From neglected starter, a wonderful loaf of bread: Forget and forgive

Remember last September, when you and I got hooked on sourdough and made sourdough bread, and sourdough waffles, and sourdough chocolate cake?

Have you become a regular sourdough baker since then? Or, like me, did you stash your starter in the back of the fridge and just… forget about it?

I didn’t totally neglect my starter. I did, in fact, feed it—once, in the past 6 months. So when I decided to make sourdough bread again recently, I feared what might greet me when I pried the lid off my sourdough crock and looked inside.

In fact, my imagination was worse than the reality. While covered with a fairly deep layer of dark liquid, the aroma that met my hesitant nose was clean, fresh, and sharp: a head-clearing whiff of alcohol and vinegar, not at all musty or “off.”

I breathed a sigh of relief and, feeling like a neglectful mother, drained off most of the liquid, and fed my starter. It took awhile, but it bounced back just fine. Witness the loaves of bread pictured above.

Would this extra-old sourdough make extra-sour bread? No, not on its own. But for those of you who crave a REALLY sour sourdough bread, read on. We’ve got a secret ingredient that’ll make your lips pucker and your ears ache.

Read our recipe for Extra-Tangy Sourdough Bread as you follow along with these pictures.

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Many of you write that you’re unable to make your sourdough bread sour enough. Sourdough purists will scoff at this, but… for those of you who like a more sour sourdough loaf, adding 1/4 teaspoon or so of this “sour salt”—citric acid—to your dough will definitely up the pucker quotient.

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So, I hadn’t used my sourdough starter for awhile… A good long while, I guess. I retrieved it from the back of the fridge, and this is what it looked like when I took off the lid. Not a pretty picture. But ickiness (as well as beauty) is only skin deep. I knew this sourdough was just fine. The key? It smelled fresh and clean: sharp, acidic, vinegar-y, but not moldy or “off.”

If this liquid had been pink, or had a pink tinge, I would have ditched the whole thing. A pink tint, and a bad smell, signal that sourdough should be discarded.

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I poured off much of the liquid (alcohol and acetic acid). I could have stirred it in, but wanted to end up with a less-liquid starter.

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Next, I stirred it the remaining liquid. Then I removed and discarded 1 cup of the resulting thick starter.

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Next, the remaining starter gets a meal of 1 cup flour and 1/2 cup warm water.

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Stir everything together.

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Make sure to scrape down the sides of the container as you stir.

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Seven hours later, my neglected starter is beginning to come to life again. So I measure out 1 cup…

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…and put it into a bowl with 1 1/2 cups of water and 3 cups of flour, stirring to make a wet dough.

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Four hours later, the dough is just starting to bubble. Now it’s time to put it in the refrigerator. Why? Because at cool temperatures, yeast produces acetic acid rather than lactic acid. Acetic is more sour than lactic; so a rest in the fridge will increase the sourness of your sourdough bread.

Eleven hours later, I took the batter-like dough out of the fridge, added 2 cups of flour, a touch of sugar and salt, and some citric acid, just to see what difference it would make in the flavor.

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Here’s the nicely kneaded dough.

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And here it is 5 hours later. It’s not a voluptuous riser; remember, there’s no added yeast in this bread, just what’s in the starter. But the dough will definitely spread out.

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Look how nicely the gluten has developed—see those webby strands? That’s gluten.

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Divide the dough in half, shaping each half into an oval log on a piece of parchment. The dough is pretty sticky; I didn’t spend a lot of time trying to get  perfectly shaped loaf, as you can see!

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Cover the rising loaves. Be imaginative; here I’m using a big roasting pan.

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Notice I’ve already put the parchment with its bread on a peel; this’ll make the risen loaves easier to move from the counter to my hot pizza stone.

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Here’s the bread, nicely risen. Actually, more like spread than risen…  but don’t be discouraged. These loaves will pick right up when you stick them in the oven.

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First, spray with water. This will help them rise their highest, and yield a pretty crust.

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Next, trim off any excess parchment. This simply makes it easier to position the loaves, side by side, on the stone.

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Cut several slashes atop each loaf. I like to use a serrated knife as I can never seem to find a really sharp chef’s knife in the test kitchen. But if you have a really sharp knife (or a baker’s lame), use that.

Be decisive, firm, and quick when you slash the bread. Like, slash slash slash! Hold your knife at a 45° angle to the bread; don’t fool around trying to inch your way through it.

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Oh, no! The bread is starting to deflate. Quick, get it into the oven!

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Within a minute of hitting that hot oven stone, you’ll see your sagging bread perk right up. If you’re not using a stone, never fear; it’ll still pick up.

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HA! Now that’s a nicely risen loaf of bread.

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When their interior temperature registers 190°F, take them out of the oven. It was getting pretty late in the day when I finished these, as you can see by the slanting sun. I started at 7 a.m. on a Thursday, and finished about 5 p.m. on Friday.

Here’s a sample schedule for you working folks to follow, to make bread on a weekend:

Friday
7 a.m. Feed starter.
6 p.m. Combine starter with 1 1/2 cups water and 3 cups flour.
10 p.m. Refrigerate.

Saturday
9 a.m. Add 2 cups flour, sugar, and salt.
2 p.m. Shape loaves.
6 p.m. Bake
6:30 p.m. Enjoy!

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Now is that some good looking bread, or what? Tasty, too. I can report that the citric acid does indeed increase the sourness of the bread.

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I know there are those out there who’ll make this bread and ask me, “How can I make this even more sour?” So I decided to push the limits of citric acid to see how much I could add before the bread started to fall apart. A too-acidic dough affects both the bread’s structure (the gluten is weakened), and its color (it won’t brown well). The loaf on the left, above, has a total of 1/2 teaspoon citric acid in the full recipe; the one on the right, 1 teaspoon. Notice how the loaf on the right shows signs of shredding as it rises.

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And here they are baked. The one on the left, pretty good; not as brown as the version without any citric acid, or with just 1/4 teaspoon; but acceptable. The one on the right? Uh-oh…

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Looks kinda like the surface of the moon: pale and craggy. Not acceptable.

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The crust of both was shattery-crunchy; not shattery in shards like baguettes, but more like thin ice: shattery with some serious body. Notice the interior texture: still good.

So go ahead and add up to maybe 3/4 teaspoon citric acid to this recipe; but understand your bread will be VERY sour, and will lose some of its good looks.

Read, rate, and review (please!) our recipe for Extra-Tangy Sourdough Bread.

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. cindy leigh

    Cool!
    I stir all the hooch into the starter, I don’t discard it, if I want a more tangy flavor. And I never discard starter- I put it in something else- your mini bagel recipe, or english muffins, friendship cake, or waffles. It perks up just fine when combined with the other ingredients.

    Can any stage of this be mixed in the Zo?

    I have your nifty little curved lame, but I have not mastered the slashing. I’m holding it curve-down, like the letter “U”, and going at a 45 degree angle. It drags, and pulls the dough, and causes some deflation. Prior to the lame I was using a serrated knife like you show.

    After I use my starter and refresh it, I place it right back in the refrig. It will still bubble, just moe slowly. When I want to use it again, I pull it out, let it come to room temp, and we’re good to go. Every once in a while I take a tsp out when it’s at it’s most active and add to the “backup stash” I have in the original KA screw-top container the starter was shipped in.

    Thanks for the nice post and pics!

    Hi Cindy – Sure, use the Zo for whatever part of this you want. Especially for the kneading of the dough, of course. As for the lame – bah, humbug. Can’t stand those things. I choose a good SHARP chef’s knife or serrated knife every time. As you said, for me, a lame just drags. I do know you’re supposed to hold it curved side up – maybe that would help? Cheers! – PJH

    Reply
  2. Rosa

    I generally make a sourdough starter that I use once and forget in the fridge… This year, I’ve decided to test more sourdough bread recipes.

    An interesting post anf gorgeous loaves!

    Cheers and have a good Easter,

    Rosa

    Reply
  3. Mike T.

    Um, I *love* sour sourdough, like I used to get in San Fran, but I’m not sure about the 2 days of work. I’m more of an instant gratification guy… Still…. Hmmm…..

