Sourdough for sissies

“PJ, you have to do a sourdough blog.”

Halley, our Web projects manager, was cracking the whip on me. That’s what project managers do; it’s their job.

“Awwww, do I have to? I hate sourdough. It’s so…. fussy,” I said, trying to weasel out of it. “I don’t even like sourdough bread. C’mon, you don’t really want a sourdough blog, do you?”

But Halley was a rock. “Sourdough is, like, our most searched-on term. You WILL do a sourdough blog.”

“Oh, WHATEVER.” Grumble grumble grumble…

Thus did I launch myself, feet dragging, into My Big Fat Sourdough Adventure.

And guess what? I now have a new outlook on sourdough. Remember the TV commercial for Life cereal? “He likes it! Hey, Mikey!” That’s me with my new best friend, sourdough.

So it’s not as fussy as I thought. Oh sure, the first couple of days require a bit of on-and-off babysitting as you create your starter. But after that, it’s a piece of cake. Sourdough chocolate cake, to be precise.

And the bread! I still don’t like SOURdough bread. But the first loaf of bread I made was a revelation: it wasn’t sour at all. It was just intensely flavorful, chewy/moist, with lovely irregular holes throughout, perfect for dipping in olive oil. And the second loaf, with its extra long, cool rise, was tangy enough to satisfy even the most devout fan of SOURdough bread.

You may not think you’re a sourdough fan. You may think it’s too much trouble. But trust me; I’ve made the starter, I’ve fed it and tended it, I’ve made the bread and the cake and the incredibly luscious waffles. If I can do it, so can you.

So now I’m looking forward to trying the carrot cake and the English muffins and the ciabatta and the pumpernickel bread and… the popovers? Who knew!? I’m going to go try them RIGHT NOW.

Thankfully, there’s a crock of starter sitting in my fridge, ready to go. How handy is that?

I LOVE sourdough.

Thanks, Halley.

img_7549.JPGLet’s start with some “fed” or “ripe” starter. If you know what this means, skip to the next picture. If not, here’s an explanation:

“Fed” or “ripe” starter is one that you’ve taken out of the fridge, stirred down, discarded 1 cup, fed the remainder with water and flour, and let rest, covered, for 4 to 12 hours. It gets mildly bubbly. You’re going to use 1 cup of this for your bread. Then you’ll feed the remainder, let it rest (covered) at room temperature for 2 to 4 hours, and stick it back in the fridge. Confused? Don’t worry; check out our sourdough tips.

Actually, let’s backtrack. I’m assuming you have some sourdough starter already on hand. If you don’t, you’ll need to ask a friend for some; or you can make your own. Frankly, I tried to make my own from scratch, and it simply wasn’t a happy experience. So I started over with the fresh sourdough starter we sell here at the Baker’s Catalogue. Which is actually pretty cool, since it’s a direct descendant of a starter that’s been in the family of Brinna Sands, who wrote our “King Arthur Flour 200th Anniversary Cookbook,” for over 250 years. So this is one historic starter.

And now, after that brief pause for a message from our sponsor, back to the show. Take your 1 cup of fed starter…

img_7550.JPG…and combine it with the remaining ingredients, stirring till cohesive.

img_7551.JPGThen knead to make a fairly sticky (but smooth and elastic) dough.

img_7552.JPGRound into a ball, place in a bowl, cover, and allow to rise till doubled, about 90 minutes to 2 hours.

img_7553.JPGAh, lovely!

img_7554.JPGGently divide the dough in half, and shape it into two oval loaves. There’s no need to punch it down; it’ll deflate somewhat as you handle it. Place the loaves on a parchment-lined or lightly greased baking sheet, cover, and let rise till very puffy, about 1 hour.

img_7559.JPGThe loaves will spread out as they rise; that’s fine. They’ll perk up once they hit the oven’s heat. Spray with water…

img_7560.JPG…and make two fairly deep slashes in the top of each. Both the water and the slashes keep the crust soft longer, allowing loaves to rise more fully. But don’t worry; the crust has plenty of time to become chewy once the loaves are fully risen.

img_7567.JPGAnd here’s a lovely loaf of sourdough bread.

img_7575.JPGI’m a “grip it and rip it” type of bread person.

img_7570.JPGAnd then there are the refined folks who use a knife… Look at that creamy color and beautiful texture, eh?

The sourdough bread you’ve just read about has rich, deep flavor, but it’s not particularly sour. To make a tangy sourdough loaf that’s more what people expect from sourdough, you’ll use nearly this same recipe. You’ll simply omit the yeast; add an overnight rest in the fridge; and lengthen the amount of time the dough rises, both in the bowl, and as shaped loaves.

Read, review, and rate (please!) our recipe for Rustic Sourdough Bread, for a richly flavored loaf that’s not sour; or Extra-Tangy Sourdough Bread, for a loaf that’s assertively sour.

P.S. Here are the sourdough popovers:

img_8316.JPGIn the oven, looking like extra-tall muffins…

img_8321.JPG …and finished. Now, I’d call these more muffin or bun than popover, but never mind the nomenclature. They were fast and easy to stir up, and what’s not to like about a steaming-hot-from-the-oven roll?

And then I decided, well, how about baguettes? The dough was a little too slack to round up nicely; in retrospect, I should have supported it in a baguette pan, rather than try to bake it freeform. But they’re crusty and yummy despite their not-quite-baguette shape.

img_8340.JPG

img_8343.JPG

New to sourdough? Find the help you need for all of your sourdough baking at our Sourdough Essentials page.

 

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel was born in Wisconsin, grew up in New England, and graduated from Brown University. She was a journalist in Massachusetts and Maine before joining the King Arthur Flour Company in 1990, where she's been ever since. Author or co-author of three King Arthur ...

comments

  1. Andrea

    PJ –

    I tried to make a starter from the King Arthur Cookbook, and it worked nicely. Until we started moving to our new home, and I forgot to feed it. Ooops…I’ve been kicking around just ordering a starter, and had finally said “Nah…I’ll just start my own again”, placed my latest order on the website a few days ago, and moved on.

    Now I want sourdough. NOW. *sigh* Those loaves are beautiful. Have you ever used your extra starter for waffles? mmmmm…..

    I just love this blog – I check it daily, and my husband laughs that I’ve found people who are as obsessed with apple pie, pound cake, and bread as I am. :) I did a write up about your company on my blog just because I love what I’ve purchased so much. Cheapo, frugal me never would’ve thought she’d be ordering her flour, but….I’m a convert! And your box mixes certainly live up to your guarantee that they don’t taste ‘boxed.’ I made Soft Molasses cookies yesterday, and they’re already almost gone. ;)

    Now I just need to convince the Hubster to move to Vermont so I can come work at KA and play with dough all day. That’s one job I could justify sending my little guy to daycare for me to do. Unless KA is as cool as I think they are, and have an on site day care? ;)

    The sourdough waffles will be posted on Friday, Andrea – they’re yummy! Thanks for the writeup on your blog – on behalf of me and my fellow 166 employee-owners, we appreciate it. And yes, this is a wonderful place to work – employee-owned, as I said – family friendly – but we’re not big enough for onsite day care… it was a dream at one time, but we’re just plain not large enough to be able to offer that benefit to the very small number of folks who could use it. But come visit anyway :) – PJH

    Reply
  2. Joyce

    I read your blog today with great interest. I have sourdough starter and have made bread from it but I don’t like having to throw away starter when I feed mine. We had sourdough blueberry pancakes for breakfast this morning and they were excellent. But now I have a lot more recipes to use starter in!

    I have a question after reading your sourdough tips. Several times you mention get rid of 1 cup of starter and then add in the stated amounts of flour and water. The question is how much starter will I have left? Since I already have starter I might not have the same amount as you do and getting rid of 1 cup could leave me with too much or too little starter to feed.

    Another question — I shared some of my starter with a friend and she called this morning as she was getting ready to feed it for the first time. She had King Arthur Bread flour and King Arthur whole wheat flour but no unbleached flour of any kind. I believe there was also some Lilly bleached in her house. If she feed the starter with KA bread flour or whole wheat what would the results be like?

    Thanks for your help with these questions. I too read your blog every day and find your blog and web site to be “over the top” helpful.

    Finally under the category of never satisfied — I like that I can get your recipes using weight rather than measures as I have become a big fan of the kitchen scale. My bread consistently turns out better when I weight the flour. But there are times when I write in the measure on the printed recipe (say 1 tablespoon of oil). Any chance to get a selection to get both types of measures on the same sheet?

    Thanks again for all you do for the home baker!

    Joyce

    Hi Joyce: Not sure I understand your question about discarding starter and how much you’ll have left. When you discard 1 cup, you replace it with 1 cup (1 cup flour + 1/2 cup water – 1 cup) – so in theory you never end up with more or less than when you started. If you want to increase the starter amount, discard 1 cup for awhile and feed with 2 cups flour and 1 cup water.

    Feeding with bread flour would be fine and would yield the same type of starter, albeit a bit thicker. feeding with whole wheat would also be fine, although then you’d have a part whole wheat starter. Which is also fine, if that’s what you want.

    Finally – lots of people have asked for the side by side weight/measurement thing (me included!) Our Web guy says “not possible.” (“Computers are our friends…”) Sorry! PJH

    Reply
    1. Dan Stroh

      While reading the list of ingredients I noticed the flour measurement by cup differs from by ounces. For example, 5 cups (21 1/4ounces). Shouldn’t it be 40 ounces? Please explain.

    2. Susan Reid

      Dan, different ingredients weigh differently by volume. A cup of water equals 8 ounces. But a cup of feathers on a scale might weigh 1/2 ounce. The only ingredients that are heavier than water by volume are invert sugars: honey, molasses, maple syrup. Flour, being a powdery substance, is properly measured by stirring it to aerate it, sprinkling it into a flat-topped measuring cup, and sweeping the excess off the top. When measured this way, flour weighs 4 1/4 ounces per cup. The idea with sourdough is to have equal amounts by weight of water and flour. —Susan

  3. Jennifer

    Okay, I guess I need to see if I can rescue my starter. it’s somewhere in the recesses of my fridge. Of course it’s the starter I bought from you guys. Though I must admit this is the perfect time of year to see if I can rescue my starter. It’s not too hot, all the veggies are being harvested there is yeast in the air.

    And it’s the only sourdough my husband will eat willingly.

    I want to make bread now.

    Reply
  4. Mike T.

    Hey PJ, I’ve been meaning to ask, is that one of those scraper beaters for the Kitchen-Aid mixers? I just saw it last week and wondered if it was any good. Does the scraper part really work?

    Thanks!

