VEGAN White Sourdough Loaf- From Scratch!

This might be the most difficult and time-consuming bake I've ever attempted. This vegan white sourdough including the sourdough starter takes around 9 days in total to complete but each day is very simple, it just takes a really long time! This recipe makes 2 loaves, I wouldn’t normally make such a large amount but I thought it would be a good idea to make 2 just in case, then at least I have a spare! Obviously, the best thing about the recipe is that it only uses flour, salt, and water, so the recipe is and always will be fully vegan, the sour taste of this bread is all down to the amount of time you rest the bread for, the longer the rest the deeper the sour flavour. But enough of the theory, let's get making some bread! 

Makes 2 Loaves 

Sourdough Starter:
300g Strong White Bread Flour
300ml Tepid Water

1 tbsp Starter 
100g Bread Flour 
100ml Warm Water

Bread Dough:
600ml Tepid Water
1KG Strong White Bread Flour
20g Sea Salt

DAY 1: In a plastic container or large jar pour in 50g flour and 50 ml of water and mix well until the four is fully combined, leave slightly uncovered to let the air get to it, and leave out of direct sunlight and heat for 24 hours to begin activating. 

DAY 2: Remove the lid from the pot and give the starter a stir, then add in 50g bread flour and 50ml of tepid water, stir this until fully combined then put back to rest slightly uncovered for another 24 hours. 

DAY 3: Repeat the same as yesterday, adding in your 50g of flour and 50ml of tepid water, mix well and leave slightly uncovered for another 24 hours. By the end of day 3, my starter had risen massively and I could see the bubbles within the layers of gooey flour. 

DAY 4: There was a lot of water on the top this time but as you can see there was a huge amount of bubbles forming too which is a great sign. Once again, give it a good stir and add 50g of flour but I didn't add any more water this time, if yours is looking very thick and gooey then add another 50ml tepid water but I didn't and I’m glad I didn't because it seems to not take in much water anymore, stir once more then leave slightly uncovered for another 24 hours. 

DAY 5: It was still very watery on top but we should pretty much be done with the starter fermenting at this stage, I gave it a good stir and mine was starting to smell very yeasty and bready which is a good sign! If your starter still isn’t bubbling or is too gloopy then just continue the process of adding flour and water for another day, but if yours is fine just give it another stir and let it rest slightly uncovered for another 24 hours. I’ve left a video here so you could see how active mine was, look at those bubbles popping! 

DAY 6: Today the starter should finally be ready! It should have a thick skin-like consistency on top and still smell very bready/yeasty. Now it’s time to make the levain, as this is my first time making sourdough from scratch and I don’t know anyone who’s done it before, I have no idea what a levain is and had to look it up. Basically, a levain and starter are the same things it's just a levain is the fancy word for the portion of starter that you’ll be using to make your sourdough rather than the actual pot of starter that's leftover. 

DAY 7: To test if our starter is ready, drop a tsp of it into around 80-100ml of warm water, if it’s active enough the starter will float on top. If your starter isn’t floating then continue with the fermenting process like we’ve been doing, if it is ready then add a tbsp of starter into a bowl with 100ml of warm water and 100g of bread flour. Mix these together until you have a thick, bubbly mixture then leave slightly uncovered for 8 hours. 

To test if the levain is ready, simply drop a tsp full into tepid water and you should see it start to float on the surface. In your levain bowl add 600ml tepid water and 1KG of flour then mix until the ingredients are fully incorporated and you have a rough dough, make sure to take all the dry bits of flour off the sides of the bowl and add it in! 
Cover the dough with a tea towel and leave to rise for anywhere between 30 mins and 4 hours, I ended up waiting about 2 and a half hours overall and the dough is very forgiving so it’s ok to leave it a couple of hours longer if you need to.

Now sprinkle the sea salt over the top of the dough (this is where it gets messy) and push the salt into the dough with your hands and add 50ml tepid water. If the dough is stringy that’s normal just keep folding the dough in on itself and getting that water throughout the entire dough until you have a solid dough ball, cover, and leave to rest again for another 15 mins. 