    Mike – it’s not 2 days of work – it’s 2 days of “gentle tending” and waiting, mainly. You should give this a try, really, if you love that REALLY sour San Francisco-style bread… PJH

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  4. Soupaddict Karen

    Awesome! I must get sour dough starter started. Whenever I really crave sour dough bread, I’m leagues away from being able to make it. Thanks, also, for the instructions on slashing the bread. Such a simple thing, it seems, but I’ve just never been able to get the right-looking kind of cut. I’m pretty sure it’s the 45 degree angle thing … I’ve been going straight down into the loaf. D’oh!

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  5. Mark Wisecarver

    Thanks for being so honest, it not only helps but shows integrity.
    Forgetting to feed the Mother is easy…Best to make it a trusted method.
    What I’ve found best for mine is to feed it each Sunday.
    If I have extra I make a Pizza/Calzone dough and freeze it. (5-8 ounces each)
    We have a rule in our house, no waste, expecially Mother. ;-)
    My kids enjoy the fun we have refreshing the Mother, and they love the Good Eats.
    Salute,
    Mark

    Good thinking, Mark – I’ll try it in pizza sometime. And yes, it doesn’t hurt to be good to Mother! PJH

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  6. Pam M

    I’ve always wanted to try sourdough, but I am also concerned about waste. I use stoneground organic flour for my breads, so I don’t want to throw that away. (I’m in Canada, none of our stores sell KAF). The above posters mention this as well, but do I even have to take stuff out of it? I don’t understand the importance of that step.
    Also, I LOVE this blog! I bake a lot of bread (mostly with the 5-minutes-a-day method, and the KAF whole wheat sandwich bread).

    Hi Pam – you don’t have to throw any away, no. It just helps keep it fresh, and keeps it from becoming too voluminous. Because if you feed it (prior to using some in a recipe), then take some out to use in a recipe, then feed it again before putting it back in the fridge, you’re adding a cup of starter each time you bake – which will soon fill up your container. You might try feeding it, taking a cup out to use in your recipe, then NOT feeding it before refrigerating again – see how it does. AND – thanks for your very kind comments. PJH

    Reply
  7. Mark Wisecarver

    Can I submit my Sourdough Pizza recipe with step by step images?
    This is something I make each week, the SD Pizza and Calzones from leftover starter taste delicious beyond words.
    All the best,
    Mark Wisecarver

    P.S. Got my KAF Dough Wish this week, have always used large wooden spoons but this thing is, well, the whip! Glad you like the dough whisk. It is one of my favorite tools. Right now we aren’t set up to receive your recipe and images, I’m sorry. We hope to have a social media site for things like this from our loyal friends soon, hopefully by the end of the summer, so hold on to it until then and then we would love to have you to send it. Thanks Mary@KAF

    Reply
  8. Lucia

    I have been using your starter and sourdough crock for a few months now. I really enjoy the process of making the bread. I notice in your “schedule” that you feed your starter and use it an hour later. I have been following the directions provided with the starter-which is to feed it and then use it between 4-12 hours later. (I did notice that you let your dough sit for 12 hours before refrigerating overnite…I generally wait only 4 hours before using…maybe that has something to do with it…)
    I would like to get some more air holes in my bread–How do you mix? I have tried both mixing with my KitchenAid and mixing by hand. My dough is not as smooth as yours when I mix in the rest of the flour on the second day. In fact, it is rather ragged looking and I can’t get the dough to absorb all the flour. Despite all of my questions, it still turns out fairly well and I do love your company!!! It sounds like you are using too much flour. Try cutting back about 1/2 cup or so. Remember to have fun with it, and enjoy the journey to that perfect loaf. Mary @ KAF

    Reply
  9. MaryEllen

    I was feeling the same way as Pam, I want to try sourdough, but I can’t afford to just throw out a bunch of flour for no reason. A friend gave me a starter last week, but I’ve just left it there so far. In your response to Pam, you said you could feed it, take some to use, then put it away unfed. What about the opposite? Could I pull out what I need, then feed and refrigerate whats left? Why do you have to feed it right before using it?

    MaryEllen, it works better if it’s fed before you use it. You know, like us – if you go off to work without having breakfast, bet you don’t have much energy by mid-morning… PJH

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  10. Dori

    I too let my starter sit from last November. It did come back to life just fine also. I like the taste, but it could be a little more sour, so maybe I will use your citric acid and see how that is. My issue is this: My dough just will not rise up, no matter when I make it. With fresh starter, or old starter, it increases in size in the bowls, but when I make the loafs, they spread out like yours, but just will not rise once in the hot oven. I have checked the tempature also and it is running correct. They taste fine, but are sort of this flat, oval loaf that is only about 2 inches tall in the very center. Can you help me with that?
    Thanks.

    Dori, if they rise well on the pan, but then don’t rise in the oven, could be you’re letting them rise a bit too long before baking. Try putting them in the oven when they’re about 2/3 risen to where you think they should be – see if that helps. PJH

    Reply
  11. DJ

    I neglect my starter with fair frequency. It is the same recipe my Mom uses, from Sunset’s Book of Breads, 1972-ish edition; it uses milk to get going – I know I’m not a purist but it is SO delicious, best English muffins ever… I guess with milk that lactic acid never lacks! I find that as long as I leave it in the fridge and pour off the dark liquid, it gets going again quite rapidly. I killed it once by stirring in the dark liquid. Oops.

    I’ll be getting it out this weekend to make sourdough cinnamon rolls for Easter. Yum!

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  12. Sarah

    This is so timely, I’ve been avoiding even looking at my crock, stashing it behind taller bottles. Now I’m feeling hopeful for some lovely bread to take to Easter dinner.

    Reply
  13. Edie

    I really appreciate your posting your “timetable”. It takes a lot of the guesswork out of a long project!

    Reply
  14. Jen @ amazingtrips

    Oh, this looks WONDERFUL!!! Great job on the photo illustrations. I plan to try this recipe at my earliest opportunity. Thanks too for the trouble-shooting responses to all the comments. I’m sure it will help if I run in to some of the same issues.

    When I was visiting my mother recently, she introduced me to one of the easiest (and most delicious) home made bread recipes I’ve ever seen. Because the recipe yields so much dough, we use the excess to make pizza and pretzels. Homemade pretzels are fantastic > especially when drizzled with enough butter, cinnamon & sugar!! To the bottom of this post is the recipe that I’ve been following for dough. (And, of course it goes w/o saying that the only flour to use is King Arthur!!)

    http://www.theamazingtrips.com/2008/04/speaking-of-dough.html

    Reply
  15. Mike J

    I love my starter, but I’m also one of those folks who just doesn’t like to waste things when I don’t have to. The solution I’ve settled on is to just keep a smaller volume of starter on hand.

    My ususal schedule is something like this: Friday afternoon or Saturday morning I’ll pull the starter out of the fridge and dump all but a couple tablespoons then feed it with 100 grams each of flour and water. 8-12 hours later I’ll feed it with another 100 grams each of flour and water. 8-12 hours after that It’s usually good and ripe and ready to bake with. At that point I’ve got 400 grams of starter plus a little bit to keep it going. 400 grams of starter at 100% hydration is exactly what my pizza dough recipie calls for (most of the others I make call for something just shy of that) so if I don’t feel like making anything more elaborate I’ll knock out some pizza dough for to use another time.

    I should be left with just a couple tablespoons of starter. I’ll Top it off with 100 grams each of flour and water and pop it in the fridge. I could probably get away with using half that, as long as I don’t leave it unattended for too long.

    It takes a little bit of planning ahead, but for my weekend baking all I’ve had to throw out is 100 grams of flour (approximatly 3/4 cup). For what it’s worth, I’m pretty sure starter is perfectly fine for your compost bin as well, if you’ve got one.