    Mike, yes, it is one of those silicone (I think?) beaters. At first I was like, well, I like it because I never did like that kind of icky unfinished aluminum thing going on with my food. But then the other day I said, OK, I’d better do a side-by-side test, see if it really does work better. And actually it really did – I made two pound cakes, and with the metal beater I had to scrape down the bowl midway through; with the silicone beater, I didn’t have to. So yeah, it’s cool. PJH

    Reply
  5. Ann Schroetter

    I’m trying to make bakery quality sourdough. I’ve done all of the above and it is very good but I want to get to the next level. The bread I desire has more and irregular larger holes/bubbles in the bread. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you. Ann

    Hi Ann – try a slacker, ciabatta-like dough. And have you read Jeffrey Hamelman’s book, Bread? He’s our head baker here, and a VERY good sourdough baker, trained in the German tradition… PJH

    Reply
  6. Christina

    My husband received the King Arthur Sourdough Starter for Christmas. We decided to name him “Harry.” It’s amazing how much abuse “Harry” has taken since then. He has treated us very well. I’ve always been interested in the chocolate cake but have yet to try it. I have found that the sourdough recipes are very easy and very little work for the flavor at the end. Thanks for the post, I think I might try the popovers tonight!

    Reply
  7. Dana Booth

    Andrea,

    I can sympathize with you completely! We just moved and I had to give away lots of food, including my starter, since we had kids, dogs, and fish in the car moving from Tucson, AZ to Salem, OR. So now we’re north anyway; just need to get hubby to move east :) I, too, would love working at KAF.

    Regarding your sourdough starter, next time don’t chuck it if it’s neglected unless it stinks (not just very sour, but rather rotten) or is red. Even if it’s black it can be revived. The KAF ap book has info on this and there’s probably lots of stuff in the discussion groups, but basically you stir it down, discard a little, and feed it. Keep feeding as normal and you should see it revive in a few days.

    I know you’re hoping there won’t be a next time that it’s neglected, but I’ve got 3 kids and would be surprised if there wasn’t a next time :)

    Good luck!

    Dana

    Reply
  8. Andrea

    Dana –

    Thanks for the referral to the cookbook. I have both the original and Whole Wheat version, as the Hubster calls it. ;)

    It is a very good thing my one year old fusses if HE is hungry. Then I know I need to feed him. ;) Too bad the starter doesn’t whine….then again, I think my little Munch does enough whining some days for an entire village.

    Doesn’t moving bite? I have to remind myself…this is temporary. I’ll be able to find everything once again! Granted, we just moved from one side of the village over to the township, but yuck. I give you and your hubby lots of credit.

    But, the bonus is that now your new starter will be a new, improved, and totally different starter! Hubster wants me to try and make something with the starter every week if possible with Munch once he’s old enough – never too early to start them baking, right? I LOVE that the folks at KA are making mini baking pans and such. I know what I’m asking for for Munch for Christmas….

    Blast those KA people and knowing how much some of us enjoy baking! ;) Now if they’d only sell those soup mixes I’ve heard about in the past…. :)

    Andrea, soup mixes coming up soon – I was just writing about them. We’re putting the November-December catalogues to bed, so it’ll be sometime in there… PJH

    Reply
  9. Jenna

    Thanks for the sourdough reminder. I think that it’s time to start playing with my sourdough starter again.

    My friend gave me a sourdough starter at least 10 years ago. When we moved from Seattle to Greenville, SC, I brought the starter with me in a glass baby food jar in my carry-on bag on the airplane!!! When my friend left her original starter home in the refrigerator, her house-sitter mistook it for something bad & threw it away. I mailed a cup of it across the country in Ziploc bags so she could have the original.

    Reply
  10. breadchick

    Well done PJ! As someone who has six starters living in their fridge (including the KA one), let me tell you those are some fine loaves. You might just have to be up for honorary membership in the starter club if you keep it up;-)

    I had never thought of trying pop-overs with a starter! Besides, Larry and Moe both need to be fed and baked with (Curly got fed and baked with two weeks ago). Guess what I’m making tonight!

    Just keep in mind they’re more muffin-y than popover-y… I need to manage expectations here! – PJH

    Reply
  11. Christian

    Love and appreciate the blog and the website. We’ve just begun making recipes found here, and thanks to this post, we’ll probably try the sourdough bread next. Mmmmmm, broccoli cheese soup with sourdough.

    For those who want the volume and weight side by side for their recipes, you can do it with a little bit of copy and pasting. I know it’s not as ideal as a third button option on the website, but since that won’t be coming… Simply use a word processor program (I actually prefer Microsoft Office Notebook, you can rearrange text much more easily.) and copy just the measurements of one (say volume) into a textbox of the entire recipe of the other (weight in this example).

    Reply
  12. Steve

    A couple of questions:

    1. I had a starter that got quite alcohol-y smelling after a long time without feeding in the refrigerator. I got rid of it eventually. Is that a normal occurrence with sourdoughs?

    2. I have a multigrain loaf recipe that calls for ‘rye sour’. What’s a rye sour?

    Your starter was fine, it was probably just hungry. The starter is dead when it turns red, orange or pink.
    As for rye sour, it’s a flavoring that we sell (item#2673 $4.50)that gives rye bread a strong rye flavor. It’s delicious!

    “Rye sour” is also a sourdough starter based on rye, rather than white or whole wheat flours. It’s often used in sourdoough pumpernickel and rye breads. -PJH

    Reply
  13. SallyBR

    Another big fan of your blog here… :-)

    I have a question – I have my own starter, which is completing 7 months today!

    I would like to use it in this recipe on Sunday – my question is, when you say 1 cup of starter – how exactly do you measure? My starter, when it comes time to use, is VERY bubbly and active. Measuring 1 cup is tricky – I can see it would have a huge variation from recipe to recipe.

    Did I misunderstand something? When you say 1 cup of starter do you mean measuring it BEFORE the final fermentation and just using the whole thing?

    Thanks for your help

    Good question, Sally. Stir down the starter before you measure it, to get all the bubbles out. It should look nice and smooth, somewhat shiny. If you have a scale, it will weigh about 8 1/2 ounces. Have fun this weekend! And when you remove that 1 cup before feeding to get the starter ready, this time don’t discard it – save it to make the waffles I’m about to post. If you start tonight (as you would if you were baking bread tomorrow), you can have WONDERFUL waffles tomorrow morning. – PJH

    Reply
  14. SallyBR

    Thanks!

    I already started feeding my starter – I like to have three feedings before baking – not sure I will go for the waffles, but those popovers are definitely on my list! Way too tasty…

    thanks for your help, I am looking forward to trying this recipe

    Reply
  15. Andrea B

    I’ve had some KAF starter for about 10 years. My routine has always been a bit different. I take it out the night before, remove 1 cup, and feed THAT, rather than throwing it away. The rest goes back in the frig. Next day, I measure out the amount of the newly replenished starter needed and add the rest back into the crock. Sometimes there is a little too much, which I regretfully discard. The crock goes back into the frig without warming up. I’ve always kid of wondered if the starter would keep going without periodic warming, but it seems to be fine so far. This procedure is found in ‘Adventures in Sourdough Cooking and Baking’ by Charlie D. Wilford.

    Sourdough, like all yeast doughs, is a living thing with its own personality. And very flexible, as you can attest… – PJH

    Reply
  16. Heather M.

    I have a backup starter kept in an airtight container in the freezer. Every 6 months or so I change it out, just to make sure it doesn’t get too old, and it has saved me a few times when I get distracted by other shiny baking projects and neglect the poor monster.

    Reply
  17. Kimberly

    Now I wish I still had my starter I use to use in my Amish Friendship Cake! It would of been about 10 years old or older. Is it hard to make your own starter? How do you make it? I take care of my dad and he don’t like sourdough bread, so is the taste strong in cake or pancakes? We have a recipe on our web site to make your own starter using wild grapes or organic grapes. The taste in the pancakes and the chocolate is mild. Joan @ bakers hot line

    Reply
  18. Mary GRESSETTE

    Can you cook the sougdough loaf in a bread machine ? Mary

    I don’t know, Mary; machines vary so much. I’d say give it a try, using the setting with the longest rise times, and let us know what happens. Be sure to keep your eye on it, in case it goes crazy and starts to overflow the bucket! Good luck – PJH

    Reply
  19. Keith Taylor

    i have a question thats’ not strictly a sourdough one but I am desperately in need of an answer to. Last summer I built an outdoor brick oven…which I am slowly learning to use..the learning curve is longer/steeper than I anticipated..but it does turn out great sourdough. I can’t find a brass or other metal brush to brush out the oven after the fire is taken out. The hot floor eats up a fiber brush leaving too much ash for the mop to clean up. So far I haven’t found anything anywhere that will do the job. Can anyone help?

    Keith, have you tried a masonry supply place? Seems to me masons use wire brushes to clean up their brickwork… – PJH

    Reply
  20. mark levine

    I have been having loads of fun/success with Cook’s Illustrated modification of Mark Bittman’s delightfully easy “no knead” method (relatively wet dough, long rise, a small amount of kneading, baked in a very hot covered pot – holds the moisture in to form the crust). Both Bittman’s original approach and CI’s tweaking produce an incredible paisan loaf, great crust, excellent chew and a rich, nutty taste.

    Has anyone successfully experimented with adding a sour-dough component to this approach? If yes, details please!!

    Reply
  21. Ethel

    I have 4 one cup measures from original KA starter in my fridge dated 11/03, 12/03, 12/03, and one undated. All were the one cup discards from my original starter.
    Can I still use these, or do I need to discard them?

    I wouldn’t think they’d still be alive. However, if they’re not pinkish/red, and if they smell sour but “fresh” (not moldy), try stirring down, discarding half, and feeding the remainder with 2 cups flour and 1 cup water. See if they bubble and come to life – worth a try, anyway – PJH

    Reply
  22. Margaret B

    I hope someone out there can help me. I ordered King Arthur’s fresh sourdough starter and I lost the directions before I could give it the initial feeding. Customer service is gone for the day. Help!

    Thanks!

    At your service 24/7, Margaret – the King never sleeps! Check out our sourdough starter online instructions. Have fun! PJH

    Reply
  23. Michele

    to MARK regarding using sour dough starter in the Bitman (NYTimes) recipe, this works great for me:
    1 cup warm water
    1/4 tsp instant yeast
    2 TBS extra-virgin olive oil
    1 cup of well-fed sour dough starter
    * Mix these ingredients together.

    450 grams (about 3 cups) all purpose
    or bread flour (or combination of
    the two)
    1 1/2 tsp salt
    * Whisk these ingredients together and then with a wooden spoon, stir in above liquid mixture until flour is all incorporated. As in the Bitman recipe, if it seems a bit dry, add in a bit more water (as the amount of water needed depends on the “wetness” of your starter mixture). The resulting dough should be sticky and a bit shaggy.

