I’m a sour man

It’s a smell that not only fills the kitchen but it seems to penetrate the soul. It’s the sweet aroma of bread baking in the oven. Even more spectacular is the smell of hot bread when the hot door of the oven is eagerly opened, it’s something that reminds me of childhood when times appeared simpler.


Every few days I knead out a loaf, sometimes I’m busy and I’ll buy bread. But it’s brings me no joy, in fact I’m often quite robotic when I buy bread someone else has made. “It’s been a busy few days… we need to buy bread”. There is always seems to be a justification for convenience. The bread I prefer to buy is a either a batard sourdough loaf, or a light rye from a lovely French patisserie, both are delicious breads but I’ve chosen a life with minimal money so I have to stand by my choice, i.e. I need to knead my own bread.

The sponge….

Sourdough has been a mystery for me for many years. I’ve been using a basic recipe of flour, water and dry yeast. It makes a pretty standard loaf but it’s nothing worth writing home to mum about. My curiosity eventually got the better of me and after a few late night sessions flicking through bread books I decided to make my own sourdough. Another learning adventure, continuing the process of becoming even more independent, semi self sufficient to be more precise.


Sourdough makes use of wild yeast which is everywhere around us, it’s just a matter of capturing them and making a home for them in a broth of flour and water. I had some almost success starters, then I’d forget to feed them just as they’d ripen, lose interest and go back to baking with store bought dry yeast. The last month however the stars have aligned and a starter is now very much alive and is the sole basis of my new adventures in bread making.


Now it may seem like a simple thing to be so excited about and worth writing about, but for a bloke like me, this is very exciting. It’s one step closer to my dream. All I need to buy now is flour. Thats it. I don’t know how dried yeast is made, but I know how my starter was made and thats comforting.


A few things I’ve learned on the way. Organic rye seems to make the best starter culture, then I feed it with a biodynamic organic flour every day. I found the processed flour horrible for the starter. Maybe the pesticides used on the wheat, killed the food for the living yeast to feed on, I’m no expert in this field. I’ve also discovered that every starter is different. My mum has been on the same sourdough journey and we’ve been comparing results. She made her starter with organic yoghurt and has a different loaf as a result. Making sourdough takes commitment. You have to make whats called a ‘sponge’ the night before you knead the loaf, and you need to look after the starter like it’s a pet. It needs monitoring, feeding, watering and love. Well not so much love, but it’s nice to say g’day to it when you’re breathing in that yeasty beer smell first thing in the morning!

The most enjoyable thing about the whole process has been learning by experimenting. I got the basics from books and then went and just played around until I got the results I wanted. I’m adding sourdough bread making to the workshops I’ll be running over winter, so keep a look out for details soon, if you’re interested. I’ll share everything I’ve learnt and set you on your way to bread independence.

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  • Roslyn Collins

    If you could set me on my way to bread independence …. I would be ever so grateful.

  • Sian Therese

    This is perfect and such coincidental timing. I have recently borrowed a book from the local library on baking sourdough. It is my favourite bread by far. On my shopping list for this week is rye flour to get going with a starter. Home made bread is definitely worth the effort – your bread looks delicious!

  • Brendan

    Great work Ro. The sourdough I took along to Shelley Pantons that night was much the same process, all self taught from books too.

    We now buy the wheat ourselves and hand mill it in a small bench mounted stone mill.

  • http://www.destinationhereandnow.com Margaret | Destination Here&Now

    Hey Rohan. Impressive loaf! You might find this interesting. Kim’s a terrific cook in Mudgee and I got to taste her home made bread just recently. Very delish. Like you they’re into all things home grown and local. I can also recommend her recent recipe for the peaches. We were inhaling the syrup :) The bread’s not sour dough, but I liked her comment “Good bread is made by those who make it often.” x http://lowefoodwine.tumblr.com/post/40410303973/the-lowe-loaf

  • Janet

    Bread looks fantastic. Have been making my own in WA with biodynamic flour for four years now, just love the whole process, but it doesn’t have the crust on the left of the page. What temp/oven do you use please?
    Amazing info on your site, thanks.

  • Annie

    I LOVE my sour dough culture, she is very forgiving when I neglect her :)

  • Christiane

    Great! I also just started a starter last week but i guess i abandoned it the last two days so i will start over again, your bread looks delicious!

  • http://thebloke.co.nz Kerry Adams

    I had been avoiding breads of any kind for quite a while – but ended up making some Bannock while out in the bush a couple of weeks ago. It’s amazing how satisfying something as simple as cooking some bread can be.

    Now I am on a mission to develop the perfect Bannock Base!

  • http://cityhippyfarmgirl.com/ cityhippyfarmgirl

    Beautiful bready pictures!
    There is nothing more exciting than bread independence is there. It’s been three years since I first made my starter and have never looked back. Baking all our bread for a family of 5 in a teeny tiny kitchen- takes a little effort and commitment on my part, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I adore playing with different types of doughs, techniques, slashing, ingredients…love it all. Knowing what my family is eating and how it got there, is really important to me. Comparing it to a supermarket bought- plastic packaged- paragraph of ingredients bread…well there isn’t a comparison.

