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. SAM

    WOW! I’ve ben experimenting with sourdough for about a year now, trying to bake that seemingly elusive DECENT loaf! lol My mother in law bakes SD Bread that ROCKS… she gave me the recipe she SAYS she uses but I have never been able to come even close to duplicating the texture of her chewy, crispy crust or the flavor of the soft, chewy crumb. I tried several different recipes from other cookbooks and still couldn’t make anything but mediocre loaves that were “good enough” if toasted and slathered in butter and jellies. I nearly gave up. In fact, for awhile I did give up. I didn’t bake for several months. Then it hit me: the recipe she gave me COULD NOT POSSIBLY be the recipe she actually uses, bless her heart! LOL There’s just no way that I’m just THAT BAD at sourdough!!!

    Then last week I stumbled onto your website (I think it was the SD Chocolate Cake that got my attention) I made that cake immediately – I didn’t have time or enough confectioners sugar to make your frosting recipe but the cake itself was AMAZING! It became a favorite at my house with one bite!

    I used your Rustic SD recipe today. The first two loaves are in the fridge getting nice and tangy for baking tomorrow. I followed the recipe except for adding 2 cups of my 60 day old homemade starter that I now maintain according to your instructions.
    While mixing my dough, I ended up adding a bit more water as it was a bit too dry. It rised nicely, the dough itself smells wonderful, the loaves are pretty. The recipe was very easy to follow. I will have to let you know how the finished product turns out tomorrow after I bake.

    In the mean time, I made a second batch using only one cup of starter and probably about 4 1/3 cups of flour. Again, my dough rised up beautifully. I baked it as directed and I’ve gotta tell you, I suspect my mother in law found this website months ago the Rustic SD recipe is how she’s been making such fabulous bread because the bread I baked today was REALLY good. I can hardly wait until tomorrow so we can try the Tangy SD version.

    Reply
  2. SAM

    The Tangy SD I baked this morning is excellent. It has that classic SD smell, it’s soft & chewy inside, and it has that crisp but chewy crust I love so much… Thank you for solving my SD problems and providing me with recipes & techniques that actually work!

    Reply
  3. Dlited

    Love your sourdough recipes! I’m making the Rustic Sourdough bread right now, but as I was getting going this morning, I noticed something… my sourdough jar is getting a bit, hmm, crusty? That is, there is a bunch of dried sourdough starter along the sides of the jar and around the rim. Is this a health hazard? If so, how often should I clean the jar? The starter is working so well these days, I hate to mess with it without knowing what I’m doing. Thanks!
    Great question! The starter jar should be cleaned with hot soapy water and triple rinsed each week when the starter gets its feeding. This eliminates any possibilities of mold and other nasties growing. ~ MaryJane

    I’m lazy, and only feed my starter every few months; thus I only clean the jar every few months. Seems to be just fine…. But if you’re a worrier, you’d probably want to feed/clean more often, as MJ says – PJH

    Reply
  4. cheryl

    Hi!
    I was wondering if I used a different flour, say the Italian flour you guys sell (I also have the French, Artisan, Sir Lancelot, AP, etc….) would the starter take on a different flavor? I also read that when you purchase a sourdough starter that after a little time it will live off of the organisms in my locale, not the original ones sent with the starter? Does that make sense? I may have worded that wrong. Thanks!

    Exactly right, Cheryl – the sourdough will take on characteristics of where you live. San Francisco sourdough can really only be enjoyed in San Francisco. But only YOU and your friends and family can enjoy sourdough chez Cheryl. :) As for flour, it’s not a good idea to substitute one for another unless they have the same or very similar protein levels (or unless you’re ready to compensate for their different protein levels by adjusting the liquid in the recipe). For example, Italian flour has a much lower protein level than all-purpose; it’s designed for pizza, pasta, breadsticks, and other flat breads, not high-rising loaves. Lancelot would be fine, but you’d have to add a lot more water. Artisan and French would be quite similar to AP, and you might try substituting one of them. Experiment – enjoy! PJH

    Reply
  5. Colleen

    Hi PJ- Thanks again for a wonderful blog! I had a neighbor give me an Amish Friendship Bread starter and recipe a few weeks ago. I just got around to baking it today, and I have to say I’m really disappointed. I feel like I just wasted perfectly good starter to make a sweet quick bread. So, I searched your site and came up with a recipe for real sourdough BREAD. The kind where the yeast actually does the work of rising. Thanks for being such a great resource, I knew I could count on you!

