Sourdough for Dummies!

Welcome to the intriguing world of sourdough. There is something special about taking a bubbling starter, flour, water, and salt and creating a crusty light loaf of bread. Many a sourdough starter traveled in covered wagon as settlers settled over the New America and Canada.

Sourdough Starter!

Where do I get a starter? You can make your own starter by following the directions on this post…Making a Sourdough Starter. All you will need is a good quality unbleached flour and water. Bleached flour will have the natural bacteria removed from it and will not develop a good strong starter. Just a note–if you make a starter from starch it will take at least 3 week but most likely longer to get it mature enough to make bread. If you would like a jump start into sourdough baking; I do gift small jars of starter. I just ask that you cover the cost of packing/shipping. Message me or email for more details.

What is a mature starter? a mature starter is a starter that is older than 3 months old.

Feeding my starter! Here is a detailed blog post on feeding a sourdough starter. I use this basic ratio 1 part starter, 1 part flour, and 2/3 part water for feeding. I have found by trial and error that this ratio works the best. When you use this ratio your starter will grow fast. I only feed my starter when I want to use it. Otherwise, it lives in my fridge. You can keep your starter on the counter and feed it every day if you use it all the time.

Feeding amounts:

  • 1/2 cup starter, 1/2 cup flour, 1/3 cup water
  • 1 cup starter, 1 cup flour, 2/3 cup water
  • 1 1/2 cup starter, 1 1/2 cups flour, 1 cup water
  • I will at times adjust the water amount to make a thick pancake type batter.

Here is a video showing you how I feed my starter and toward the end you will the 2 starters and how much they rise in 3 and 6 hours.

I forgot my starter in the fridge! Did I kill it? Sourdough starter is very resilient! It does not have to be feed exactly at the same time every day. NO, it will not die if it isn’t fed at the exact minute every day. It might get hungry! I have had a starter in the fridge for 6 months without being fed. I removed it from the fridge and fed it a few times. It was soon ready to go. You can read more about reviving a neglected starter….”Can I save this Starter?” I neglected starter may take a few feedings to get it active again. A mature starter does not need to be fed every week when it is in the fridge. A new starter should be fed every week so it does not starve!

Measuring starter! I always stir my starter before feeding it to see how much I have. That releases the gas bubbles so you can tell how much starter you have. I will stir it before I want to feed it or before I want to measure it out for making bread.

What is active starter? Active starter is starter that has been fed in the past 12 hours. It will be very bubbly and has not fallen from its highest point.

What is discard starter? Discard is starter that you have leftover after you have taken your portion out to mix bread dough, pancakes, etc or that has not been fed for 14 hours. The discard can be put in a glass jar and placed in the fridge for later use. You can feed your discard anytime to activate it to make more sourdough recipes. I will add discard from several days to the one container I have in the fridge.

How do I know when my starter is ready to bake? Your starter should double in size and hold its peak for 7 hours before you attempt to make bread with it. This jar as you can see has a black mark where the starter line was after it was fed. You can see how it has doubled in size.

What kind of flour can be used to make a starter? I have used white whole wheat, King Arthur Bread flour, and rye to make starters. My favorite flour to use is King Arthur Bread flour. King Arthur flour is #1 in the sourdough baking world. Their flours are very consistent in quality and I love them. There is just something special about their flours for feeding when it comes to sourdough. I have tried different kinds/brands but kept coming back to the King Arthur Bread Flour for feeding. Now that is the only flour I will use. You can use 100% whole grain flour but you may get a more sour smell/taste than when you use King Arthur Bread Flour. I will at time mix bread flour and white whole wheat together to feed my starter. That does well, too. Most large supermarkets carry these flours, you can also buy from King Arthur Flour’s online store and Amazon.

How often do you wash your starter container? I wash my starter container whenever it starts to get yucky. I do not wash it everyday or sterilize it.

What do you store starter in? I store my starter in a glass quart jar in the fridge. When I am feeding it I use a glass Pampered Chef Batter Bowl. It is recommended not to store the starter in metal. You can stir the starter with a stainless steel utensil and that will not hurt it.

Pampered Chef Batter Bowl

How much starter do you store in the fridge? I store keep 1-2 cups of starter in my fridge. When I wanto bake I remove 1/2 cup and feed it a few times. You can always store more starter is you like it use it for discard recipes.

Sourdough Baking!

What utensils do you need to mix bread? I use a Danish Whisk, measuring cups/spoons , a large glass bowl or Tupperware Mix and Fix bowl.

What flours are on-plan for THM bread? Pearl and Serene do allow for a bit of white flour in bread products but using 100% whole grain would be the “purist” method. I choose to use KA Bread Flour in the sourdough starter so that is fermented twice as long as the bread dough. In the bread dough I use 100% whole grain flours–such as white whole wheat, whole wheat, spelt, rye, oat, or any other kind of whole grain flour.

Can I use sprouted flour? Sprouted flour has be already fermented. It is best used with yeast as it does not need to be fermented again. You can use sprouted flour in sourdough but it is not recommended. If you do use it in sourdough it has a tendency to over-ferment, break down, and become unstable. Reserve your sprouted flour for yeast breads or other baked items that are not fermented. If you want to make bread with sprouted flour do not allow it to ferment for more than 2-3 hours so that it does not over-ferment.