    Reply
  16. Shalisa

    I’ve been baking sourdough for a year, and found your blog while searching for more helpful info. We’ve been enjoying it, but it’s sometimes neglected as well…just too much good stuff to bake! But I do bake your norwich recipe once or twice a month. Lately I’ve had some pretty flat loaves. I don’t have a couche, I just form and lay on parchment. My stone is preheated, and the bread has a great flavor, just not a lot of rise, maybe a 3 inch tall loaf in the middle. Any suggestions? Is your water chlorinated? That can make your starter sluggish. Leave the water out on the counter overnight to let the chlorine dissipate. And you can always add a 1/4 teaspoon of yeast to your starter. That always gives a boost. Molly@KAF

    Reply
  17. Polly Tarpley

    Re comments on slashing bread; I bought a small package of single blade razor blades and keep one or two (in their cardboard sheaths) in my “baking” drawer. The blades seem to stay sharp forever and the easy grip on the non-bladed side makes getting the angle of the slashes justs right!

    Reply
  18. Al

    I am so inspired and the free sourdough offer with crock makes it an easy decision to try this. I want to also get either the Metallic trtiple baguette pan or the couche. Which one (or both) do you recommend? I’ve never made a loaf of bread before, but King Arthur has taught me how to do pizza dough and pie crusts, so I want to add this to skillset. Thanks for any feedback from anyone!

    Hi Al – Good for you, jumping into bread baking! It’s quite a hobby – quite a delicious one – when you get into it. My first advice: Don’t be too serious, and don’t get discouraged. We all have some missteps along the way to becoming good bakers, but it’s not life and death; it’s fun, relaxing, and gratifying. And remember, we’re always here to help, via our Baker’s Hotline and LiveChat. So – couche vs. pan. Pan is definitely easier to use. And couche can be replicated with plain cotton dish towels. I’d start with the pan. The FIRST time you use it, the bread will probably stick despite your best greasing efforts; if it does, don’t worry, it’ll be better the next time. Good luck as you start down this path – just read the directions, follow the pictures, and you should be just fine. PJH

    Reply
  19. Melissa

    Is it possible to freeze a starter? I love sourdough but the weekly feeding is like having another pet in the house (a lifetime commitment). I read your comments PJ about leaving your starter in the back of the fridge for six months, and luckily it was still okay. But mine have always turned pink and smelled awful! And its so wasteful to throw out (even into the compost bin). Thanks.

    Yes, Melissa – you can freeze it, albeit not indefinitely – I’d take it out and feed it every 3 months or so. Yeast does eventually die when frozen… You can also dry it and use the dried powder to start it up again – I’ve heard of people doing this when they move, though I couldn’t give you the specifics. As with much or sourdough – experiment, try different things, and that’s how you learn. Good luck – PJH

    Reply
  20. Janet

    I am from Sam Francisco, the home of sour dough bread. The recipe is good for people outside of the Bay Area however for those of us who have grown up with the good old fashion San Francisco sour dough bread it just isn’t quite the same. Good but not great. I would personally go the baker just down the street and get a nice hot loaf of sour dough bread. It taste better and is much easier. (their is something to be said about baking french bread in a break oven)I guess that something only people in San Francisco can do.

    Reply
  21. Jennifer

    I’ve had my starter for about 2 years now, maybe 3) I neglect it horribly. But it makes the best Chocolate Cake, Pancakes (I take it camping), and decent bread. I always deflate the bread horribly when trying to slash it (if I remember too). I really should try making more bread. Though the Pizza dough sounds really good.

    Reply
  22. Mary

    I really enjoyed the article and all the posting. But, I have a basic question. What is the right consistency for the starter? Mayonnaise, wallpaper paste, pancake batter? I really enjoy the taste of my bread. The texture of the sourdough if it is being fed equal parts by weight of flour and water will be thick like mayonaise but VERY sticky and rubbery-stretchy. Mary @ KAF

    Reply
  23. Lish

    I have made this recipe several times, all with good results. Sometimes they are too flat, but always extremely tasty with great texture. I often use the Metal Italian bread pan you sell, rather than the baguette pan and it makes two nicely shaped loaves. I often do this when we have dinner guests, one loaf for dinner, one to send home with the guests. I also never throw away any starter, I either make waffles (our favorite) popovers or crumpets. I have read these blogs and so many people list all the things they can do with the starter but being new to sourdough I don’t really know how to just use it without a recipe. Any suggestions? Thank you for easy recipes and awesome products! Generally you can substitute a cup of starter for 1 cup of flour and 1/2 cup of water in a recipe. Mary @ KAF

    Reply
  24. Liliana Szachury

    Hi,
    I love making sourdough bread every weekend, so I start friday night and I finish it saturday afternoon pretty much at 3:00p.m. always I give away one of them to friends, they love it!!! at the same time, I practice week by week, and little by little it is better and more beautiful, I love baking bread since when I was a little girl, but the real thing is “LOVE” if you don’t love what you do, then the life does’nt have sence, it’s a hobby make homemade bread!!! of course everybody can get one in the store!! and by the way…it is four dollars or less!! but I think the people who really love making homemade bread want to do it better day by day and then you become a master after some years of practice and then you will be happy… and the most important …satisfied !!! in all sences !!! because you will feel good with your life, with yourself, and then you can die happy because you did whatever you wanted to do.. and that’s the life!!! easy!!! so…. what do you think if we make a extra tangy sourdough bread tonight? and enjoy it tomorrow ? go ahead!!! be happy!!!!

    Reply
  25. dksbook

    How weird is this? I did the exact same thing with my neglected sourdough! I used the new “no knead” method, just making a shaggy daqmp-ish dough and letting it do its thing for a day. I was not smart enough to use my parchment, though, I just let it rise on heavily floured tea towels. Next time they rise on the parchment on the peel!

    I slash with single-edged razor blades.

    Reply
  26. Marion

    I’m sure you’ve answered this before but are your ovens regular residential ovens or are they commercial ovens? Your bread has such a great look – more like from commercial ovens, I don’t always get that look at home.

    Regular ovens, Marion. We made sure to install regular ovens because we’re reaching out to home bakers, and want to use the same equipment as anyone else. Spraying crusty loaves with water before baking helps give them that gorgeous look – PJH

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  27. Laura B

    I can’t seem to get to the sourdough waffle recipe anymore. I’ve tried all the links but instead keep ending up on the main recipes page. Can you repost the recipe? Is it just hiding on me?

    Here it is, Laura: Sourdough Waffles. Have at it – PJH

    Reply
  28. Jesurgislac

    I bought a packet of “sourdough starter” when visiting San Francisco in 2000. I mixed it up into a batch a few months later, and – believe it or not – my starter is still alive and well and living in my fridge. It’s survived two house moves, a couple of long holidays (when I froze it and resurrected it) and still makes excellent bread.

    If you have a sleepy starter (one that doesn’t seem to be recovering with the usual “flour plus water” feed), I recommend soft fruit – a really ripe peach, for example, or a banana gone brown. The extra fruit sugar perks the starter right up again. Cooked potato is good too – I nuke one in the microwave, scoop out the cooked insides and mash them, then add them warm to the starter.

    Excellent advice from a proven sourdough vet, Jes – thanks! PJH

    Reply
  29. Liliana Szachury

    Hello:

    I would like to know what is the diference if you put your bread in the oven on a pizza stone or just in a sheet pan? what is better?

    Depends on the loaf, Liliana. For a crusty loaf, pizza stone is better. For buns or a moister loaf, pan is fine. And not to say you can’t make a good, crusty loaf on a pan – it’s just that the stone gives it that little extra boost towards crunchy/crispy. In other words, it’s not critical, but it’s a nice addition if you make pizza or crusty breads regularly. Enjoy – PJH

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  30. Elizabeth

    You talked me into it! Question: can I line my double french bread baker (the one full of holes) with parchment paper and rise and bake in it…

    I would think the sides of the pan will support the dough and make a lovelier loaf? Is paper necessary?

    Thanks

    Paper shouldn’t be necessary, Elizabeth. Just make sure the pan is well-greased. If you find the dough is so liquid it seeps through the perforations and sticks, well then, yes, you’d need parchment next time. Enjoy – PJH

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  31. Anne

    I have a general sourdough question I hope you can answer. My kitchen is chilly and drafty. In winter, it’s downright wear-your-woolies cold in here most of the time. We live in a place where the summers are hot, and central a/c is a must, but in order to keep the upstairs comfortable, the kitchen stays cool. I have a gas oven with electronic starter–no standing pilot or warm spot near the stove. I’ve had dismal failure to thrive with every sourdough starter I’ve ever attempted. I have a simple bread machine and a crock pot, if either would be of any use to my efforts. I’ve hesitated to order one of the King Arthur starters because I think it would chill out just like everything else I’ve tried? Any suggestions?

