lid and leave it alone for 60 minutes. 

Why? Because this is what is referred to as 'autolysing', The flour and the water absorb and the yeast cells and the bacteria in the starter settle in and begin to do their job. 

Over the course of the next few hours, the yeast and bacteria in the starter has to 'eat' its way through the flour mix to turn this claggy clump into beautiful silky dough. It will do it on its own, but it never hurts to give it a little hand once in a while. 

And that's why we STRETCH AND FOLD. 

Now, I know Michiel builds his routine so that he bakes in the evening. It doesn't suit me. I start at around 8 a.m. 

So....the night before (let's call that Day 1), - before I go to bed, I'll take the starter out of the fridge, tip some into a pot and add water and flour as outlined above. Give it a stir with a passing chopstick, cover and leave it alone. 

Starter fed at 8 p.m. - this was taken at 6 a.m. 
You'll notice the Kilner seal is in place and the jar is locked down....and we haven't had to evacuate the neighbourhood!

Next morning, (let's call that Day 2), at about 9 a.m. I'll mix everything and then leave it for an hour. 

Then at around 10.30 I'll stretch and fold it for the first time

At 11.30, I'll stretch and fold it for the second time

At 12.15, I'll stretch and fold it for the third time. 

What's stretch and fold? Stretch and fold is a way of helping the dough to develop gluten. These are the strands that make bread what it is. Michiel demonstrates how to stretch and fold. Above all, do it gently and don't do too many. Maybe twenty for the first set, then a dozen for the second and half a dozen for the third. 

And that's it - the MIX stage is over. 

You'll see that Michiel makes a firm point about Bulk Fermentation - the time it takes for all the dough to be processed by the starter and for it to come to a point where it is ready for the next stage. 

This is the WAIT stage. Remember it's Mix-Wait-Bake.

The chart that follows is another item I've borrowed from Michiel. Let me explain how it works. Down the vertical column is the % of starter you've added. We added 150 grams for 1kg of flour, or 15%. Across the top is the ambient temperature of your kitchen. Draw the points together and you have the time in hours and minutes that should elapse from the end of the resting stage of your dough to it being ready for the next stage (including the time taken for stretch and folding).

I find it works remarkably well. Our kitchen is always between 19 - 21 degrees Centigrade. 

So, 15% at average 20⁰C is 8hrs and 13 minutes....I find that 8.5 hours is absolutely spot on. 

So, based on my routine, I usually find that the bulk fermentation ends at about 6.30 p.m. 

I put the mixing bowl with its cover in the middle of the kitchen, away from draughts and on a placemat so it keeps an ambient temperature and then I leave it alone. All I do is put a note next to it to remind me of the end time. 

By 6.30 p.m. the dough (in its bowl and covered with the shower cap) is ready to go on the top shelf of the refirgerator where it will stay for 12 - 13 hrs. 

By breakfast time on Day 3, the WAIT stage is over. 

On to BAKE.

Take the dough out of the fridge. Don't be rough with it, a lot of gas has built up within the dough - gas that we want to keep. 

Preheat your oven and your baking pot (cast iron casserole, baking cloche, pizza stone and lid, roaster, Pyrex glass casserole...whatever) to 240⁰C. 

Generously flour the banneton. 

While it's heating up, VERY GENTLY, coax the dough out of the bowl onto a very lightly-floured board. I flour with rice's ideal. 

This is where we divide the dough into two. Do it by eye, you won't be far out. 

Take a piece of dough and VERY GENTLY bring the edges into the middle so you form a ball. 

Using the outer edges of your palms bring the ball towards yourself. Lift it gently to the far end of the worktop again and turn it through 45⁰. 

Gently pull it towards you again. You're building up surface tesion. DON'T OVER DO IT! Once or twice is fine. 

Then, very carefully, place the dough ball into the banneton. 

Now this is where Michiel is different again in his the dough ball so that the SMOOTH side is on the top and the SEAM is on the bottom. This is exactly the opposite to what you'd normally do. 

Why? Because we're not going to score the bread, We're allowing the seam to be the natural score that will allow the over spring to happen and for the bread to expand. 

Repeat with the other piece of dough.

Now I tend to invert the banneton onto a baker's peel and use that to carry the dough over to the oven. You'll see from the video that Michiel uses the banneton and tips the dough into the cooking pot. You'll find your own way here. Have a look at the photos as well as the video. 

Bake for 30 minutes at 240⁰C with the lid on and for 25 minutes with the lid off. 

Please make sure that the internal temperature of the loaf is 100⁰C when cooked. Because it has come from the refrigerator to the oven, the inside takes a little longer to fully cook. This is important. I've repeated this recipe a few times. The crumb sets far better if the cooking time is extended a little. 

When it's cooked - and you're happy with the colour and the temperature, remove it from the oven and let it cool for TWO hours on a cooling rack. The crumb needs time to 'set'. 

And that's it.....

In closing....remember, the more you bake, the more you begin to understand. The more you understand, the more inquisitive you will become. The more inquisitive you become, the more chances you'll take. Chances that are informed and risks that are measured. 

But, what everybody wants, and needs,  to start with are a few easy wins under their belts. A few successes, the glory in which we can bathe......that's what makes us Happy Bakers.

So? What's the verdict?

You have to remember that the dough goes into the cloche upside effect, the smooth top is at the bottom and the natural 'seam' is the escape for the dough as it expands. 

The first time I baked this way, I helped the seam along by scoring the dough before it went into the oven. This time, I decided that it wasn't in the spirit of the recipe.... but I think I regret the decision not to have done. I think it needs a little help. 

I love the dark craggy look...I have to  say. 

Happy baking....and thanks once again, Michiel! 


An 'interior' shot.....

Very Happy Baking....


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