Firstly, well done on giving it a go! And secondly, thank you for helping us to spread the word on the importance of great bread. There are lots of wonderful things about making your own bread; you have total control over what goes in it, your kitchen will smell amazing, and all your friends and family will be super impressed! 

When beginning to make bread, my advice is to find a simple recipe that answers what you want out of a loaf (for example sugar-free, or wholegrain), and then keep making it over and over again, tweaking and improving it every time. We all have different ovens, kitchen temperatures, and flour, so things will vary. 

When starting out with sourdoughs, firstly don’t panic, or be put off by the enormous amount written about sourdoughs that makes it all sound very complicated. A sourdough culture is simply a paste of flour and water containing yeast cells that will rise your dough for you and turn it into a beautiful springy loaf of magic. 

To make your own sourdough culture, mix a bit (maybe 100g) of water with the same amount of flour to make a paste. Every day, throw most of it away, and add more flour and water, until after about three weeks you will have a bubbly yeast culture. To help it along, you can add raisins (because there are lots of yeast cells on their skins) and take them out after a couple of days, and you could start off using rye flour then change to the flour of your choice a few days later. Mixing the paste with your hands as opposed to a spoon also hastens the development of the culture. It really is that simple. When you’re not using your culture in your bread doughs, keep it in the fridge. If it looks like it has gone mouldy, don’t worry, you don’t need to throw it away. Just scoop the mould off the top with a spoon and throw it away. Feed up your remaining culture with equal amounts of flour and water every day for a few days, leaving it out at room temperature, and it should recover. It is very hard to kill a sourdough culture, so even if it looks absolutely horrendous, you will almost certainly be able to rescue it. If all is lost and you can’t face making another culture from scratch, come to us and we’ll give you some of ours! Just remember to bring a small pot to the bakery to put it in.

When making a sourdough loaf, there are lots of recipes out there, so just pick one and make it over and over again, because practice and familiarity really is everything in baking. I always say that it’s not so much the recipe, but the method that takes time to get the hang of. Make your doughs as wet as you dare, mix, and mould your doughs gently, folding it lots to improve that structure, allow your doughs to ferment slowly, and try to relax and have fun – doughs are like dogs, they know when you’re scared!

Book recommendations:

For fun flavoured breads and lots of ideas for what to do with your sourdough culture, try SOURDOUGH, by Sarah Owens.

For the truly obsessed and extremely serious baker, you will never need another sourdough book, this is the bible! – get your hands on a copy of BREAD by Jeffrey Hamelman.

Best of luck and happy baking.