    Hi Anne: Sourdough is a living thing – how about letting it grow wherever it is YOU feel comfortable in the house? Bedroom, living room, wherever the family gathers. If your entire house is freezing cold, you could try putting a heating pan on its lowest setting, wrapping it in a towel, then setting the bowl of starter on top of that, draped with another towel – a cozy little nest. Sourdough is pretty hardy, so long as you feed it and give it some warmth. Even in the fridge, it grows and bubbles a bit. So if it’s been a real non-starter (HA) for you, it might be another issue. Are you using chlorine-free or bottled water? King Arthur Flour? I’d say keep trying…. you SHOULD be able to get a starter to thrive, and we should be able to help you. Good luck – PJH

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  32. Jim

    A couple of things that I have found through deliberate experimentation:

    1) Starter can go 3 mos or so without feeding. I just stir in the liquid to keep the 50-50 (by weight) flour – water ratio and refresh. If it has been a long time since using it, it may take an extra refresh cycle to “wake it up” – or you just accept a longer raising time.

    2) A wetter dough seems to add more tang.

    3) A long cool rise time adds more tang and much more flavor – but I tend to do it after mixing and kneading the dough. In the winter I will cover it and let it rise on my cool back stairs. Hmmmmmm!

    4) As a starter and as a finished dough, it is very forgiving.

    5) The basic sourdough recipe that I got when I took a class at KAF (very worthwhile, I may add) makes a wonderful pizza / calzone dough – I just will knead in some olive oil at the end after the gluten is formed.

    Boun appetito

    Thank you for this concise listing of your tried and true sourdough tips. They will be helpful to many of our customer/bakers! Irene at KAF

    Reply
  33. Liliana Szachury

    Hello:
    This is Liliana Szachury again, so, I would like to know what is the best way for kneading the extra tangy sourdough bread, in the electric stand mixer or by hand? normaly I do by hand and it is just fine I guess because always it rises beautiful, but maybe can be better with the electric stand mixer? I have the kitchen aid, and with this I have done the sanwich rye bread and wow!!! is too much better than by hand, so could you tell me please the best option? thanks a lot!!! and if it can work for all of the yeast dough?

    The question to ask is, do you consider yourself a traditional breadmaker (knead by hand) or do you like to use your gadgets (the dough hook of your stand mixer)? And, which method gives YOU the results you desire…..once you decide on that, you will know which method to stick with! Irene at KAF

    Reply
  34. Anne

    PJ, thanks! I use all King Arthur Flour, which I can buy at our local Safeway, but I haven’t tried de-chlorinated water. I can do that easily and will try the heating pad trick. I’ll let you know! :)

    Reply
  35. Elizabeth in NJ

    How about storing and restoring the Amish Friendship Bread starter? Not sourdough, rather a sweetbread starter, but similar though less frequent care; you feed it every 5 days at room temperature, with milk, sugar, and flour. I just rejuvenated mine after 6 weeks of (mostly) neglect at room temp, and it seems fine. I am looking for a way to keep it going with small feedings: would pouring off all but 1/4 cup of starter and feeding it w/ 1/2 c each sugar/ flour/ milk every 5 days or so be workable at room temp? How about fridge storage? And, finally, I read that you can freeze it… is this true? Thanks!!!! It makes *awesome* chocolate cchocolate chip bread, so I hate to let it go.

    Haven’t used an Amish starter in years, Elizabeth; and when I did, I didn’t experiment with it. So your guess is as good as mine. I think storing it in the fridge is definitely a good place to start. And you could perhaps freeze it, as you do normal starter, for 3 months or so? You might try dividing it and experimenting that way, rather than putting your entire starter “at risk” in the freezer. Good luck – PJH

    Reply
  36. Sheryl in WA

    I have a question. If I were forming this in a brotform would I divide the dough in two or would this be considered a single loaf recipe? I have two forms; one is an 8″ round and the other is about a 9.5″X 6″ oval. I thought the recipe was too large to put the entire amount in either form, but now I’m not sure. And, does the dough need to rise all the way to the top of the form?

    I’d definitely divide it in half, Sheryl. How much should it rise? Till it’s noticeably puffy. Can’t tell you exactly how far up the brotform, but it should rise enough that it expands and starts to fill the brotform, but not so much that it becomes too delicate and deflates when you turn it out. You’ll have to experiment on this one – as with so many yeast breads. Remember – yeast bread is as much about the journey as it is the destination. Good luck – PJH

    Reply
  37. Liliana Szachury

    Hello:
    I am sorry, I think I didn’t ask the correct question before, but, I would like to know if there is any difference kneading the extra tangy sourdough by hand or in a stand mixer? for you what is better? which one gives you more volume when it is baked?

    Hi Liliana – We’ve tested hand kneading vs. mixer vs. bread machine, and the bread machineyields the most volume, followed by stand mixer, with hand kneading lowest volume. PJH

    Reply
  38. Liliana Szachury

    Hi PJH:
    Thanks a lot for your answer!!! you are a nice person and baker!!! so, in the next extra tangy sourdough bread I will use the stand mixer with the hook, I don’t have bread machine and I normally knead the dough by hand, and then I will tell you my results!!! have a nice day!!!!

    Reply
  39. Sheryl in WA

    Well, I made the two loaves and they actually turned out beautifully!! Sadly they weren’t as sour as I would have liked. When I first got my started my first loaf was fabulous, very tangy and the perfect amount of true sourdough taste. All my subsequent loaves, while good, haven’t been close to that first perfect loaf. So, is it that I’m not using it often enough, does it need to be refreshed regularly in order to maintain that true sourdough flavor? I could try adding the citric acid as suggested, but I’d really like to succeed in getting that taste without artificial intervention. Any thoughts?

    Sheryl, it’s not really the starter that controls the sourness of the bread; it’s how you treat the dough. Try letting your dough rest overnight in the fridge, and your shaped loaf rest overnight in the fridge. The more time you chill your dough, the more acetic acid (as opposed to milder lactic acid) forms, the more sour your loaf will be. PJH

    Reply
  40. Sheryl in WA

    Thanks PJ! I didn’t do the shaped loaves overnight. I’ll try that next time. They are still delicious!

    Reply
  41. bakercyclist

    Wow, how did you know I was feeling guilty about not using my sourdough starter? It’s been about a month since I used it last. I bake bread every weekend, about 3 or 4 loaves so we can have bread for the week. I HAD been baking a sourdough loaf amongst my other favorites but recently I’ve been going all experimental and trying lots of new things and, well, I’ve DEFINITELY neglected my mother…I was feeling guilty about it and worried that it was most likely bad by now but after reading your entry plus all of the above posts I feel more confident! Thanks for all the good advice!

    Reply
  42. zorra

    The final dough is now rising in my kitchen. I’m looking forward to see the result. Thank you for this very informative step-by-step instruction.

    Reply
  43. Dana

    I just purchased KAF’s starter and have a few questions. Several people mentioned using it to make pizza or calzones. What recipe are they using for the dough? Also, is there a good recipe for whole wheat sourdough bread? I make KAF’s 100% whole wheat bread recipe every week and love it. It makes the best toast. It would be nice to try something similar using the starter.

    Dana, assume your sourdough starter is half water, half flour, and go from there. You could substitute 1 cup of starter for 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup water in any of your recipes. Experiment – it’s fun! And search on “sourdough” at kingarthurflour.com/recipes. You’ll find quite a few things to try. Enjoy – PJH

    Reply
  44. breadchick

    And that is exactly what I love about a good starter. You can forget it in the back of the fridge and a little TLC later still have an excellent loaf of sourdough bread, mild or fully leaded.

    Reply
  45. Liliana Szachury

    Hi:
    I am so happy!!! yestarday I baked the sourdough bread and yes!!! thanks to you “PJH” it came out of the oven too much better!!! I put the bread on the preheated pizza stone, with the preheated Cast Iron pan below, boiling water, and of course I kneaded the dough in the mixer, so, was like I did’nt believe I made this bread!!! beautiful and the color was amazing, the texture and looks like I gave the step to the next level!!! and all it’s for your advices so, thanks a lot “PJH”!!!!

