The Ultimate Sourdough FAQ

by Trishia Mae Cordova on Jun 19, 2024

The Ultimate Sourdough FAQ

 Sourdough bread has captured the hearts and kitchens of baking enthusiasts worldwide. Its distinctive tangy flavor, chewy texture, and crusty exterior make it a favorite among bread lovers. However, making sourdough at home can be a daunting task for beginners.

To help you on your sourdough journey, we've compiled a comprehensive FAQ to address common questions and concerns. Whether you're a total newbie or a seasoned dough pro, this guide will help you perfect your sourdough skills.


Frequently Asked Questions about Sourdough

Q: What is sourdough?

A: Sourdough is a type of bread made by fermenting dough using naturally occurring lactobacilli and wild yeast. Unlike bread made with commercial yeast, sourdough relies on a starter – a mixture of flour and water that has captured wild yeast and bacteria from the environment. This fermentation process gives sourdough its unique flavor and texture.


Q: How do I make a sourdough starter?

A: Creating a sourdough starter is simple but requires patience. Here's a basic recipe:

  1. Day 1: Mix 50 grams of whole grain flour with 50 grams of water in a clean jar. Cover loosely and let it sit at room temperature.
  2. Day 2-5: Discard half of the starter and add 50 grams of flour and 50 grams of water each day. Stir well and cover loosely.
  3. Day 6-7: Your starter should be bubbly and have a pleasant, slightly tangy smell. It's ready to use when it doubles in size within 4-6 hours after feeding.


Q: How do I maintain my starter?

A: To keep your starter healthy, feed it regularly by discarding half and adding equal parts flour and water. If you bake frequently, keep it at room temperature and feed it daily. For less frequent baking, store it in the refrigerator and feed it once a week.


Q: Why isn’t my starter bubbling?

A: A sluggish starter can result from several factors:

  • Temperature: Starters thrive at 70-75°F (21-24°C). Cooler temperatures slow fermentation.
  • Feeding Schedule: Regular feeding is crucial. If neglected, your starter may weaken.
  • Flour Type: Whole grain flours (like rye or whole wheat) contain more nutrients, boosting fermentation.
  • Water Quality: Chlorinated water can inhibit fermentation. Use filtered or bottled water if possible.


Q: How do I know when my dough is fully proofed?

A: Fully proofed dough will have doubled in size and feel airy and light. A common test is the poke test: gently press your finger into the dough. If the indentation springs back slowly and partially fills in, it's ready. If it springs back quickly, it needs more time. If it doesn’t spring back at all, it may be over-proofed.


Q: Why is my sourdough dense?

A: Dense sourdough can result from:

  • Underproofing: The dough hasn't risen enough. Extend the proofing time.
  • Weak Starter: Ensure your starter is active and bubbly before using.
  • Kneading: Insufficient gluten development can lead to dense bread. Knead or stretch and fold the dough adequately.


Q: How can I get a crispy crust?

A: A crispy crust comes from baking with steam. Here are some tips:

  • Dutch Oven: Baking in a covered Dutch oven traps steam, creating a perfect crust.
  • Steam Tray: Place a tray of water in the oven during the first 15-20 minutes of baking.
  • Spraying: Mist the oven walls with water before placing the dough inside.


Q: Can I add ingredients to my sourdough?

A: Absolutely! Sourdough is versatile. Add-ins like seeds, nuts, dried fruit, herbs, and spices can enhance flavor and texture. Incorporate them during the final stretch and fold phase to distribute evenly without disrupting the dough structure.


Q: How do I store sourdough bread?

A: Store sourdough at room temperature in a paper bag or a bread box to maintain its crust. Avoid plastic bags, which can make the crust soggy. Sourdough stays fresh for 3-4 days. For longer storage, freeze slices or whole loaves in a sealed bag.


Q: What can I do with leftover sourdough?

A: Don't let any sourdough go to waste! Here are some ideas:

  • Croutons: Cube and toast for salads and soups.
  • Breadcrumbs: Dry and blend for a versatile cooking ingredient.
  • French Toast: Turn stale slices into a delicious breakfast.
  • Panzanella: Use in a hearty bread salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, and basil.


Q: How can I troubleshoot common issues?

A: Here are solutions to common sourdough problems:

  • Flat Loaf: Check your starter's activity and ensure proper kneading and proofing.
  • Sour Flavor: Over-fermentation can cause excessive sourness. Shorten proofing times or reduce starter amount.
  • Gummy Texture: Underbaking or high hydration can result in gumminess. Ensure a thorough bake and adjust water content.


Mastering sourdough takes practice, but the rewards are well worth the effort. By understanding the basics, maintaining a healthy starter, and troubleshooting common issues, you can enjoy delicious homemade sourdough bread.

Happy baking! 👩🏻‍🍳


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