Hot Pot Sourdough

Hot Pot Sourdough recipe

Hot Pot Sourdough

Since my first Sourdough success I’ve continued to experiment and tweak my recipe (which is now mainly in my head and variable) I change it every time I bake, depending on what flour I have to hand and how healthy I’m feeling…

BUT I think I may have cracked my staple sourdough recipe now using quite an ingenious method. Hot Pot Sourdough!

Seeded Sourdough Boule

Seeded Sourdough Boule

I realised that the sourdough strength (how active it is) and thickness (or rather the ratio of flour to water if you want to get all technical about it) plays a massive part in how successful a loaf is.

It's all about the hot (casserole) pot

It’s all about the hot (casserole) pot

Making a true sourdough loaf (not adding any instant yeast at all) can be a bit hit and miss. But after a lot of experimenting (or disasters) I seem to have cracked it! Here’s how…

1. Pour most of your starter away before you feed it. Leaving one quarter of your starter to add flour and water to. (As I explained in my last Sourdough post.)

2.  Feed your starter at least 8 hours before you want to use it!

3.  Feed it a lot! You need a lot of sourdough starter to make this loaf so feed it 400g flour and 400g water (about 2 cups)

Feed me: Stir in your flour and water til smooth

Feed me: Stir in your flour and water til smooth

4.  Leave the rubber seal on the jar of sourdough starter. This means when you close the jar lid it’s airtight. (It seems to help keep it more active and fresher for longer.) BUT you will need to open the lid to release the built up air once a day (especially after its been fed as its most active!) to stop the jar exploding.

Frothy Sourdough starter ready to use

Frothy Sourdough starter ready to use

4. Wait until the starter is frothy (8 to 24 hours after feeding it).Then you know it’s ready to use.

Oh so hungry and unhappy sourdough starter

Oh so hungry and unhappy sourdough starter

5.  If your sourdough starter starts to split and gather a layer of water/black liquid on top it’s hungry! Pour most of your starter away and give it a good feed.

Hungry Sourdough has a layer of darker (smellier) water on the surface

Hungry Sourdough has a layer of darker (smellier) water on the surface

6.  I give my starter a good (400g flour and 400g water) feed once a week, the day before I want to begin my bread. I leave it at room temperature everyday and try to remember to feed it when it’s starting to look hungry/spilt (usually once every 2 to 3 days). I would feed it every day if I was baking a lot of bread. But half a cup of flour and half a cup of water will suffice as a mini feed to keep it active in between big feeds. Try to feed it a small amount every couple of days.

Just fed sourdough starter - smooth and thick

Just fed sourdough starter – smooth and thick

7. Invest in a banneton (proving basket) or two – I have a rectangular and a round one for different style loaves. When working with a wetter sourdough loaf the proving baskets help the loaf to keep its shape.

Proving in my round bannetone basket with a cotton liner to prevent it sticking. You can place it directly into the basket if you prefer to get the pretty swirls imprinted on your loaf

Proving in my round bannetone basket with a cotton liner to prevent it sticking. You can place it directly into the basket if you prefer to get the pretty swirls imprinted on your loaf

8.  Flour the banneton with an even and thick layer. (It helps to leave the pretty swirly patterns). Or if using a cotton liner inside your basket, flour the liner to prevent the dough sticking. Use a shower cap or cling film to cover the top. Prove the loaf in the basket over night in the fridge.

Ready to prove in the fridge over night

Ready to prove in the fridge over night

9.  Score it with a razor blade –  Get creative with your patterns, creating swirls and slices to help the loaf expand in all the right places as the yeast reacts to the heat of the oven. Scoring your loaf will prevent it splitting and it looks so pretty too.

