Making a Starter from Scratch & Sourdough Country Bread Recipe


adapted from Bread Matters by Andrew Whitley (Fourth Estate). Book (and dried starter) are available from

This is a delicious full-flavoured bread with a chewy crumb and thick crust made without added yeast. Wild yeasts in the flour multiply to raise the dough while naturally-occurring beneficial lactic acid bacteria give the bread its tangy flavour and make it more digestible.

Use mostly wholemeal to get the starter going (it’s much more ‘bio-active’ than refined white flour), but thereafter it’s up to you. The greater the proportion of wholemeal the fuller the flavour and the more nutritious the loaf will be.

Stage 1      Making a Starter from Scratch

These measurements may look ridiculously precise, especially if you don’t have a set of digital scales. But it’s the proportions that are important, not the exact numbers. A bit of dough gets lost on bowls and fingers each time you mix, so some allowance is made for that in the recipe that follows.

Day 1
40 g wholemeal wheat flour (e.g. Scotland The Bread flour)
25 ml warm water (30° C)
65 g total

Mix to a firm dough, cover loosely with a polythene bag and leave in a fairly warm place. Around 27° C is ideal, but don’t fret if you can’t achieve this. The starter will still ferment at lower temperatures, just more slowly. The main thing is to keep your young starter away from chilling draughts. After 24 hours, refresh the starter as follows:

Day 2
60 g starter from Day 1
40 g wholemeal wheat flour
25 ml warm water (30° C)
125 g total

Mix well, knead briefly and cover as before. After another day, refresh again:

Day 3
120 g starter from Day 2
40 g wholemeal wheat flour
25 ml warm water (30° C)
185 g total

Mix well, knead briefly and cover as before. After one more day, refresh again:

Day 4
180 g starter from Day 3
75 g wholemeal flour (or 50:50 wholemeal and white)
45 ml warm water (30° C)
300 g total sourdough

After 24 hours you should have a sourdough ‘starter’ which smells fruity and slightly acidic. From now on, use some of this to make a ‘production sourdough’ and bread as follows:


To make one large or two small loaves

Stage 2         Making a ‘Production Sourdough’ (a process known as ‘refreshment’)

160 g old sourdough (i.e. some of the starter you have just made or an old one from the fridge)
150 g wholemeal flour (e.g. Scotland The Bread flour)
50 g strong white flour
120 ml warm water (35°C)
480 g total ‘production sourdough’

Mix to a dough and leave in a warm place for 4 hours or in a cool place for 12 hours. Then use this sourdough to make your final dough.

Stage 3         Making the Final Dough

300 g refreshed ‘production sourdough’ from Stage 2 above (put the remaining 180 g or so in your sourdough pot in the fridge)
300 g wholemeal flour
100 g white flour
300 ml warm water (35°C)
8 g sea salt
1008 g total ‘final dough’

Make a fairly soft dough. Knead gently until reasonably elastic. Shape into a round, dip in flour (brown rice flour is best) and place in a floured proving basket (banneton) or a bowl lined with a floured linen cloth. Cover with a wax cloth or polythene bag and leave to prove in a warm place for up to 5 hours, until the dough has roughly doubled in volume. Turn out onto a baking sheet lined with silicone paper. Slash the dough with a sharp blade to make the pattern of your choice. This dough can also be baked in a tin.

Bake in a fairly hot oven (220°C dropping to 200°C after ten minutes) to develop a good crust (total about 40 minutes, depending on your oven).
Share with family, friends or complete strangers.

© Andrew Whitley 2020

One thought on “Making a Starter from Scratch & Sourdough Country Bread Recipe

  1. Jock says:

    I made this bread while working in Papua New Guinea and the expats as well as locals were surprised how light and tasty this bread was and for nearly all the locals it was the first time they had tasted bread without commercial yeast. I could not get the small gas oven hot enough so cooked inside a pot in the oven. Wish I could send a photo.

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