    Reply
  6. Ron

    PJ – I’ve been baking all the bread for two families these days, and all of it is sourdough of some kind. Although I am still doing the KA baguette recipe from the class with a half sourdough starter poolish, I have been working on the whole wheat rustic sourdough every week also. I have found 2/3 all purpose and 1/3 whole wheat has given me the right consistency crust and inside.
    Last night I made a fed starter with 12 oz of unfed starter, 6 oz flour and 6 oz water, basically a triple recipe. Tonight I mixed all the water with the starter, mixed the dry ingredients in a separate bowl first so the flours were blended, added to the starter etc. I made 2 loaves in 4×8 pans, 2 round hearth loaves, and 2 baguettes from this recipe. I do the baguettes first in the hotter oven for 22 minutes, steaming the 1st 5 minutes, then the 4 loaves(sprayed and sliced) in the 425 oven. Baguette crust was great, loaves are perfect. I have been making larger batches with several different shapes from the same dough for a while now, and it has been lots of fun.
    By the way, thanks for the sourdough pizza crust recipe in the email today. I am anxious to try it, especially because it uses unfed starter, which I have plenty of. I am still taking all my removed starter and creating some to give away. Spread the joy as they say.
    I think my next thing will be to work on a sourdough rye or pumpernickel. I’m back in the banter, and looking forward to a long baking winter. Ron

    Welcome back, Ron – you sound like you’re well on the way to becoming a “breadie;” – in fact, you’re probably already there. Fun, isn’t it? And the winters don’t seem nearly as long when you can look forward to lighting the oven and getting your hands into some dough… PJH

    Reply
  7. Ron

    PJ – While babysitting my grandson, I was reading through my daughter’s copy of the KA All Purpose Baking Book. I was glad to see that you were such a driving force for it. I looked at the sourdough waffle recipe, and the weights didn’t seem right. It said a cup of starter was 16 oz, but I have been using 8 oz as a weight. It also seems to say the buttermilk weight was different than what was shown in the front of the book. Was that corrected later? Also, the section on sourdough starter indicates using 8 oz of flour and 8 oz of water when feeding, different than we do now. Is the one I saw an older edition and corrections have been made? Did you change the ratios for starters after the book was written etc. I didn’t get a chance to look at it for long, but know what I want for Christmas now. Thanks – Ron

    Ron, there were indeed some corrections made in subsequent printings. I think your best bet is to call our customer service folks, 800-827-6836, and ask for the “errata sheet” that goes with the KA Baker’s Companion cookbook. In the meantime, I’ll take a look at it, too, see if it includes what you mention above. Thanks for your kind words – and thanks for your eagle-eyed input! PJH

    Hi again, Ron – I found out the sourdough waffle corrections are on an errata sheet, available simply by calling customer service at 800-827-6836. It should be 2 cups (16 ounces) buttermilk and 1 cup (8 ounces) starter. You can feed your starter either way you like – 1 cup to 1 cup by volume, or equal parts by weight. You’ll eventually get a thinner starter if you feed using the volume method. I prefer the 1/2 cup (4 ounces) water/1 cup (4 ounces) flour feeding. Hope this helps – PJH

    Reply
  8. John D

    Help! I bought a King Arthur sourdough starter a few months ago and I’ve been feeding it with King Arthur flour. It’s happy, it’s active, it froths.

    Whenever I try to make anything other than pancakes with it, I have a gloppy disaster on my hands. Literally!

    I’ve been trying the extra-tangy sourdough recipe that came with the starter. After the four hours per-ferment, the twelve hours in the refrigerator, and the five-hour rise, I inevitably have glop.

    A couple times, I actually got some under-risen loaves. Usually, I get dough that is too sticky to form into loaves, or to do anything else with. Is my sourdough too acidic and breaking down the gluten? I even tried sweetening my sourdough by knocking it down to 4 ounces and adding 4 ounces each of water and flour (I weigh everything).

