Trilogy part II: The Sourdough Supremacy

July 7th, 2011 | Posted by greg in Daily life... | Recipes

Sorry to keep you waiting so long after part I of the trilogy… it’s just that good bread takes time! Sadly not just five minutes a day…


I have seen quite a few baking books relating about no-knead, no-work, few-minutes-job breads… is that what bread baking has come to? Like everything else: fast and insipid? Did we just forget about real bread and settled for less? How sad…


(I had to say this… ok, now it’s done, so here is the part you’re actually looking for)

The way I create my mother dough is simple. The first step is fermenting raisins in water. I place a whole bunch of raisins in a glass jar filled with water. I leave it for one week on top of our oven, which is a warm and cozy place for the sugar from the raisins to start fermenting. CO2 will be generated and bubbles will appear. If the place is too cold, you might end up with mold on top of your water and not much fermentation. People use other fruits, apple juice or sugar to jump-start their sourdough, which is fine too. This is not done for the fruit flavor, but to start a fermentation process in the flour at the next step.

Once we have the precious and now fizzy liquid, the next step is to mix it with flour. I generally use equal amount of the sieved fermented liquid and flour (type 65 is fine), although I like to work with harder sourdough as you will see later. Darker flour tend to be more active in enzymes, but it works fine with white flour and it can be later used in different recipes, including rye, whole wheat, spelt and so on…

I mix and knead the mixture of flour and fermented juice until I get a shiny texture and I then keep it in a plastic box, covered with plastic film at the warmest place in the kitchen.

We did this step once and it was 6 years ago.


Twelve hours later, you get the result you see below. An insane amount of bubbles and a dough full of wild yeast. Your goal now is to keep on feeding these wild guys with food. Calculate the weight of your dough, let’s say 1000g, and for the first feed you will add 500g of flour and 500ml water, mix it as well as the first dough and keep it in a plastic box, the same way you did with the first dough. And repeat that step every 8 hours for the next 24 hours, thus 3 times.

Remark: If your starter was not very active or strong, you might need to leave the dough fermenting longer than 8 hours at the beginning, for example 12 hours.

Once you get your strong culture going, here is how we handle our daily baking. Every 24 hours, we knead our bread dough with the addition of sourdough. Once we used all the sourdough we needed, we make sure to keep a part of the sourdough to refresh it to continue the 8 hours process. Meanwhile the dough we just kneaded will go in our fridge for 18 hours at 5 degrees Celsius. The next day, we will let the dough come back to room temperature for 3 hours, we will weigh, pre-shape, shape and proof it for another 3 hours before cutting and baking. There you have it, this is how we handle our daily operation. Our sourdough is not liquid, it’s like a soft bread dough as you can see below…


It is very possible to refresh it only every 12 hours or even 24 hours, but here is the secret why we like to keep ourselves busy 3 times a day: By refreshing our sourdough so often, we keep the acidity level milder, yet the dough is still very powerful. And while we could bake our breads solely with the sourdough as a leavening agent, we are adding a tiny speck of fresh yeast in the finished dough in order to balance our texture, our crumb, our acidity and our crust. What you see below is the result of a plain slab of dough baked without shaping – It’s stunningly good bread!



Stay tuned for the final part of the trilogy: The Sourdough Ultimatum to find out how it all starts!

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25 Responses

  • Carl Legge says:

    Hi Gregoire

    So glad you got round to doing this, thanks.

    What hydration is your dough?

    And when can we expect ‘The Ultimatum’?


    • Anonymous says:

      Hello Carl! Let’s say for a baguette, we do 80% hydration and 40% sourdough, a little salt, a very little speck of fresh yeast and that’s it! :) That was actually for “The Ultimatum” where I wanted to explain the actual baking. :) Will have it ready early next week!

      • Carl Legge says:

        Merci Chef :) I’ll keep it a secret until you post the next part ;)

        I’m trying the method at the moment with my starter, 14 hours in the fridge so far. I’ll let you know how it goes. I’ll start a raisin ferment later and have a play with that.

        Thanks for the inspiration…

  • Hey Gregoire.
    Beautiful pictures outlining your sourdough process. I’ve been experimenting with raisins for the last 2 months to compare with more traditional (flour-based) sourdough techniques and concluded the result is great but fundamentally different. The metabolism of the resident yeast seems closer to baker’s yeast/commercial yeast than traditional sourdough starters.  This actually works out well because it means the culture is more hardy/less “finicky”. After repeated feedings with flour (eg 6 years in your case!…but as little as a few weeks) it should take on the acid-producing characteristics of a traditional sourdough culture.  All fascinating stuff! 

    • Anonymous says:

      Hi! I love your comments, very insightful indeed! :)
      You’re right, it’s all fascinating stuff and I think there are many ways to bake real excellent bread. When I was in Mumbai, two weeks ago, we used a regular liquid sourdough as starter, it would have been super awesome bread if only the flour was stronger, but the flavor was just beautiful!

  • Simon says:

    Kimchi all the way! :)

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  • I’ve been waiting for this for some time Chef. Can’t wait for Part III and the moment to start my sourdough adventure again once I stop travelling so often.

