If you fancy joining me, the next few months, I propose that we work our way through the new book together. This will enable people to bake at their own level and pace, choose which recipe they want to bake and when, and share them along the way. Please ask questions and share outcomes.
Let’s start from the beginning with the master recipe collection; most of you have baked a version of my master recipe, some have baked several, I hope this will be your chance to try it in a different form. Happy baking gang!
🌟 Use the hashtags #thesourdoughwhisperer #groupbake when you share your bakes 🌟
Todays top tip: if your pan is too small for your dough, your loaves will not bake properly.
Once again, in this instance, size matters; the size of your pan makes a big difference to your baked loaf. 🌟 Let me explain why I’m posting this… Recently I’ve been contacted by a few bakers who have found that their loaves aren’t baking fully all the way through, or are soft and under baked round the sides, and sometimes also the base, of their loaves. In each case, the reason this has happened is because the pan has been too small for baking the loaves. What this means is that all the wonderful work you’ve done to create your starter and then to build a lovely strong dough, is that the dough can’t spread its wonderful wings and grow sufficiently so it get stunted and stopped in its tracks and therefore underbaked. The limited space means that the steam and heat can’t circle the dough which it needs to bake it evenly; plus the dough being inhibited by being in a small space means it gets compacted so the inside doesn’t get fully baked. 🌟 Just as the right size banneton is important, a good size pan is too. 🌟 If you feel your loaves are not baking fully, the top 5 reasons will be…
They need to be baked for longer: try adding an extra 5-10 mins to the bake. The dough was too wet: next time use 25g less water in your dough. The dough was over proved: watch the time and temp you’re proving at. The dough was under proved: give the dough more time to prove. The pan is too small: ensure your loaf isn’t hitting the sides of the pan or the underneath of the lid.
For info: I use my standard master recipe dough with a 21-22cm diameter banneton and a 26cm diameter enamel pan. You’ll find full details on my equipment page.
There’s more help about all of these issues throughout my site and in my books. 🌟 To answer the other question of ‘is my pan too big?’, the answer is no, a pan can never be too big. If you are asking that because your dough spreads in the pan, the issue is the dough, not the pan. Your dough should happily hold its shape when you turn it out into the pan, and not rely on the pan to hold it. I have a post fully explaining why your dough may spread here. 🌟 Have fun!
If you’ve ever asked me ‘how do I know when my dough is fully proved?’ this is for you….
If you know anything about me and my sourdough world, you will know that keeping things simple is my main driving force; sourdough can be made as simply as you choose to make it, and I work very hard to make it as simple as possible for me, and for anyone who uses my ways…
Once question I am asked a lot is ‘how do I know when my dough is fully proved?’.
The simple answer is: look for it to double in size. But I know that that’s not always as easy as it sounds.
So, the even SIMPLER answer is this: do what I do, and use a perfect sized bowl to help you judge it!
Yes. Use whatever tools you can to make life easy, and a perfectly sized bowl takes the guess work out of judging the growth of your dough completely. And that’s what these bowls do.
Let me explain….this didn’t happen by design, I just ordered some new bowls one day and along came this one. The more I used it, the more I realised how useful it was. It is PERFECT for making my master recipe, in more ways than one. When I make my standard full size dough, I look for my dough to almost fill the bowl (obviously I also want it to be sufficiently structured and well proved too); when I make my baby master doughs, I want the dough to be level with the second groove engraved in the side of the bowl. If the dough under or over proves the bowl also helps to judge that.
As I say, this has been a happy accident, I didn’t choose the bowls for this reason, but it has all fallen into place. I now own 12 of these bowls, they stack perfectly, and I use them all over and over again. You don’t need as many as me, I have so many for my courses, but I highly recommend you give them a go. Again, this is the kind of helpful, simple foodbod advice, you will find in my new book.
My lovely guys at EcoBaker are now stocking these exact bowls so that you can find them easily, I’ve added the link here. (You’ll find my book there too 😉)
🌟🌟🌟🌟 NOTE: if you are overseas please email Phil or Andy directly for shipping assistance at..
Which often goes hand in hand with ‘I really struggle to score my dough’.