    I’d like to start making sourdough and stop making big gloppy messes that make my garbage can smell wondrously yeasty.

    Could be your sourdough is extra-acidic and you’re letting everything rise too long; acid eventually does break down gluten. Try our Rustic Sourdough recipe, mild version; that should take you out of the realm of glop and back into safer territory. Call our Baker’s Hotline, 802-649-3717, for more suggesitons, OK? Good luck – PJH

    Reply
  9. Bob Landry

    Got my sourdough going well yesterday, and decided to make the sponge for waffles tonight, so I could make them in the morning.
    Wow! The starter was so glutinous I could barely get it out of the crock and into a measuring cup! So I decided to “thin” it down by reversing the proportion of the “feeding”, i.e. 1cup water and 1/2 cup flour. Do you think this will be a problem later on? I would think that the wild yeast will multiply equally in a thin starter as well as in a thick, gluey one.

    Bob – That is fine to tame your starter by adding more water than flour until you get the right consistency. Just resume to the normal feeding proportions for the next time. Elisabeth @ KAF

    Reply
  10. Everett Thompson

    I tried the Rustic sourdough bread for the first time. I used all of the KAF ingredients and followed the recipe exactly. I weighed everything. I sprayed with water before baking and used a baking stone.

    The bread was fine except that the crust was very light in color, almost white, after 30 minutes of baking and an internal temperature of 208 deg F. What should I do to get the rich dark brown crust that I see in your pictures?

    Thanks

    Everett

    Everett, somehow the yeast managed to consume all the sugar, and there was nothing left to brown. This is a common issue with sourdough breads; they’re often very pale. Some people brush with oil before baking, rather than spray with water. Some even apply a chef’s torch to the crust afterwards. Best bet is to cut back on the initial rising time a bit, and speed the whole process along so the yeast doesn’t eat itself out of house and home before it gets into the oven! Hope this helps – PJH

    Reply
  11. Heather

    I’d love to make sourdough rolls for Thanksgiving dinner — I was originally thinking about the soft golden rolls but want something a bit more sophisticated. However, I’m worried that the dough will be too slack to shape into rolls without having them smush into each other so much while rising that they just turn into a loaf. I don’t care so much about the rolls having large holes, I’m more interested in the flavor — so should I add a little more flour to make a slightly stiffer dough? Or do you think the rolls will be okay if I leave everything as is? Thanks so much, it’s wonderful that you’re willing to answer our questions here!
    Adding a little flour will definitely make the rolls easier to shape but it may make them heavier. Have a Happy Thanksgiving! Molly @ KAF

    Reply
  12. Karen

    I made my second batch of the Rustic Sourdough today, the first yesterday did not turn out, I forgot one of the risings, oh well…. Any whoo the dough tonight was very sticky and had to manage, felt like I was wrestling with a big old bear, what did I do wroing? Should I just add more flour? I finally got it on the parchment paper and into the oven after the second rising and it was absolutely delicious, just would like to get it a little less sticky and easier to work with, any suggestions. This site is the best, I have been baking up a storm, making candy, cookies, cakes, etc. Gave all of it away for Christmas treats and have the folks begging for more, thank you so much for all the great recipes/blogs/help.

    I also like to watch a show on PBS, Cook’s Country which is also in the great state of Vermont, do you guys ever work with those guys? I love their recipes too.
    Give us a call at the Baker’s Hotline for help with the sourdough. We’re always happy to help. Molly @ KAF

    Reply
  13. pathill

    I have been trying to make a starter for a week and it’s not totally bubbly. It smells good though. How do you know if it’s no good. Just not sure if I should throw it away and start again! Help!!!!!!!!!

    There are several tips about sourdough on our website at: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/tips/sourdough-primer.html#a5. If these tips don’t answer your question, it may be a good opportunity to call and chat with one of our bakers at 802-649-3717. Irene @ KAF

    Reply
  14. Katie

    Hello Everyone!

    I know I’m late to join the party, but I stumbled across this recipe and just had to make it. I actually ended up with an interesting variation- because I unexpectedly ran out of flour, I had to substitute bisquick light baking mix. It did not end up having a airy texture, but instead a denser, moist one, which went AWESOME with the sourdough flavor. Now, I know that this little trick doesn’t work for every flour substitute, but I thought I would share.