Score your proved loaf with a razor blade

Score your proved loaf with a razor blade (and a chopstick)

10. Bake in a hot pot! When warming the oven put a casserole pot with a lid in to heat through. I whack my oven up to the hottest temperature for 30 minutes. Sprinkle an even layer of ground semolina on the bottom of your pot and gently tip your proven loaf into the pot from the banneton basket. Careful not to knock all of the air out of the loaf as you do so and not to burn your hands on the very hot pot. (Unfortunately you cant bake the bread in the basket so the loaf needs to be removed). I use a round banneton to prove my loaf in and a round pot to bake in.

  • Pop the lid on the pot and place it in the oven at the hottest temperature for 15 minutes, then turn the temperature down to about 220 degrees C for the final 15 minutes. I use a glazed terracota casserole pot which can take the heat and protects the bread from scorching.
One Corn Ear patterned sourdough boule

One corn ear patterned sourdough boule

Keeping the lid in place means all of the steam is retained in the bread, which adds extra moisture and softness to the bread AND results in the most amazing ‘oven spring’ you will ever see in your bread. I guarantee it! It will double in size.

Play around with your recipe until you get it just how you like it! Here’s some of my attempts so far…

My Sourdough Family

Staple Sourdough Recipe

  • 500g flour (I usually use 250g ish of white flour 150g rye 100g spelt or wholemeal)
  • 250g water (You may need slightly more water if using a drier flour such as wholemeal, rye or spelt.)
  • 400g frothy sourdough starter
  • 10g salt
  • A splash of olive oil (approx 1-2 tbs depending on the flour, enough oil to bring the dough together into a shiny ball but not to much making the dough wet and sticky).
  • 1 tbsp barley malt extract (optional)
  • 50-100g mixed seeds (optional: linseed, flax, poppy, chia, sunflower, pumpkin)

How to make Hot Pot Sourdough

  1.  Pour the salt, flour, sourdough starter, barley malt extract (if you’re using it) and water into a mixing bowl.

  2. If using an electric mixer, put it on a low speed for 10 minutes, pouring a splash of oil in as and when required to bring the dough together into a smooth and shiny ball. (Or if doing it by hand, mix together with a wooden spoon until it comes together. Adding a drizzle of oil to help it along. Then knead for 10 minutes.)

  3. Cover the bowl with cling film/shower cap and leave to prove overnight in the fridge or for 2- 3 hours at room temperature.

  4. Knead and shape your loaf on a lightly floured surface to knock out the air bubbles. If you want to add seeds, now’s the time to knead them into the dough.

  5. Place into a floured banneton (or loaf tin), cover with a shower cap and prove over night in the fridge or for 2 hours at room temperature.

  6. Pre heat your oven and hot pot at the hottest temperature for 30 minutes

  7. Sprinkle ground semolina on the bottom of your hot pot

  8. Gently tip the proven loaf from the banneton, moving he basket as close to the hot pot as possible. Don’t worry if you’re slightly off centre, the loaf will sizzle as it hits the hot surface, firming the base of the loaf up. It can then be gently slid around the pot if you tilt it to one side. Don’t try to move it with your fingers as you’ll knock the air out and probably burn yourself!

  9. Score the loaf with a sharp knife or razor blade.

  10. Pot the lid on the pot and bake it at your oven’s highest temperature for 15 minutes. (250 degrees c) Turn it down to around 220 degrees c for the final 15 minutes. You can check the bread is cooking by taking the lid off.

  11. Remove from the hot pot when it looks fully risen (30-35 minutes of baking should do it, but check it sounds hollow when you tap it’s base. If not, leave it in for a few more minutes.)

  12. Looking for a soft crust? Wrap your hot loaf up in a clean tea towel to hold in the moisture and soften the crust. Leave it to cool fully in the tea towel.

  13. Looking for a crisp chewy crust? Take the lid off the hot pot for the final 5 minutes in the oven. Leave your loaf to cool on rack.

  14. Slice it up and enjoy! I often eat this bread without any butter at all, as it’s so moist it really doesn’t need anything to liven it up. Just pure unadulterated sourdough joy!