    Sourdough… it’s all ridiculously exciting and I’m really happy to be a bread nerd :-)

  • Liz

    Recipe deets would be great :)

    • http://www.flozandnonie.blogspot.com Florence

      Hi Liz,

      If it’s any help in the meantime, I did a bit of experimenting with starters and recipes etc and made my starter following a Dan Lepard recipe involving raisins in his ‘The Handmade Loaf’ book, however when it came to the actual bread the river cottage sourdough recipe seamed to work much better for me. I’ve written a post about this including links to the river cottage recipe and if you’re interested in the starter recipe give me a shout and I can cope the recipe steps up for you. Good luck, whichever direction you go in! Here’s the link to my post: http://flozandnonie.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/battling-with-bread-dan-lepard-vs-river.html

  • Tiffany

    those opinel knives again, forgive my ignorance i didn’t know they had one for bread! love your photos of the bread! :) i am on a long journey of procrastinating when it comes to making the plunge into sourdough. i use the yeast and white flour from the shops and it can be a pain watching it in summer to make sure it doesn’t over proove, where as i keep reading that sourdough is patient and a slower process. Homemade still has so much more flavour than anything from the shops and some bakeries. i love how each loaf has a chance of being imperfect where they don’t burst thru slashes or burst along a side, such welcomed character!

    • http://wholelarderlove.com rohan

      I know Opinel is everywhere on my blog!!! Trust me I’m not sponsored by them…..these tools cost me an arm and a leg. But I just love god quality!

      About foru years ago I spotted an opinel pocket knife at a garden shop and I’ve loved their quality and reliability every since!!!!

      The paring knife, peeler and bread knife are my favourite. But now it seems every hipster has an opinel pocket knife more as an accessory more than a functional tool. Maybe I’m just cynical with what I see on the internet.

  • http://www.theradish.com.au Justin

    Way to go mate! Once you get started with sourdough you’re hooked for life. I’ve been making two loaves a week since April 2010, and still absolutely love it. Every bake is different, and the flavour, especially during winter when you get a long, slow prove, is amazing.

  • http://www.bluetongueberries.com.au Blue Tongue Berries

    It seems like we’re all on the same page – it’s uncanny. Only this week – Monday, a few ladies got together in my kitchen to learn all about sourdough and fresh cheese making. I’ve made two sourdough loaves since and they are fantastic. Plus I’ve made goats milk cheese!! Yay – two more basics I no longer need to buy. If you’re interested read about our sourdough day – titled ‘Breathe’ written by our sourdough teacher on her blog – http://greenhavengoodlife.blogspot.com.au

  • http://www.thisbloominglife.com alison@thisbloominglife

    I’ve just started with sour dough after being gifted some starter. It’s an amazing (and addictive) experience and like you, the experimentation is a big part of the fun. Your loaves look amazing, but I like your cutting technique even more! Mine always looked hacked…still tastes good though. Does your starter have a name?

  • http://Hrafinstaad.blogspot.com Rois

    Ok, ok..Time to get back to making all of our bread,you talked me into it.No need to twist my arm.

    Thanks for inspiring photos and the kick in the butt to get back at it.

  • Selby

    That’s sounds so good!! & I love that your doing it now- I’m not at that place yet but look forwards to a time when I have the energy/ headspace for it.

    It’s on my really want to when I can spare the energy to work it out list.. Maybe not today or tomorrow but soon!:)

    And I love that you read a book & experimented along till it worked- sometimes I get caught up in fear of failing till it intimidates me into not trying- your giving me a timely reminder to lighten up on myself- I might just learn something to hehe;)

  • http://www.ragingcravings.com RagingCravings

    I agree with Selby, I tend to get intimidated and even paralysed at the thought of bread making. Love your energy and dedication to self sufficiency.

  • http://www.elanacastle.wordpress.com elana

    Recently discovered your life’s work Roh. Suffice to say I’m enthralled.

  • http://susansumptuousuppers.wordpress.com/ Susan

    Hi Rohan,

    I’m so excited for you about your sourdough journey. When I lived in Stawell, I lived with a very sweet baker. He used to bring me whatever fresh bread I liked. Moving to Canberra, I was sad to not only leave him, but also his supply of bread.

    By way of consolation, decided that I too would learn to make my own sourdough. I found organic wholemeal spelt flour the best for making and feeding my starter, and then I used organic stoneground flour for the bread. I also used honey instead of sugar, to feed the yeast in the dough. I adored it, but let my starter get away with itself. I should have kept it in the fridge once it was mature, not on the bench where I’d been growing it, and it got too sour for my partner, who didn’t like sourdough anyway. I will pick it up again though.

    Keep up the good work.