    Also, when I was preheating, I put an extra pan at the bottom of the oven, and just after I put in my loaves, I pour water in the pan , which released steam to brown my loaves beautifully. This is a nice trick to know as well!

    Thanks for sharing the great recipe!

    Reply
  15. Dave

    Hi,
    I’m interested in making a sourdough loaf entirely from “soured” flour. In other words, no fresh flour, only starter. Do you know of anything like this? Or at least I’d like to minimize the fresh flour.

    I’ve been reading about the health benefits of eating grains that are fermented in one way or another… like Ethiopian injera, or pre-soaked oatmeal or quinoa… apparently many cultures have some staple carb that they ferment. So, since I love sourdough bread, why not start there…

    Give it a try, Dave – just keep feeding your starter with more flour than water till you get a dough consistency, I’d guess. Let us know how it works – good luck! PJH

    Reply
  16. Bobbi Cork

    I hope you can help. I have the KAF sourdough starter – yummy! I have NOT been able to successfully make the “extra tangy sourdough bread” however. I lam successful throught the overnight rest and the first rise after adding more flour. AFter that, it just doesn’t rise and my bread, while tasty, is very flat and dense. I even weighed my flour. Any suggestions? I SO want to make good and tasty sourdough from my starter.

    Thanks– I suggest you call the baker’s hot line. We would be glad to trouble shoot with you. 802-649-3717. Mary@KAF

    Reply
  17. dMax

    Hi – I tried Rustic Sourdough yesterday and got an absolutely gorgeous loaf with a good rise and chewy brown crust. Unfortunately the bread itself was quite dense and soft – my 10 year-old said it was doughy. We’ve been known to bring home a loaf of sourdough and have to force ourselves to stop scarfing it down. This, while good, wasn’t *that* good.

    I use parchment on a pizza stone and stopped baking when the thermometer read 205. I followed the recipe very carefully with a few modifications:

    1) I had to run out after making the dough so I put it in the fridge rather than leaving it on the counter. It went for about 3 hours and grew to about 3x its size. When I took it out of the bowl it deflated a bunch and got down to the 2x size I was aiming for. Was this the moment of doom?

    2) I used 1/2 AP and 1/2 bread flour (both yours). Would this make it soft?

    3) I put a pan of water on the lowest rack and misted the loaves before they went in. I didn’t mist mid-bake. The exterior was stunning so I’m not second-guessing this.

    4) I weighed carefully but added water to the mixer since the dough seemed very dry. Could this have been where I went wrong? I probably goofed since it ended up being very sticky.

    I’m never sure of how long to keep kneading. I never get the perfect round globe you show before and after the 1st rise. At best I get the surface you show in the 1st picture of 2 loaves – usually shaggier.

    Any ideas would be much appreciated!
    Thanks
    Dave
    Hi Dave,
    It sounds like a couple of things were just a bit off. Sourdough is usually a softer bread dough than regular white or wheat bread, but it shouldn’t be super sticky. Just moist to the touch is good.
    Also, it sounds like it over rose on the first rise. That means that the gluten structure was over stretched, and while the bread will still rise after that, it never really fully recovers back to it’s original elasticity and strength.
    So, try to keep an eye on the rise, and make sure the dough is just tacky to the touch, not sticky and I think you’ll see improvement. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  18. dMax

    Thanks MaryJane!

    Is stickiness purely a function of water content or can it be caused by under/over kneading? I may be under-kneading since my KA mixer starts to shudder and “walk” when I set it above the 2nd click. I suspect when recipes call for “medium” kneading they’re referring to at least #3.

    I’ll get this darn thing yet but for now I’m purely a sourdough sissy!

    Dave
    Good question Dave. For most stand mixers, you shouldn’t go over speed 2 for kneading. Too fast & too powerful, it can really tear your dough up, and ruin the gluten. If the dough starts to pull apart in clumps and looks wet and almost slimy, it’s overkneaded, and there’s no recovery from that. Better to use a slower speed. ~ MJ

    Reply
  19. Ashlan

    Hey!

