Working with a traditional sourdough culture is a rewarding experience, and with a few adjustments to your baking methods, you can make delicious bread and other baked goods your whole family will enjoy!
Tips for Preparing the Sourdough Starter
- Use only fully active starter for baking bread. Follow our instructions for Preparing Fresh Sourdough Starter for Baking to ensure that you have fully active yeast and bacteria to properly leaven your bread.
- Measure ingredients using a scale rather than measuring cups whenever possible. Measurements will be much more accurate, and your results more consistent.
- Use a large container for proofing sourdough starter. Active sourdough starter will generally double in size at least, and can easily spill out of a small container.
- Use water with as few contaminants as possible to feed your sourdough starter.
- Proof your starter at a consistently warm temperature, 70-85ºF. If your proofing location is prone to drafts or temperature swings, find a new spot for culturing.
- For a more sour sourdough, adjust the hydration level of your starter down to 75% or 50%. The starter will be quite stiff but it should knead into the bread dough ingredients easily.
Tips for Kneading the Bread Dough
- The dough should be slightly sticky when beginning the kneading process. Dry dough indicates too much flour was used and will result in dry bread. Use wet hands and a dough scraper, and add only small amounts of flour at a time, to facilitate kneading.
- Knead dough by hand for 15-20 minutes: Knead 5-10 minutes at a time, taking breaks in between. Avoid using a mixer for the kneading process, which can heat up the dough too much and may not activate the gluten in the flour effectively. If using a mixer, always knead the last five minutes by hand. When a small piece of dough will stretch thinner and thinner until light can be seen through it like a window pane, the dough is kneaded enough. If it breaks before being stretched that thin, continue kneading.
- To achieve a lighter bread with large holes use as little flour as possible in the mixing/kneading phases and leave it a bit sticky.
Tips for Proofing the Bread Dough
- After kneading, shape your loaf, cover it, and let it proof for 4-24 hours, depending on your specific sourdough starter and ambient temperature. You can manipulate the sourness of the bread with a longer rise time. A 24-hour rise time will produce a much more sour bread than a 4-hour rise time. If using a shorter rise period, 4-12 hours, a second rise is optional. If desired, punch dough down, reshape, and proof a second time.