(Updated 24 March 2022. Still a work in progress)
- Beginner Sourdough Starter Recipe (we use all whole wheat flour for our starter)
- Sourdough starter troubleshooting
- digital kitchen scale that measures in grams
- Colander and a smooth woven “tea towel” to lay in the colander for proofing (or a proper proofing basket)
- A tall, translucent container for allowing the dough to rise in (a 2 1/4 qt “juice pitcher works”)
- A bowl scraper
- A bench scraper
- Several mason jars of some sort for keeping starter in. 1/2 qt or 1 qt (jam/jelly jars also work)
- A large mixing bowl
- A small bowl for water
- Cover or damp terry towel for covering the mixing bowl
- Smooth surface for working the dough (smooth counter or large smooth cutting board?)
- sharp knife
- dutch oven
- Parchment paper
- Good quality baking/hot mitts (dutch oven will be HOT)
- small sifter for spreading small amounts of flour
- bread knife and butter.
Do not use chlorinated water! This applies to both the starter and the bread. We have seen chlorinated water prevent the starter from growing at all. If your water is chlorinated, boil it and then leave it open to cool. Simply leaving it in an open container for a day should also work. The quickest solution is something like a Brita Filter that removes chlorine. We have had good luck with them.
Your choice of flour can significantly impact the behavior of your dough and starter. One of the important factors is the amount of protein the creates gluten. Adjusting the amount of water in the dough can help compensate for this. You can also just accept how “slack” the dough is and may get a loaf that isn’t as tall. If your dough is too slack, try reducing the amount of water or try a different flour. You can also try changing the ratio of white bread flour to whole wheat.
There is 50g of whole wheat flour in the 100 g of starter used in the bread. To that we add another 450 g of flour for a total of 500 g. The recipe below shows 250 g of white bread flour with the remainder being whole wheat which is a 50/50 ratio including the flour in the starter. You may change that ratio to suit your preferences.
I have listed the brands of flour we are using and they work well for us with the recipe I have provided. Organic flours are generally better. Your mileage may vary.
We have had difficulty using King Arthur Organic Whole Wheat Flour (…and non-organic) for feeding the starter. It will grow like crazy and then collapse very quickly. It must be fed at least once a day or it can die. I have had it double on the first “feeding” when starting a new starter, and then very quickly collapse. I don’t know what is in it, but it is very temperamental and not very satisfactory. It also tends to be very sharp on the nose when sniffed. It works fine for making bread.
We have tried several “fancy” bread flours. We tended to get slack dough with them and have settled on the King Arthur Organic Bread Flour. The others work and are very tasty, but the loaf tends to be lower profile. Those are are better at this might not have any problem.
Put some notes here on shaping.
What If It Doesn’t Work?
Getting a nice looking loaf may take a few tries and a little experimenting. However, it is very easy to get some tasty bread even from what looks like a disaster. The usual problem is dough that is slack and won’t hold shape. Some of my early attempts were not so good. I’ve made bread that looked more like a pizza dough than a loaf of bread. It tasted great while not making a very good sandwich. I have over proofed (risen) the dough until the gluten as largely eaten by the yeast and it held no shape what so ever. I poured it into a bread pan and baked it. It was a fine, edible bread. Don’t get upset. Just get it baked, eat it, and then try again.
- 25 g – Maine Grains Heritage Whole Wheat Flour
- 25 g – water (No chlorine!)
- 10-12g – starter
Keep cool or room temperature. The warmer it is the more frequently it will need to “feeding”. Feed once every 1-2 days. We seem to be able to get away with feeding every 3-4 days, but eventually the starter behaves badly if this is normally done.
If you will not be using the starter for an extended period, put it in a refrigerator. Take it out and feed it once every few weeks. Let it rise for several hours before putting it back into the refrigerator.
- 250 g – King Arthur Organic Bread Flour
- 200 g – Maine Grains Whole Wheat Flour
- 12 g – salt
- 350 g – water (results in about 78% total hydration)
- 100 g – starter
This process involves 3 days and 2 nights, but does not take a lot of time out of those days.
Evening of the First Day
The process starts by feeding the start the evening of the first day. Because we will need 100g of starter for the bread and need some left over for continued use, we will double the normal feeding amounts:
- 50g – Whole Wheat Flour
- 50g – Water
- 25g – Starter
Morning of the Second Day
- Place a large mixing bowl on the digital scale
- Zero the scale and add the bread flour
- Zero the scale and add the whole wheat flour
- Zero the scale and add the salt
- Mix the dry ingredients
- Zero the scale and add the water
- Remove the mixing bowl and place the starter jar on the scale
- Zero the scale and then remove starter and add it to the mixing bowl until 100g of starter has been removed (the scale will read -100g)
- Mix everything until all dry flour has been mixed in to the dough
- Use the remaining starter to do a starter feeding for continued (later) use
- Wait 20-40 minutes and then “stretch and fold” (1)
- Wait 20-40 minutes and then “stretch and fold” (2)
- Wait 20-40 minutes and then “stretch and fold” (3)
- Wait 20-40 minutes and then “stretch and fold” (4)
- At this point the dough should pass a “window test” and can be put in a container for “bulk proofing”. If it doesn’t, wait and stretch again until it does.
Afternoon/Evening of the Second Day
- Wait until the dough has at least doubled in volume since the start of bulk proofing. This will take 4-12 hours, depending of temperature and the phase of the moon.
- Shape the dough
- Wait 30-40 minutes, flip the dough over and shape a second time
- Setup the proofing basket/colander and heavily dust with flour (AP flour works well, white rice flour works esp. well)
- Dust the shaped dough with flour (AP flour works well)
- Place the dough, upside down, in the proofing basket and coat with flour
- Cover with a towel and place in the refrigerator
Morning of the Third Day
- Place your dutch oven in your oven and preheat to 450F. Ensure that the dutch oven it up to temperature
- Your dough is upside down in the proofing basket. Place it right side up on a piece of parchment paper
- Score the top
- Lift it by the parchment paper and gently place the dough and paper in the dutch oven
- Bake at 450F with the cover on for 15 minutes
- Remove the cover and lower the temperature to 400F. Bake for an additional 25 minutes; until you like the brown/gold color of the crust.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a cooling rack for 1 hour.
- Slice and enjoy