My sourdough journey began back in February 2020. My Mom learned from a lady at her church and shared the recipe and her starter with me, and from there I took off and ran with it. Little did I know it would be the most nourishing and healing way to spend time in my kitchen during such a year as that. My hope is to always encourage others to find value in cooking nourishing foods in their kitchen while enjoying the journey.
"I've never seen you eat so much bread since we've been married!" says my husband of 8 years.
Intro to Sourdough
First off...There is no right or wrong way to bake sourdough. Even though there are many methods out there, it really is quite simple. You just have to find what works best for you! When it comes down to it, all it entails is water, flour, and a little salt, but it has the potential to transform into something so tasty and nourishing. It’s up to you what flours you bake with, how sour you want it, the amount of hydration you want the dough to have, and so much more. It does require some planning, technique, and patience if I’m being honest, but it will come easier over time as you continue to bake and it is SO WORTH IT! No one size fits all here, that’s the beauty of it. I hope that by sharing my passion with you it will inspire you to get started on your own sourdough journey. With that said, I will share some of my approaches and techniques, some scheduling options, equipment needed, resources you can use, and much more.
What Is Sourdough Exactly?
And the golden question - can you make it gluten free?
Sourdough is basically a slow-fermented bread. No yeast and no magic ingredient...just flour, salt, and water with a live fermented culture - your starter. The reason why so many people who are gluten free are ok with or tolerate eating sourdough is because of the slow fermentation process, it breaks down a lot of the proteins and enzymes that are in the wheat. Baking your sourdough with Einkorn Flour gives you an even more almost gluten free option if you would like to experiment. Please note: I do not recommend sourdough for people who have Celiac in that fermentation does not completely eliminate all gluten. For people like my sister in law, who has always been sensitive to gluten, it has never caused any issues and she LOVES when I make it for her.
Quick Science Talk
It all begins with a Sourdough Starter. This is what will bring your bread to life and allow it to rise. Instead of using yeast to make the bread rise there are naturally occurring wild yeast and bacteria in flour as well as simple sugars. Who knew? By continually feeding it with water and flour, a fermentation process begins that feeds off the simple sugars, breaks down the gluten and encourages carbon dioxide to form. In turn, the carbon dioxide causes the dough to rise, the ethanol and and lactic acids from the bacteria in yeast make it sour, and keep it fresh for a long time.
Your starter is what will become another member of your home. It needs consistent love and attention. It can be acquired from other fellow sourdough bakers who are willing to share their starter with you, or you can make yours from scratch. You can name it even, I did! You keep it alive by feeding it every other day, every few days, or weekly. The more often you feed it the stronger and happier it is. A live ecosystem of beneficial organisms is what you’re creating with countless benefits. For example, B vitamins are increased, and phytic acid is neutralized to make a more gut friendly bread that allows for the breakdown of gluten to occur making it more digestible. This bread is also able to last longer than commercial bread because of all the components it’s made up of. A starter can be used for hundreds of years, so having your own to pass on for generations to come is a pretty neat legacy, and why it’s fun to share. I give lots of love to my starter, Oakley. I’ve maintained mine with organic unbleached white flour and have found great success. I prefer keeping mine in a cupboard but you can totally keep in the fridge if you will bake less often with it. Sometimes you may find that your starter just isn't showing healthy signs of life and it could just need a fresh new jar. Simply find a clean jar, add some of the starter and discard a chunk of it in the garbage or compost, feed it and let it sit at room temp for a while. If you’d rather start from scratch and begin the process on your own, that is awesome and totally encouraged! Only downside is that you will have to wait some time to get baking until it is mature and ready to be used. There are many websites that can offer you ways to get your starter going. The best part is all you need are flour, water, and a jar to get started!
**Quick note on feeding your starter...If you want to feed it often to maintain health and activity but don’t want/need to bake a loaf you can always discard some and use for a discard recipe or just throw it away. I hate wasting so I have found many recipes to use the discard starter with other than bread.
Feeding Your Starter Ratio
1 to 1 ratio is what I do meaning it's at 100% hydration.
75-100 grams flour and 75-100 grams lukewarm water
or 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup water
The more you add the more you will have!
If you store it on your counter you can use it within 4 hours of feeding it and 24 hours if kept in fridge.
Sourdough Steps at a Glance
Feed Starter Until Bubbly and Active (most success when you bake with a fresh fed and active starter)
Whip up Dough
Stretch and Fold - 4 times every 15-30 minutes (optional but adds strength to bread, develops gluten, and gently incorporates air in the dough for a larger rise)
Cover & Let Rise overnight or 10-16 hours (the warmer it is the shorter the rise time can be)
Fold and Shape
Proof in banneton basket for 60-90 minutes (the final rise dough undergoes, which takes place after being shaped into a loaf, and before it is baked.)
Bake 450-475 covered for 25 minutes then uncover and bake for 20-25 minutes
Allow to cool 30-60 minutes
This is the one I use MOST often from my friend Laura at Radical Roots and can be found HERE. I have even cut the recipe in half and reduced the baking time because we are a smaller family and sometimes don’t need such a large loaf.