If that’s you, read on…
All of these issues can be easily fixed, and will be because your dough is very soft, can’t hold its shape, and therefore spreads, it will be impossible to score successfully, or even you can score it, the scores close up. Typically, this is because your dough is not firm enough.
The key reasons for this are, either:
⁃ your flour was not strong enough for the dough to hold its shape,
⁃ there was too much water in your dough for the flour you’re using,
⁃ you are not building up enough structure in your dough during the pulls and folds actions (they do make a difference),
⁃ you are not pulling your dough together tightly enough when placing it into your banneton; this video will help,
⁃ or the dough is over proving and therefore losing any structure,
Also note that if your banneton is too big for your dough your loaf will be wide and flat.
There’s answers, help and solutions for you throughout my book, posts and on my faq page.
But the key thing to know is, it’s always an easy fix… AND, as always, all that matters is how your loaves taste!
My rule of thumb is this: if your dough is soft and sticky BEFORE the overnight prove, you probably need less water in your dough; if it’s soft and sticky AFTER the overnight prove, it’s probably over proved and you need less starter in the dough from the beginning, or to move your dough to cooler spot.
On this website you will find no ads, no pop-ups, and no sponsorships. You will find only freely given recipes, information, guidance and help. If you like my site and would like to ‘buy me a cup of tea’ that would be lovely. Thank you xx
Spelt flour is a beautiful flour to use and produces an amazingly tasty loaf. It is not, however, a straightforward flour to use and benefits from being baked in a loaf tin to give it support. To make this loaf, I followed my master recipe process to make the dough and the process for making sandwich loaves as in my book.
50g starter (I used my spelt starter, see below)
500g wholemeal spelt flour
1 tsp salt
To make the dough, follow my usual master recipe process as written on my site or in my book, mixing everything up together mid/late afternoon. It may seem dry initially but it does not need extra water, go in with your hands and squeeze the mixture together, so that there is no dry flour left.
Then cover the bowl with your shower cap/cover, and leave it on the counter for 2 hours, this rest time will make it easier to stretch the dough later.
After 2 hours, do a set of stretches and folds on the dough. Wholemeal flour is oily and does not stick to the bowl which also means that when you try to stretch it, the whole dough will lift out of the bowl so I hold the dough in place with one hand, lift a portion with the other hand, pull it up and tuck it over the dough. Do this a few times round the bowl.
This will be a stiff, spongy mix.
Cover the bowl again, let it sit for 1 hour then repeat the stretches. It will only need a few actions.
Do this twice more then cover the dough again and leave it on the counter overnight.
In the morning the dough will have grown to double the size with a smoothish surface.
The dough will be spongy and textured and will not take many pulls to bring it together.
Once it is in the tin as per the video, cover it again, and leave it on the counter.
Let the dough prove again. Once it is level with the edge of the tin, bake.
This can be done from a cold start; place the tin with the dough in, uncovered, into the cold oven. Turn the oven up to 180C fan/200C non fan and bake for 45 mins from the time you placed it into the oven.
The loaf will not grow much more as it bakes, the growth is all in the proving, the baking merely consolidates that.
Once baked, remove from the pan, tap the base, and if it sounds hollow, remove the paper and cool on a rack for a good hour at least. If you feel it needs baking for longer, put it back in the oven for 5-10 more minutes.
These loaves tend to feel slightly moist which is normal.
To make this loaf I used a wholemeal/wholewheat starter too to make this a 100% spelt loaf…
To make your own, follow my guide for making a starter on my site or in my book, exactly as it’s written, just using wholemeal/wholewheat spelt flour. Please note that you can use any type of starter made with any flour, if you want to keep the loaf fully spelt, below are some notes about making a wholemeal/wholewheat spelt flour starter.
Day 1: this will be a thick first mix
Day 2: this will still be a thick mix, but not as much as day 1. There may be a slight liquid forming on surface, this is normal
Day 3: you may see bubbles forming on surface and throughout the mixture, it will have an elastic, thick, bouncy consistency
When you feed it it will be thick, maybe already showing bubbles after mixing and stirring
Over next 24 hours, you should see bubbles appearing, the texture becoming almost spongy, and the volume starting to grow, and a strong wheaty smell developing
Days 4 & 5: the mix will be thick, elastic and textured
Day 6: you will notice a strong smell when the starter is stirred, this is normal, and typical of wholegrain flours. It should also now be textured, bubbly, and thick before feeding
And lovely and thicker after feeding. Bubbles may be appearing as soon as fed and stirred
Day 7: it should be responding to its feed and growing and becoming textured with a bubbly surface.
