How to make sourdough for beginners

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Easy way to get started making sourdough starter and bread

If you have long dreamed of making homemade sourdough but don't know where to start, you're in the right place. Sourdough bread has a unique texture and irresistible tang that many people crave. It is a slice of American bread history and adds wonderful depth to baked goods like pizza, english muffins and pretzels.

Learn to make your own foolproof sourdough at home with only water and flour, yes it really is just water and flour plus some naturally occurring magic (ok, it is science) that brings it to life in your very own kitchen no matter how big or small!

To make this easy on yourself we're going to the baking experts at King Arthur Flour. Since 1790, yes over 200 years, this baking company has been providing flour to homes to make essential baked goods. They know a few things about sourdough.

You may also like this post on no knead focaccia, "I tried Emma's Goodies big bubble focaccia".

How to make sourdough starter

Easy sourdough making kit

With this set, King Arthur has taken the guesswork out of tending to your new starter. I know the first time I made sourdough starter about 15 years ago I was a little nervous but as it turns out, it's not difficult!

In this kit, you will receive a fresh sourdough starter that is a descendant of a starter lovingly nurtured in New England for decades. Because you have to keep an eye on the rise (your sourdough bubbles and grows) the clear glass crock — with a stainless-steel lid that lets gasses escape and red markings on the side in 1/4” increments — helps you quickly assess your starter’s progress and health. Has it risen to the highest point and is beginning to fall? It’s ripe and ready to use. Is there liquid on top or a flat surface with foam-like tiny bubbles? hey that means it is time for a feeding! The set includes Sourdough Tips and Recipe Guide to get you started for your best ever sourdough bread. Thanks King Arthur!

What happens during the sourdough starter process?

After 24 hours, you should start to see some bubbles forming on the surface of the mixture. This is a sign that the wild yeast and bacteria present in the flour are becoming active. Stir the mixture again and discard about half of it. Then by adding equal parts of flour and water to the jar, stirring well and covering, it will develop and grow. This process will be repeated over several days.

active sourdough starter

Sourdough is not about speed. That tangy well-developed flavor you crave is the result of patience.

During this time, the mixture will continue to ferment and develop a tangy aroma. It may also rise and fall, which is normal. By the end of the week, your sourdough starter should be ready to use. It should have a pleasant sour smell and be bubbly and active.

To maintain your sourdough starter, you will need to feed it regularly. I call this the love step. It will become part of your family. This involves discarding about half of the starter and adding fresh flour and water. Keep it in the refrigerator when not in use, and feed it at least once a week to keep it alive and active.

The "discard" can be saved and used in things like pancakes and crackers.

How to store sourdough starter

sourdough crock

Once you've made a healthy ripe sourdough starter you're going to have to have a proper way to store it so it stays alive for your next loaf, or other sourdough recipe.

A stoneware crock is ideal for storing your ripe starter. As I mentioned above, the starter is alive and it will grow upwards and then settle back down repeatedly with feedings so there needs to be a loose-fitting lid to allow gas to escape.

The King Arthur baking sourdough starter crock has a tall size and shape to give your starter ample room to grow while loose fitting lid allows gases to escape.

Here are some tips on how to store your sourdough starter:

  1. Refrigeration: The easiest and most common method of storing sourdough starter is in the refrigerator. Before refrigerating, make sure your starter is active and has been recently fed. Place the crock or jar in the refrigerator, where the cold temperature will slow down the fermentation process. Remember to feed your starter at least once a week to keep it alive and active.
  2. Freezing: If you need to store your sourdough starter for an extended period, freezing is a great option. Transfer a portion of your active starter to a freezer-safe container. Make sure to leave some headspace for expansion. Label the container with the date and place it in the freezer. When you're ready to use the starter again, thaw it in the refrigerator overnight and then bring it to room temperature before feeding.
  3. Drying: Another method of storing sourdough starter is by drying it. Spread a thin layer of your active starter on a silicone mat or parchment paper. Allow it to dry completely at room temperature, which may take a few days. Once dry, break it into small pieces and store them in an airtight container. To revive the dried starter, simply rehydrate it with water and flour and follow the feeding process.

By following these storage methods, you can keep your sourdough starter healthy and ready to use whenever you want to bake delicious bread.

How to bake sourdough bread for best results

Baking your sourdough loaf should be done in a way that results in a crunchy exterior and a moist tender interior. This is done by moisture. It keeps the bread from crusting over too soon. The dough can rise up creating those coveted interior air bubbles before the delicious crust forms.

A ceramic baker nicely mimics steam-injected bakery ovens. Your loaves will bake up larger and crustier in this type of vessel versus a baking sheet.

This baker from King Athur as works as a potato baker for crispy potatoes so it does more than one thing!

sourdough bread baker

Now that you're armed with King Arthur sourdough starter and baking gear you're set up for bread making success!

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