    OPTIONAL (but Great for Rustic Sourdough Rosemary Kalamata bread)
    3/4-1 cup Kalamata olives, pitted, and
    cut in half
    2 TBS chopped fresh rosemary leaves
    *Stir in these ingredients into dough, kneading a bit with well oiled hands, if necessary to mix them in fully to the dough. Continue to follow all the remaining steps Bitman basic recipe.

    Reply
  24. mark levine

    Thanks, Michele!

    A couple of further questions.

    Bittman uses 1 5/8 cups of water. Your recipe only uses 1 cup. Does the moisture in the starter compensate?

    Do you give then follow the rest of the Bittman process, i.e. overnight rising, etc.? Any change in temp?

    BTW I have been substituting 1 cup of semolina (KAF of course!) for 1 cup of the APF at the suggestion of a baker buddy in Boston. Enhances flavor IMHO.

    Again, thanks for your recipe!

    Mark

    Reply
  25. Joyce

    Maybe some one can help me. I had a sour dough starter, that I started, but it turned black form neglect. Naturally I throw it out, but I also hated to discard a cup of starter in order to feed the starter. What I need is a simple use for the discarded cup of starter when I feed. I plan on starting a new starter soon. The pancakes sound great, but I don’t have a recipe for them using a starter. Can someone help me with a pancake recipe using the discarded starter, especially since flour cost sooooon much.
    Thanks,
    Joyce

    Sure, Joyce. First of all, starter with dark/black liquid on top isn’t necessarily bad; it’s alcohol. If it’s pinkish/smells BAD, then throw it out; but if just dark, stir the liquid back in, discard half the starter, and feed for several days with 1 cup flour/1/2 cup water. Next time! And use our sourdough waffle recipe to make pancakes; you’ll LOVE them. Enjoy! – PJH

    Reply
  26. Barbara

    How fun to see a blog about sourdough from my favorite baking company!! I have always loved sourdough, but it’s been years since I had my own starter. I just placed an order for the starter and the crock from KAF. Can you give me a heads-up about what I will need to do with the starter when it comes? How long will it be before I can bake something with it?

    We are in MO and are coming to the northeast for the fall foliage. My husband has already said YES to a little side trip to the flagship store. I can’t wait!!

    Thanks,
    Barbara

    Barbara, I hope you enjoy your trip. We look forward to seeing you here! I think the foliage will be a bit somber this year – it always is when we have a rainy summer. But then, there’s just no predicting what Mother Nature will show us… Your starter will come with an instruction sheet, but take a look at our online tips to see exactly what you’ll be doing in advance, and how long it takes. It’ll be about 24 hours before you can use it; more likely a day and a half, if youp ursue the feeding pace in a more leisurely way. Have fun- PJH

    Reply
  27. Maria

    I’ve been making sourdough using the KAF starter and recipe for a while now, and while it is very lovely making two loaves, there’s only two of us and using up 5 cups of flour every week and giving bread away is causing my husband to purse his lips and make muttering noises. Is there a recipe you can recommend that makes only ONE loaf? And recognizing that this may cause experienced bakers to curl their lips in scorn: is there a recipe for whole grain sourdough bread? Thanks!

    Sure,Maria – just cut the recipe in half. Or use the same recipe and make one big loaf – maybe you can fool him! And check out our sourdough recipes online – you’ll find several whole grain versions there. Good luck – PJH

    Reply
    1. Sonya

      Maria, I wanted to add that the King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking has a whole section of recipes that are whole grain sourdough breads :)

  28. Eve

    A blog for sourdough lovers, how lovely! I ordered my KAF starter/crock last night! Originally I am from CA. and am a San Francisco sourdough addict. Is the KAF starter similar in taste/texture to the Frisco kind I am used to? I have tried a dried sourdough starter from there in the past and have not had success. By the way, I enjoyed everyone’s postings. Thanx for the tips!
    ~eve in Idaho

    Eve, I don’t know what SF tastes like exactly; I know it can be quite sour. Every starter will take on the characteristics of where it’s raised pretty quickly, which means you’ll have an Idaho starter within weeks of receiving it. The best tip I know is more, cooler, slower rises = a more sour bread. The two recipes you can connect to from the blog, Rustic Sourdough and Extra-tangy Sourdough, cover both ends of the spectrum. Enjoy – PJH

    Reply
  29. Margaret B

    Thank you for the online instructions for the feeding of my new starter. I have fed the starter 3 times now. It doesn’t seem to be as bubbly as the pictures show or I would think it would be. Any suggestions for getting the starter to be more bubbly? Would a teaspoon of sugar help or would that be not a good thing to do?

    Thanks for your help!

    I wonder if your starter is too thick. A very thick starter will not show as many bubbles as one that is just a bit wetter. As long as it has some bubbles it should be just fine. As you use it you will find it will become more active. Joan@theBaker’s Hot Line

    Margaret, yours will probably take longer to get going than ours did here. The more yeast bread you bake, the more yeast in the atmosphere, the more gets into the starter and makes it bubble. Give it time; try longer rests between feedings. – PJH

    Reply
  30. Margaret B

    Forgot to ask- Can the starter be frozen? If so, how would you handle it?

    Thanks again for all the info!

    Usually you can freeze your starter with success but you do run the risk of having it not make it. You can try freezing some and store some in the refrigerator. Also I have heard that you can dry some on a piece of parchment and store that in your cupboard in an airtight container. You could try all three methods and see what works for you.

    Reply
  31. SallyBR

    Just reporting back – I made the sourdough bread using my own starter (original recipe from Dan Lepard’s book called “The Handmade Loaf”)

    well, it did not turn out very good, I don t quite know why. The loaf ended up very dense and heavy, not at all with the holes I normally get.

    Now, this is a slow starter, usually his recipes call for hours and hours of rising, with minimal kneading. I am wondering if it is not really a good option as far as starter goes.

    Just in case, I ordered the starter from King Arthur and will repeat the recipe exactly as written using that starter instead. Of course, then I will have “two babies” to feed in my fridge, but that will be fun!

    Sally, indeed, starters have very different personalities. Perhaps yours is a slow-riser… you know, like teenagers that get up sometime after noon… :) PJH

    Reply
  32. Shirley

    Why do you throw out the first cup of ths starter dough? I have made starter dough before however yours is the first that says to do this.

    Shirley, unless you discard or give away starter before you feed it, pretty soon you’d have starter overflowing your fridge! It’s simply to keep the amount of starter you’re tending at the same level, rather than continuing to increase it each time you feed it. – PJH

    Reply
  33. Jacqueline

    Love my crock, my starter and my first sourdough loaves were not bad either. Some questions?
    1. Can I add some of the starter I culled out back to make the sourdough starter, sour-er?
    2. If not, what about adding something during the feeding? Rice bran syrup? Evap cane sugar? Buttermilk?
    3. My loaves were a little dense. Not as large air holes. Knead more?
    4. Can I add wheat berries, flax seed or other flours to a batch? Mix in some wheat flour?
    5. No water spritzer. Placed cookie sheet in the bottom of oven with water. Placed sheet with loaves on pizza stone.
    Thanks so much for any advice. I’ll post photos and experience soon on my blog with a link here.
    Cheers,
    Jacqueline Church
    The Leather District Gourmet

    Hello Jacqueline – It is great you are having fun with sourdough. Now, you’d like to experiment! 1. You don’t want to add it back since this portion has been exhausted – time will increase the sourness
    2. You can add just a small amount of these sweeteners when starting your starter. Introducing milk products will increase the chance of the starter spoiling.
    3. You may be adding too much flour in the kneading process. It should be a wet, slack dough. You may also do a slow rise in your ref
    4. Wheat berries and flax seed should be added in the recipe rather than the starter – they will become rancid in the starter. Yes, you may add whole wheat flour.
    5. Be sure your pan (a cast iron skillet would be better), preheats in the oven. Boil water. Slide bread in oven and pour about 1/2 c. of water into your pan. Remove pan after about 20 min. of baking to avoid a very tough crust from forming.

    Good luck! Elisabeth @ The Baker’s Hotline

    Reply
  34. tiffany lively

    I would like to use this recipe with a brotform on the second rise, but as it calls for a greased parchment sheet, will this be possible?

    Tiffany, absolutely use a brotform – be sure to flour it VERY well, as this dough can be sticky. And eyeball it to make sure you’re putting the right amount of dough in – it rises quite vigorously. Have fun! – PJH

    Reply
  35. Barbara

    I’m so excited–my sourdough starter from KAF arrived today!! I fed it and am waiting for the next step in the morning. In the instructions, it mentions discarding or giving to a friend. If I can’t give it to the friend that day, should I treat that portion (for the friend) in the same way that I do mine, until the time I can give it to her?
    Thanks,
    Barbara

    Yes, Barbara. Actually, you can feed your friend’s portion with 1 cup of flour and 1/2 cup water, let it sit till it bubbles (4 hours or so?), then refrigerate till you’re ready to share. PJH

    Reply
  36. Eve

    I have a question…did I injure my starter? I got my sourdo starter yesterday and followed all the instructions to the tee. But when I looked and fed the starter this morning there were lots of gluten strands, making it rather difficult to stir. I checked my flour and realized I used bread flour instead of unbleached all purpose, realizing that bread flour has more protein in it than AP flour does which is why it didn’t look like the picture in your sourdo starter tips. What should I do?
    ~eve in IdahoDon’t worry, you didn’t injure it. You’ll have a strong starter that may resist coming out of the jar, but it will work well. Mary at King Arthur Flour

    Reply
  37. DEE

    What is the best kind of flour to “fed” my starter? I have been using “bread” flour and I think it is making my starter too thick. My bread is working out fine, however it could have a little more flavor. Any input is appreciated!

    Thanks!”Dee”

    We recommend KAF all purpose flour to feed your starter, which will make it thinner and (eventually) stronger flavored. If it doesn’t thin out, add a small amount of water to thin it. You can also try putting your shaped loaf in the refrigerator for 3 to 6 hours to slow its rise and give it time to develop more flavor. Happy Baking! Molly

    Reply
  38. Flo

    Last week I returned from a cruise to Alaska where I purchased Alaska sourdough starter on one of the port visits. I followed the instructions & added water & unbleached white flour (KA) to my starter & have been feeding 2x a day but little evidence of activity. It’s pretty cold here in Seattle & I haven’t really been able to keep my starter at 80 degrees – will a longer period of time compensate for my starter (getting started!). How do you keep starter at 80 degrees? Doesn’t seem green to tape to car engine. I have been tempted to throw the whole thing out & just go to my KA recipe book & start again – am I expecting too much too soon?