    Reply
  46. Dana

    I made this recipe and the bread was wonderful. I mixed it in my bread machine and must have some super yeast…the loaves rose in half the time mentioned in the recipe. I am wondering if anyone has added Hi Maize to this to add some fiber? How much should I add in place of the flour? Thank you for your help!

    Dana, breads kneaded in the bread machine often rise much more quickly, as the machine does such a thorough job of kneading. You could add Hi-maize – I’d start with 1/4 of the flour, then go up from there if you like the results. Enjoy – PJH

    Reply
  47. MarieJ

    Thanks to KAF for such a wonderful, informative site! Mark Wisecarver, thanks for your great blogs! I’d love to hear your Sourdough Pizza recipe. Have you been to http://www.thefreshloaf.com? This is where I found the invaluable KAF link. We’d love to hear your recipe.
    Cheers to all.
    And thank you to everyone for their help.

    Reply
  48. highheat

    I have kept a starter alive using KA instructions, i.e. 1 cup flour and 1/2 cup water. However, in reading Hamelman book, “Bread”, he keeps it at 125%, i.e. 1/2 cup of flour and 3/8 cup of water. What is the best recipe to keep the starter and is there a difference in how each works in the recipe?

    Sourdough is so very flexible. There’s no “best” way – it’s what you prefer, what works best. Please don’t think you have to follow recipes exactly, where sourdough is concerned; there are far too many variables. Everyone’s kitchen/home/community is different, so there’s no telling what will work for YOU. Experiment – that’s the byword for sourdough. PJH

    Reply
  49. Jeri

    I’ve just got my KA starter fed and put to chill for the first time. Like others, I hated tossing out starter, so I took the last “toss out” (at the “give to a friend” step), added it to a cup of KA pizza blend, some KA pizza dough flavor, about 3/4 tsp salt and 1 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil….whisked it up, let it sit for a half hour, then rolled it out on parchment and baked it ala “Now and Later” pizza. It puffed up and had to be deflated. I made the pizza about four hours later and it was a pretty darned tasty crust. So go ahead and experiment with your waste starter…you might discover something great!

    Well done, Jeri – Experimentation is the mother of GOOD THINGS TO EAT! PJH

    Reply
  50. gloria buckles

    i purchared my sourdough starder in april 1952 in my home town of carmel ca. when i got married and have used the same starter ever since and have enjoyed using it. my family think it is just wonderfull every time i useit.

    Reply
  51. Mari

    Has anyone tried growing a starter using the “instant” starter LA-4 for French Soudough that KA sells? I don’t mean a new starter each time I make a loaf, but a mother that lives and grows and needs to be fed–getting older and tangier as time goes by. It seems like a great source of just the right bacteria–why not age it a little like a young wine?
    I used the LA-4 as instructed to make 2 loaves. In spite of my cold kitchen (61) and the blizzard outside for three days, the bread was great. But I’d love to build on the flavor a bit and it’s the wrong season to go looking for organic grapes and wild yeast.
    Suggestions? Recipes?

    Mari, just take a bit of the dough when you make an LA-4 bread, and use it to start your starter – feed with with equal parts flour and water, and build it that way. Doesn’t mean it’ll retain that flavor – all starters gradually adapt themselves to your own micro-climate. But it’ll be a fun experiment – PJH

    Reply
  52. Mari

    Thanks, PJH. I’ve begun to do that. But ooops, I wasn’t paying attention, and I built my sponge with too much flour–12.75oz instead of 8.5oz. The sponge is very stiff. Should I let it ferment as it is, or add some of the water that is to go in to dough later? I’m using the KA Lalvain du Jour recipe–so I’ve got 1/4 tsp starter, the mistaken 12.75oz flour, and 8oz of water in the sponge thus far. When it’s time to make the dough, it calls for 6oz of water. Maybe I should add some of that now??
    The sun came out, the two feet of snow melted, my kitchen’s up to a sweltering 69degrees—it distracted me!!

    Mari, a stiff sponge will work fine, methinks – it’s just stiff, not dry and flaky, right? Don’t bother trying to force water into it now – just see how it goes, I think it’ll be good. PJH

    Reply
  53. Mari

    Mmmm, you’re right PJH. It smells yummy this morning. It’s not dry and flaky either, there is clearly life! Thanks for the advice.

    Reply
  54. Deborah Ronchi

    Thank you for giving me courage to look under the lid!! I will make it up to the starter with these loaves!!

    Your starter (and sourdough bread aficionados) will thank you, Deborah – PJH

    Reply
  55. Mari

    HI PJH, the bread I made after I added too much flour to the Lalvain du Jour French Sourdough starter turned out fine. When I converted the starter to a dough, I just added the smaller amount of flour that I should have used.
    Now, my new question. Remembering that I’m using KA’s recipe for Lalvain du Jour French Sourdough (but I used 2oz of rye this time for a slightly stronger flavor,) is anyone struggling with the transition from couche or bannetone to the peel and hot stone? The first time around I used a very well floured bannetone, but it still stuck, and there was slight deflation as it went onto the parchmented peel. The second time (today) I tried a heavily floured dish towel, and the sticking was much worse.
    Plus, this raw dough likes to s-p-r-e-a-d if it’s not supported, so right away on the peel I’ve lost some height even if it hadn’t deflated some! Although I like baking it on a fiery hot stone, I’m wondering if I should be giving it that last rise and baking it in some kind of oven-ready pan. Would the crust be less crunchy? Would I get better oven spring? It’s VERY crunchy, so a little less crunchy would be okay, but not much. And big would be great!
    Thanks again!

    It sounds like you have 2 things going on. First, your description of your dough sounds like it is too wet. Even with precision measurement, dough consistency must be determined and adjusted by hand. If the dough is so wet to adhere to a well floured banneton, it is too wet. You will need to either add a bit of flour or a little less water at the final dough. Next, a collapsing loaf at transfer may be an indication of being over risen. I suggest checking the rising loaf with the “dimple” test. To test the process of the rise, press your index finger into the side of the loaf. If the loaf holds the dimple, it is ready. If it pushes the dimple out, it will need more time. If the loaf deflates, it is over risen and will require delicate handling at transfer. Baking in a loaf pan will definitely change the loaf, as you will be baking at a lower temperature. Frank @ KAF.

    Reply
  56. Mari

    An added note–I’m not clueless. I did see above that you did the last rise on parchment on the peel. But I have that s-p-r-e-a-d-i-n-g problem. And I had read somewhere that the parchment will get soggy and the stick to the hot stone??

    Once you corerct your dough consistency and rising times, I think this will be much less of an issue. As for the parchement; I have never experienced this. Parchment is non-stick on both sides. As soon as the paper hits the preheated hot stone, any moisture vaporizes. Frank @ KAF.

    Reply
  57. Mari

    Thank you Frank. I think you’re right. I’ve been careful about weighing the flour and water, but I’m not positive my scale is accurate (I’ll check that out today!) , and I’d heard that wet was better than dry, so I’ve tried to err on the wet side. Plus, over-rising is likely an issue too–I do like the look of a fat loaf. So I think I’ll try again with those goals in mind. I’ve been careless about that final rise and checking it with the dimple test. Plus, I live at 7300ft, so even with plenty of retarding and a chilly (61 to 65degree) room temp, dough usually likes to rise once it warms up. Plus, I’ll try the parchment with the slightly drier loaf. Thanks again!

    Reply
  58. Dave Thomas

    I made my first E-T sourdough bread slavishly following the recipt (I think) and have the following comments: it is really sourdough, but not terrably tangy. The crust was not as crisp as expected. I took one loaf out at 20 minutes on a stone and about 197 F internal temp. The crumb looked great, but was soft – almost moist – and the crust was pale. The second loaf came out at 25 minutes and about 208 F internal temp. The latter was a little darker and the crumb and crust were better, but still not entirely crisp. In executing the receipt, I did need to add about 4 Tbls. extra water to absorbe all of the flour into the dough. Both loaves make excellent toast. Any suggestions how I can produce a crisper loaf with more color in the crust and tang?

