Category Archives: Sour Dough

Learning To Ferment Foods – Sourdough Bread Baking

I was beginning to think I was never going to get this post written and  some of you may have been wondering as well. So without further ado let’s return to the “Sourdough Mystery Tour” (as one of my readers dubbed it.)  If you have missed my previous sourdough posts you can find them here and here. While I have been baking sourdough bread at least once a week since the second or third week in January I had yet to get a loaf that I was completely happy with. It seems it has taken longer than I expected for Trixie (my sourdough starter) and I to get acquainted. I am ecstatic to tell you that, while it is not perfect, the last loaf I baked was darned GOOD!


Rather than make you painfully read about each of my not so good loaf (pictured above) stories, I decided to just highlight some of the things that I have learned along the way.

The Recipe: I started with this recipe for basic white bread and have continued to use the same recipe throughout.  A couple of things that I think are important to mention about this are:

  • It is best to feed the starter several hours before making the bread. This will assure that the starter is active and will give better rise during the proofing time.
  • The amount of water in the recipe should be taken as a estimation only, as it is dependent of hydration level of the starter. If a starter is super thick (less hydrated) the recipe will require more water than a starter that is thinner (more hydrated). It is best to add the water in small amounts and mix it in until the dough is the proper consistency.

Proofing Time and Temperature: Proofing is the time that the dough will take to rise. During this time the sour flavor also develops.

  • The amount of time it takes the dough to double in size is largely dependent on the temperature. Since our house is cooler (between 65 and 68 degrees F) this time of year it has been taking 12 or more hours for the dough to proof. I am sure this amount of time will be shorter during spring and summer when the weather is warmer.

Baking: How to bake the bread so that the inside was not doughy but the outside was not burned or rock hard was my biggest challenge. I eventually learned that the bread needs to be baked in moist heat. Here are the methods I used to create moisture in the oven.

  • Placing a cast iron skillet in the bottom of the oven and adding water to it. This seemed to work to some degree but as I mentioned I was not getting the results I hoped for.
  • Baking the bread in a cast iron Dutch oven was recommended but I do not own a cast oven Dutch oven (at least one designed to use in the oven).
  • Eventually I realized that I had something that might work as well as a Dutch oven. It is a stoneware roasting pan. It is made by Pampered Chef. I have had this dish combination for probably 25 years and while I occasionally use the pieces as individual baking pans I can’t remember ever using the two together as a roaster.
  • Stoneware,  like cast iron, can withstand the high temperatures required for baking sourdough bread.
  • It is necessary to preheat the baking dish along with the oven before baking the bread.
  • Having the lid on the baking dish creates steam as the moisture cooks out of the bread.



This is the results of baking in my stoneware roasting pan. The inside was fully cooked and wonderfully chewy. The outside was crusty and a little too dark for my liking so I will still be experimenting with reducing baking times and temperatures until I get it right.

Planning: While making the bread doesn’t require a lot of direct contact it does require that certain things be done according to a timeline. So far this is what has worked for me.

  • First thing in the morning (between 6:00 and 7:00 a.m.) feed Trixie.
  • Wait at least 3 hours but probably no more than 5 hours to mix up the bread (between 10 a.m. and 12 noon).
  • Allow bread to proof until at least double in size. Since this has been taking 12 or more hours the bread may not be ready to bake until I am ready to go to bed. If it has doubled in size I before I go to bed I put it in the refrigerator to slow it down over night. If it has not doubled in size I leave it on the counter to continue proofing overnight.
  • The following morning I preheat the oven with my stone roasting pan with lid in it for about 40 minutes.
  • I then remove the roasting pan and lid and place parchment paper in the bottom of the pan, sprinkle corn meal, then place the bread in it.
  • I cut a slit in the top of the bread. I put the lid on the casserole dish and put it in the oven I check the bread for doneness at about 45 minutes. If it looks done I then test it with a thermometer. If the temperature is at least 208 degrees F the bread is done.

In the past I have had a hard time justifying the expense of purchasing sourdough bread and while I will forgo that expense by making my own this experience has given me a whole new appreciation for these artisan breads and great respect for those who create them.

Before I close I will leave you with a link for a recipe for sourdough cinnamon rolls that I made at my husbands request because they turned out really well.

Thanks for reading and please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Baking With Sourdough

Now that I have mastered the art  science mystery of baking with sourdough I have to tell you about it. LOL!! I couldn’t even type that with a straight face. The truth is I have nowhere near mastered baking bread with sourdough, and my post about my trials (and errors) of making sourdough bread is still a work in progress.