    Sorry, Flo, I can’t speak to your Alaska sourdough starter – don’t know how they made it, quality of the product, etc. Your starter should have started bubbling within 2 days maximum, I’d say. If you want to try to save it, try adding 1 teaspoon instant yeast next time you feed it. Although, it’s only going to be Alaska sourdough starter the first few times you use it, after which it will quickly become Seattle sourdough starter. If feeding with yeast doesn’t work, yes, revert to your trusted King Arthur recipe. We also have instructions for making your own sourdough starter on this site. Either way, you’ll have starter soon, I promise! PJH

    Reply
  39. Cathy

    Wow! Used my starter for the first time with this recipe and it is great!
    My husband and I ate a whole loaf! I also have a problem with discarding the starter! I used the first discard to make the popovers and they were easy and very tasty with apple butter. First time making popovers.
    Your sour dough starter is so much thicker looking than when I have made my own previously. Anxious to try other recipes.

    Cathy, many sourdough recipes call for you to feed with equal parts water and flour by VOLUME – 1 cup water, 1 cup flour. We call to feed equal parts by WEIGHT – 1/2 cup water, 1 cup flour. My belief is, with the alcohol the sourdough is continually making, it’ll keep “self-thinning,” and there’s no need to add additional water to keep it thin. Glad you enjoyed the bread! PJH

    Reply
  40. Barbara

    Loving, loving, loving my sourdought starter from KAF and all the recipes I have tried so far. Question—this may be answered elsewhere, but I can’t find it. What is the best way to store leftover sourdough bread? (paper bag? plastic bag? wrap?…). Also, is it recommended to freeze leftover bread? and if so, best way to prepare it for use after frozen?

    Glad you’re loving it, Barbara – I store sourdough at room temperature, and it stays nice and fresh due to its acidity level. The crust gets soft, but toasting helps that. Easiest is to put it in a plastic bag. For large loaves, you could try just setting on the counter, cut-side down, which is how REAL sourdough aficionados do it. – PJH

    Reply
  41. Barbara

    Is the waffle recipe the only one that can be made with sourdough starter right out of the refrigerator (not fed)? I was looking at the popover recipe, and it doesn’t say “fed.” Looking for more things to do with that cup of starter that I discard!

    You can use the starter straight from the fridge for the popovers (muffins, really), and in any bread recipe, substituting it for 1 cup of the flour and 1/2 cup of the liquid. Since it’s cold, your dough will take longer to rise. And your bread will have a slight tang, perhaps; so I wouldn’t use it that way in sweet breads. For a more richly flavored bread, use it in a regular bread recipe, combining it with the flour and liquid in the recipe and letting that mixture sit for a couple of hours; this is the equivalent of feeding the starter and getting it going. Hope this helps – PJH

    Reply
  42. Barbara

    I see references to sourdough pancakes–is there a separate recipe for those, or do you just use the waffle recipe and make pancakes instead of waffles?

    Yes, just use the waffle recipe – PJH

    Reply
  43. Barbara

    Oh my, I’m full of questions today…do you have tips as to the best way to “mark” the starter in the fridge with the last time it was fed (haven’t tried anything yet but was thinking the sticky note might not stay on the cold crock)….I use mine too often to just remember the day of the week–”one week from today” changes constantly, as far as day of the week.

    I would simply use a non-permanent felt-tip pen, Barbara – so you can keep erasing and re-dating. PJH

    Reply
  44. Angela

    I was wondering if the sourdough recipe in my King Arthur cookbook can be used in loaf pans. I want a softer crust and “sandwich” shaped bread as my kids say. Thanks! I am making the popovers tonight!

    Absolutely, make it in a loaf pan. For softer bread, replace 2-3 tablespons of the water with vegetable oil or butter. And remember – the popovers won’t be as light and airy as regular popovers; theyre more like a muffin. Just managing expectations here! – PJH

    Reply
  45. Barbara

    I see this reference in an earlier post from PJH, regarding making the sourdough bread into baguettes instead of round or oval loaves:
    “in retrospect, I should have supported it in a baguette pan.”

    What do you mean by that, and if you are talking about the “baker’s couche” in the KAF catalog, or the “perforated pans” in the same catalog, how do those work (is the baker’s couche a hard pan, lined with cloth, or is it just cloth; if using the perforated pans, do you spray the bottom and not use parchment?

    Also, when you want to freeze some started for a “backup,” do you just freeze a one-cup discarded starter?

    Barbara, I’m referring to the perforated pans. Yes, spray them with non-stick vegetable oil spray first. No need for parchment. A baker’s couche is a piece of cloth used to hold the loaves as they rise. You then transfer them to a baking sheet when it’s time to bake. The couche is a bit trickier to use, and MAY result in a flatter loaf, since without any support on a baking sheet, the baguettes may spread. As for freezing – freeze the entire starter. Or if you want some frozen, some fresh, simply divide it in half, feed, and freeze half, keep the other in the fridge. PJH

    Reply
  46. Barbara

    …to follow up, there are two “perforated pans” in the catalog–one for three french loaves, and another for two italian loaves. Will either/both of these work for one recipe of rustic sourdough bread?

    Hi Barbara,
    Yes, either of those pans will work. The Italian pan will make larger loaves, the French pan makes baguette style loaves. The perforations help get a nice crisp crust on the loaf.
    Happy Baking!
    MaryJane @ The Baker’s Hotline

    Reply
  47. Barbara

    On my post about my sourdough being “stiff,” I think it’s okay, because that is after it has been refrigerated. When it sits out, it gets soft and not too dry-looking. So, maybe it’s normal to be “stiff” right out of the fridge.

    Speaking of right out of the fridge, do I understand correctly that if using the sourdough to make something that does not require “fed” sourdough (for example, waffles or popovers), you would just take out the cup of sourdough, feed the remainder and immediately return to refrigerator (no need to let sit out for hours)? In other words, when using immediately, just consider that cup as the “discarded” cup if you were feeding the refrigerated sourdough weekly?
    Hi Barbara,
    Yes, starter right out of the fridge will be stiffer, but will loosen up as it warms. If your starter always seems too stiff, you can add a little water to make it looser.
    As to ‘fed’ versus ‘unfed’, anytime you feed a starter, it needs to sit out for 2-4 hours, to get a jump start on ‘digesting’ the feeding. Think of it like eating a meal before bedtime. You want to stay up a bit to let your body get started on processing the meal. If you need unfed starter, it is okay to go in the fridge, get your cup of starter and not feed the rest, just leave it in the fridge. HOWEVER, be sure that you are planning on feeding the rest of the starter at some point. If you just keep scoopin’ out starter, soon you will have a weak starter. You will also be taking out volume that will at some point need to be replaced/replenished. It should get a feeding once a week at least.
    I hope this helps.
    Happy Baking!
    MaryJane @ The Baker’s Hotline

    Reply
  48. Barbara

    Okay, MaryJane, but I’m a bit confused. On the KAF website, under tips for sourdough starter, and how to make fed sourdough, it says specifically that if you are just feeding it (not going to use for recipe), it says to put it directly back in the refrigerator–no need to sit out for 2-4 hours.

    I understand what you are saying, and it makes perfect sense, to let it sit out for a while after each feeding, but I have all the notes printed out and trying to do it right and get confused with conflicting answers!

    Barbara, do it wither way. Sourdough’s not something you can be too scientific about. It’s as much art as anything else; it’s a living thing. Hard to kill; easy to take care of. Feed it and put it back; put it back without feeding; just be sure to feed it once a week, one way or another. PJH

    Reply
  49. Michele

    This is again for MIKE LEVINE answering his questions to me regarding using sour dough starter in the New York Times/Mark Bitman recipe: YES I decrease the amount of water (recipe given above) used because the starter adds more moisture… BUT you will need to customize it a bit according to the “wetness” of your own starter… also if you add in the “optional” olives, they also add heaviness and wetness so I either add a bit more flour or a bit less water. If you have made (successfully) the Bitman recipe, you know the texture/i.e. the amount of “shagginess” the dough should have… so use the sour dough recipe above customizing amount of liquid and flour to obtain about the same texture. YES I then follow the Bitman recipe as far the overnight (18 hour) “rest” at room temperature and the same baking method and temperature. Hope this helps. Thanks for suggestions of adding in semolina… will try next time.

    Reply
  50. Mario

    As I was reading the comments on moving to a new house or across the country to move your starter with you remove some and spread out on either waxed paper or parchment nice and thin. Now stick it in your oven with or without the light on for a few hours it will be flaky and dry. Crumble it into a zip-lock bag and it will travel very well. I also do this as a back up just in case my starter goes south I refresh my back up every 6 months to a year and store it in the freezer, been doing this since ’88. To refresh your dried starter make a paste with water let sit for a few hours then start feeding using your normal schedule.

    Reply
  51. Barbara

    Question about the soudough waffles–for the overnight sponge, does the dry buttermilk+water work, or does it need to be regular buttermilk? The dry buttermilk and water work beautifully. Joan @ bakers hotline

    Reply
  52. Barbara

    When making the “overnight sponge” for the waffles, if you want to serve them for supper, what is the approximate number of hours in the “overnight” description–6? 8? 10? In other words, to serve at 6 p.m., when should you make the sponge that morning? It suggest 14 to 15 hours for the starter. 4 AM seems a bit early to wake up and start baking. But that would give you the suggeated 14 hours. I would probable start it at 6 AM and give it 12 hours. Joan @ baker’s hotline

    Reply
  53. Barbara

    Following up–then, if you’re making it for breakfast, if you want it for a 9 am breakfast, for example, you would start the sponge at 7 pm the previous evening? Am I onto it now?That’s it. You’ve got it! Frank from KAF

    Reply
  54. sarah

    I have a question, I have a big crock of friendship bread starter, a bit like sourdough but sweet… I’m tired of the super sweet cakey recipes that are attached to the Friendship bread cannon. I’m trying to figure out a way to use it in something a bit healthier, banana or zucchini bread, waffles, maybe toss it in the bread maker and make a sweeter whole wheat loaf??

    Every 10 days my crock of starter grows I need some places to put it.Sarah, Try using your starter to replace the yeast in a recipe. 1 cup of starter will replace the yeast plus 1 cup of flour and 1/2 cup of water, in most bread recipes. Do the math, to adjust your recipe. Then, the night before stir together the starter plus the remaining flour and water. The next morning stir in all the remaining ingredients and follow the rising schedule. Check out the blog on our website. PJ has several entries about this. Frank from KAF

    Reply
  55. Ellen

    I have a starter that I’ve ignored. It is as thick as pate. No funky smell or color. I just removed a cup and fed it with a cup of AP flour and 8 oz. of room temp. bottled water. I have put it in my oven with the light on because my kitchen is in the low 70s today. I have covered it with a linen towel. Does it sound like I am on the right track or am I harming my efforts by covering it and putting it in a closed area? I don’t want to exclude any of those nice yeasts that are floating around the kitchen. I also have seen verying advice on how much you take out of the starter before feeding…1 cup or all but 4oz. Even ratio of flour/ water feeding to two to one flour/ water ratio. Why does this have to be so confusing?