    Hi Dave – For more tang, try letting the shaped loaf rise overnight in the fridge. The longer and cooler the rise, the more the tang. However, the longer the rise, the less brown the loaf will get, as the yeast consumes all the sugar, and sugar is critical for browning the crust. So it’s a tradeoff. You could also try adding a bit of citric acid for additional tang, as suggested. As for crisp crust, let the bread cool right in the turned-off oven – just prop the oven door open a couple of inches, and put the loaf right on the oven rack. That should help – Keep at it – you’ll get there! PJH

    Reply
  59. Mari

    Hi Dave, I wanted more tangy sourdough as well. For my KA recipe (Lalvain du Jour) substituting a 1/2 cup rye flour when I made the starter worked to do that for me. Plus, as PJ suggested to you, I also do the overnight in the fridge. I’ve had no problem with browning or crispness. Have you double-checked your oven temps?

    Reply
  60. Dana

    I substituted 3/4 cup of Hi-maize in place of flour with good results. The texture is a little different, more like regular bread with few holes. The next change I make will be to substitute some white whole wheat flour.

    Reply
  61. crystal

    I was soo excited when i saw this recipe. Indeed my start has been sitting neglected in the back of my fridge for months and months, and was excited to start baking again.

    but.. i must have done something wrong. The dough turned into a horrid stick mess that never once resembled dough as much as a semi-liquid goo. I can’t figure out what went wrong, except that i use a potato based starter which has considerably more liquid than flour based?

    Sounds like you needed more flour, Crystal. Or, if your starter was overly acidic, it could have actually destroyed the gluten… PJH

    Reply
  62. Larry Turner

    I am keeping your starter alive and well. Would you consider 1/2 cup of water and 1 cup flour 100% hydration – as I do it by a scale, i.e. 4 ounces each.? One other question, once in France I tasted Pain De Campagne, a sour white/whole wheat mix with a wonderful old world flavor. However, the recipe calls for developing a whole wheat starter. Is there a shortcut in getting a whole wheat starter from our active white starter?

    If you feed your starter with whole wheat flour, it will convert quickly. Yes, 4 ounces of each. Frank @ KAF.

    Reply
  63. Beckie

    I usually feed my sourdough and let it rise overnight, because I prefer it to be sour. What I’ve found is that I have a dough that rises higher if I use the starter when it is very bubbly, fairly early in its development. If I want the bread to be very sour, I wait until the bubbling is about gone and the starter has gone back down in the jar and looks like it needs fed again. However, this bread tends to be much denser. I’ve never heard of the multiple feedings you recommend, but I’m going to try it with my next feeding. And, I’m going to try several of your sourdogh recipes. THANKS!

    Beckie, you sound like a seasoned sourdough baker. Thanks for the good advice about higher rise/more sour bread. I didn’t know that – nice to hear from an expert! PJH

    Reply
  64. Meffy

    “if your starter was overly acidic, it could have actually destroyed the gluten”

    Hi, PJH. Do you know what range of acidity would be normal for starter, and what would be safe/appropriate maximum and minimum? I have a variety of Hydrion indicator papers with resolutions of 0.2 to 0.1 pH units across the range of substances ordinarily encountered in a kitchen.

    No, sorry, Meffy, I don’t know. But you could email jeffrey.hamelman@kingarthurflour.com. He’s our master baker and a sourdough expert, and I’m betting he could tell you what that Hydrion indicator should read. Or, anyone else chime in here who likes – can you help Meffy with a number here? PJH

    Reply
  65. Ellen

    Hi, I am having recent difficulty with my starter and am hoping you can help. I have made dough from my starter 5-6 times and it came out wonderful. The last two times I was unable to get KAF and had to use what was available at the store which was bleached all purpose flour. With this flour my dough is very sticky and needs a lot of additional flour. Usually I knead my dough 5 mins. in the kitchenaid and 5 mins. by hand. With this recent dough I am finding it very difficult to do the kneading by hand without adding a lot of flour. Also, my loaves are not browning as well as they did before and they are not rising well. It looks as if the dough flopped a bit in the center.

    What should I do to get my starter back in shape? I am getting some KAF to feed it with today. Should I alter the proportions of the flour/water?

    I appreciate any help you can give. Thanks!

    Ah, Ellen, bleach and cheap wheat – it’s a combination that’s guaranteed to give you trouble! If your starter seems very soupy and thin, use 2/3 cup (King Arthur) flour and 1/3 cup water for a couple of feedings, till it’s back to the texture you prefer. It should be fine again soon. PJH

    Reply
  66. Ulrike

    Hi, I had to toss my starter which I have had over 20 years, it smelled bad, had a funny color and looked dead!
    How can I make my own or do I have to go to a healthfood store to get a starter?
    I have been baking bread for a long time and like to get back into it.

    Check out the first two recipes here, Ulrike – both are direcitons for making your own starter from scratch. Good luck! PJH

    Reply
  67. Larry

    In the recipe you use sugar. Is it to make sure the starter is well “fed”? If so could we not subsitute with Diastitic malt? If so, how much to use and what other differences would we expect? Thanks for the great picctures and ideas in making this bread.

    Yes, the sugar is to give the starter readily available food. Diastatic malt powder has enzymes that convert the starch in flour into sugar, giving the yeast “fast food”. Diastatic malt powder is not food for the yeast in and of itself, it’s just a helper. Frank @ KAF.

    Larry, just leave the sugar out, if you object to it. The yeast will manage to forage around and find food. Or substitute an equal amount of NON-diastatic malt or barley malt syrup, if you prefer. PJH

    Reply
  68. Mari

    You’ve made my day! Not because of your insight and wisdom about all-things-sourdough, but because your baking stone looks just as bad as mine! I was sure I was the only one in the baking world with a stone that was covered with black stains from where the pizza toppings went flying off the TOP of the pizza and onto the searing hot stone the first time I used it. Ever since then, those black marks have been a thorn in my side. Now I realize, it just means I’m a BAKER. Thanks–for sharing your photos AND for your insight and wisdom.

    Welcome to the club, fellow baker! Irene at KAF

    Mari, I believe in TIB: Truth in Baking. We ALL make messes in the kitchen. Why pretend otherwise? What you see in this blog is what the test kitchen truly looks like: equipment, counters, ovens, tools, etc. Why not? We’re all prone to fumble fingers. And turning the mixer on high by mistake when it’s full of cocoa and flour… :) PJH

    Reply
  69. Ellen

    Hi there,

    My bread is wonderful, lovely color, nice rise – can’t keep it in the house. The only thing I am not getting is the large air holes. What helps them form? Would the slower method without yeast help, or does it have to do with the surrounding temperature while rising, or would adding citric acid help? Please advise.

    Also, I love your blog. You empower and inspire people to have fun and experiment. I never feel overwhelmed when I read your advice. Thanks!

    And thank you for the kind words, Ellen. Usually, a slacker (wetter) dough produces larger holes. Try making the dough a bit softer/stickier; kneading a bit less; and rising a bit more, see how that works. Report back! PJH

    Reply
  70. Ellen

    Hi PJ,

    I will try making the dough a bit wetter. I am always a bit nervous when it seems too wet, so I add flour. I will try to resist.

    Another question, lately when I slice my bread it deflates. I try to do it swiftly, but the dough still seems to flop. It does recover in the oven, but my loaves don’t seem as high as they used to be. Any suggestions?

    Thanks,
    Ellen

    Ellen, don’t let your loaves rise quite as high before baking. If they don’t recover in the oven, after being slashed, it’s because they were over-risen. So try letting them rise maybe 20-30 minutes less than you ordinarily would – see if that helps. Good luck – PJH

    Reply
  71. John

    Thank you! I, too, have neglected my chef. It is great to know I can recover!
    Here is my problem: my bread tends to be very doughy after cooking. I don’t know if I am not cooking it long enough, the temperature of the stove is incorrect, I am adding too much flour, or what. Any advice?

    Sounds like too “cool” an oven and not baking it long enough, John. Perhaps also too fat a loaf. Try shaping an oval rather than round loaf; 425°F. Also, an instant-read thermometer will assure you when your bread is done – at the center, it should read at least 190°F, to avoid doughiness. Good luck – PJH

    Reply
  72. Yvonne

    I love making sourdough bread and everyone seems to enjoy eating it. I often make rolls, freeform, and put them in the freezer for a quick addition to a meal or for a sandwich.