  • Kali

    Where did you get that bag of Laucke organic flour??? I haven’t seen any organic flour in bulk, let alone bread flour.

  • http://www.blog.65litres.com Gulliver

    I started making Sourdough a few months back and now find it really hard to work out why people buy standard bread, combined with the fact that your average slice of white bread has a hell of a lot of sugar (and fats at tomes) in it i just cannot see the reasoning.

    Looking after the culture i liken to the craze that kids had a while back called ‘Tamagotchi’, i think its worse when the culture dies though, because you actually go hungry when it does.

    Sourdough tastes better always, moving onto making sourdough base pizzas soon, thats a sure winner.

    Ps. Good to see you are working your way through a nice collection of Opinel products too!

  • Claudia Campbell

    I kneaded bread for my family for years, exhausting work. Now, I NEVER knead bread. Instead, I mix up flour, however much I want for bread, add a small amount of dry yeast, maybe a half teaspoon, some salt and sugar and mix it all together. Then I add whey left from cheese making, you could use water, and a splash of oil, mix it all up as dry I I want, but not till it needs kneading, and let it sit in a warm spot all night, or all day. When it’s risen and bubbly, I drop it by big spoonfuls on the baking sheet and bake. The flavor is rich and I’m not worn out from bread baking. And yes, it makes big hearty sandwitches.

  • http://magictowelride.blogspot.com Robin Thomson

    Great post mate. Just cracked the sour dough mystery myself after finally producing a nice crusty loaf from my own recently revitalized starter. The pinnacle of an on again off again bread making career over nearly 40 years.

  • http://10engines.blogspot.com/ James Fox

    We went to visit this guy last weekend http://www.rupertrisingbreads.com/ – right in your zone. Serious about his starter…

  • Rachael

    Ive been making my own for a few months now but am elusive to the sourdough fantasy! Im in for the workshop. Sign me up!!!

  • Maryanne

    Rohan you must include sourdough breadmaking in your courses please, by the way anymore news on if you have dates set for that??? I’m eagerly awaiting

  • http://shapeofthingstocome.org Toni Fish

    Beautiful stuff, Rohan. Sadly I don’t get on with gluten and am yet to master a decent gluten-free sourdough, but have found a promising book to guide me.

    Please keep writing and sharing your journey. It helps to keep others inspired.

    • http://wholelarderlove.com rohan

      I’m still yet to master standard sourdough!!! I can get the bread to rise in the oven but not much rising after it’s kneaded. And getting to know the quirks of my oven is always a challenge!!

  • Roy

    Rohan,this is not about the bread making, which looks fantastic bye the way.
    I wake up this morning Sunday, open the paper and see a picture of you, gun and rabbit in hand. To my horror as I read, I see you’ve had to defend your way of life and how you bring up your own daugthers.
    I’m hopping that these narrow minded people will not influence you in anyway from the life style you have choosen. Which I’m sure a lot of us reading your blogg, wish we had the b….s to do.

    • http://wholelarderlove.com rohan

      Thanks Roy, I’m pretty stubborn. I’ll continue doing what I believe in. The detractors will always be there, not much I can do about that. You however can come back and visit here anytime!

  • http://www.slowheartsing.com Vanessa

    Very inspiring Rohan. Making sourdough is next on my list. So far, I’ve just been making bread using shop-bought yeast – yes I’m milling my own spelt grain but it’s still dried yeast. Love the photos, especially the top one. My mouth is watering…

  • http://www.homegrown-kitchen.co.nz Nicola @ Homegrown Kitchen

    Yes, sourdough is awesome stuff! As we are gluten-free I have been playing around with making a sourdough gluten-free bread and have finally nailed it! Good bye yeast, hello bowl of bubbling sourness on my bench :)

  • Bill Di Donna

    you seemed to have nailed sour dough. What about sour mash?
    Will there be duck photos in the next two weeks?

  • http://www.13-acres.blogspot.com.au Brenda

    wonderful looking bread Rohan! I love making my own bread, but like you…when life gets busy, I begrudging buy it. I’ve got a sour dough starter made and festering away doing it’s bit….my first attempt didn’t work, but I’m going to keep trying and your post couldn’t have come at a better time! I’m off to check out your workshops! xx

  • http://www.ladomestique.com la domestique

    Your bread looks beautiful! A few years ago I made a commitment to baking bread at home, and now it’s become a part of my weekly routine. Every time I knead the dough I turn to the husband and say, “I love baking bread!” He smiles and replies, “I know you do.” It just never gets old. :)

    • http://wholelarderlove.com rohan

      Its a work in progress. Always.

  • http://www.woolwoodandwhiskey.com Joe

    I think the Tartine Bread book from over here in the States would be right up your alley. Chad Robertson is one epic, old-world style baker — both the book and the bread are beautiful. I’ve had my own starter going for about a year and a half now and bake once a week and owe it all to him.


  • http://10engines.blogspot.com/ James Fox