    Hi Ellen – I’d take it out of the oven, leave it covered with a towel, and leave at room temperature – that’s plenty warm enough. As for the confusion – I think it comes from recipes being passed down, and down, and down… people start doing things a certain way just because that’s the way Grandma did it. For years, my family followed a recipe called Agnes’ Shot Cake – till I finally asked Aunt Agnes why it was “shot” cake. She looked at the recipe and said, “Oh, SHEET cake, someone couldn’t read my handwriting!” :) Some people did sourdough one way, some another. It’s as much art as science. Pick what you like to do, what works, and stick with it. I like my method; if it works for you, go for it! – PJH

    Reply
  56. Mark London

    Rustic SD Bread – I have made it twice – halving the recipe to make only one loaf. This is my first attempt at SD bread (and baking, in general, outside of pizza dough).

    Taste is great. Great crust. The only thing that I am not satisfied with is the texture. My bread seams denser than the pictures.

    I suspect it might be in my prep. I combine with the Pillsbury mixer scaper (less than a minute). I then use the dough hook attachment to knead for 4 minutes.

    The other preps – rising and resting times are about the same. Ambient temps are ok also.

    I use KA AP flour and SAF yeast.

    Any suggestions on things to try? Do most people knead by hand? If so, how long?

    Thanks

    (Waffles are great, by the way). How do you measure your flour? Too much flour can result in a heavier denser texture. This address shows how we recommend measuring flour for our recipes. http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes2008/measuring-flour.html
    4 minutes sounds good with your stand mixer.

    Hi Mark – I knead for 7 minutes in my KitchenAid stand mixer. You might try kneading longer; or letting the bread rise in the bowl twice as long as called for, gently deflating it midway through. And, as it says above, more flour = denser loaf. Good luck! – PJH

    Reply
  57. Karen M

    Hello,
    Just got my starter and began feeding it yesterday. Today, I read that metal utensils couldn’t be used with sourdough starters. I did stir it with a metal spoon for the first couple of feedings. Did I harm it? I also used a pyrex bowl covered with a glass lid. Should it always be a porous covering like a towel? Also, I see folks are using their Kitchenaid Mixers to make sourdough recipes, but the mixing bowl that came with my Kitchenaid is metal. Do I need a separate plastic or glass bowl to mix sourdough breads with my mixer? Thanks,
    KarenKaren, No, you did not harm the starter. Store your starter in the refrigerator in a glass or glazed container with a lid. Using a slatinless steel mixing bowl for your dough is quite alright. These are the exact tools we use to produce your starter here in Vermont. Frank from KAF

    Reply
  58. Simona

    Hi! I am not new to KAF products (or the wonderful store in Norwich!!), but am new to the blog, so I really hope I haven’t missed a previous answer to this basic question. I have tried to make my own starter following the KAF Cookbook, but have ended up with green fur on top of it (eeeeeww). I should probably add that I live in a very humid part of the country (South Carolina) – maybe that had something to do with it, although I thought the AC would take care of it. Any suggestions? I know I can buy the starter from the catalogue, and I’ll probably end up doing so, but I’d like to give it one more try (I am kind of stubborn).
    Thank you!!

    Whoa, never heard of mold growing on sourdough – must have gotten something into it. I’d give it another try. Keep it covered with plastic wrap this time, see if that helps- PJH

    Reply
  59. Rae Sandberg

    I made this today and it flattened out too much on the cookie sheet/parchment paper. It does taste good but it is only about 2 1/2 inches thick. Do I need to put more flour to make a bit thicker dough? I would like to get good at this!

    Thank you for the help!
    Hello Rae – I’ll mention a few things that come to mind. Are you measuring your flour correctly? A scale is best for accuracy – 1 c.= 4 1/4 oz. of AP flour. The dough should be sticky but smooth after kneading. Are you careful not to fully deflate the dough when shaping the dough for its second rise? And are you careful not to let it over proof in this second rising period? Is your oven really at the correct temperature? I highly recommend an oven thermometer. Even some of the newer ovens are not “ready” when the oven indicates it’s “ready”. And last but not least, how about a preheated cookie sheet (pizza stone) and a nice steamy environment? The intense heat from the pan stimulates the yeast to eat and the carbon dioxide from the yeast builds up in the dough causing the loaf to rise. And the steam helps the bread to keep expanding. Good luck! Elisabeth @ The Baker’s Hotline

    Reply
  60. Teresa

    I would like to try using sourdough starter in sandwich loaf recipes. I understand about 1 cup of flour replacing 1 cup of flour + 1/2 cup liquid. But in a recipe that uses approx 3 cups of flour, would I not use any yeast at all, just the 1 cup of starter?

    Also, can you point me to some of PJ’s entries about this? I tried to search through the blog entries but was not successful in finding them. Then again, I didn’t do an exhaustive search.

    Thanks very much!

    Hi Teresa: I’d go ahead and use yeast in your sandwich loaf to speed things up, as I assume you’ll be using butter and maybe milk, and they don’t like to sit at room temperature endlessly… I haven’t done a post about using sourdough in sandwich bread, so your search results were true. For more on sourdough, find the sourdough recipes on our recipe site, kingarthurflour.com/recipes, by typing “sourdough” in the search box. Or type “sourdough” in the search box in this blog for more sourdough blogs. Cheers – PJH

    Reply
  61. Teresa

    One other question about replacing yeast in a bread recipe with sourdough – you’re talking about a fed starter, right? Yes You need to have a fed starter. This will give the energy needed to rise your baked item. Joan the bakers’s hot line

    Reply
  62. Teresa

    Thanks for the info! One final question – if I include yeast as well as fed sourdough starter in a sandwich bread recipe, would I use the same amount of yeast in the original recipe, or would I cut back the quantity of yeast a bit?

    More yeast = a faster rise; if you use the amount of yeast called for, it’ll probably rise maybe just a tad quicker than normal. I really wouldn’t cut back on the yeast much, unless you’re going for a more sour flavor (which you get with a longer rise). PJH

    Reply
  63. Margaret Potter

    This is an answer for Keith Taylor who is looking for a wire brush. The Aga websites offer wire brushes. Do a Google search for “Aga wire brush”.

    Reply
  64. Fred Baldwin

    Rather than discarding any starter, I tried doubling up on the starter and reduced the dry flour and water. This worked quite well. Reduced the flour a cup and the water buy a half cup give or take. The loaves were great with a wonderful crumb and flavor. I like the idea of not wasting anything, especially these days.

    Reply
  65. Fred Baldwin

    I may have missed it somewhere , but has anyone a reciepe for sourdough pizza dough? Would appreciate the post. Thanks.

    Fred, just make the rustic sourdough bread, substituting 1/4 cup olive oil for 1/4 cup of the water in the dough, and shape it into pizza crust instead. Should be delicious- PJH

    Reply
  66. Jeri Peterson

    A number of years ago a friend shared some sourdough starter with me with instructions that worked well – and there was never any starter thrown out. The refrigerated starter (1 cup of starter) was put into a stainless, plastic or glass bowl. One cup of flour (or more if you prefer) is added to starter in bowl. Measure 1 cop of water into “starter storage jar” and stir well to dissolve all remaining starter in the water. Add to the starter in your bowl. Beat well, cover with a clean towel, lid or plastic wrap and put where the temperature will be about 75-85 degrees and let rise until it “falls back down on itself” (about 8 or so hours, depending on how warm your kitchen is and how strong your starter is). Stir and beat well, take one cup starter out and put it into your cleaned ‘starter jar’. Loosen lid just enough to let out any air pressure if the starter rises in the frig., and save the starter in your frig. for the next time. The rest of the fed starter is ready for you to use for bread, pancakes, etc. (My friend always fed her starter 1/2 cup of sugar with the 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of water. Many directions I’ve seen tell you not to feed the starter with anything but flour and water, but I’ve never found one that said why. It would probably be good to check that out before trying it, or experimenting with an extra starter. It did work for both of us, and I never used any commercial yeast with my “starter breads.” – Maybe somebody will have an answer to post. Her directions also were to let the starter “rest” a day before renewing it again, but if you want more starter you can, of course, either feed it more at once or more often. Hope this helps. Jeri

    Sounds good, Jeri. I’m sure it works just fine. As for the 1/2 cup sugar, to me that sounds like it’s turning it into a “friendship starter,” used mainly for cake/muffins. I think I’ll keep mine unsweetened. And yes, starter is generally strong enough to use without added yeast – given your willingness to let the dough rise till it’s ready. You sound like a very accomplished sourdough baker – it’s fun, isn’t it? Cheers – PJH

    Reply
  67. Dori Moltzen

    Question on storing starter in fridge. I have made my first SD bread using your Rustic Sourdough starter recipe and it was wonderful. Not as tall as I had hoped, but taste was very good. I am going to try the no-yeast version and a longer rise time for a stronger flavor next time. Anyways, I have my starter in a plastic bowl with a snap-on cover. Is this OK for storage? Should it be less airtight? thanks for all your great products, I just love everything I have ever ordered from your company. Dori

    Dori, there’s some who think plastic isn’t a good storage container for sourdough, as the acid and plastic can interact, and some of the plastic might leach into the starter. Snap-on lid is fine. But if you could use a recycled glass jar, or some kind of stoneware crock or jar instead? Might be preferable. Have fun with the no-yeast – it’s more of a challenge, but more complex flavor, too. Practice makes perfect! PJH

    Reply
  68. Meredith

    Oops — I’ve forgotten to feed my sourdough starter for 2 weeks. And as hubby is away on a business trip this week, and everyone at work is “no-carbing” it, I don’t see myself baking until early next week. Have I killed by starter? MUST I feed weekly? I detest the idea of throwing away a cup of starter…… You should think about your starter as living or a pet that needs nourishment. So yes it should be fed-at least every other week but it is better to feed every week. Joan@baker’s hot line

    It’s OK, I’ve left mine for probably six weeks without feeding… it gets some dark liquid on top, but so long as it smells like vinegar/alcohol (not icky/spoiled), and it’s dark, not pinkish, you’re OK. Take a look at our sourdough tips to see what to do (scroll down to the bottom). No worries! You won’t kill it. PJH

    Reply
  69. Lisa!

    Sourdough starter help needed!

    My KAF starter arrived today, and I immediatey fed it. After initial feeding, I discovered that I won’t be home tomorrow to divide and feed it a second time per the instructions.

    What can I do?

    Thanks,
    Lisa

    Hi Lisa – when you leave tomorrow, stick it in the fridge, then pick up where you left off (letting it warm to room temperature) when you get back. No problem – it’ll be fine. PJH

    Reply
  70. Retti

    Your instructions say to use the fed starter within 12 hours of feeding. Is there a problem in letting it go longer? I goofed, and it’s been about 16 hours. What should I do?

