Time, sourdough and a little Pecan and Prune Bread

Sourdough seems to put a lot of people off by the time factor of it all. Before I started making it last year, I liked the idea of sourdough, but even making the  starter seemed too lengthy, too time consuming, and a whole lot of hassle really. When I finally jumped in and just made the thing, it was a ohh, is that all? So with the starter bubbling away, I jumped in and away I swam with my sourdoughy… err… dough.

So is it time consuming?

Does it take a lot of work?

Does the convenience of sliced shop bread lure me over some times?

Time consuming, I don’t think of it as. (Saying that, I’m not trying to fit in with a paid job that requires my attention away from home for the majority of the day.)

You do have to plan a little. I don’t wake up in the morning and think ohh, today I shall make sourdough and have it on the table by lunch time. It’s usually a 3 day process, but it certainly doesn’t take 3 whole days to make it.

Sourdough is using natural yeast, so it works on its own time. Some times that sourdough is a sprightly young energetic woman with places to go and people to see. Bubbly and so full of spirit.

Some times that dough is a lethargic old man, shuffling along in worn out old slippers and a battered zimmer frame. You get stuck behind him, and you just know you can’t over take, as it would be rude. You just have to slow yourself down some and let the old fella set the pace.

Either way sourdough is boss. You can fiddle and tweak a little by finding a cooler spot to get it to slow down some or finding a sunny warm spot  to fasten things up a little. It all depends on the activity level of the starter, the flour and the room temperature though.

So does it take a lot of work?

No, not really. A starter feed= 1 minute. Wait 8-12 hours, feed again. Wait 8-12 hours, feed again. Wait 8-12 hours, mix up dough with a mixer and dough hooks. A plain dough=5 minutes of getting ingredients together and mixing. Go do something else more exciting for about 40 minutes, then mix again adding the salt. A quick 30 second knead. Leave it on the bench to think about things for a while. Read The Monkeys a story, have a shower, eye off some dark chocolate and then whack it in the fridge over night. In the morning, shape it (5 minutes), pop it on some trays and let it come back to room temperature- 4ish hours, slash. Bake.

1+1+1+5+30 sec+5  

That’s 13 minutes and 30 seconds of hands on time with the dough (a basic, nothing crazy loaf) over several days+ waiting and baking.

Some times I have to wait for the rising dough and sometimes it has to wait for me, we both have to be a bit flexible, which is the wonderful thing about sourdough, it is flexible. You can adapt the whole bread making process to suit you. I’ve mentioned this as one of my methods on making it work, but there are many other ways that other people do it, some that work for me and some that don’t. If it doesn’t fit in with your life style it’s going to become a pain. You don’t want it to become a pain.

So do away with the watch. Judge your bread on how it looks and just fiddle with it until you find out what works for you. Sometimes my loaves aren’t the greatest. Sometimes that extra 3 minutes baking turns into 15 and dark and crusty have a totally new meaning. Sometimes I don’t feel like washing yet another doughy mixing bowl, but… I always enjoy eating it and so do my family.

And that’s the trade off.

So jump in, give it a go, and if it doesn’t work out for you, it might later down the track.


…and does the lure of sliced shop bread ever tempt me?… No chance. 

Pecan and Prune Bread

200g starter

50g oats

8 pitted and chopped large prunes

80mls hot water

large handful of chopped pecans

300g strong bakers flour

200-250mls water

1 tsp salt

Starter at 100% hydration. The 80mls of hot water to soak the oats and prunes beforehand. Mixed together and using a method that suits you.

(Baked at 240C with steam.)

* This post submitted to yeastspotting


41 thoughts on “Time, sourdough and a little Pecan and Prune Bread

  1. I like this summary of the times – I confess I *still* haven’t made sourdough despite always being motivated by your posts! That is primarily because of the time component, but that break down, and this latest recipe, may tip me into doing rather than thinking…


  2. I haven’t bought bread since the wonderful Celia at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial turned me onto sourdough. It took me a few months to find a rhythm that worked around a workday, and in that time there were days when “there won’t be any bread until tomorrow night”. And it does take thinking forward – you can’t just make bread when you’re about to run out. But I now have a reliable system that takes less than 15 minutes work, spread over 24 hours, and for that, the most glorious, healthy, heavy, grainy, delicious bread, made just the way we like it, for cents a loaf. Never going back.


  3. You’re right I don’t think sourdough takes a lot of time, it just requires some planning and I find I have a ‘key night’ when I am at home to do knead, prove, knock back, prove, shape and then into the fridge. (Interesting to see you say that you did the shaping after you took the dough out of the fridge.)

    Because I had a false start and obsessed a bit too much, getting my starter going was a bit of effort. Friends that I have given some starter to have become emersed in the process a lot more quickly.

    And it only takes 13mins 30secif you have a mixer. Mine is still stuck in the post somewhere, and kneading by hand take a lot longer!