Note that with wholegrain flours, any show of dark liquid on the surface or around the edges is normal.
I hope you enjoy creating your own wholemeal/wholewheat spelt starter and loaf, and enjoy the fabulous flavour! For more ideas about using spelt flour, and lots more wholegrain and ancient grain flours, check out my book ‘Whole Grain Sourdough at Home’.
I get many messages from people who are questioning why their loaves aren’t as they expected, and I see posts and comments in groups along the same lines, and people are very quick to blame the starter. It’s an easy conclusion to jump to, but usually unfairly. Because, your starter is rarely the actual issue.
So when people ask me: why is my loaf flat/gummy/dense/uneven, is it because of my starter? Or, is my starter too weak? Or, should I throw my starter away? Or, do I need to make a new starter?
This is always my question back:
did your dough grow?
If the answer is yes, then your starter is fine.
Because, if your dough grows, it shows your starter is working perfectly, it’s doing the job it’s meant to do. And in which case, if your loaf is not as you expected it to be, it is for another reason, not because of your starter.
If your dough was slow to grow, it could just be cold; if your dough didn’t grow at all, it could just be cold. In both cases, check what the overnight temperature was before immediately assuming your starter is the issue.
If it’s been 18C and under, just allow your dough more time to fully prove and grow to double in size. That’s all it needs.
If it’s been 18C – 20C consistently all night and your dough didn’t grow, only then might there be an issue with your starter.
Our beloved starters get so much unfair blame when a loaf doesn’t bake as expected, when usually the answer is a proving issue, or some other reason. Look back at my FAQs and posts for tips about doughs and behaviour before throwing some other flour or feeding programme at your starter. And never ever throw your starter away unless it’s mouldy and truly dead.
And if your starter really does need some help, give it a boost, or some fresh flour, or a new flour. Give it a chance to do it’s thing. There’s life in there, it might just need some encouragement to show itself. Your starter is a living beautiful thing, and as with all living beautiful things, they can have dips in energy, and that’s the time to give it some love and encouragement.
This could be ‘how long will it take for my new starter to be ready to use?’ or ‘how long will it be before I can use my starter after feeding it?’ or ‘how long will it take for my dough fully proved?’, these are the main questions that come up.
There is only one answer to all of these, or any question of ‘how long…?’ when talking about sourdough which is…
I literally cannot tell you “how long”. There is no fixed, definitive answer to any of these questions.
I cannot ever tell anyone how long any of that things will take because there are too many factors involved. And understanding that and what these factors are will enhance your sourdough exponentially. Time and patience are the bedfellows of sourdough success, hand in hand with flour, temperature and environment. Which can all sound confusing and impossible to manage, but it’s truly simpler than people think, and as soon as you grasp those elements, sourdough making becomes relaxing and more enjoyable.
If I answer those earlier questions, this will give you a guide to what the main considerations are which you can the apply to your kitchen…
Question: how long will it take for my new starter to be ready to use?
Answer: honestly, it will take as long as it takes. All starters are different. Some take 5 days, some take 5 weeks, they’re all individual. It depends on the flour you use, the temperature in your kitchen, the wild yeast activity in your flour. The key is to let it happen, because it will.
Question: how long will it be before I can use my starter after feeding it?
Answer: this will all depend on the strength of your starter, and the room temperature. If it’s chilly, it will be slower; if it’s warmer, it will be faster. Watch it and it will show you when it’s ready, it will have grown and become active and lively.
Question: how long will it take for my dough fully proved?
Answer: again, this will depend on the strength of your starter, and the room temperature. If it’s chilly, it will be slower; if it’s warmer, it will be faster. This is why all of my recipes include time and temperature hand in hand for the main prove. Read my site and my book and lots of my posts on here for more info.
And one final question, that we all ask: how long do I REALLY have to wait to slice into my freshly baked loaf?
Answer: to eat it at its absolute best, at least an hour, otherwise it will be gummy, but truly, it’s totally up to you!