    I also goofed and added too much water to feed the starter. Should I add more flour to thicken it back up?

    And, finally, I want to make the rustic sourdough bread, but I have to mix/knead it in a max 3-cup bread machine. Can I just split your recipe in half?

    Thanks a million. I feel like such a dunce.

    Retti, go easy on yourself! No problem with anything. Use the starter you’ve fed ASAP, or refrigerate it; should be fine. Yes, add more flour to thicken it a bit. And I think you can knead the dough just fine in the machine, so long as you don’t bake/let it rise there. I believe the 3-cup capacity is for breads that bake in the machine. OK? PJH

    Reply
  71. Ellen

    I tried the popovers today using the KA starter my friend recently shared with me. They were very tasty with a hint of sweetness that surprised me (they reminded me of a brioche), but they were quite heavy and a bit doughy in the center. Others have reported crispy and light results, and mine were the opposite. They sank a good bit almost immediately after being removed from the oven, and I imagine the sinking lead to the heaviness.

    What went wrong? And how do you tell when they are fully cooked? I cooked these for 20 minutes, and was afraid to go longer because I was afraid the tops and bottoms would burn.

    Ellen

    Hi Ellen – they need to bake 20 minutes, then an additional 10-15 with the oven temp. turned down. Did you forget the extra time? If you put them towards the bottom of the oven they shouldn’t burn, but should get a deep, golden brown. I’d say try them again – practice makes perfect. Or at least “better.” :) PJH

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  72. B. Anna

    Third time’s a charm. No one in my family bakes bread, or bakes at all for that matter. Cookies and cakes are my thing (so easy compared to bread, so I’ve learned), but a few weeks ago I saw an episode on Food Network about sourdough starter and curiosity spurred.

    I fell upon KAF while looking for a sourdough starter, purchased one and got to work caring for it as soon as it hit my door — YAY I was so excited! Behind the instructions for caring for your new sourdough starter are a couple sample recipes. I ventured into testing the Extra-Tangy Sourdough Bread. My first two attempts failed miserably which only my newbness can claim credit for. I was very disheartened, mad even that I sucked at bread and wasted many cups of KAF flour which I had 50 lbs. shipped here to California; btw the 25 lbs. bag of AP flour is so cute.

    I was at a breaking point after my second bombshell of a bread, but good thing I can count on my husband for support to never give up and so with a renewed “can do” attitude. Today, my third attempt was absolutely delicious.

    Thanks to lots of resources on the internet, KAF included, I was able to troubleshoot my problem. There is nothing wrong with the recipe, it is spot on. I weigh everything, so I knew it couldn’t be a measure problem; that, and people who comment on the recipe had good results … the problem was definitely me. I didn’t realize dough can act like a sponge.

    After combining the remainder of the ingredients and placing the dough in a container coated with a spray of olive oil I oiled my hands well (the dough is slack and I get easily tempted to add flour), then lightly rubbed or more like patted the oil on the surface of the dough, put plastic wrap over that, then placed the bowl with dough in a bread bag, twisted and secured it with a bag clip, both of which I gladly purchased from KAF’s website. I wasn’t about to take any chances now; I was desperate for a rewarding turnout. No worries about sponge-like activity. My bread was so soft inside and chewy outside. There were nice holes all over the interior and the taste was tangy as promised. I don’t know if it helps that I live in the Bay Area. Also, this blog is awesome. I found it to be a big help: all the comments, questions and responses. I learn better with something to compare with visually so the pics were a plus. Yummy bread, thank you KAF! Truly a winner. A whole loaf was gone soon as the half hour rest period went BEEP.

    Cheers,
    B. Anna

    GREAT story, B. Anna. Thanks so much for sharing. The president of our board, Frank Sands, has a sign on his desk: “Never give up. Never ever ever ever ever give up.” That applies to many things in life, including sourdough. Seriously, though, if there’s any way I can make the recipe clearer, add tips, whatever, to make it more foolproof for anyone, from seasoned to just-starting-out, I’d love some input. Thanks again for touching base – and remember, no bread is ever a failure. Birds have a very low threshold for success, culinarily speaking. :) PJH

    Reply
  73. Stan

    I’m new to this baking. How do I convert the recipe that listed in the 200th Anniversary for Classic Sourdough bread to a bread machine recipe? My machine will do either a 1 or 1 1/2 lb loaf.

    Stan

    Stan… you don’t, really. Best thing to do is to use the machine’s dough setting to knead the dough, whenever it says in your sourdough recipe to knead; then follow the recipe and do as it says the rest of the time (shaping, baking, etc.) It’s not hard, really; if you can read, you can bake. The bread machine will be a big help to you with the kneading, though, so it was a good purchase. PJH

    Reply
  74. Stan

    PJH: The recipe calls for 7 cups of flour, I don’t think that much flour will fit into the canister for the bread machine.

    Stan, if you’re using the recipe from the 200th Anniversary Cookbook, then yes, that amount is too much for your bread machine. If you’re using this recipe, the one in this blog, it calls for about 5 1/2 cups of flour. That amount is fine to knead in your bread machine, so long as you have a full-sized machine (capable of making a 2-lb. loaf) – just don’t leave it in the machine to rise. PJH

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  75. Stan

    I’m using the recipe or Extra-Tangy Sourdough Bread. When I take the dough out of the refrigerator, do I let it come up to room temp before I add the 2 cups of flour?

    Nope, just go ahead and add the flour; it’s going to rise for a lonnnnnng time anyway, so might as well get it going with the flour. PJH

    Reply
  76. Rod

    Hi PJ,

    I took the plunge and ordered the KA fresh sourdough starter. On step 4, it says it will take between 8 and 12 hours at 70 degrees to get bubbly. It’s almost 12 hours now and mine isn’t as bubbly as the one pictured on step 4. Granted, it’s been cold, so maybe that’s the culprit. Should I let it sit longer to get bubbly like the picture before moving on to step 5? Thanks in advance.

    Rod

    Yes, Rod, see if you can put it someplace a bit warmer – not really hot, but you could try wrapping a heating pad in a towel, and setting it on low, and putting the bowl on top… PJH

    Reply
  77. Rod

    Hi PJ,

    Thank you for your very prompt response! I’m on my way with the starter. Can I use the portion of the starter we’re instructed to discard in step 5 for the sourdough waffles? I just hate to waste food.

    Roddy

    Yes, you can absolutely use it for sourdough waffles – just follow the directions; you have to start the night before you want the waffles. Enjoy! – PJH

    Reply
  78. CNM

    I have had the starter for a couple of months and have tried several things(waffles are wonderful), however, my favorite bread is the Extra Tangy, but I don’t get the rise I would like and there are not big bubbles. Today I tried baking on a stone with steam and still my loaves are heavy and not very big. I use a stand mixer to get it ready to hand knead. Should I be adding extra yeast, kneading more or try another receipe?
    CNM

    Try making a dough that’s a bit wetter – up to a point, the wetter the dough, the higher the rise, the larger the holes. You could also try the Rustic Sourdough recipe, see how you like that. Also, are you baking at 425°F? The higher the temperature, the quicker the rise, the larger the holes. – PJH

    Reply
  79. CNM

    Our oven says 425, but as far as I know, it has never been checked for accuracy. Might need to do that. Also, we are looking at a new range that has a convection oven. What does that do to bread baking since it speeds things up as I understand it? I tried the Rustic, but didn’t get the taste we get on the Extra Tangy. Could I start the Rustic and let it overnight in the refrigerator like the Extra Tangy?

    Yes, try letting the Rustic sit overnight in the fridge – that’ll definitely increase the acidity/sour taste. I’ve baked only briefly in convection ovens – don’t like ‘em AT ALL, so I’m not very good at it. They blow my parchment and it flaps around and sticks to whatever I’m baking! And yeah, I know things bake more quickly. Sorry I can’t really give you any guidance. PJH

    Reply
  80. Helen

    My first attempt at the Rustic sourdough turned out pretty good. I’d like to make it in loaf pans this time, 9/5, do I need to adjust the recipe size at all? I also realized I don’t have a full 5 cups of KAF all purpose, maybe 3-3 1/2, could I finish with the white whole wheat and/or bread flour?

    I really like the starter and added 1/4 cup to my pizza dough, really nice, just used a tad more flour. Can I add this to most yeast breads to get a little tangy and height? Do other adjustments need to be made?
    Thanks!

    Helen, that recipe would make two medium-to-small loaves in 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ loaf pans. To make in one 9″ x 5″ pan, pinch off enough dough to fill the pan a little more than half full, when you press it down. Make the rest of the dough into rolls, or another smaller loaf. You could certainly use white whole wheat (less rise), or bread flour (higher rise).

    Add starter however/wherever you like; understand that it’s more or less half flour, half liquid, so adjust the other parts of your recipe accordingly. If you add 1 cup starter, reduce the liquid in the recipe by a generous 1/2 cup, and the flour by a scant 1/2 cup (because in reality, your starter tips more towards liquid than flour, once it’s been going for awhile). You may be adding flavor, but not sure you’ll be adding any height by doing this – give it a try, see what happens. PJH

    Reply
  81. Lish

    I received the sourdough starter around the holidays and have had good luck with the popovers and waffles, though neither seem to have the classic tang of sourdough. I also tried the extra tangy yeastless bread. It had a great chewy texture and nice flavor, but not at all the tangy true sourdough flavor I am used to. Did I do something wrong to my starter? It doesn’t smell very sour, but doesn’t appear to have gone bad. I also am curious as to why the directions specify unbleached flour, and chlorine free tap water? Is there any way to increase the “sour” flavor of my starter? Oh and as far as the popovers go, mine were pretty close to the texture of a regular popover, and very easy.

    Lish, try letting the dough rise overnight in the fridge, and also your shaped loaf – a cold environment promotes the production of acetic acid, which is more sour than the organic acids produced at room temperature. Also, if you’re used to purchased sourdough, they often add a sour flavor to enhance the bread’s sourness – try adding 1/8 teaspoon or so of citric acid to the dough, that’ll bump up the flavor. Good luck – PJH

    Reply
  82. Stan

    I’m using the recipe that’s in the King Arthur Flour 200th Aniversary Cookbook for Classic Sourdough Bread. I would like to add other grains to give the bread some more texture. I have a 5 grain rolled whole grain hot cereal mix. Can I use this n place of some of the flour and if so how much.
    Hi Stan,
    You could start with replacing 1/2 cup of flour with 1/2 cup of the grains. If the grains are firm or hard grains, you may want to soak them first so they are not too hard in the final bread. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  83. Ron

    My daughter got me the starter for Christmas, and I have been using it every weekend for all my bread. Have changed the rustic loaf recipe by using half whole wheat bread flour instead of the unbleached, and have made both hearth loaves and in 4×8 pans. I let it rise a little longer both risings, but that may be the temperature of my kitchen. Great sandwich bread, light and good flavor.