    Question about making ET Sourdough Bread. The recipe calls for “fed” starter to be mixed with flour and water and sit for 4 hours. Does the “fed” starter need to sit for at least 4 hours as well (per feeding instructions) before using in this recipe? Thanks for your help.

    Yes, Yvette, you should feed your dormant (refrigerated) starter, and let it grow for 4 hours; then mix with flour and water and let it grow again. Since there’s no added yeast in this loaf, you need to give it a good long time to grow on its own. And the longer it grows, the higher the rise, the better the flavor. Good luck – PJH

    Reply
  73. AmyEmilia

    My KA sourdough starter (in it’s lovely crock) has been abandoned in the back of the fridge for almost a year I think. I finally had the courage to look at it tonight. It has no liquid at all, but doesn’t smell bad and looks grey. What should I do? Is it beyond repair?

    I’d say feed it and see what happens. Sounds like the gray liquid (alcohol) has simply been absorbed. If it comes back to life, great; if not – well, time to start over… Good luck – PJH

    Reply
  74. Connie

    I received my starter this week and made two loaves of bread. I took out the cup when it said to discard or give to a friend. I couldn’t throw it away, so I let it sit out awhile until it nearly doubled and then I refrigerated it. It’s been about 4 days, can I use that cup for waffles?

    Absolutely, Connie – go for it – PJH

    Reply
  75. Megan

    I am relatively new to bread baking…I did it as a child with my grandmother when we spent summers with her. After she passed away this year I decided to start baking bread on my own. After trying a few recipes (with success! yay!) I thought I would attempt sourdough. That is how I found the KA website. I have since been reading EVERYTHING on your site day and night. I am completely addicted. I started my own starter (your recipe) and after it stewed on the counter for the longest week ever, I made the Extra Tangy Sourdough. I used the “experiment” you suggested in the comments on the recipe’s page and let one loaf rise and bake right away, and the other was put in the refridgerator overnight. The first loaf was delicious, it was gone in minutes. The other loaf, the next day, was even better. I now always put my loaves in the fridge overnight. The sour flavor is much more intense. I am also still mastering the art of slashing the dough…and finding which of my knives will do the best job. Although this bread takes 3 days (by the method I mentioned above) it is well worth the wait and the planning.

    As a side note: I really appreciate the feedback you all give to the comments and questions people leave. Most sites that I have found don’t do that and it not only makes me feel personally connected to KAF, but I get so much useful advice, since many of us have the same questions, etc.
    THANKS!!!!

    Thanks for connecting, Megan. Isn’t bread-baking a fascinating journey? And one with a delicious destination, to boot. It was a revelation to me, too, to see the difference when you refrigerate sourdough. Bake on! PJH

    Reply
  76. Joan

    I also have neglected the starter that a friend gave me 4 months ago. When I add the water to renew and later to feed my starter, what temperature should the water be? I used cold water and am waiting to see if my starter is still good. . watching for bubble action (:

    Cold water’s fine, Joan – it’ll just take longer. Don’t worry; next time, when you use warm (not hot) water, it’ll all happen faster, that’s all. PJH

    Reply
  77. Jody-Kate Fisher Harrison

    When I left WA State for Tennessee nearly a decade ago, I found it necessary to leave my beloved sourdough starter behind. A few years after settling here, I sent for another portion of your Classic Sourdough Starter to begin again.

    Well, that “begin” part was put on hold for I just don’t know how long. Years, anyway. I found the starter in a jumble of pantry stuff last month, and only now have dared to take a peek/sniff…

    Hey there, Baby — it looks okay to me! The small amount of liquid is brown, not pink. The aroma is nice and sour, nothing offensive about it. Could it be possible that this starter is still safe to use, despite my frivolous ways?

    Thanks in advance,

    Jody-Kat

    If it has been laying about for “years” pitch it. Frank @ KAF.

    Reply
  78. annie

    Thanks for this! My starter has been languishing in the back of the fridge for quite a while, mostly forgotten. Cleaning out the refrigerator today, I decided something must be done with it. Glad to know I can still use it! It’s still good….Just neglected. I do have a question, though…..You say to refrigerate the starter after you add the 3 cups of flour. What about after you initially feed the starter, just after pouring off that briney browny liquid? Do you let it sit out for several hours? Maybe I should know this answer…..Thanks!

    Annie, you can go ahead and refrigerate it right away if you’re in a hurry, and not planning on using it in a recipe. But it would be nice to let it sit out at room temperature and start to get bubbly again, before you refrigerate it. Giving starter both regular food AND warmth is always beneficial. Let it sit till you see some bubbles; that way you know it’s alive and kickin’. Good luck – PJH

    Reply
  79. Candace

    BAD MOMMIE here!! I received the Classic Starter and due to many things going on..I forgot to take care of the initial feeding. When I finally remembered, I was unable to find the instructions and turned to your site for instructions. I missed the tab “Education”, but did find you on Facebook. I was unable to find the right instructions for the baby starter, but did find some information. This is what I did.
    Stirred in the mixture in the plastic container. Poured it into a bowl and added 1 C. flour and half Cup warm water. It sat for hours on the counter. I then added 1.5 C warm water and 3 C Flour. I know this is not the correct proportions. Can you tell me what I need to add to get it in the right proportions? BTW, it is rising as it should. Also, I put it in a metal bowl. Does this cause a problem and if so..what should I do?

    Thanks,
    Candace
    Starters are quite hardy and since your starter is bubbling it is now quite happy. There are great instructions with wonderful pictures under the Educations tab and then tips and primers. The ratios you have been feeding your starter are good but usually you discard some of your starter so you do not need to keep it going with such large quanties of flour and your starter will not need as much space in your refrigerator. We suggest you use a glass or ceramic container with a loose fitting lid for storing between. And when you are working with your starter a glass or ceramic bowl is best. Metal bowls may cause a reaction with the starter so we do not recommend the use of them. Joan D@bakershotline

    Reply
  80. JohnP

    I’ve just started to use the KA Sourdough Starter.

    Is there a “correct” consistency that the starter should be in the crock?

    Mine is very sticky … making it a bit difficult to measure out a cup at a time.
    We have excellent care instructions on our site with this information.
    http://www.kingarthurflour.com/tips/sourdough-tips.html Joan D @ bakershotline.

    Hi John,
    Yes, the starter is quite sticky, gooey in texture. That’s normal, and you’re right, it makes it a bit harder to deal with. Using the edge of a spoon to “cut” the starter helps, or I like to use a cookie or ice cream scoop. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  81. Han Lam Chau

    I’m fairly new at baking bread. The dough is really sticky. How are you able to handle and shape it? Do you grease your hand or flour the working surface?

    Hi Han – If the dough is REALLY sticky, so you simply can’t work with it, grease your hands and flour the work surface. If it’s just kind of annoyingly tacky, grease your hands AND the work surface (with some non-stick vegetable oil spray). the more flour you work into the dough, the drier the loaf will be, so try to add as little additional flour as possible – within reason. You do need to be able to work with the dough and shape it – good luck! PJH

    Reply
  82. keri

    i have a very neglected starter, but i think it just went dry. it had a hooch-colored thick layer on top which i scraped off. it smells all right and it wasn’t fuzzy like mold.

    it seems okay to use, so i’m going to try to rev it up, but wanted to know if you have an opinion about this.

    i do think that once before this happened, and i just scraped it off (as it wasn’t pink nor orange) and as the starter was very thick, felt that it was just thick, dry starter or parts of the dried starter from the sides of the container that fell into the mix and never quite rehydrated.

    any words of advice are truly welcomed.

    Feed it a few times, Keri (waiting the requisite time between feedings) – it might take more than once to get it going again. But if it just looks sad and dry (not with a layer of foul-smelling pinkish/orange liquid on top,), it should be fine. I’ve seen sourdough revived from just a single fingernail-sized bit of dry starter scraped from a bowl… Good luck! PJH

    Reply
  83. keri

    it perked right back up. i think it just gets dry in the fridge and feel much more comfortable about it now. thank you so much for your advice.