    I just got my sourdough starter in the mail today, and I followed the instructions to begin the fermentation. However, 8 hours later, there aren’t bubbles like the picture shows.

    Is the feeding as time-sensitive as the directions sound, or can I leave my starter sitting for longer than 12 hours?

    Thanks!

    Ashlan, I’ve asked our Bakers’ Resource team to contact you; they’ll be able to go over this with you and figure out what’s happening. PJH

    Reply
  20. Donna H

    I recently made this sourdough and added about 1 cup of KA Harvest grains and 1 tablespoon of vital wheat gluten (since I was adding whole grains). It turned out great and my husband says it is his current favorite of the breads I’ve made with KA products.

    Sounds delicious, Donna – thanks for sharing here. PJH

    Reply
  21. danny16450

    Thanks for the blog and all the great tips here! A couple of questions. We got our starter about 2 weeks ago. Fed it as directed. The following week, we did a feed and used the discard to make the rustic loaves which were good, but not very sour (understood and expected). Last night I took the starter out of the fridge to make bread today, discarded the cup, fed with the water and flour and left it out on the counter in the crock. This morning I woke up to a MESS! The starter had risen and bubbled so much that it spilled out of the crock, all the way down the sides and all over the kitchen counter! We live in the desert, it is very dry and warm here, about 90 degrees yesterday and it is November. The house was 72 this morning with our cooler on. Is it just too warm? Do you feed the starter in a separate bowl overnight then place into the crock for storing in the fridge? I was able to fetch out a cup to start my bread this morning and the starter is in a bowl with its new feed and has been out for only an hour or so and is very bubbly and has more than doubled in size. Any suggestions? I also have noticed that my dough is not nearly as sticky as it seems most others are. Again, that our flour is so dry? I measure and do not weigh it. If I weighed it, won’t it weigh less due to the lack of moisture content? Therefore it would require even more flour giving me an even drier dough than I already have?
    Ahhh, the Sourdough that ate Cleveland scenario, we know it well. The good news is that it means your starter is healthy and vigorous. I find it does help to use a separate bowl to feed the starter. It gives you more room and allows you to clean out the crock before putting the starter back in.
    As for feeding, do measure the flour by weight if possible. Weighing is the most accurate way to measure, 4 ounces will always be 4 ounces. Try using cool water to feed the starter, and place it in a cool place. 72 is on the warmer side for rising. No need for the fridge, but try to find a cool corner.
    Hope this helps! ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  22. Caitlyn W.

    I might be coming a little late to the party, but I just received my starter and am embarking on making this bread recipe – it is sitting in the first rise as I type. I am wondering what the difference is between the recipes listed on this blog and those under the “Recipe” heading on the site. Some of those listed and in the 200th Anniversary book call for making a “sponge” and don’t mention starter… What’s the difference??

    Thanks,
    c
    Sponges and starters are both ways of giving the yeast in a bread dough a head start; the extra time lets the yeast multiply and develop lots of flavor. A sponge can be made from scratch with a part of the liquid, flour, and a pinch of the yeast in the recipe; they often spend at least 4 hours and up to 24 hours working before being used to make the bread. A starter, especially in the recipe you’re looking at, refers to a sourdough culture that’s been recently fed and is active. When you look at it, you should see bubbles coming to the surface and popping, ever so slowly. That tells you it’s ready to do the job of raising your dough. Susan at KAF.

    Reply
  23. caitlynwhittle

    Hello again,

    Three sourdough loaves later and I think I’m getting the hang of things… still not the puffiness I was hoping for, but I think practice will make perfect. Question – when substituting whole wheat for AP flour, do you substitute a cup for a cup, or 4.25 oz for 4.25 oz?