    We had attended the Beauty and the Baguette Class at KAF over a year ago, and I now use the sourdough starter for that recipe. I need to make a double recipe, as 2 baguettes is not enough for our families each week, so I was using 1 1/4 cups unfed starter and feeding with the regular poolish ingredients (5/8 cup water, 1 1/4 cups flour, but no pinch of yeast) added together in the covered bowl the night before. Makes great baguettes. My wife now insists I give her some of the dough for fried bread dough, so I have been increasing the recipe proportionally to use 1 1/2 cups unfed starter etc to get the extra and still get 4 loaves.

    I always go by weight for flour, and found the tip about the weight of a cup of starter being 8 1/2 ounces extremely helpful.

    Enjoying this blog and the resources at this site. Thanks – Ron

    Bake on, Ron – love it that you’re providing your family with bread – a TRUE breadwinner! PJH

    Reply
  84. Lish

    Thanks for the tips! I tried again and this time got exactly the results I wanted. I have made the popovers, waffles, and crumpets! The crumpets are awesome and so easy. Finally a use for the english muffin rings I have had collecting dust, for fear of trying to make them. This weekend we will be making the english muffins. I have made the rustic sourdough bread, the extra tangy, and the seeded boule. All come out beautiful and delicious. Thank you so much, these blogs have made me try so many new recipes and all with great results. How often can I use the sourdough starter? I usually wait a week between recipes, because of having the refrigerate and feed the starter, but am tempted to make things more often.

    Lish, you can definitely use it more often; as fast as you can feed it; usually about 24 hours. So every couple of days at least you can be baking something…. so glad you’re having fun with it! PJH

    Reply
  85. Ron

    PJ – Just a quick note to let you know I tried the sourdough Ciabatta (no banter for that recipe), and it worked out well. They came out a little rounder, and the holes were not quite as large as I hoped for, but everyone thought they were delicious and very light. They had a great sourdough flavor. I may try the more whole grain type in the other recipes, but with my starter of course. I can’t seem to make anything without the starter these days. The best use for the starter you may need to remove when feeding (not a problem for me as often, as I make a few different breads each time) is to feed it and give it to a friend with a printout from KAF on starter care and the rustic loaf recipe. The more of us using the starter the better, the more we learn. Thanks – Ron

    Indeed, Ron – sourdough is a GREAT thing to share. Thanks for passing it forward. And kudos on your successful experiments! PJH

    Reply
  86. Marshall

    I have been maintaining and using the infamous Amish Friendship Bread starter passed on to me for sweet breads. I really love sourdough bread but my attempts to make my own sourdough starters were futile. Can I somehow convert this AFB starter to a sourdough starter?? I was thinking of adding only 1 cup each of flour and water (no cup each of sugar and milk) to one of the pass-alongs and letting it go through several feeding cycles of every 5 days. I am thinking that eventually the sugar will be eaten and gone after awhile and it will become a sourdough starter. Do you know if this would work?? Do you have any suggestions?? The AFB starter says do NOT refrigerate. Should I refrigerate??
    I would appreciate any help and guidance you can provide. Thanks!

    Marshall, I think your plan will work. No need to refrigerate till it’s at the point you want it, and you simply need to store it. Give it a try, let us know what happens – PJH

    Reply
  87. Ron

    PJ – I have been keeping on with my sourdough quest. My refrigerator has several containers, as I can’t seem to part with my pets or their offspring when I feed them, and I can only make so many batches of bread a week.
    I tried Marylin’s Sourdough wheat and rye bread, and had some problems with the recipe. I couldn’t get it to take anywhere near the flour it called for. I weigh my ingredients, so I know it was the right amount. I substituted one more cup of whole wheat for one of the unbleached, which should have left 5-6 cups to add. I ended up not needing 2 of them, as the dough was starting to get too dry. The dough did come out fine, and rose very well. It made 3 medium hearth loaves, but I think the flour amount may be wrong in the recipe, or maybe there is a liquid ingredient missing. I also found that I had to remove the lovaes from the oven after about 25 minutes, and that was almost too long. The recipe calls for more time. Can you check it out, as it is a reprint from an older bakers sheet, and may have lost something in the translation.
    With all those changes, the bread still came out fine, with very nice texture and taste, and a beautiful dark brown crust. I may try to lighten it up and use all unbleached and 1 1/2 cups of rye instead of any whole wheat. The rye flour definately feels different when you knead it. Sourdough still finds its way into everything I bake these days, and my wife still insists on extra sourdough for frying. Thanks – Ron

    Thanks for alerting me to this, Ron. Indeed, recipes seem to change over the years, and this is a very old one, as you point out. I’ll take a look at it – I’m sure it needs some adjustment. I’m glad you got it to to work anyway, and kudos on all your sourdough-ing! How does your wife fry it, by the way? Just as is, or do you make pancakes, or…? PJH

    Ron, I’m making Marilyn’s sourdough bread right now – the dough took 3 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour, not 6 to 7 cups. I’ll amend the recipe to reflect that (and also the baking time, once I get through the whole thing. Thanks again – PJH

    Reply
  88. Ron

    PJ – Thanks for looking into the recipe. As for frying, I increase the amount of dough I make for the recipe by enough so I can cut off 3 or 4 pieces when I’m shaping the loaves, flatten them into 8″ rounds (or flat shapes) about 1/4″ thick, and store them in a container with plastic wrap between them (from when I covered the dough during rising), stored in the refrigerator. She takes them out a little ahead of time, they slightly rise, and she fries them in a pan with a little olive oil, turning once or twice. She likes a little butter spread on them with salt, but many people like them at the fair with powdered sugar, and my granddaughter seems to prefer them that way too.
    Just increase your recipe a little to make the extra dough, or make smaller or less loaves I guess. Makes me think sourdough pizza would be good. I’ll let you know how it works out. Ron

    Ah, gotcha. Fried dough! I just never thought of making it with sourdough. Definitely something I’ll have to try, Ron, thanks. PJH

    Reply
  89. Homer

    First, I am very new to baking, especially bread. I am reading and trying a number of things in order to learn. Perhaps this is just another one of those stupid questions, but I would really appreciate an answer.

    Regarding refrigerating starter. On the one hand, KAF tells us that if we feed the little sucker once a week and keep it in the refer, then it will be fine. KAF also sells the book “BREAD” by Jeffrey Hamelman who according to the book is the “Director of the bakery and baking education Center of King Arthur Flour.

    On page 355 of “BREAD” under the notes on Sourdough, “To maintain the viability of the culture, it is necessary to insure that the temperature of the refrigeration chamber stays between 8 degrees and 10 degrees C [or 46.4 to 50 degrees F] whenever the chef [mature culture] mature culture is retarded for periods of 48 hours or more. At lower temperatures, part of the flora of the culture may be destroyed, and consequently the taste of bread produced from this culture may be spoiled.” …..”Below 8 degrees C it is usual for wild yeasts in the culture to be destroyed, while the acetic acid bacteria will continue to thrive.”
    This would be a permanent destruction of a major element in the sourdough taste.

    It is my understanding that 40 degrees F is the absolute top of the ‘safe zone’ for refrigerators. Does this mean that our home sourdough breads are ‘unworthy’ {to use a nice name]? I really do not want to have a special frige for my starter and another for the rest of my food, nor do I want to waste my time on home baked sourdough if it will always be ‘unworthy.’

    One the other hand, I love sourdough breads and would hope to enjoy their flavors for the rest of my life. While writing this, I am nibbling a slice of my first sourdough bread made from a KA starter package.

    I would certainly appreciate some enlightenment on this issue. Thank you in advance.

    Homer

    Homer, NO question is a stupid question – it’s all part of the learning process, and learning is always a good thing.

    Think of bread-baking like, oh, playing golf. You can go out on a Saturday afternoon and have a whale of a good time whacking the ball around with your friends and having a barbecue afterwards. At the other extreme? Tiger Woods. Ultra-serious, precise, striving for the ultimate perfect game of golf. Now, Tiger Woods wouldn’t consider the way I play golf (oh, about a 29 handicap) good, or probably even acceptable. Yet I have fun.

    Now let’s take sourdough. Jeffrey is the Tiger Woods of sourdough. Precise, serious, producing the ultimate results. So, you can try to emulate what he says, and probably make a great loaf of bread, with rich flavor and superb texture. If you practice a lot. And give yourself time. Or you can do what most of us do – give it a good, reasonable effort, and enjoy sourdough bread that will range from OK to superb to “WOW, wonder what I did right THIS time?!”

    Bread-baking is as much art as science. And you have to be willing to just wing it sometimes – just step off the metaphorical cliff, and see where you land. No loaf is ever a failure – someone, somewhere (even if it’s the birds) will like it. And each loaf is a learning experience. My opinion is, short of killing the yeast with boiling water, there’s no “right” or “wrong” with yeast baking. There are corners you can cut that don’t matter, and others you cut that matter just a little bit and you cut the corners anyway. There are limits you can push hard, and those you can’t push much (e.g., at a certain point, too much sugar or too much salt will slow down yeast’s rising to an unacceptable level). But at the end of the day, bread baking is as much about the journey as the destination. If you expect to exert total control over your bread dough, best to find another hobby. Yeast is a living thing, and like all living things can be capricious at times. Don’t be discouraged; learn as you go; and very soon you’ll be baking a tasty loaf of sourdough consistently. In fact – sounds like you’ve already baked your first tasty loaf!

    Hope this helps – good luck, Homer. PJH

    Reply
  90. homer

    Thanks PJ! and WOW! The King NEVER SLEEPS! I appreciate the fast turnaround answer on a Sunday.

    I also wanted to mention that I found the answers to several problems/questions by reading this blog. I noted that a number of conditions were also shared by several new bakers and the suggestions from the blog were extremely helpful and I look forward to ‘more such help’ in the future. Thanks to all who have posted their questions and those who posted the answers.

    homer

    Indeed, the King is an insomniac! Glad you’re finding this site helpful, Homer – I love how everyone pitches in to answer questions. We’re a real community. Thanks, everyone- PJH

    Reply
  91. Judy

    On April 28th I was thrilled to receive my King Arthur Sourdough Starter. I carefully fed it and followed all directions including using bottled spring water.

    This evening, I removed it from the refrigerator to prepare it for baking tomorrow. And then the worst happened. When I fed it, I forgot and added tap water instead of bottled water!!!!! Will this ruin my starter? And, if I use bottled water during the next feeding will the problem self-correct?

    Thank you!