  15. Once cooled I pop the loaf back into my pot to keep the air out and keep it fresh. It lasts for at least a week.

  16. If I’m not going to get through a whole loaf I like to slice it up thinly and freeze half. Then I can defrost a slice at a time as I need it.

  17. Eat and repeat!

P.S. My original sourdough experiments can be found over on my post ‘Starting Sourdough with James Morton’. 

From Herman with Love – Herman the German Friendship Cake

From Herman with Love

After many days of feeding and stirring good old Herman II it was time to mix him up into a sourdough frenzy. After halving the original starter and sharing the other half I was at the correct level of Herman to pretend that I had been given a starter by a friend and follow the instructions to create the cake…

Bubbling along nicely

Place Herman in a big bowl, leave him somewhere warm wearing a tea towel (check)
Day 1 – Stir Herman (I used a wooden spoon as I’m sure I read that its bad to mix sourdough with metal but I may have dreamt this.)
Day 2 – Stir Herman
Day 3 – Stir Herman
Day 4 – Feed Herman (I found I had to use a hand whisk to mix in 1 cup of warm milk, 1 cup of flour, 1 cup of sugar and stir well)
Day 5 – Stir Herman (you get the picture…)
Day 6 – Stir Herman
Day 7 – Feed Herman (same as before)
Day 8 – Stir Herman
Day 9 – Stir Herman

Russian Doll measuring cups

Day 10 – Divide Herman into quarters (about 1 cup per quarter) keep one for yourself. Share the other 3 with your friends . (You probably want to give them the instructions too otherwise they might think you don’t like them very much, giving them the gift of smelly fermenting goop)

Recycling every pot in the house

Now I can’t lie and pretend that I followed these instructions exactly as I forgot to stir him somedays, which I don’t think he was very happy about, as he became a bit solid and lumpy, in a sourdough huff I reckon. Nevertheless I don’t think it did him any real harm.

I did keep him near the radiator which perfumed the kitchen with a hint of brewery. (Lovely if you like beer?) I’m sure this will be the next big thing in parfum from Paris.

Pre stirring - this is what Herman looked like bubbles that rise to the surface and pop (if the surface is flat and still I'm afraid Herman has passed away)

I did worry that I killed him (again) as he looked a little flat and bubbless one day. I thought perhaps sugar would help? (It always helps me when I’m feeling a bit flat) I think it did the trick to revive him somewhat. Then following his first feed he perked up no end! All froth and bubbles. Apparently yeast needs flour to eat so it saved HermanII from a sink funeral.

All of the ingredients!

Then for the cake building! This seemed pretty straight forward. The recipe simply lists the ingredients and says mix it altogether. In reality this produces a tough scrambled egg bowl of sourdough cement.

Worringly solid

Worringly solid (Herman + flour + sugar)

Scrambled Herman - after adding the oil

I had thought “Ooh wonderful I’m going to be all traditional and use a Amish recipe and no electrical gadgets. Just me my bowl and a wooden spoon.” Wrong. I had to resort to the electric whisk to beat the lumps out of the mix. I probably shouldn’t have dumped all the flour in at once!

There's no shame in bringing out the whisk

This is the most scientific yet vague recipe I’ve tried to follow. I do enjoy using my Russian doll measuring cups wherever possible but can’t help but feel that its not very precise. How much is 2/3 of a cup of melted butter? Do you measure it out solid or melted? Am I supposed to squash a solid pat of butter into the cup to measure it out? I’m confused, therefore I guess.


Once I worked out the lumps of flour and managed to combine the oil, eggs, cinnamon, vanilla, sugar, and baking powder into my cup of Herman starter I could chop up the 2 apples into bits (definitely the technical term) and stir it in along with a cup of sultanas.