What is Vital Wheat Gluten? Vital wheat gluten is just what is says…wheat gluten. Gluten is found in most grains. However, when it come to whole grains it is much harder to develop that gluten. Gluten is the structure that traps the gases causing your bread to rise. When gluten is developed in bread it makes a criss-cross structure that traps the gases. When you do the stretch and fold method of kneading–as you fold the dough you are criss-crossing the gluten strands. If the gluten is not developed the bread will not rise and will remain dense-brick like. Adding additional gluten to whole grain bread dough will give you a much better loaf.

Vital Wheat Gluten

Can I use yeast in sourdough bread? If your starter is sluggish you can use 1/2-1 teaspoon of yeast per loaf to get a nicer rise. However, you MUST allow the dough to ferment for 7 hours at room temperature to be on-plan. If you do add yeast to your sourdough bread you will have to knead the dough or deflate the dough a few times so that it does not over-rise and break/tear the strands of gluten.

What do I need to bake my bread! There are a few things that I use when baking bread…Pam Spray if I am baking bread in a bread pan and parchment paper if I am baking in a covered baker. If you want to slash the loaves you will need a sharp knife or a lame slashing tool.

Do I need a Clay Baker? It depends on what kind of bread you want…a covered baker will make a crusty artisan loaf and a regular bread pan will make a soft sandwich loaf. You can use a cast iron pot with a cookie sheet for a lid, a clay baker, enamel cast iron baker, or any covered roaster pan.

How many hours does bread dough need to ferments to be on-plan? Bread dough must ferment for 7 hours at room temperature to be on-plan. The time is counted from the time you mix the bread until you bake it. You can do a combination of room temp and fridge temp. 1 hour room temperature is equal to 10 hours refrigerator ferment.

Look for blog post coming “Feed to Bake”!

If you would like to learn more about the Trim Healthy way of eating you can purchase the PLAN BOOK. The Plan Book will tell you what foods to pair together to for healthy eating. There are also two Cookbooks to purchase….THM Cookbook and Trim Healthy Table.

Sourdough Bagels

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You will find many more recipes in the spiral bound 600+ page Around the Family Table Cookbook. All recipes are sugar-free and label with the correct fuel. We have added more items to our blog store, Sourdough Beginner Kits, and more. Check it out at this link   Blog Store.

22 thoughts on “Sourdough for Dummies!

    • I will add it to your order. You roder will come in two packages due to difficulties getting USPS supplies.

  1. There is so much great info, but I can’t find directions for actually making the bread. I am hoping to mix it tonight an bake tomorrow. Or mix tomorrow morning and bake in eve.

  2. Thank you so much!! This is SO helpful! I am so excited and much less nervous after reading this. Thank you so much for making this post and for all you do to help us newbie thm bakers!!

  3. I have a question! Have been following your recipe for the last 23 days and have a starter!! Would like to try and make bread, but I’m a little confused on the terms. When you say that you are ready to make bread and feed your starter a few times….do you continue to discard? or do I build on what I have? I need really detailed instructions…this is all a little confusing to me! thank you so very much!!!

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  5. Hi Glenda! I just ordered the cookbook and would love to get a starter please. (is there a way I can get an extra starter for my sister or do I just feed mine and split with her? – forgive me, I’m new at this, lol)

    Tara Weaver

    • I will add starter to your order. After you feed the starter 2-3 times give your sister a few tablespoons.

      • Thank you so much! Another question. Do you ever order flour from Azure Standard? They are out of stock of many flours, but I can get their Bread Flour. (Bread Flour 100% Whole White Wheat (Unifine), Ingredients: certified organic hard white whole wheat flour) Would this be a sufficient flour for bread and sourdough making?

  6. Hi! I have been on plan with THM for 2.5 years and love it! Recently my husband has been making whole grain pizza dough using yeast, that we cold ferment 3-4 days. Is this as effect in reducing the sugars are a starter? I really don’t want to add a starter to the mix of things to do since I am cooking big meals everyday and making Kefir. Thank you for your input and all your delicious recipes!

    • Fermenting it for 3 days will do the same as using a starter and allowing it to ferment 7 hours at room temp.

  7. I was able to order the Oat Flour and Vital Wheat Gluten. KA is out of the other flours listed right now, at least in the small quantity. Not sure I need the huge bags just yet. Will these two items be sufficient to start with an established starter? About to order the whisk also… and then perhaps I’ll have everything checked off and on the way. Thank you so much!

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  9. I was wondering once I have 1/2 cup starter to make bread, I feed it 1/2 of flour and 1/3 of water. How much will the next feeding be? The same amount?

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  12. This actually makes the prospect of making sourdough bread sound possible. Thank you for sharing! Is it expensive to make? It seems the flours come in small bags. Appreciate all you’ve made available.

    • If you have a bulk food store nearby you can order the flours in large amounts. It is very economical to make your own sourdough bread.

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