After you’ve baked with sourdough for some time you will learn all sorts of little tricks for creating different results and making sourdough work for you. Below are a few tips from our staff for baking sourdough bread:
Sourdough Baking Tips
Use simple recipes until you gain experience, or if you are beginning with a new variety of starter. You really only need sourdough starter, water, flour, and some salt for flavor. Try our Basic Sourdough Bread Recipe to get started.
Sourdough is not necessarily sour in flavor. In fact, making sour bread takes some effort. For a more developed sour taste, adjust your starter and proofing techniques as described in our article on manipulating the sourness of sourdough bread.
If you don’t have an 8- to 24-hour lead time to let bread rise, add just a pinch of instant yeast. You will still get the complex flavor of sourdough but a much faster rise time.
Slashing loaves with a very sharp knife or razor blade isn’t just for show. When dough is placed in a hot oven, the yeasts work extra hard right before they go dormant, due to the high temperature. This heavy work produces something called oven spring, in which bread rises a bit more in the oven, giving bread a nice, light texture. Slashing the loaf gives dough a direction to spring so that the final shape of the loaf is controlled.
Bake sourdough bread on a baking stone whenever possible. Heat the stone in the oven for up to an hour.
Always test your loaf for doneness. There are a couple of ways of testing whether a loaf is finished baking:
The thump test: Turn the hot loaf over and flick it with your finger. If it sounds hollow, it is done.
Internal temperature test: Using an instant-read thermometer, check the internal temperature. If the loaf is between 190° and 210°F, it is cooked through.
Let the bread cool at least 20 minutes before slicing.