Now it’s time for some gentle kneading. Start by wetting your hands and folding the dough in on itself a couple of times, take it out of the bowl and (try to) fold it with your hands before putting it back in the bowl and repeating the folding a couple more times, this constant movement helps to activate the gluten in the dough and make it more bouncy! 
Leave the dough to rest for 30 mins before repeating this process two more times and allowing the dough to rest between each time, on your final knead, cover the dough and leave it to rest for 2-3 hours until it’s risen and bubbly. 

Remove your dough from the bowl and flop it down onto a lightly floured surface, sprinkle some flour on top and on your hands to make the dough easier to handle then split it into two, gently knead the dough balls for a minute or so to form them into some resemblance of a dough ball and then leave them on the counter to rest for another 30 mins. The dough will spread in this time so keep them at least 5 cm apart so they don’t stick together again. 

Now the dough is ready for chilling! This is more of a little suggestion but I’d seen lots of people buying expensive wooden bread baskets for their sourdough…I haven’t got the money or space in my fridge to do that so I used two ice cream tubs, added some leftover grease-proof paper from the packaging of my beeswax wrap, and put the dough in there. You will need something to stop the dough from sticking (foil or a tea towel will not work!), I think you could just oil up the tubs and you’ll be alright if you don’t want to use anything else but this paper seemed to work out ok. 

Dust the dough again with flour and put each dough ball into its tub, pop the tubs in the fridge and chill for up to 18 hours or overnight. 

The hard work is over and you can breathe a sigh of relief! You got your bread dough from a goopy mix of 9 day old flour and water, now all you have to do is bake it! 
Preheat your oven to 240C/ 220 Fan/ Gas Mark 9. Take the dough out of the fridge and place it into a round cake pan, roasting dish, or casserole dish (basically anything that can be covered and has lots of room for the bread to rise. Score the bread in a half-moon design across the dough so that it bakes through the middle (you can do whatever design you want but the half-moon/crescent design is one of the more popular ones). Put the lid on or cover the top of the dish with foil and let your bread bake for 30 mins before removing the foil and letting it darken for another 15 mins. 
Now repeat the baking with your second loaf. 

Once baked, take your bread from the oven and let it cool for 10 mins before turning it out onto a wire rack and letting it cool to room temperature, then you’re ready to eat! 

Look at my sourdough!! It’s two real loaves of sourdough…and it only took 2 weeks of my life to create! To be fair, it took longer than anticipated because I messed up the first batch so had to start again from the levain, but this recipe is very forgiving, once you have your sourdough starter you’re pretty much ready to make sourdough whenever you want (as long as you have a spare two days for the process). The sourdough starter will last 2 months in the fridge in a sealed, air-tight container after 2 months simply take the water off the top, add your 50g flour and 50ml tepid water, give it a stir and leave out overnight slightly covered, stir once more and it's good in the fridge for another two months! You can repeat this process so you'll always have a sourdough starter to hand. 
I’m honestly overjoyed with how the loaves look; yes it’s probably a bit underdone on the very base and yes, it could have been taller but for a first attempt I think they’re brilliant. They have that classic beautiful aeration (holes) throughout the dough and their signature sour/yeast taste. I know this is a huge undertaking but the majority of it is just adding flour and water to a bowl every day and leaving it overnight. The dough itself is a mix of high maintenance and forgiving, on one end you can leave this dough way longer than you intend (I left the original dough a day longer than I meant to) and it was still usable I just made a mistake on the flour and water ratio when it came to making the dough but yeah, the sourdough will forgive you for leaving it to rest longer than you meant to BUT it WILL NOT forgive you if you don’t let it rest for at least 15 mins every time you touch it or add an ingredient…this dough is very lazy and doesn’t like to do too much to quickly. 

Despite the long process, this still uses only a small number of easy-to-find ingredients and is of course 100% vegan and to be honest, I would make these all over again because it was just so much fun and I genuinely enjoyed the process. Next time I will look into buying a better pot for them to go in in the oven so they’ll have a better shape while they bake but there isn’t much I would change, you don’t always need the fanciest equipment to bake this bread, just lots of time and patience!  
Don’t be scared of the sourdough, I know you can give it a go if you put the time aside! 

H x