    • Come on mixer! Where are you!
      You’re right I am doing it with the mixer, but even by hand it’s not so much extra time. I would think an extra 5 minutes tops added to the whole timing process. I’m definitely not a knead for half an hour gal. More wait and let it do it’s thing.
      I’ll time it next time and see…


  4. It’s such a joy, isn’t it, Brydie? I adore the rhythm sourdough adds to our lives, there’s something very comforting in the regularity and beat of it. We’ve been baking sourdough now for five years, and apart from the occasional pita bread, we don’t buy any loaves at all. When I look back, I think it was the sourdough that first started us on this road of quasi-self-sufficiency… x


  5. Well said! By juggling temperatures and starter proportions I manage to fit baking a lot of sourdough around a pretty hectic schedule. I find that when in doubt, keep things cool. That said, I’ve baked off at midnight because I let the dough get too cold.
    I think I’ll give your Pecan and Prune bread a go, it looks beautiful.


  6. I’m a little confused about the whole hydration thing. I’ve been baking standard yeasted loaves for a while and have just started off with sourdoughs again.
    I was operating under the belief that all starters are 100% hydration – is this not the case? What do you do if a recipe calls for less than that?
    I feel like a bit of an dunce for asking this but I can’t seem to find a clear example – maybe you can point me in the right direction?


    • Mark, maths was never my strong point and the whole hydration thing does my poor head in!

      What I do know is my starter is generally kept at 100% which is 50g flour and 50mls of water initially and then going up, but still staying within the same ratios.

      If I wanted a higher hydration starter, say 250mls water/150g flour. It would be 250/150×100= 166%
      Lower, 125mls water/150g flour. It would be 125/150×100=83%

      (Now if I’ve got that wrong, PLEASE someone correct me- maths and I are not friends!)

      Mostly I have have found reference to percentages on the internet talking of the actual bread recipe rather than the starter. That’s when the flour is 100% and the other ingredients are a percent of that. Again, far too much maths for me though….

      I hope that vaguely helped!


      • Thanks – your reply has confirmed what I thought was the case which is always nice.

        Keep baking…….:-)


  7. I love the description of your starter in its various incarnations and how you cajole and accommodate it. You sound like you and the sourdough live in perfect harmony 🙂


    • Mostly the starter and I have a friendly relationship. Except for recently, when it became a stroppy, grumpy, thing who refused to give in to all the love and attention I giving it. Two weeks later, and it finally remembered we were friends.


  8. I love your spritely lady and old man. Fantastic descriptions. I am with Kari – I know I *should* (after all you wrote a ‘how to’ post at my request) but I haven’t found the time, despite how wonderful your recipes are (and how envious I am of you getting to eat fresh sourdough so often). Maybe this weekend…x


  9. There are some things that I am willing to take the time involved to make and this is one of those recipes! How perfect for the upcoming fall months when bread baking and spending time in the kitchen is so comforting!!


  10. You are a bread star!
    Sourdough is not for the faint of heart because it calls for planning ahead and an investment of time as well as foresight.
    It isn’t hard- but it does call for an effort- you make the effort look like a delight.
    Yes, you are a bread star!


  11. I absolutely agree; initially it can seem overwhelming to think about accommodating starter feeds and mixes and proves and shapes and baking (but not so much the eating) in a full working week. But over time I’ve also been able to fit it in to make enough loaves each week to distribute to others and still ensure I have an abundance left over. There’s something distinctly satisfying about the sourdough process, and part of it is as you say, is just letting it do it’s own thing whilst you do yours, and somewhere in the middle it all comes together. There’s sooo much information out there but I think your post distills the process in a simple, far from intimidating manner – lovely.


  12. Thanks so much for the post. There are so many books and website out there explaining how to make tha bread but the hardest part is working out how to fit this process into a day (or two, or three…). The schedule is working well at the moment as I am home most of the time. Things will surely be different once I return to the world of employment. I figure that the more I make this part of our diet, the easier it will be to get the process to work for me.
    Thanks for sharing this part of your daily routine.


  13. i can’t imagine ever buying bread again now that i have a healthy starter at my beck and call..i find the bread more satisfying than many of the artisan type loaves..and the price of those varies but it can be as much as $7..i made 16 rolls for a dinner last night which would have cost me $0.10 each to make..and my immodest self confesses that they really good..


  14. mmmm prune in bread – I thought I might make bread tonight but too tired after work – and I made some odd buns last night which reminded me of how strange the unknown is but that there is nothing like getting up to your elbows in dough to understand it! I like hearing about your sourdough experience in such an informal chatty way – gives me hope I will make the plunge with sourdough one day


  15. Very nice, Brydie. I read this the other day, but was distracted from the computer before I could comment. This is all the inspiration I need to drag the starter out from the fridge this weekend. I have no pecans or prunes, but plenty of dates and walnuts and will be using them instead.


  16. i haven’t purchased a loaf in many months. i can’t imagine going back now! i’ve even offered to start baking loaves for my husband to keep at his office, because it frustrates me seeing the crappy sliced bread in he has there for making his lunch.

    your analogy of the old man / young girl made me smile and is spot on! bread baker and wordsmith extraordinaire!!

    rachel xo


  17. Oh, thanks for the inspiration! It’s been on my to-do list for some time… I made it 8 days through the starter and then forgot for a couple of days and had to start over. I must get back to it and jump in, as you say. Your fruity nutty bread does look fantastic.


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