Sourdough Loaf - Stage 3

Stage 3 - Bake the Loaf

Loaf has doubled in size following overnight retardation in fridge followed by about 2 hours proving at room temperature.

To bake the loaf, preheat the oven to 250C/ gas mark 9.  Place a roasting tin on the bottom of the oven and fill with about a pint of boiling water just before you put the loaf in - this creates steam in the oven which helps develop a nice crust.  

Dust a baking tray with fine semolina or flour to prevent the loaf from sticking to the tray.  I use a Mermaid anodised baking sheet as it does not warp at high temperatures, meaning the bread stays straight on the tray!  It also conducts heat rapidly and hence gets hot soon after it's put in the oven, baking the dough from underneath.

Set up a baker's lame to score the loaf, or use a very sharp serrated knife.  Take extra care using razor blades!

This Mure and Peyrot 'Bordelaise' grignette or lame is safer to use as it houses the razor blade securely and it has a protective cap for storing the lame.

When the oven has reached temperature add hot water to the roasting tin.  Then gently tip the loaf out of the brotform onto the baking tray.  It should come out easily and not rip the loaf's 'skin'.

Quickly and confidently score the loaf using a lame or knife.  Try not to hesitate when cutting as it could drag the loaf's skin.  

Scores are both functional and aesthetic.  Scoring the loaf allows the loaf to expand during baking and helps minimize the loaf bulging and bursting open undesirably.  They also enhance the appearance of the baked loaf, and can act as a 'baker's signature'.  Traditionally, they were used to identify a family's loaf when given to the local baker to bake.

Straight after scoring the loaf, place the loaf into the hot oven.  

After 10 min reduce the heat to 200C/ gas mark 6, rotate the loaf 180 degrees if possible to even out the baking, and bake for a further 5 minutes. 

Turn the oven off and bake for a further 5 minutes. 

Leave the loaf in the oven for a further 10 minutes with the oven door ajar. 

It should look nicely browned and sound hollow when you tap it's base. 

If you want a browner more crusty loaf then bake for 5 min longer before reducing the temp to 200C.

Place the loaf on a cooling rack and cool completely before eating. 

Enjoy your sourdough loaf!  If you have any left after a couple of days it makes delicious toast.

Same loaf recipe using a 1kg linen-lined wicker banneton for proving the loaf:


  1. What a great looking loaf.

    Is it ok to bake in a loaf tin?
    Some people on you tube say to put the loaf into a cold oven and heat it up with the loaf in the tin.? Sounds funny to me but what do you think?



  2. Hi Mike, thanks for the comment! Yes, the dough can be proved in a loaf tin instead of a proving basket. Omit the scoring and just put the tin containing the proved loaf straight in the oven, preheated oven I'd suggest... not heard of using a cold oven to start, I must research this!

  3. Mike, I've researched cold oven starts and there is a theory that it helps create good oven spring for breads baked in tins, and for baking in a dutch oven or casserole - something I would like to try. It's probably not a good idea for loaves proved in a banneton or brotform as they could spread too much before the oven gets hot enough to set the crust. Worth experimenting with a cold start oven next time you make a pan loaf, to see if it makes any difference...

  4. Good blog - very helpful.

    I took a shortcut by buying some wet dourdough culture (ebay) - then fed it a couple of times before rejoining your recipe at the 'overnight sponge' stage. All went well & I freebaked to end up with a loaf looking almost exactly as yours.

    Snag was mine was disapointingly twice as dense - small bubbles, not very open. But tasty & I'm quite pleased.

    Next time round, I'll find some way to let it have a second rise on a baking sheeet or something. This should help it recover from the collapse after being tipped out of the rising basket.

    Would a 50/50 Spelt/ Wheat mix work?

    I kept some 'sponge' back & I reckon it will improve with time.

  5. Hi lapin_rouge,

    Many thanks for your comments.

    Just a few pointers that might help:

    If you're using a proving basket I'd suggest you bake the loaf as quickly as possible after tipping it out onto the baking sheet, as the dough (particularly a higher hydration sourdough) is likely to spread out a lot.

    Also, make sure you've floured the basket well before proving the dough in it, just to ensure that the dough comes out of the basket without tearing the 'skin' of the dough and deflating it.

    As with all sourdough baking, it's the health of the starter that matters - if it's doubling after feeding then it's healthy; a starter that isn't doubling won't leaven your loaf adequately and your bread will be dense and heavy. Make sure the water you use to refresh your starter has little or no chlorine or heavy metals in it - use filtered or bottled water, and in the main loaf too. Sourdough bugs are quite hardy, but also sensitive to chlorine and heavy metals in water.

    Yes, a 50:50 spelt and wheat mix would work well, particularly half white spelt and white regular flour.

    Keep on baking!

    Best wishes, lichie01

  6. Thanks Lichie - great advice.

    You got it spot on! - when I tipped the loaf out of the basket before baking, the crust had stuck so it deflated. Oh, and I then flipped it the other way up to get smooth 'skin' on the upper surface. That was prob the main problem - seems obvious now youv'e pointed it out.

    I used tepid water which had cooled down from the kettle - seemed to work fine. The starter was OK I think, certainly the smelled great and the sponge doubled no problem.

    Looking forward to the next bake - I'll post results.


  7. Quick question, my oven only goes up to 230, will this make much difference in the bake? Many thanks!

  8. Hi, no worries if your oven max is 230, the bread will still bake ok... perhaps try baking the loaf for 10-15 min at 230 to get a good crust, then reduce temp as suggested in blog. Enjoy!