    Thanks!
    caitlyn

    Good question, Caitlyn. I substitute 4 ounces of whole wheat for 4 1/4 ounces of AP, but cup-for-cup should be just fine – you don’t need to be very exact in the case of substituting ww for AP or vice versa. And you realize, right, that the more ww you substitute, the less puffy your bread will be? You might try adding some vital wheat gluten for added “lift.” Enjoy – PJH

    Reply
  24. Itsalulu

    Hi, I just received my sourdough starter and followed the directions to feed it and discard half, then feed again, let sit and refrigerate, however, I notice on the website’s online tips, it says that I should be doing this 3 times, not just 2…I really want to get it right because this is my second try at baking with sourdough and KAF’s starter. (I tried a few years ago but couldn’t get it right…My dough was too slack and my loaves didn’t get any height…)

    Sorry, I just re-read my directions and see that I missed the third feeding mentioned on them! Luckily, KAF has this wonderful website to reference or I might have missed my mistake entirely! :) But I have two more questions: do you always feed your starter with lukewarm water AND do you feed it in the crock or take it out and mix it, then use the crock to store it?
    Thanks, Lucia

    Lucia, I use lukewarm water; and unless I have a very large crock, I take it out to feed it, then put it back. This also gives me an opportunity to scrub out the crock, which can get quite crusty after a few months… :) PJH

    Reply
  25. Anna. W.

    I made a fantastic loaf with KA starter. My German friend says it tastes like the “real bread” he’s used to in Germany–and he’s tried some pretty high quality American-made sourdough bread, including Zingerman’s. He thinks it tastes so “real” because I used spelt flour.

    Here’s my recipe:
    Ripening starter:
    1/3 cup refrigerated starter
    1/3 cup water
    2/3 cup KAF all-purpose flour

    Mix together and let sit at room temp for 4 hours.

    Loaf:
    1 cup ripened starter
    1 1/2 cups luke-warm water
    1 3/4 tsp salt
    2 2/3 cup KAF all-purpose flour
    2 cups whole spelt flour
    5 Tblsp wheat gluten

    (Tip: I measure my flour by spooning into a measuring cup and then leveling off with a knife.)

    Mix together flours and gluten. Reserve 1/2 cup of the flour mix in a little bowl. Put the lukewarm water in a mixing bowl and add the starter and 3 cups of the flour mixture. Beat on medium/high speed for 2 minutes. Beat in the salt. If you have a sturdy stand-up mixer, beat in the remaining flour (except for the 1/2 cup reserved); if your mixer is hand-held, it might work better to stir in the remaining flour. Knead the dough until smooth but soft (about 7 minutes), using a bit of the 1/2 cup reserved flour to dust the surface (I use a Silpat). Use the rest of the reserved flour during kneading if the sticky dough starts to drive you crazy. Don’t knead in extra flour! The hydrated dough is part of the reason the bread turns out so well.

    Form the dough into a ball and put it in a lightly greased bowl. Cover with a towel. Let it rise at room temp for 5 hours. The dough should look “puffy.”

    DO NOT PUNCH DOUGH DOWN. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Gently turn the bowl upside down onto the parchment paper. Very gently shape the dough into one large batard or two small boules. Make sure to create enough surface tension so that the loaf has an easier time holding its shape. Do not “pop” the dough during this process–you want to keep as much puffiness from the first rise as possible. If there are a couple of large bubbles right at the surface of the dough, it’s OK to gently pop them with a toothpick. Make sure that the shaped loafs are sitting on the parchment paper with the seam-side down.

    Cover the loaf with a kitchen towel and leave alone for two hour.

    You can prepare the oven during the second rise. Put one rack on the bottom rung, and put the other rack on the next rung up. Set a large baking stone or large/long iron griddle on the topmost rung (my pizza stone is two small for this loaf so I use a griddle). Put an iron skillet on the rung below the stone/griddle. The oven should be preheated to 450 F for 1/2 hour. This is important! You want to make sure that the sides of the oven, the baking stone/griddle, and the skillet all have time to fully heat up. The high heat is what helps the bread to rise high.

    When the two hours is up, set some water to boil. Uncover the loaf. It should be a bit bigger than when you shaped it. It’s OK if it’s squashed out sideways; the intense heat from the stone/griddle will cause it pop right up. Carefully score the bread with an x-acto knife or lame (I use an x-acto knife; it works wonderfully). Score it with three diagonal slashes for the batard, or with a tic-tac-toe pattern if you made two boules. I score the dough twice. The first score breaks the surface tension of the dough, and the second score goes a bit deeper. This allows the dough to rise very high during baking.

    Mist the dough thoroughly with a spray bottle filled with water.

