A friend of mine has been baking the most gorgeous sourdough bread for a few years. Last summer she gifted Brian a loaf, and although I’m gluten intolerant, she mentioned real sourdough might be okay for me to eat since the process happens through a long, natural fermentation, which “eats” much of the gluten proteins.
I did some research myself and found hope in several reports, and especially this one by Michael Pollan, stating that sourdough fermentation allows bacteria to fully break down the carbohydrates and gluten in bread. This makes it easier to digest and releases the nutrients within it, allowing our bodies to more easily absorb them.
The curiosity in me resulted in slicing a piece and eating it. And then another slice. And another. With absolutely none of the symptoms I typically get from eating gluten.
Two weeks later I was in Canada and tried real sourdough again to make sure it wasn’t a fluke, and no issues – again! I felt great. So happy to have real bread in my life again. *EVERY PERSON IS DIFFERENT THOUGH, SO CONSULT YOUR DOCTOR IF YOU HAVE CONCERNS.
It was a breakthrough, life changing in fact. To think that not only could I eat sourdough, but also explore the practice of bread making. However, I was intimidated to start. I’d heard stories of traveling with a sourdough starter to keep it alive, flour/water ratios, scientific baking words that I had no clue about, oven techniques, etc. But it really doesn’t have to be that complicated, as I’ll teach you.
I acquired sourdough starter from a friend in dried out form, to rehydrate and start feeding. Less than a week later I had a bubbly mixture of flour and water, rising and falling naturally. The time came to make my first loaf, and although I felt unsure the whole time, it WORKED!
I firmly believe that anyone can bake sourdough bread. You don’t need to have years of baking experience, nor understand scientific terms. You don’t need an abundance of cooking tools or a special oven. All you need is flour, water, salt, and patience…. they do all the work for you.
You can BUY MY SOURDOUGH STARTER HERE! – and I will ship it you in the mail, with instructions for feeding and maintaining it so you can bake amazing bread. Cost is $12.
I find the best way to keep a healthy starter is using unbleached, organic all-purpose flour. Because all-purpose flour has a medium protein percentage, it is easier to stir and work into your dough than say, bread flour. Organic all-purpose flour is also less expensive than organic bread flour, and you don’t need the added strength.
If you get a starter from someone else that has been fed with a different flour, you should continue feeding it that way. So if that’s rye, you should feed it rye. If it’s all-purpose, you should feed it all-purpose.
Yes, the water quality does matter. Make sure to use filtered water instead of that from tap, as this may have chemicals or bacteria that you don’t want harboring in your bread.
The best temperature for a sourdough starter to thrive is around 73 degrees. I usually put my in the highest shelf in my cabinet, as I know it’s warmer there. If it’s cooler in your house, that’s okay, just know it will take longer to peak.
The day before I bake my Everyday Sourdough recipe, I feed it every 12 hours to really get it activated. Some sources will say that you need to feed it the same amount of water and flour, as the starter weighs. That means if your starter weighs 100 grams, you’ll feed it 100 grams water and 100 grams flour. I ended up with way too much excess starter that way, and found it still performed well when feeding it a lesser amount. Ultimately, the most important thing is always feeding equal parts flour to water, whatever that number may be.
As soon as you feed it, the yeast and bacteria in your culture will begin to metabolize the sugars found in the flour, creating gasses as a byproduct. These gasses cause the starter to rise through the day and your dough to rise when baked. Once they are no longer viable, the starter falls. Discarding will help to remove much of this exhausted starter and balance the acids, but still keep the culture in the jar to continue growing with the new feedings.
It won’t die! It’s a myth that it needs to be fed every day. Your sourdough starter is resilient. If you’re traveling: Discard as normal and then feed your starter extra, like 100 grams flour and 100 grams water. Place it in refrigerator. It will keep fermenting, but at a much slower pace because of the cold temp. When you return, take it out of the refrigerator and let it warm up on counter for an hour. Then discard half and feed 2x per day leaving it on the counter, for a few days. It will get back to thriving!
That’s a sign of overproofing your sourdough, OR not developing enough strength via “stretch and folds”, which is gently stretching the dough in the air, and folding it over the top of itself during bulk fermentation. Here is a VIDEO I filmed to demonstrate this. For all of my sourdough bread recipes, you’ll do 4 sets of stretch and folds.
9. There are only two of us in the household. Are there small batch recipes out there?
10. I see sources that talk about a “baker’s schedule”. It seems like a lot of planning, and I’m not sure I’m ready to commit to that.
