Norwich Sourdough Bread

Now that I have sourdough starter again, I've baked a batch of my favorite sourdough bread -- Norwich Sourdough Bread. The recipe is from a site that is a fantastic source of very well and precisely written sourdough recipes, as well as a weekly source of inspiration for baking new things, Wild Yeast. I'm submitting this post YeastSpotting.

I have copied the entire recipe below.

Norwich Sourdough
(copied from the Wild Yeast blog for reference and safe-keeping. My notes are in red. I removed all internal links from the recipe. The pictures are mine as well.)
(adapted from Vermont Sourdough in Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes by Jeffrey Hamelman)
Yield: 2 kg (four or five small, or two large, loaves). A 400g loaf ends up at about 325g.
    Mix/autolyse: 35 minutes
    First fermentation: 2.5 hours
    Divide, bench rest, and shape: 20 minutes
    Proof: 2.5 hours (or 1.5 hours, then retard for 2 – 16 hours)
    Bake: 35 minutes
Desired dough temperature: 76F
    900 g white flour
    120 g whole rye flour
    600 g water at about 74F
    360 g mature 100% hydration sourdough starter
    23 g salt
Starter, flours and water.
Don't forget the salt.

The ripe sourdough starter.

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix the flours, water, and starter on low speed until just combined, about one minute. I did the mixing by hand.
  2. Let the dough rest (autolyse) for 30 minutes.
  3. Add the salt and continue mixing on low or medium speed until the dough reaches a medium level of gluten development. This should only take about 3 or 4 minutes. Needless to say, when this is done by hand it takes a bit more time. As soon as I could (i.e. the ingredients were all mixed) I removed the dough from the bowl and kneaded. Kneading time was 15-20 minutes. Because the dough is somewhat sticky, the technique I use is to hold the dough cutter in one hand to scrape the dough from the counter and knead with the other hand.
  4. Transfer the dough to an oiled container (preferably a low, wide one so the dough can be folded without removing it from the container).
  5. Ferment at room temperature (72F – 76F) for 2.5 hours, with folds at 50 and 100 minutes. I found this dough folding video helpful to see how to stretch and fold.
  6. Starting the fermentation.
    Before first folding.
    After first folding.
    Before second folding.
    After second folding.
    At end of fermentation period.
  7. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter. Divide it into 400g – 500g pieces. I usually make four 400g loaves and refrigerate the rest to use for pizza dough later. Preshape the dough pieces into light balls. I divided to 5 400g pieces.
  8. Sprinkle the balls lightly with flour, cover loosely with plastic, and let rest for 15 minutes. Oops, I forgot this step.
  9. Shape into batards and place seam-side-up in a floured couche or linen-lined bannetons.
  10. Slip the couche or bannetons into a large plastic bag or cover with plastic wrap and proof at room temperature for 2 – 2.5 hours. Alternatively, the loaves can be proofed for about 1.5 hours at room temperature, then refrigerated for 2 – 16 hours and baked directly out of the refrigerator; this will yield a tangier bread with a lovely, blistered crust. I put the loaves into the fridge for the night after proofing for 1.5 hours at room temperature.
  11. Before proofing.
    After 1.5 hour proofing.
  12. Meanwhile, preheat the oven, with baking stone, to 475F. You will also need steam during the initial phase of baking, so prepare for this now. I dump a cup of ice cubes into the oven to make the initial steam.
  13. Turn the proofed loaves onto a semolina-sprinkled peel or parchment. Slash each one with two overlapping cuts that are almost parallel to the long axis of the batard.
  14. Once the loaves are in the oven, turn the heat down to 450F. For 400g loaves, bake for 12 minutes with steam, and another 15 – 18 minutes without steam. I leave the oven door cracked open a bit for the last 5 minutes of this time. The crust should be a deep brown. Then turn off the oven and leave the loaves in for 5 minutes longer, with the door ajar, to help them dry. Larger loaves will need to be baked longer. My oven can barely make it to 475F without shutting itself off for a while. I also didn't use a baking stone. And I noticed that after putting the loaves and the ice in the oven, the temperature drops to as low as 350F. It all comes out great in the end.
  15. Cool on a wire rack. Don’t cut until the loaves are completely cool, if you can manage it!

Sourdough Challah

About 2 years ago I first managed to grow a sourdough starter using the very detailed and complete instructions from Sourdough Home. Once I saw that the starter was able to double itself, I tried to bake the sourdough challah from the same site. I mixed the dough as it appears in the recipe -- and waited. A few hours later, I gave up. The dough didn't rise and I thought that something had gone wrong. I threw the dough away and moved to other recipes.

Since then I've managed to bake a number of sourdough breads with the starter though I've never tried making sourdough challah again. I also lost my original batch of sourdough.

I marked the line after feeding -- the level here is after the yeast beasties expanded!
So after a number of attempts to grow a new one, I've finally succeeded in growing a great new batch of starter, dubbed Spongebob by my Son. Spongebob was given its first real test last Friday when I used it in a new attempt to bake sourdough challah.

As you can see, it came out really well!

Preparation times

Activate starter 3 hours
First rise (triple) 12 hours
Second rise (double) 3 hours
Baking time 30 minutes


233 grams (1 cup) active starter at 100% hydration
1/2 cup water
460 grams (3 2/3 cups) White Flour (all purpose or bread flour)
2 tsp Salt
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
Misc - another egg for egg wash, poppy or sesame seeds


  1. Mix the starter, water, egg, egg yolks, sugar, oil, 1/2 the flour, and the salt. Stir. Add more flour, a bit at a time, until the dough is too thick to stir.
  2. Pour out the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Knead the dough, adding more flour sparingly, until the dough is smooth, satiny, has lost most of its stickiness, and is fairly firm. You probably should not use all the flour called for above.
  3. Cover and allow to rise until tripled in volume.
  4. Punch down the dough, knead briefly, cut into four pieces of the same weight. Divide one piece into three pieces of the same weight. Form all the balls into strands of about 12 to 14 inches in length, tapered so the center of each piece is thicker than the ends. You should now have three thick and three thin strands. Braid the three thick strands into a loaf and set aside.
  5. Braid the three smaller strands into a smaller loaf. Lightly indent the top center of the larger loaf down its length. Wet it slightly with water. Put the smaller loaf on top of the indention.
  6. Beat another egg with a few tablespoons of water. Brush this egg wash all over the nested loaves and let them rise until doubled.
  7. Preheat your oven to 350F. With baking stones or tiles in your oven, this will probably take about 45 minutes to an hour.
  8. When the oven is ready, brush the loaves with the egg wash again. Sprinkle the loaves with poppy or sesame seeds. Slide into the oven, bake about 35 minutes. If there is a white line between the braids, continue baking until it disappears. Press lightly between the braids on the highest part of the bread. It should be firm.
  9. If your loaf is browning too much, cover it with baking parchment or a brown paper bag that has been cut open. Crease the parchment or bag to form a tent.