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The Complete No-Fail Sourdough Guide for Beginners

Fail-Proof Sourdough Guide

No-Fail Sourdough Guide

I was raised in Alaska by a mom who treasured her sourdough and spoke the word with quite reverence. It was fed, cared for, and loved like a pet. As a child, I couldn’t stand the tang of sourdough in my mouth. I mean, sourdough. It’s right there in the name. Gross.

Now as an adult, I love it. I wrote this sourdough guide encourage those of you who are new to sourdough. Sourdough is healthy, delicious, and rich with history.

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The super simple sourdough guide for beginners. How to make and maintaint your own starter and how to bake sourdough bread.

What is Sourdough?

Sourdough is one of the oldest forms of grain fermentation and was used to bake bread long before commercial yeast came into the picture. I was raised in Alaska and there, sourdough is practically revered. People love to share their starter, talk about their sourdough, and swap their favorite recipes. In fact, in Alaska, a Sourdough is someone who has lived in Alaska for a long time and survived the harsh weather. So much history and culture surround sourdough. Pioneers and cowboys alike survived on sourdough bread. Recipes and the history of their particular starter have been passed down for generations.

This sourdough guide for beginners will show you step by step how to make your own sourdough starter.

Why Use Sourdough?

The fermentation process of sourdough makes it easier to digest. Over the last few years, the popularity of eating fermented foods has grown as we learn more about the many benefits. It is the preferred bread for many diabetics because the fermentation process uses up the sugars and sourdough bread prevents the spikes in blood sugar that regular bread causes. Some people who are sensitive to gluten can even eat sourdough due to fermentation.

If you are on the fence about whether or not to try sourdough, be sure and read my post 5 Reasons You Should Always Keep Sourdough On-hand.

DIY sourdough starter uses only flour, sugar, and water.

Worried That You Killed Your Sourgdough?

King Arthur Baking has a GREAT post on all the ways you can and can’t kill your sourdough. It tells you what colors are okay (black and gray are okay) orange is not okay. You may want to bookmark that post for future reference.

The Magic Science of Sourdough

The magic (okay, technically science) of sourdough is in the wild yeast that is created with just some flour, water, and sugar. And POOF the wild yeast appears over the course of a few days. Making your own starter is simple. It takes a little bit of time and patience but it is well worth the effort you put into it. In my post, Culinary Reactions, I talked about the boys learning about the science of bread baking. So when my mom asked me to make a video of her baking her sourdough bread (she’s had many requests over the years) I brought along the boys so they could learn.

Sourdough Science

Discovering the Science Secrets of Sourdough

What is Sourdough?

Baking Bread with Sourdough Cindy

A couple of weeks ago the boys and I went over to my parents’ house where my mom taught Hezekiah and Tucker how to make sourdough bread. She sent each of the boys home with their own sourdough starter which they have been caring for.

4.5 from 2 votes
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Sourdough French Bread

This sourdough bread uses both sourdough starter and yeast.

Course Side Dish
Keyword bread
Cook Time 30 minutes
Rising time 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 2 loaves

Ingredients

  • 1 package dry yeast
  • 1.5 cups warm water 110 degrees F
  • 5-5.5 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup sourdough starter
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter melted
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cornmeal

Instructions

  1. In large mixing bowl, add yeast to warm water. Blend in 2 cups of flour and the sourdough starter, sugar, butter, and salt.

  2. Combine 1 cup of flour with baking soda then add to dough in mixing bowl. Add enough remaining flour to make stiff dough.

  3. Move dough to floured surface and knead for 5-8 minutes or until dough is smooth. Place in greased bowl, turning one to grease top of dough. Cover with damp cloth and let rise in warm spot for 1.5-2 hours or until doubled in size.

  4. Punch risen dough and let rest for 10 minutes. Divide dough in two and shape two long loaves. Grease cookie sheet and sprinkle with cornmeal. Place dough on pan and let rise for 1 hour, or until doubled. Brush top of loaves with water. With sharp knife, cut diagonal lines in bread. Bake at 375 degrees for 30-35 minutes.

    Place baked bread on cooling rack and let cool competely before slicing.

Now that I’ve got you excited and ready to start our own sourdough adventure, check out these resources below. Please leave your questions and requests in the comments.

Sourdough Starter Guide & Printable

First, download my free printable How to Make Sourdough Starter

Your starter will stay out on the counter at room temperature unless you will be gone and unable to take care of it. My Daily Sourdough Bread has an excellent post on how to preserve your sourdough while you’re gone.

Great Sourdough Cookbooks

Dark and moody sourdough bread.

Beginner Sourdough Starter Recipe by The Clever Carrot. You can start your adventure today with this blog post.

Understanding the 3 Basic Types of Bread – Comparing Quick Bread, Yeast Bread, and Sourdough from Attainable Sustainable.

Sourdough Cookery This is my mom’s favorite sourdough cookbook and the one that has the recipe she made in the video.

The Sourdough Cookbook This a fun cookbook that is full of great information and recipes.

Sourdough: More Than a Bread This article by NPR talks about the history and importance of sourdough, along with the nutritional benefits.