I know that’s a lot of information to digest, but hopefully it helped answer some of your questions. And I’m certainly not an expert. I learn something every time I bake another loaf, still 3 years later!
I will continue to share more topics here and also on Instagram, so be sure to follow me there. And if there is something specific I didn’t get to in this post, leave me a comment and I’ll be sure to answer.
tag @heartbeetkitchen on instagram and hashtag it #heartbeetkitchen
Hi Amanda, I just received your starter today and I was wondering if it’s ok to feed it King Arthur unbleached organic bread flour or do I need to buy all purpose flour?
Hello! You can use bread flour, but I prefer organic all-purpose because it is less expensive. It also has a slightly looser consistency than bread flour because it is in lower in protein, so that makes it easier to mix it into the dough.
Hi can I use spelt flour and what other flour. Thankyou
Yes! Here is my Spelt Sourdough recipe.
I came back from a weekend away and began feeding my starter again, but it hadn’t risen at all. How can I tell if I killed it?
Hi Kathleen! A sourdough starter is actually pretty resilient and would take a lot to kill it. This video will show you how to revive a sluggish sourdough starter, and that should get it back on track!
Thank you! Just watched and will take more active care in the next few days to see if I can get it back on track.
I need more help on how to store my starter in the refrigerator. I live alone and don’t need to bake bread more than once a week. What do I do with the starter after I take it out of the fridge and want to use it?
Hi Marilyn! Here’s a video I put together on storing your starter in the refrigerator. There’s this video, too!
Thanks so much! I watched the videos and they are very helpful. I still have a question about when I take the starter out of the fridge and how soon it is ready to be used? It sounds like I feed it and then wait until the next day?
Hi! You should go through 2 feeding cycles after taking out of fridge, then use.
HI Amanda, I’m a bit confused as to how to increase my starter. I have been doing the basic 40 grams water and 40 grams flour. I want to try the recipe for incorporating rye flour, but it calls for 100 grams of starter. How do I achieve this? Maybe I’m overthinking the process !?!
Hello! You would just feed it a bit more. So next time you discard, feed 60 grams flour, 60 grams water and you’ll have enough for the recipe.
Hiya, GREAT site! Thx! What if your home temp at a minimum is around 78 degrees? Arizona … how much should you alter the times? Thx!
hi Joel! if your house runs warm, everything will move at a faster pace. you’ll want to rely on assessing the dough, rather than time, to know when things are ready or complete.
Hi Amanda,do you have any tips to have more bubbles on your starter and can you use the starter that you took out to make sourdough bread?
I stirred my sourdough starter the second day, will it be ok?
Yes, it will be okay!
Can I use my bread machine to make the sourdough bread?
Unfortunately, sourdough cannot be made in a bread machine.
What if the bread machine says it makes sourdough? Like the Neretva?
It’s not something I would recommend.
Hi Amanda, I’ve been busy baking bread and while it tastes fantastic, it’s a little flat. I think the dough isn’t very strong as it spreads out during the resting phase before shaping it for banneton. Should I do extra stretch and folds to strengthen it?
Hi Emily! It sounds like you might be overproofing, which will cause the dough to lose its strength and spread. Try reducing your bulk fermentation by an hour and see if that helps.
I’ve been enjoying the bread baking process and loving the breads with the all purpose and bread flour recipes from you. Some in my family are asking for a loaf with more sour or tang flavor. I’ve heard of adding rye flour to create a more sour starter.? Also, I use refrigerated filtered water but have heard that it doesn’t filter all the fluoride or other things completely and I’m wondering if that has anything to do with flavor of the starter?
If you’d like your bread to be more sour, do the final rise overnight in the refrigerator. And yes, using rye in your starter will also increase the sour flavor, but I’d try the cold rise first.
I have an enameled 3 1/2″ quart cast iron dutch oven with a lid and I also have an 11″ cast iron skillet with lid. The skillet is 2 1/2″ high, and the lid is also 2 1/2 “. Can I use either of these for baking sourdough bread? Is there a particular recipe I should use that will work in one of these pans? Ii would prefer using the cast iron skillet if it would work.
Hi Belinda! The dutch oven size you have swill work for my all purpose loaf. Either of them should work actually, but I would try the dutch oven first, and when it’s finished cooling, see if the loaf would have had enough clearance inside the skillet with 2 1/2 inch lid.
