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The science of sourdough

Ian Webber shares his sourdough-starter recipe

Baking the perfect loaf of sourdough takes more than just flour, salt and water. Executive Chef Ian Webber shares his sourdough tips and a tried-and-tested starter recipe.

Woolsery’s sourdough starter (named Burt) has been going strong for eight years. He’s fed twice a day (at 10am and 10pm) and yields hundreds of loaves each week for The Farmers Arms.   

Want to recreate our sourdough loaves at home? Before you don your apron, Ian has some tips for selecting ingredients.

Ian Webber Shares his Sourdough-Starter Recipe | The Farmers Arms, Woolsery
  • Use the same type of flour for the starter as for the bread. This will ensure the wild yeasts naturally break down the grains as they ferment – dominant yeasts multiply more easily when they’re not in a microbial battle against different strains. This will make the bread more consistent and better quality.
  • Use the freshest flour. Where possible, use fresh flour in which the yeasts are still alive. An old bag of bread flour that’s been in the back of the cupboard for a year won’t cut it.
  • Bread should be fermented/proved for a minimum of 24 hours before baking. This helps develop flavour and makes the bread more digestible.
  • Flour shouldn’t be over refined. The parts of the grain that are discarded through refining are where the flavour and natural yeasts are to be found.
  • Use spring or filtered water. This prevents chlorine from killing the yeast.

Ian sources high-quality flour from Sharpham in Somerset and Shipton Mill in Gloucestershire and recommends using flour from either of those top-notch suppliers for this sourdough-starter recipe.

  • Spring/filtered water 100ml
  • Dark rye flour 50g
  • Bread flour 25g
  • Emmer flour 25g

‘Our current sourdough recipe uses 20 per cent starter to 80 per cent flour and has a hydration of 65-70 per cent,’ says Ian.