Generous helping of cinnamon

Chunks of apple and raisins

Combining everything together (no whisk required)

Again the recipe was beautifully non specific. “Pour the mixture into a LARGE greased and lined tin” What shape? I hear you cry? (someone already stumbled across my blog having looked unsuccessfully, I’m sure cos I don’t have the answer, for ‘how big a tin do I need to bake Herman cake?’) I selected my second from biggest round tin merely because I’ve used the biggest one before and it doesn’t fit inside my cake box. See that planning ahead? Excellent logic. It maybe about 20cms in diameter. (But then again I am guessing.)

Now I’ve never poured 2 thirds of a cup of melted butter on top of a raw cake before. It felt a bit wrong. But hey that could be because I guessed how much butter to melt, I just chopped a chunk off and melted it in the microwave. Then sprinkled on some golden caster sugar.

Buttery top

Then for the baking. The recipe says 45mins at 180 degrees C. I reckon this varies quite a bit on what size tin you use as mine took at least 30 mins more until the skewers came out clean and made the kitchen smell all lovely and cinnamony. Very Christmassy just in time for the February snow.

Mini Hermans - ready for adopting

It seems like Herman has been a long time in the making and has taken on a personality of his own. After potting up the mini Hermans and they sat looking at me in a row I started to feel like I was in The Little Shop of Horrors, Seymour feeding Audrey II only to discover at the end he’s multiplied and lurking in the garden, waiting for the next unsuspecting human to feed him…

I don’t want to burden my lovely friends with a Herman. He’s no Audrey II that’s for sure, just a harmless sourdough! I do have 3 Hermans looking for a good home but I’m also quite tempted to keep one to experiment with, perhaps a chocolate chip Herman or Herman sourdough bread?

Crumbly and moist

What’s not to love about a cake called Herman? A cake with a story! A cake with a real history! A cake with heart and steeped in tradition. Sure it might seem a bit weird taking that first bite of Herman. But he actually tastes really good! There’s a slightly sour initial taste, which makes sense and then a lovely apple and cinnamon sponge. It’s really moist yet crumbly on the top. I will never doubt pouring butter on the top of a cake again! Very good served with ice cream or just with a cup of tea! If someone loves you enough to offer you a share of their Herman take it with both hands and pass it on to generations to come!

Crackled effect

It has been a bit of a commitment tending to a cake over the past 20 days (counting the creation of the starter, killing it and starting again). But what a life! Devoting himself to pleasing others. That’s my kind of cake. It feels like I’ve been writing The Herman Diaries and soon there will be a film with Johnny Deep as Herman… yet I digress once more. If you’re given the chance of a Herman give it a go! What have you got to lose?! Embrace the Herman. You know you want to.


A slice of Herman

Things that I used…

1 cup (quarter) of the original Herman Starter

2 cups plain flour

2/3 cup of vegetable oil

2 eggs

2 apples

1 cup raisins

2 tsp baking powder

1 cup sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract

50g butter (melted)

a generous sprinkling of golden caster sugar for the top

1 “Large” round cake tin (9 inch)

1 hour 15 baking time at 180 degrees C

Herman’s Big Night Out!

image I’m very sad to announce the death of Herman the German Friendship Cake. He made it through 2 days and then alas Poor Herman was not bubbling anymore.

He was a brave sourdough soldier. After a brief mourning period I tipped him down the sink and started again. This time using real sugar not honey as a substitute, which meant I had to make a trip to the shops.


4 days on Herman the German II is doing well. So well infact I’ve split him in half and delivered him to Karen who, so committed tot he Herman, travelled all the way from Middlesbrough. Now she too can spread the Herman Joy.


Herman off on his holidays after a morning by the heater at work. In his own travel bag and hot water bottle combo.

Only 5more days of feeding til I can split him again and share 3 quarters out. Please let me know if you would like a Herman starter and I will try to get one to you. Then the baking shall commence!

Or alternatively you can make your own starter by following these intructions

Want to see how Herman turned out??Clcik on to the next post From Herman with Love for the grand finale!