I am on the second day of activating my starter from you. Can you use the discard right away in something like pancakes or should you wait until it is fully activated and can float?
yep, you can use it right away!
you mentioned above about only feeding it 30 grams of water and 30 grams of flour. About how many grams of starter are you leaving after discard? You said you discard a 1/3 but about how much is left if you are feeding 30 grams of water/flour?
I wanted to try your way since I’ve been feeding equal parts flour and water to starter and I am having too much discard.
does that make sense? Thanks!
Hi Aida! Yes, that makes sense. I keep a small amount of starter, that I do not measure actually. So I just approximate taking out 1/3 and then feed the 30 grams flour and 30 grams water. That keeps my starter at a healthy level, without having too much discard.
I started my starter 3 days ago. The first day I put in 4 oz of AP flour and 4 oz of filtered water and it was a sticky thick dough. The second day I added 4 more oz of flour and water and it was a sticky thick dough, but I didn’t discard any of it because the recipe I was using didn’t say to do that. So the third day when I fed it after mixing it, it wasn’t a thick sticky dough it was more of a liquid that was a little thick but not really that thick. So should I just restart it and discard some of it next time or is there a way I can fix it? Is it too late to start discarding half of it?
You can discard, and feed. Wait about 12 hours then, discard and feed again. The warmer the temp of your home, the easier it is for it is to activate. So keeping the home at least 70 degrees is helpful!
Weekday recipe for me follows:
I start with 2oz. cold starter from the refrigerator at 9PM.
Feed it 3oz. Organic non gmo bread flour and 3oz lukewarm filtered water.
At 5am I mix 24oz flour
12oz lukewarm water
Fold and knead every 10 minutes for an hour.
Cover and let it rise unrefrigerated
Around 5pm I fold it and shape it into a ball and place it in a banneton for 90 minutes.
Bake in a covered clay baker for 30 minutes at 500 degrees farenheit .
Remove cover and bake at 450 until internal temperature is 210 degrees.
Thank you for the detailed notes on how you make your sourdough bread! I love to learn all the different ways, and hear what works best for people.
So excited about this and that you’re enjoying bread again! Hooray Amanda! Your loaves look over the top beautiful. I couldn’t agree more about Emilie’s book… I’ve read so much on the subject and her book is the most approachable by far! Now about that grain grinder 😍🙌🏻
This is a great post Amanda! I’ve been making sourdough for many years, starting with Nancy Silverton’s method, then later the one from Tartine. I also was lucky to reactive some of Emilie’s starter recently and I’m back to the bread making ritual. It really is so satisfying to make a loaf of crusty bread, not to mention a million times more delicious and wholesome than most of what you can buy.
Thanks for this information! I really love sourdough and miss it since going gluten free several years ago. I’m not sure if I’m brave enough to try it gluten again, but maybe rye would be the best way to reintroduce it, since it naturally has less gluten than wheat?
I would also love the recipe for the pancakes you mentioned, but the link isn’t sending me to them, for some reason.
Hi Laura! Yes, I think rye would be a good place to start. A rye starter is similar to creating a regular one. This has a great tutorial for that: https://www.theperfectloaf.com/7-easy-steps-making-incredible-sourdough-starter-scratch/. Also, I fixed the link to the pancakes!
Thanks, Amanda, for all this information! The prospect of having real bread again is exciting, and the pancakes look great! 😊
I am also aiming for a whole rye sourdough loaf. I read that if you add grapes when you make the starter It will have more acetic acid and work better with rye flour. I found the grapes helped my new starter a lot, and now its smells better and it works better on the rye. My recipe is 3rd’s by weight, whole wheat, whole rye, and bread flours. I’m still learning ads I go. But the flavor is there, and the structure is improving with each loaf.
This is so fascinating! I have to say that as a baker, I haven’t EVER tackled a sourdough starter, eek! I feel much less scared to now that I’ve read all these tips!
I think you would love the process! And naturally vegan for you. :)
Thank you SO SO much for these tips! Sourdough bread is one of my favorite breads in the world. Have you had success in trying to make whole wheat or even oat sourdough? I don’t know how they do it, but those seem like really delicious and healthy options. And even if I’m the ONLY one making sourdough bread and end up with a giant loaf, I wouldn’t mind at all. ALL THE BREAD FOR MEEEEEEE! ;)
Yes, I’ll be sharing a whole wheat sourdough recipe later this week!