Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The sourdough sponge

It's about time I updated the rest of my sourdough making process - or at least the next stage of it. By now, you would've gotten a sourdough starter activated. It's alive and kicking and you're wondering what to do with it next?

If it hasn't been in the fridge, you can use it straight away. If it has been in the fridge, take it out a few hours before making your sponge. Room temperature allows the natural leavens to multiply more readily in what you're about to feed it. The sponge should look like this when it's ready to use.

Basically the sponge recipe is:

*1 cup starter or half your jar
1 cup unbleached bakers flour
1 cup water

Mix together in a glass or ceramic bowl, cover and leave at least 2-4 hours at room temperature.

Why do I have two bowls in the above picture? While making my sponge, I'm also feeding my starter at the same time. So I use the above recipe, in each bowl, separately. One, becomes my sponge (for making the dough with) and the other is put back in my original jar, to be stored in the fridge.

If I didn't do this, I wouldn't have enough starter for my NEXT loaf. Doing both at the same time, ensures I never run out of starter.

I use the larger bowl for the sponge, so it has room to rise. The smaller bowl is only needed to feed and mix the starter - then it's returned to it's original jar. It's important to leave your starter jar out of the fridge for at least 10-15 minutes after feeding, if you're planning to bake the next day. This gives the leavens time to feast before being slowed down again, by the cooler temperature. This is not so important during summer, however, or if you plan to leave it longer than 3 days, in the fridge.

You might be wondering, why it's necessary to make the sponge, before making your dough? Well, it's similar to a body-builder attempting to pump iron. Only the sponge is for pumping leavens instead, to build the bulk in your loaf. If you skip the sponge stage, your loaf may be too dense or not rise very well.

After waiting 2-4 hours, for your leavens to pump the sponge, you're now ready to make the dough.

*Note: 1 cup of starter is the minimum amount, but if you're using half your jar, it may be up to 1 and a half cups. As the starter, often rises and falls, depending how active it is. So keep to the 1 cup as a minimum rule, but it won't hurt to go slightly over.


  1. Thanks for this. I have often read about starters then just got confused with all the information. I admit, I am one of those speed readers:) But I'm also more of a visual learner so your images were very helpful to me.

  2. Yes, it can be an involved process. I have worked as a baker's assistant previously, and even with that hands-on experience, I still found the reading about sourdough rather complicated.

    Photos make a far better medium than just words alone. I'm a visual learner too. :)

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