    Absolutely fine, Judy – Over time, chlorine will slow down your starter, so best to use bottled water. But one little chemical-filled drink will be OK – it’s a tough old bird, it’s been bubbling for over 200 years! Have fun – PJH

    Reply
  92. Matt

    Trying this bread tonight, but the dough was a lot looser and stickier than I had expected, requiring me to jump through a few hoops to get more flour in during kneading. (Fortunately, I used the bread machine for that, so it wasn’t too hard.)

    I think this is because my homemade starter, which smells tangy and is all bubbly and was as easy to make as I could hope, is apparently a lot thinner than it’s supposed to be, even though I thought it “looked like pancake batter,” like everyone says. So, when I weighed out eight ounces of it, I’m sure it was more liquid than solid.

    So, always the science geek, always trying to make things foolproof (I’ve never even been tempted to ask for $5 for a KAF recipe not working!), I have this thought:

    Since one cup of flour weighs about four ounces in KAF recipes, but one cup of water always weighs eight ounces, then “one cup of starter” that’s correctly mixed 50-50 should weigh six ounces. Shouldn’t it? (If so, the weight version of the recipe here is wrong, because it says one cup of “fed” starter weighs eight ounces.)

    If the weight in the recipe is pre-determined and I’m completely wrong, then that’s fine—wouldn’t be the first time! If not, and if you guys have some “fed” starter around the KAF kitchens, could you weigh “one cup” of it a few times (I’m guessing that despite the consistency, we should use one dry measuring cup and not a liquid measuring cup) and see how much it weighs?

    I would think this would be a foolproof way to judge the consistency of starter that’s supposed to be 50% flour and 50% water: if the right volume weighs too little, it’ll be too thin (more water than flour), but if the right volume weighs too much, it’ll be too thick (more flour than water). This could lead to easy adjustments, like “If your cup of starter doesn’t quite weigh 6 ounces (or 8 ounces or whatever), add a few more tablespoons of flour to the dough; if it weighs more, add one tablespoon of water for every ½ ounce more than 6 ounces (or 8 ounces) that the cup of starter actually weighs.”

    Maybe I just make thin pancakes? I dunno. I may be overthinking this, of course, but if there’s an easy way to use the handy-dandy kitchen scale to know if my starter isn’t the same consistency as your starter, I’d really like to figure it out!

    Interesting point. I weighed the starter when I was making the recipe, and it always hovered around 8 ounces (often just a bit over, like 8 1/8 ounces). But I always feed it half and half with flour and water (by weight, not volume). What’s up with that? My gut tells me this has something to do with the fact that 1 cup of flour and 1/2 cup of water doesn’t = 1 1/2 cups of starter. I just went and measured 1/4 cup flour and 2 T water (mind you, it’s 6 a.m. – I’m not at my sharpest yet! This is a challenge) – 2 oz. – and got 3T of “starter.” So at this point, 1 cup of this very thick starter would weigh 5 1/3 x 2 = 10 2/3 oz. Which means the water/flour combination is inherently heavier than plain water. Then, as the yeast gives off alcohol, the very thick starter gradually leans more towards the liquid than the solid side, and the relative weight of the starter diminishes. So, the less a starter weighs per cup, the thinner it appears to be.

    At this time of day, the math to go any further isn’t springing easily to mind. Anyone want to jump n here? I’m going to the gym to clear my head! PJH

    Reply
  93. Matt

    PJ, my sleep schedule is worse than yours (I was headed home when you were measuring!) so I may not have a clear head yet either, but:

    1/4 cup of flour is 1 oz, not 2 oz., because in KAF recipes, a cup of flour is about 4 oz. (You know this, but I just want to be clear in showing my work that you mixed 2 oz of flour and 2 oz of water!)

    I would expect this result to take less than 1/4 cup (4 tbsp) of volume, because some of the flour will “dissolve” in the water and the mixture will not take up the same space as combining two solids of similar density or two liquids. (Adding 1 tbsp salt to a cup of cracker crumbs doesn’t make the cup overflow; the salt fills in the gaps between the crumbs.)

    But I would expect it to weigh four ounces. I don’t see how it couldn’t, unless it’s been sitting out for a long time and there’s been enough evaporation to register on a scale.

    I went back and read the sourdough section in Jeffrey Hamelman’s Bread last night, and noticed that he talks about his “cultures” using baker’s percentages (of course), and that he keeps one stiff one with 50% hydration and one liquid one at 125% hydration. The percentage is the weight of the water compared to the weight of the flour, so the starter we’re talking about has 100% hydration: equal weights of flour and water. The question is, over time, does this change?

    I’m kind of thinking it might, because the purpose of the starter is to breed tasty yeasties (and their companion bacteria). As the yeast digest the starches in the flours, they give off acetic acid (or lactic acid) if they’re not exposed to the air, but they give off carbon dioxide if they are. That, being a gas, makes the starter “bubble,” but more importantly, it escapes into the air.

    Over time, some significant quantity (even if it’s a very small significance) of the mass of the flour is converted into CO2. But I think this requires oxygen from the water in the starter to work, so the mass of the water reduces as well. By the same amount? Oy, I dunno. It’s been decades since I avoided taking organic chemistry!

    My gut feeling is to believe that for home quantities of culture/starter/levain, the flour and water are probably consumed at roughly equal amounts, so a specified volume of a 100% hydration starter should weigh the same amount, with minor variances like your 1/4 ounce observations, even after years of feeding and using it.

    Which still makes me think that if your starter consistently weighs 8 oz per dry measure cup, mine is a lot more liquid than yours, because mine seems thin and thinner starter would weigh less per cup. I’m going to feed it again today and next time I use it, I’ll weigh a dry-measure cup of it to see what I get.

    I also want to be clear that I’m not saying that anyone’s starter is “wrong.” If it makes good bread, it’s good starter! I’m just looking for a handy way to easily communicate how thick or thin a recipe writer thinks established starter should be, so that if my starter isn’t that consistency, I know right off the bat if I’m going to need to add more flour or more water to the rest of the dough.

    It’s not that I can’t just watch during mixing and add flour or water as necessary. I just prefer, much of the time, to dump ingredients in the bread machine bucket and only check them once or twice, not baby-sit them for 10-12 minutes of slow but thorough mixing and kneading. If I have a right idea about adjusting consistency, I’ll have extra flour or water handy, and after a few minutes I can start sprinkling it in until the dough comes together correctly.

    The bread was still good, though; I had toast from it for breakfast. I think some of it is destined to be sourdough garlic bread. :-)

    Matt, I think I avoided that same organic chemistry course…

    I haven’t gone back and looked – did I mis-state the weight of flour this morning? I’ll lay it all to the extra-early hour and a foggy brain!

    Thanks for all this good information. Now that it’s the other end of the day (5:30 p.m.), I’m getting foggy again… But at some point I may think this all through. Or maybe I’ll just keep using 8 ounces of starter and adjusting the consistency of the dough if I think it needs it.

    At any rate – thanks again for you great input. PJH

    Reply
  94. Matt

    I may do the same, but I’m not as good at that yet. I can easily tell if a dough is too slack (loose), but I’m not as good at telling when it’s too dry or stiff, especially when making a bread for the first time. I fed my starter tonight with some lukewarm water and pumpernickel flour, which just drove it crazy (it nearly burst out of its jar!), so in trying to adjust that I probably have the hydration percentages off by now anyway. That leaves adjusting consistency each time as the best option for a while.

    It’s still worth it!

    Matt, you are a TRUE breadhead. Congratulations! Yeast loves pumpernickel due to its extra minerals – or so I’ve heard… PJH

    Reply
  95. Ron

    PJ- Have been too busy building a new porch, and have had to put most of my baking on hold. Still taking care of my pets in the fridge though, and as I remove sourdough to feed, still feeding the removed and giving it away etc. Regarding this weight of starter issue, I propose the following. When I remove starter, I feed with 1/2 cup of water = 4 ounces, and 1 cup of flour = 4 ounces. total of 8 ounces. As I keep doing this, the sourdough keeps the same ratio. I have found the concept of a cup of sourdough starter weighing 8 ounces to work well in all of the recipes I have tried. This is based on not being able to measure accurately the volume of the starter because of the air, and the fact that it collapses when you touch it to put it in the bowl. I use a scale and weigh the container I am putting starter into (or the starter container), and remove the 8 ounces or so ( I like 8.5 oz just to be safe). This has always worked, even in non sourdough recipes. I use the cup of sourdough starter to replace 1 cup of flour and 1/2 cup of the liquid in any recipe I am converting to sourdough.
    Hope to be baking again soon. Got the new catalog today, and it was truly inspiring PJ. Great job and lots of ideas. Later – Ron

    Ron, I do exactly as you do – the feeding, and the weighing when you bake. It works fine for me, too. Glad you like the new catalogue – BAKE ON – PJH

    Reply
  96. mamaspice

    Two questions: 1) if I want to double the recipe, do I double everything, including the starter? and 2) if I want to use active dry yeast instead of instant and proof it with water and sugar, do I reduce the amount of sugar and water in the main recipe?When you proof the active dry yeast, use some of the water and sugar called for in the recipe.. When doubling a recipe you would double the starter but not the yeast that is added to the dough. Double everything else. Mary@ KAF

    Reply
  97. Ron

    PJ – I’m back baking more again, now that the mornings have that fall feeling to them. Have had such a busy summer (you remember the 2 days it didn’t rain), but am glad to be baking bread more again. Still a big sourdough head of course. Just a quick progress report. Used the KA baguette recipe from the class, doubled, using unfed starter and feeding with the right ratio to get double the poolish. Next morning proceeded as per recipe, but this time made 4 shorter, larger diameter loaves (4 on a full baking sheet the short way, with parchment paper, put sheet on baking stone). Besides steaming the oven twice during the first 5 minutes before reducing temp, I also sprayed the loaves after slashing, before I put them in the oven. Baked total of 23 minutes instead of 25. Made for a slightly gentler crust, and almost a french bread consistency. Delicious and great texture.
    Missed commenting all summer, but did check some of the banters quite often. You’ll be hearing more from me of course. Ron

    Welcome back, Ron! Thanks for sharing your experiments – PJH

    Reply
  98. Barbara

    I have had my sourdough starter (from KAF) a year now. I use the basic sourdough recipe from KAF. Recently I have noticed that the bread doesn’t rise as much during the first rise (as it used to). Also, it doesn’t rise as much during the final hour of rising, resulting in a flatter and denser loaf of bread. The bread also seems darker in color. Any ideas about what I might do to get it back like it was?

    Reply
  99. Stan

    I can’t seem to get the hang of using a Lame. I seem to tear insted of cutting.

    Stan

    Stan, very quick, very assertive, yet still controlled. If you gl slow at all – you’re sunk. Have you watched our bakers using their lames on baguettes? Take a look at our video – it may help you if you see the movement. PJH

    Reply

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