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  • Judy Louey says:

    Chef Michaud, can you pls tell me  if you use yeast water or plain water for the 3 feeds?  After the three feeds, the dough is ready to be used in the main dough or do you need to feed it for a couple more days? One very important question, do you use the clear fermented liquid or do you include the powdery substance at the bottom which I’m assuming is the natural yeast which gives strength to the water. Thanks

    • Hello Judy :)
      I use the fermented water for the first feed only. Afterwards, I use room temperature water and flour. I just strain the fermented water through a sieve and use everything that comes through. I am replicating the method at home in Switzerland and it works great too! :)

      I am very impressed by your passion for sourdough, I definitely hope we will meet one day to talk about it longer!!

      • Judy Louey says:

        Thank you so much for your time.  I’ve started experimenting with my yeast water to make a sourdough but I just can’t seem achieve the huge bubbles and gluten  development  that you have, Could be my yw is not strong enough….  I started out with 25 grms each  of flour and yw   but what I’m not sure is whether (1) I should feed with with  25 grms each @ 8 hrs intervals for all subsequent  feeds or (2)  increase the weight of each feed   to match the weight of the mother dough (i.e. first feed at 50 grm f + 50 grms  yw /  2nd feed: at 150 grms seed  plus 75 g each of flour  and yw 

        I hope I won’t miss  your next bread-making class at ADG.    . 

        • There are several factors that can affect the development of the sourdough, and I really understand the issues of making it at home, i.e.: to start with 25g which to develop a fermentation is not a massive playground for wild yeast. The correct way is your second explanation, however, depending on the fermentation of your water, you will need to leave it longer than 8 or 12 hours, it might be up to 24 hours. I just did one test here in Switzerland and I left the first one 24 hours, then 12 hours, then 8 hours – it worked beautifully!

          I hope it’ll help! :)

  • Christine - colombe36 says:

    Actually I just stumbled upon this post after reading the new one on white figs. I did not know that sourdough (levain?) could be made with fermented raisins. I just read on another blog ( i forgot which one) that it could be made with rye flour. Which is ” better” ?
    I want to try.

    • Christine, actually rye is “better” to ferment sourdough as it contains more enzymes naturally than finer wheat flour. Thus, you will obtain a more flavorful and, if well maintained, a more healthy levain. But regular wheat flour works fine, especially when started with a boosting fermented raisin water.

      Happy Baking! :)

  • Bea2003 says:

    I had a 100% rye SD for the last 6 months, but when I discovered the way to do the raisin water yeast about 3 or 4 months ago on TFL I began to use this water to refresh my SD, and the result is absolutly amazing. I do only  Rye bread with spelt flour and wheat flour, caraway or other seeds. I will post photos next time. Bea

    • Hi Bea! I am so happy to read your positive comments and glad to know your SD has improved with the fermented raisin water. Some people can’t get it to work, but like you did, once it works, it’s truly amazing! It ads a lot of active yeast in the SD! :)

  • Bea2003 says:

    Thanks Gregoire for your reply, BTW I’m french and wonder if we can use the french language?
    Anyway here are the photo of my SD 100% Rye. Mixed with Raisin Water Yeast it developed high and very bubbly in few hours, when before it was developping only tiny little bubbles, infortunately I don’t have photos of the SD before the Water Yeast period. The result in my bread is significant 
    It rise much better. I prepare my dough the day before leave it to rise the all night. Strech and Fold in the morning (my dough is very sticky!) give to rise again Strech and Fold before I put into tins and after 1/2 hour or less I put in my kitchen oven. It’s not as beautiful as a Wood Fire oven result, but the crumb is good and with help of a little Polenta my crust is crusty…
    Every week I make 6 mini 250gr, 3 medium -700 gr-, and 3 big loafs -1.500 Kg- for myself and friends. It took me 2 years to teach myself and get a result that make it worth to sell my breads.
    TFL is the prime site that help me in my long and difficult way.
    Your liquid look like a syrop I wonder if it is real or it is the quality of the photo. Also you said that you strain the liquid and use what ever pass the strainer. Do you mean that you blend the raisins instead of throwing them and use the result strained through a fine sieve ?

    • Bonjour Bea! :)
      Vos pains on l’air delicieux! Et je vous felicite pour votre passion et votre aventure dans la boulangerie artisanale. C’est admirable et c’est fabuleux d’avoir des gens comme vous pour continuer l’art du bon pain.

      Est-ce que vous les cuisez en moule a cause de la consistence liquide de la pate?

      Sur mes photos, c’est le genre de la photo qui donne cette impression sirupeuse (je suis pas sure que ca soit francais ce mot! :)) Le liquide des raisins fermente est belle et bien liquide, comme de l’eau. Je passe simplement l’eau fermentee dans une passoire et il arrive d’y avoir des petites particules de raisins. Je laisse les raisins de cote et n’utilise que le liquide.

      La fermentation aceto-lactique des raisins donne vraiment un boost extraordinaire aux pates, comme pour votre levain, il est magnifique et a l’air tres en forme! :)

      Bonne cuisson! :)

  • Judy Louey says:

    Hello Chef Michaud,  I’m looking forward to Sept 24 when I can actually get to meet you.  I do hope you can spare some time to offer some advice on the maintenance of your yw seed, i.e. the ratio and amt to feed being my biggest problem..  Cheers, Judy

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