    Measure 1/2 cup boiling water and set it in an easy-to-grab spot by the oven. Carry the cookie sheet over to the oven. Working quickly, open the oven and pull the parchment paper (with loaf on top) onto the stone/griddle (I don’t know what the flash point of parchment paper is, but mine DID NOT ignite at 450 F). Pour the 1/2 cup boiling water into the skillet on the bottom rack, and then close the oven door as quickly as possible.

    Bake the bread for 10 minutes at 450 F (it should spring very high during this first 10 minutes–you might be very surprised at how high it pops up!). Then, remove the skillet from the oven, and replace it with a room-temp skillet that has been filled with 1/2 cup hot/boiling water. Cover the loaf with aluminum foil. Lower the temp to 400 F and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the aluminum foil and bake for a few extra minutes, or until golden-brown. Remove the bread from the oven and cool completely before cutting.

    The resulting bread should have a crust that is very chewy. The interior should be moist, yet soft, fluffy, and slightly chewy, and have medium-to-large irregular holes. The flavor should be well-developed, but not overly sour.
    We always appreciate when our customers are willing to share special recipes with us. Please feel free to post this on our community site as well if you wish. ~Amy

    Reply
  26. clelumom

    I’ve been baking with sourdough for 25 years now, with starter that was carried on the Alaskan gold rush trail, passed down through my family for generations. I’ve only today found this sourdough blog, although I love all of PJ’s other blogs. I have read everyone’s experiences and am glad there are so many people enjoying sourdough. Sourdough is very forgiving, it does like to be fed each week, but if you can’t get to it for awhile, it will not die. I have taken some sponge out and put it in the freezer as a backup, in case something happens to my fridge starter. When you use the freezer starter, you will need to feed it once or twice before you are able to use it in a recipe. Life happens, I have accidently gone for weeks/months without feeding it and it always comes back. Unlike KA, I do find that any metal will kill the sponge/starter, so I do not use any metal utensils or bowls to work up the dough or batter. When baking break I knead it with my hands, keeps my hands strong. :) I use warm milk with flour to feed it instead of water. Like the blogger from the southwest experienced, when you feed the sponge, it will grow, so you shouldn’t feed it in the crock, but it in a different bowl, then move it to the crock for storage. Starter needs air to breathe, it shouldn’t be kept in an airtight container in the fridge either, use a crock, a jar, etc. not tupperware.
    I am so impressed your starter is so old. That is such a great thing! And what a great idea to keep a bit in your freezer just in case. Resilient it is. I am happy you found our blogs on sourdough. Elisabeth

    Reply
  27. dsx2

    Question: When shaping the loaves for the rustic or tangy sourdough, are you doing a gluten cloak first or just shaping it after plopping it out on the parchment? I made the extra tangy yesterday (tasted great BTW) but the dough was SO wet and sticky that I just patted it into a log shape, sort of. Wasn’t the prettiest loaf I’ve ever made; I’m used to doing the envelope fold, etc. and getting a nice tight “cloak” on it. I did get lovely holes inside; I imagine if I add more flour the holes will diminish.

    I do the gluten cloak if it’s firm enough to do so; otherwise, just plop it out. Consistency of dough varies with the weather and season. And yeah, the holes may diminish a bit with more flour. Your best bet is to try shaping it with a lot of flour; in other words, don’t add a lot of flour when you mix the dough, but shape it on a well floured surface. You can sometimes work a gluten cloak that way where you wouldn’t be able to if you didn’t have so much flour on your work surface, and thus on the surface of the dough. Good luck – PJH

    Reply
  28. Jeanp51

    Hi, I love the blog. I have a starter in my fridge that I feed weekly, but I don’t know why when I need to use “fed” starter that I need to discard 1 cup, then feed it, let it sit and use that. I’ve made this bread using the 1 cup that I removed from the starter. I fed this cup of starter and let it sit overnight and used it and the bread was excellent. I am curious to know how different the bread would be if I followed the directions for using the “fed” starter.

