Homemade Sourdough Tips for Beginners and Non-Bakers, Like Me
In the slower times of 2020, when we were all stuck at home and wondering what to do with our time, sourdough baking became quite the trend. I didn’t originally hop on the sourdough train because I’m a late adapter. Even more importantly, I’m not a baker. I don’t really enjoy the science and math and exactness of baking and would much rather wing a dinner recipe and practice creativity in the kitchen. However, last summer when visiting a friend in Texas, I tried her perfect sourdough loaf which was toasted and topped with melty cheese and a perfect slice of ripe tomato. It was truly divine. This same friend also shared with me some of the benefits of sourdough: how the gluten becomes easier to digest and the prebiotic cultures are good for the gut. At the time I was buying one to two loaves of sourdough a week at the store because my family loves it. I decided to take the plunge and once I baked that first loaf, I was sold!
Sourdough feels intimidating, but after conquering a little bit of a learning curve, it is pretty straightforward and extremely satisfying. A great place to start is with this blog post from The Clever Carrot. She outlines everything you need to know which includes a lot of terms that I was previously unfamiliar with. After I baked a few loaves and started to get the hang of things, I tried sandwich loaves, pancakes, biscuits, cinnamon rolls, focaccia, croutons, and bagels. I’ve also branched out to other loaf recipes and learned how to score the top more intricately. I’ve had a fair amount of fails with a loaf not turning out how I wanted, but overall, most of the loaves have been absolutely delicious.
The best part about sourdough bread is sharing it with other people. Even with its simplicity, something about giving a friend a loaf of bread or serving it at a dinner party makes people feel special. It’s a great gift and a really fun hobby.
Without further ado, here are my tips:
1. Get your sourdough starter from a friend!
Making a sourdough starter is totally doable, but I’ve never cared to do it for myself when several friends have some to share. You’re consistently feeding your starter — adding water and flour to it so that it’s bubbly and ready to use — so you always have some to get rid of or give to a friend.
2. Store your starter in the fridge.
As mentioned, you’ll be feeding your starter, but if you store it on the counter, you’ll have to do this more often. Meaning, if you forget, it can go bad more easily. Storing in the fridge, however, allows you to feed it just weekly, plus it won’t grow mold in the heat of summer as my did recently!
3. Watch some Tik Tok videos, ask friends for tips, read through recipes.
There are a few things you’ll be learning — how to feed your starter, how to score it (making fun designs on top), learning your oven temperature, what to do with the discard, and weighing your ingredients instead of measuring. Fortunately, most people who make sourdough enjoy talking about it! I exchange texts or social media messages with people about sourdough techniques! Plus you can learn plenty via Tik Tok, just type in sourdough and you’ll be introduced to a world of knowledge.
4. Start with with a simple loaf.
I absolutely love this no knead recipe from Feasting at Home and it’s the only recipe I used for a long time. She does a great job laying out each step and it isn’t complicated. Once I got the hang of that loaf, I started trying different methods to perfect my crust and my crumb. I’ve also played around with different flours.
5. Just go for it!
It can be easy to think you have to be prepared or have all the right “gear” and perfect set up, but really as long as you have the ingredients, a large mixing bowl, a scale, and a dutch oven (which you can grab from Costco for cheap!), you’re set.
Here are some links to my favorite sourdough recipes to get you started:
The Clever Carrot Sourdough 101: this is a great place to start. She explains everything you need to know about getting started. As mentioned though, it’s also best to have a friend who you can text questions to!
Feasting at Home: No Knead Loaf: I recommend watching her videos too as there are a few things that are best understood with a simple demonstration.
Feasting at Home: Biscuits: these are beyond delicious
Feasting at Home: discard pancakes, a big part of sourdough is what to do with your “discard.” Since you’re feeding your starter often, you’ll have to either throw some of it away or store it in a separate container to use in recipes like pancakes, cookies, and honestly so many other things!
Justine Snacks: Simple Loaf using part Whole Wheat Flour and a longer bulk ferment
The Clever Carrot: Bagels, these are incredible! We had so much fun making these and they’re easier than I expected.
The Clever Carrot: Focaccia, this is such a fun thing to make for a dinner party or happy hour.
Croutons: If you ever have any leftover bread go stale or make a loaf that is too dense, just turn it into croutons!