Time, patience, and understanding how room temperature affects sourdough making, are the keys to success. Read my other posts and hints and tips for more information.
“Pragmatic no knead, no mess, one bowl sourdough recipes with a 100% success rate. Cannot recommend highly enough.
How much do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
I have been baking and cooking for many years. I had a food blog. I collect cookbooks, I read recipes to relax, in bed, at breakfast, for inspiration, for fun.
I have followed Elaine’s meteoric rise from blog writer, to Instagram sourdough goddess, to now published author. Over this period we have had discussions on following recipes. She would say, you have to follow the recipe and I would say, I always wing it. After this exchange I started paying more attention to the recipes in my books. Often crucial information is missing, the writers assume the reader doesn’t need additional information, or else they didn’t think of everything. The difference here is Elaine thought of everything. She is in the kitchen with you the whole time. Her clear instructions, her calm presence and her love of all things sourdough shine through on the page. There is nothing she has not thought of. She is a perfectionist, a pragmatist and a brilliant teacher and her desire for you to succeed is clear as you read. Her creativity is astonishing. Her enthusiasm infectious.
The relevance of this book for the home baker can be summed up by the fact that it includes this FAQ:.
“I have mixed my dough, but I suddenly need to go out, what do I do?”
This tells you the author is a home baker, she understands that there is sourdough and there is your life. She integrates the two. So you can bake sourdough every day for your family, with little effort and no fuss.
What you need to know:
The recipes – you will find
How to make your own sourdough starter, how to maintain it, and why it is easy to do
One bowl, no knead, no mess master recipe
Breads and biscuits, rolls, crackers, sweet and savoury, some examples:
Crusted pumpkin seed sourdough
Einkorn, cinnamon and cranberry biscuits
Almond and raisin spelt bread
There are breads with chilies and breads with cheese…and crackers, with buttermilk, with beer. A generous book that could easily have been split into two works.
What makes this book extra special is the level of detail provided to ensure your results are perfect
An introduction to the different types of flour and how they will influence the way your dough behaves
When to expect your dough to be wet, how to use a scraper, what to do if your kitchen is cold, hot, humid, dry. Ingredient substitutes and alternatives.
Stopping your recipe in the middle, flexing it to your schedule.
Making your loaf crusty, making doughs more sour, less sour, softening the crust, scoring the bread, issues with scoring, using a lame, stickiness and gumminess, overproofed doughs
What I especially love is the level of detail, in the focaccia recipe the author specifies a pan size, she then writes “if you want a thinner, crunchy focaccia use a bigger baking sheet”
Beyond the book check out Elaine’s website, where I first came across her, or her instagram pages and her youtube videos for a taste of what the book will contain.”
Thank you so much, Isabelle, I’m so glad you like it xxx
Take one portion of my enriched sourdough dough, add some mincemeat, roll up, cut up, plait, and bake….and create a lovely Christmas loaf! That’s what I did here…
It tastes so good!!!!! And I don’t even like mincemeat! But partnering it with this dough worked perfectly…here’s what I did…
I made a standard portion of my enriched sourdough using all white spelt flour (you can use flour/s of your choice).
This is a long slow proving dough so it wasn’t fully proved until mid morning, which was the perfect time for the next step: I turned the dough out onto the kitchen counter then stretched it out to a rectangle, matching the width to the length of my loaf pan. I then spread several tablespoons of mincemeat over the dough…
I rolled this up to a fat sausage, still matching the length of my loaf pan..
Cut the sausage length ways to make 2 long pieces…
Then plaited the two pieces and lifted the whole thing into a loaf tin liner and into the loaf tin…
I then covered this again with my shower cap and left it on the counter to prove again for a few hours…
After a few hours the dough had puffed up…
I brushed the top with egg white as per my main enriched recipe, and baked it uncovered, from a cold start, at 160C fan/convection, 180C non fan/convention, for 45-50 mins. It can be baked from a cold or hot start, bake for 5 mins less in a preheated oven.
After an agonising wait, I cut into it…
I hope you like the look of my babka…if you don’t have, or don’t like, mincemeat, try it with jam, chutney, or any filling of your choice. And if you do make a enriched sourdough babka with my recipe, please do share it and tag me, or send me a photo of your creation…happy baking!