    Thanks
    Great question. The reason for the discard in sourdough is to keep the levels of acidity in check. If a starter never gets divided, over time the acidity level will build and your starter will become sluggish, gray and thin.
    When you fed your starter and let it sit before using, that was “fed” starter. If you were to just take starter straight from the container and put it in your recipe, that is “unfed” starter. It would still perform, but not nearly as well. Just like Mom told us not to skip meals, it important for your starter to get fed properly to work its best. Hope this helps. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  29. camilla

    I am making sourdough bread today from my KA starter and realize I am out of all purpose flour. Can I sub in my KA bread flour with some whole wheat?
    You can use the bread flour by itself or in combination with the whole wheat. If the recipe you are using calls for only white flour, you will need to increase your water amount by 1 tablespoon per cup of whole wheat flour added. ~Amy

    Reply
  30. kimmyrose

    This recipe has become essential in my family. However, I plop my dough into a bread pan and make a loaf out of it. My family likes to make everything from french toast to sandwiches on this yummy bread. Yesterday I was in the mood to experiment so I made a half recipe and allowed it to rise for about an hour. While it was rising I mixed big chunks of onion, garlic and herbs with some olive oil and allowed it to get happy on low heat. After my dough had risen, I brushed a muffin tin with some of my herby olive oil then tore off chunks of dough and rolled them into neat little balls. I allowed my dough to rise in the muffin tin until the balls of dough filled each slot completely then brushed once more with herby olive oil and baked for about 15 minutes at 350. They were delightfully crunchy on the outside and wonderfully soft on the inside. My family loved them so much they’ve requested them for Thanksgiving.

    Recipe success AND family approval…..then a request for Thanksgiving? Surely you’ve reached baking superstar status. Happy Holiday Baking! Irene @ KAF

    Reply
  31. cassiesue125

    Just made my very first loaf of Rustic Sourdough Bread, it was easy and I followed the directions exactly. My hubby says this was the BEST loaf of bread I have made so far. I will be making these instead of the rest I had been making! I am going to experiment with some of the other variations also. Thanks KAF!

    Kudos to your for sourdough success! Keep up the good (baking) work, knowing we are here along the journey! Irene @ KAF

    Reply
  32. Helen

    I have enjoyed making sourdough so much! However, I noticed that the instructions say to revive the starter within 24 hours of receiving it. Mine came as a Christmas gift, so it was not revived for several days (10 days, maybe?)
    after it initially arrived from KAF. We love the soft, dense inside and crusty outside, but wonder if waiting this long harmed it in some way. Not sure it is as “puffy” as it should be when it rises.

    Helen, so long as you got it going, it’s fine; the extra wait didn’t hurt it long-term. Once your starter is activated, it takes on its own characteristics, according to how it’s fed and where it lives and how you use it. Just keep practicing with your bread – the more you bake, the more you learn. Enjoy! PJH

    Reply
  33. Gayle from Kansas

    I am having fun baking this sourdough bread! Thanks KA for all the posts and helpful hints. I thought I would share a tip I have learned. On my final rising of the bread on the parchment paper baking sheet, the dough was sticking to whatever I covered it with. So I took a sheet of wax paper for each loaf (2) sprayed PAM on one, then rubbed them together to get one side of each oiled. I put one over each loaf, then covered with my cloth. Yahoo!! No more ripping the top of my loaf before putting it in the oven! Hope this also helps someone ;)

    Reply
  34. Richard from Virginia

    I am 63 and now want to bake sourdough bread. I am working my way through to find a process that works. I am also somewhat physically challenged so I am looking to use my appliances where I can.
    .
    Question on using my stand mixer for KAF’s Rustic Sour Dough recipe:

    I want to use my dough hook and KA mixer to assemble the dough. Any guidance on mixing and/or kneading times?

    Question on using my ZO bread machine:

    Has anyone tried the Rustic Sourdough Recipe in a ZO bread machine on the dough cycle for mix through first rise?

    I am on my third try on this recipe. Each loaf has been better than the last. Many lessons to learn.

    PS: This is the first blog entry I ever made. I don’t even know if it will go through.

    Reply
    1. Amy Trage

      The step by step photos in the blog will let you know what to look out for with the dough consistency while mixing and kneading, Richard. The time will vary, but usually 6-8 minutes is sufficient. The dough cycle should work fine in the Zo machine! ~Amy

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