425 grams of room temp water
200 grams sourdough starter
650 grams of organic your flour choice (I recommend Einkorn for flavor, crumb, and nutrition)
15-20 grams of sea salt, depending on taste (I prefer a little extra salt)
sprinkling of flour of choice for shaping and folding (I use Otto’s Cassava Flour)
This one is from Healthy Mama Space and can be found HERE
75g Bubbly Starter
360g Purified Water (room temperature)
10g fine sea salt
500g Organic All Purpose Flour
flour for dusting
1 Cup Starter
1 ½ Cup Lukewarm Water
2 1/2 tsp Salt
3 ½ Cups Flour of choice
Mix all ingredients together
Cover and let it rise overnight or for 10-14 hours
Fold and Shape
Place in floured banneton or baking vessel lined with parchment paper for 60-90minutes
Bake at 450-475 degrees. 25 minutes with lid on and 25 minutes with lid off.
Let it cool for 30-60 minutes
Sourdough takes time and patience which is, honestly, what I LOVE about it. It’s something for once in my life that I can’t have in an instant and it forces me to slow down. Sourdough is a good teacher!
I find that baking in the morning works the best for me but as long as you allow enough time for the rising process you can find the best method for you. I usually whip up my dough anywhere between 3-5pm and let it rise/ferment for a full 12-16 hours. I prefer longer fermentation due to taste and the longer gluten breakdown. Alternatively you could mix dough at 12-1pm, stretch and fold, shape it 3 hours later and let it sit in a proofing basket on the counter for 2 hours before placing in the fridge overnight. Upon waking, preheat the oven and bake right from the fridge.
Find a window that works well for you, allowing for 8-12 hours minimum for rising/fermenting and 60-90 minutes of proofing before it bakes. Trial and error is ok! It’s a very forgiving bread. Choose when you want to prep it, pick your recipe, and get going, you just have to start.
5pm (night before) - Mix room temp water and starter together until creamy. Add in flour and salt and mix until you have what looks like a “shaggy ball”
*(Fold dough every 15-30 minutes 4x’s) - Watch me demo HERE
Place on top of fridge/warm place covered overnight
6-7am - Lightly flour the counter, scrape dough out to fold and shape. See video for quick tutorial.
7-8am - Place in proofing basket or bowl lined with flour sack towel and cover for 60-90 minutes.
Place baking vessel in oven, preheat to 450-475 at about the 1 hour mark of proofing.
Once pre-heated, plop dough onto parchment paper and place inside of the baking vessel. Cover with lid and bake for 25 minutes then remove lid and bake another 25 minutes or until it’s to your liking.
Let it cool on a rack for 30-60 minutes (THE HARDEST PART) Cutting into it too early stops it from finishing cooking inside and results in a gummy texture.
* Folding is OPTIONAL. I like to spend time with the dough and give it extra help in the process by folding it about 4 times. It also helps give air to your dough. After the initial mix I wait 30 minutes and come back to fold the dough on all four sides. Grabbing an edge, stretching it a bit and bringing it to the middle, turn the bowl and repeat on all four sides. I lightly wet my fingers but your fingers will still get a bit sticky but it’s ok, it’s all a part of it. You will begin to notice the mixture getting tighter and firmer and that’s a good thing. Be sure to cover in between each folding.
I acquired things over time but some of the items listed below are totally optional and is not a requirement for a successful sourdough. Get creative with what’s in your kitchen first ;)
Large Glass jar with wide mouth opening for Starter
A Kitchen Scale (allows for more precise measuring and then you don’t have to always dirty measuring cups)
Dough Mixer (wooden spoon, spatula, or kneading tool which is shown below)
Silicone Whisk to mix starter
Stainless Steel Scrubbing Brush (SO helpful for cleaning dough off hands and bowl)
Large Bowl + cling wrap or silicone reusable lid
Sharp scoring blade or knife for designing
A banneton bread basket (not necessary but very helpful)
Parchment Paper (again, not necessary but helpful)
3.5 - 5 Qt. dutch oven or baking vessel of some sort with a lid.
Resources & Final Thoughts
I’ve been wanting to publish something like this for a long time so this is a BIG deal for me. I hope to keep updating my blog with new insights and techniques along the way. We all have gifts and learn from each other, it’s what makes the world go around right? I have to give credit to my Mom for getting me started on this journey and sharing her starter with me. It’s truly been a gift. I then took that and ran with it. I have connected with some amazing women online and found recipes, blogs, and videos that have continued to feed my love for sourdough and braving new techniques. Here are some links to some resources I have used so far and that I know you’ll find helpful. If you keep searching their sites you’ll find other sourdough recipes like tortillas, pancakes, pizza dough, cinnamon rolls, crackers, banana bread, and more!
https://myradicalroots.com/sourdough-guide/ (I refer to her eBook that I bought for many sourdough discard recipes, it’s only $10)
I use Einkorn for a lot of my personal home baking. It is an ancient grain and has been known to be tolerated by those who are even gluten sensitive. Here is the best place to learn and buy from - https://jovialfoods.com/ancient-einkorn/
Enjoy the process friend, that’s my encouragement to you. I second guessed myself so many times and maybe had a couple duds, that’s it. Play around with it and get creative with adding in flavors or trying a blend of different flours. There are a MILLION approaches and techniques out there so don’t limit yourself. It is a very forgiving dough and really hard to mess up on. Bake with it often, feed your starter with love and watch it grow, be fascinated with the simplicity this form of baking can be. Nourish your family with this delicious bread. We love making french toast with older firm pieces, cubing them for croutons, toast with butter & drizzled honey or avocado, grilled cheese is to die for, and so much more! Any questions please reach out...happy to be a resource!
Blessings of Health, Happiness, and Endless Baking,
Rooted In Health