Culinary Reactions I reviewed this amazing book here.

My Amazon Storefront has a list of some of our favorite resources. Remember, sourdough can be very simple, but if you are interested in goodies, this page is for you.

More Sourdough Recipes around the web.

More Sourdough Recipes

Basic Sourdough Bread from A Farmgirl’s Kitchen

Super Seedy Sourdough Bread from Vegan on Board

Super Easy Sourdough Focaccia Recipe from Dish N the Kitchen

Oats and Seeds Sourdough Country Loaf from This Old Gal

Easy One-Bowl Sourdough Banana Bread from Attainable Sustainable

Sourdough Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Bread from Itsy Bitsy Kitchen

Sourdough English Muffins by Beyond the Chicken Coop

The Complete Guide to Sourdough Equipment

Everything you need to make the perfect sourdough bread.

Okay, confession….you don’t really need these items to make sourdough bread. But you know what? They are all beautiful, and fun, and will make your bread making even more enjoyable! Add them to your Amazon cart or wishlist and maybe, just maybe, someone will notice and order them for you 😉

Complete Guide to Sourdough Equipment
  1. Half Gallon Wide Mouth Mason Jars
  2. 9-inch Bread Proofing Basket
  3. Sourdough by Sarah Owens
  4. Cheesecloth
  5. 6-Piece Bamboo Utensils
  6. Linen Bread Bags
  7. Enameled Cast Iron Covered Dutch Oven

This page will be updated on a regular basis, so be sure and bookmark it or pin it on Pinterest!

Summary
The Complete No-Fail Sourdough Guide
Article Name
The Complete No-Fail Sourdough Guide
Description
Sourdough is not only delicious, but nutricious as well. Don't let the idea of making sourdough start intimidate you. You no-fail sourdough guide has everything you need to start and grow your own sourdough starter and teaches you how to bake sourdough bread.
Author
Publisher Name
Little Earthling Blog
Publisher Logo

43 Comments

  1. corinne gonz

    I have a question that you may of went over but i missed it. Do you refrigerate the sourdough starter of always leave on counter

      • Renee

        Glenda, you only remove part of it for the first 7-10 days as the natural yeast is growing and fermenting. After that, you just feed it to maintain it, and you begin using it. If you ever have too much, you can dump some out, or better yet, dry it to have on hand.

  2. Dana job

    My question is when you want to make bread you take your starter out of fridge feed it let it sit out overnight then take out what you need for your bread recipie do you then feed the starter again and put back in fridge or just put in fridge without feeding again?

  3. Renee

    Great question! I actually don’t keep my sourdough in the fridge unless I’m going to be gone for a week or so. I try to feed it everyday, but I do forget sometimes. Sourdough is amazingly resilient. I do try to make sure I feed it the day before I plan to use it.

  4. Katt

    Hi ,I was wondering if I can half sour dough bread recipes? I don’t want to waste my ingredients until I’m more confident with my sourdough skills. Thanks

  5. Renee

    Kathy, yes that is correct. Once you remove the amount for your recipe, go ahead and feed your starter so you can build up more starter for your next recipe!

  6. Jenn

    Once we are in maintenance mode, ie. daily feeding, is it always repeating the day 4 instructions? Dump 1/2 and add 1/2 c flour & 1/4 cup warm water Or can we feed it less than that?

  7. Ashley

    It’s almost a year I’ve kept my starter. It’s now starting to smell of strong alcohol. Is this normal and why is it just happening now? Am I doing something wrong? It seems normal in all other ways.

    • Renee

      Usually this just means that there is extra “hooch” on top. Dump out half, add warm water, sugar, and flour…do this for a couple of days in a row and it should go back to normal.

  8. Samantha R

    So when I remove half of the starter on days 3-6 or whatever… can I out the 1/2 I took out and feed it as well to be its own starter?

  9. Shayla

    After day 7, how much flour and water do you add to continue feeding it? Do you dump out the half and then add the amounts mentioned?

    • Renee

      I feed mine about 1/4 cup water, 1/4 cup flour, and 1 teaspoon of sugar. Keep i mind, I don’t actually measure these, I am just feeding it. You only need to dump out half when you are starting the sourdough. Once it is established (after 7-10 days) you no longer need to dump out half. At that point, you build up the volume of sourdough and start using it to bake.

      • Shayla

        Hi Renee! Thank you. I’m a little confused about the sugar. It doesn’t mention it at all in the diagram. Should I be adding that from the beginning as well?

  10. Jennifer elder

    5 stars
    Thank you for this so much! I’m going to try my second attempt at a sourdough starter! I see where a couple of things I did wrong.

  11. Diane Baker

    4 stars
    As a 40+yr bread maker, I was dismayed in March, 2020 when I couldn’t buy yeast. My sourdough starter has been active for over a year! Yeah!
    My reaction to the “sourdough community” is gratitude. Everyone has been so helpful and encouraging. And shared so many delicious ways to use the starter and dough. Thank you for your clear explanations, recipe, and answers to comment questions.

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