    Reply
  84. deszlinde

    I am new to bread baking and wanted to try sourdough bread. I have tried both the extra tangy sour dough bread and the whole wheat sourdough with sunflower seeds and cracked wheat. In both cases I weighed out the ingredians. My dough was so sticky I could hardly handle it. Both breads came out fairly flat. The ET bread did have a good flavor and texture. The whole wheat bread also had a good texture but the bread seamed very moist when it was sliced. The internal temperature was 210F when I removed it from the oven. I know humidity can be a concern but in this case it was a relatively dry day. Any suggestions for the sticky dough?

    dave

    Hi, Dave. Everything you describe here indicates too much moisture in the dough (the fact that it was so sticky and wet even after baking). It’s possible your starter was very much on the liquid side, instead of a pancake batter consistency, and that would have thrown off the proportions of liquid to flour in the recipe. Susan

    Reply
  85. elittle9381

    Hi folks, I started one sourdough batch in October of 07 using KAF’s All Purpose white and water and let it sit on the counter for three days. Started with 3 cups flour and about 1 1/2 c. water. Each day of the three I added another cup of flour and one of water. I had a bucket full when I was done so had to give some to a couple of my kids. I named him Snidely Whiplash after the old Bullwinkle cartoon. Been using him a couple of times a week ever since.

    Then I started another one in December of 08 using KSF Whole Wheat flour. Named that dude Dudley Dooright and he also get a workout twice a week.

    i love the fact that they became active from just absorbing the yeast out of the air! Love the forum and all the comments.

    Reply
  86. dwhebh

    I have used your sourdough starter and other KA products for several years. I have a question about rising sourdough bread made with the KA recipe which includes yeast. I get an incredible amount of rising in the first rising (before forming the loaves) but not nearly as much as I think I should during the second rise after the loaves are formed and in the pans. Since it is rising so much the first round, I know the yeast is alive. Am I letting it rise too long/too much on the first rise? Also, I don’t get any “oven spring” with my loaves.

    Despite that, the bread always tastes good and always gets eaten!

    When you shape dough into loaves you are “de-gassing” the dough and forcing it to start it’s rise all over again. This will take time. I would recommend using a long, cool rise to improve your loaf volume. After you’ve shaped the dough, cover it lightly with plastic wrap and place it in your refrigerator overnight (or 8-10 hours) then bake the loaf the next day. This longer cooler rise will give your dough time to grow and should improve your oven spring! kelsey@KAF

    Reply
  87. anne1313

    Is there any place where you have a “chat” location? You know just where people can sign in and chat with whomever is signed in and can talk about the different recipes or other things with each other?
    Thanks.
    Just me!
    Anne
    Hi Anne,
    We don’t have a live group chat feature at this time, but we hope you’ll join in the community discussions. They cover a lot of difference ground every time I look at them! ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  88. tkacarvewood59

    i’ve seen various messages about bread machine sourdough was wondering how much starter and process thank you

    I’d say use any sourdough recipe; make the dough in the machine; then take it out, and follow the recipe for the remainder of the rising, shaping and baking. Sourdough generally takes lots of long rises to reach its full potential; it’s not something that translates easily to bread machine baking. PJH

    Reply
  89. Sourdough baker giving up

    I don’t know what to do anymore – any advice would be helpful. I have tried and tried and all I can ever accomplish is flat sourdough saucers. My dough never slashes right – just pulls – and I end up with flat useless bread. I have followed these recipes to the “T” time and time again and all I’m doing is wasting flour and time. My starter is fine – it bubbles, it smells good, it’s alive. The dough appears thick and not very sticky. It doubles during the first rise, it spreads during the second. I’ve tested using the dimple method. I spray, wait, and slash. I’ve used serrated knives and sharp non-serrated ones. I’m losing hope. Please help!

    Don’t give up! The bakers on our Baker’s Hotline are ready to talk you through this, and I’m sure they can figure out what’s happening. Call us: 802-649-3717. Help is on the way! PJH

    Reply
  90. ewoolley13

    If you wanted a less sour loaf, could you not refrigerate the starter overnight?

    For a less sour loaf, use more yeast, and let the dough/loaf rise less; it’s not really the starter so much that controls the degree of sourness in the finished bread, it’s more how you let the dough rise… PJH

    Reply
  91. prego_cook

    LOVED reading through this whole entire thread! Getting ready to try to revive my poor starter that’s been neglected….. i thought it was hopeless but it looks good and so this will be my goal for 2012! i’m sure i’ll be back for help!

    very impressive the time and commentary from the experts here! i especially like the toll-free emergency hotline! LOL!

    Happy New Year!

    Thanks for the sourdough reminder – now I’m going home to tend to my back-of-the-fridge-and-forgotten-during-the-holidays starter as well! Irene @ KAF

    Reply
  92. Ann

    I made this last time with the one cup of discard rather than fed starter and it was good – was that a fluke?

    Ann: not a fluke! Your starter must be very healthy, though! Many recipes have better rises with starters that are ready-to-go and very active. The “Feed & Proceed” approach just ensures the starter is vigorous enough to leaven the dough, whereas just using the discard might not be enough. Glad it worked out for you! Kim@KAF

    Reply
  93. Ann

    Thanks. I have another question. Once I remove a cup of discard and feed my starter, that is now a ‘fed’ starter. But if I put it back in the fridge for a few days or a week – is it still ‘fed’ or do I need to remove another cup and feed again? I fed mine on Sunday, let it sit out for the day, and then put it back in the fridge –

    Once you feed your starter, Ann, it’s “fed” until you put it back in the fridge and it becomes dormant again – at which point, if you need fed starter, you need to take it out and feed it again. That said, you can certainly use the starter without feeding it; it’ll simply be less active, and your bread will take longer to rise. Good luck with your sourdough baking – it’s fun, isn’t it? PJH

    Reply
  94. charles ruffing

    My neglected sourdough, (several weeks) developed a moldy top. What is that? If I discard it, can I refeed, and will it survive.
    What is the difference between “fed” and “unfed”?
    If sourdough doesn’t bubble, is it still useable?

    Charles, if after feeding your sourdough several times in a couple of days, and keeping it warm, it still doesn’t bubble, it should be discarded; it’s dead. As for a moldy top – depends what you mean by moldy. If it had a grayish-black liquid or coating on top, just pour or scrape it off and continue. It it was pinkish, or had what you identified as actively growing mold (spongy looking, mushroom-y looking), then it would be best to discard your starter and begin again. A fed sourdough starter is one that’s been fed within 8 hours or so of you using it; it’ll be actively bubbly. An unfed starter is one that hasn’t been fed in awhile, long enough that it’s no longer actively bubbly. Hope this helps – PJH

    Reply
  95. William Teagardin

    Disappointment

    Last Friday I received my KAF Sourdough starter and following the insert instructions began the resurrection process. This was complete late Saturday afternoon and I began the recipe for the “Extra-Tangy” bread. The “mix” was more difficult to handle than I anticipated. After the overnight in the fridge I added the final two cups of flour, salt, and sugar. This resulted in a dough that was dry and crumbly so I added a little more water and put it down for it’s 5hr rise. After this I had 3 lbs of dough that was easy to handle and form into loaves.
    The final rise and baking went well although the final loaves were a little smaller than I had expected.
    When the loaves had cooled I sliced one and found the finest grain most uniform crumb I had ever baked. It was enough to make wonder bread jealous.
    I had been expecting something a little more rustic. The disappointing part was the taste. It was delicious bland white bread with no hint whatsoever of sourdough. Where did I go wrong?
    BTW what is “room temperature” ? My kitchen stays at 64º F year round except for a few days in the summer when it might get to 72º. Yesterday I resorted to using my oven with the internal lights left on as a “proof box”. This got the temp up to about 75º. Seemed to work OK but when it came time to preheat, the dough was out on the cool counter. Any ideas on how to increase the Tang or put the Sour back into the Dough ?
    William

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      It sounds like there was a measurement issue when you were making your dough. If you measured your flour by volume then this was likely the culprit! We suggest the following method for measuring your flour by volume for all King Arthur recipes. Jon@KAF

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