Fortunately there is more to sourdough than just making bread. What I do have for you today are two recipes that I have made with sourdough that are really good.

The first one is sourdough banana bread. I made this once following the recipe as written but added a half cup or so of blue berries. It turned out good but a bit dry. The second time that I made it I added one more mashed banana and of course added the blue berries. It turned out perfect. 🙂

The second recipe I made today. It is this recipe for sourdough chocolate cake. I made a few changes to this recipe as well – I used melted butter instead of  vegetable oil; I used unsweetened dark chocolate cocoa; and I did not add the espresso powder.

I also decided not to make the frosting that goes with this cake recipe. In my laziness I decided just to put some store bought vanilla frosting on it. However, in his great wisdom, my husband suggested we taste the cake without frosting. Well let me tell you, it is moist (almost brownie-like) with a rich chocolate flavor and even had a little crispiness on the top. Delicious!!! There was absolutely no need to add frosting or anything else to this cake.



As you can tell Trixie is earning her keep and we are most pleased to have her as part of the family.


Now it’s your turn – have you ever had sourdough desserts? Do you have a favorite?

Learning To Ferment Foods – Sourdough (Part I)

My husband and I eat a lot of bread – toast for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch, maybe even some type of biscuits or rolls to accompany whatever is on our dinner menu – but lets face it, the plain white bread that you buy in the grocery store has little to no nutrition to offer nor does it have any flavor, at best, as my husband would say, “it will make a turd”. I began buying some more expensive whole grain breads to at least increase my fiber intake, but even these breads are loaded with ingredients (oils and preservatives) that are unnecessary and potentially unhealthy.

I have been aware that sourdough is a healthier option for a while now and if we shop at a place that sells sourdough bread we usually pick up a loaf, but most of our local grocery stores do not sell sourdough breads as it is not a convenient food. Now it’s time to make our bread.

What Is Sourdough?

Sourdough is a fermented culture that uses friendly yeast and bacteria. It is used as a leavening agent and replaces yeast in bread recipes. This article from Natural News tell us why sourdough is a healthier choice than yeast breads. The main points are:

  • Sourdough breaks down gluten allowing some people who may be sensitive to gluten to be able to enjoy it.
  • Sourdough makes starches more digestible.
  • Sourdough lowers insulin resistance while increasing glucose tolerance.
  • Sourdough allows for better mineral absorption.
  • Additionally sourdough does not require a lot of ingredients – this basic white bread has only three ingredients – flour, water and salt. It keeps well so it does not require preservatives.

Fermented Foods Are Not Fast  Foods

If you have been following my recent posts about fermenting foods you probably realize that these foods take a long time (days or even weeks) before they are ready. It takes much planning, time and patience to make fermented foods and sour dough bread is no exception.

Obtaining A Sourdough Starter

The first step in making sour dough bread is to obtain a sour dough starter. To do this I had a few options. I could purchase a starter – I would have had to order one online because this is not something that can be found in our local stores. I could make my own and there are many online tutorials for making sour dough starter, or perhaps I could find someone who makes sour dough bread and obtain some from them. Hmm.

It was in early January when I was visiting a friend who makes and sells sourdough breads, I began asking her about her starter. After telling me that she doesn’t sell her sourdough starter she gave me details on how to make my own. It sounded easy enough and I decided I would try it, but before the end of our visit she placed a couple cups of her started in a dish and gave it too me. I was thrilled!!!

My next stop was at Hobby Lobby so I picked up this container to keep my sourdough starter in. I chose this container for a few reasons – 1. I wanted glass so I could see though it. 2. It was large enough for me to build up a good amount of starter. 3. The opening is large enough that I can scoop out of it. 4. Although the lid had a plastic ring for a tight seal I was able to remove the ring so the lid sits on the jar but does not seal thightly.


When I got home I gave the jar a good rinse in very hot water before putting my starter in it.

Maintaining The Starter

Having a sour dough starter on hand takes commitment. Sourdough is a living being and  it needs to be fed daily. It’s not quite as bad as having kids or pets because you don’t have to clean up after it (usually).

Usually???   Let me tell you a story my friend shared. She keeps her starter in a plastic container with a snap on lid. The starter was growing in the container and she apparently was not paying attention to it. She showed me how the starter had exploded and blew the lid off the container. The sour dough splattered everywhere – walls, ceiling, counters, floors and everything in between. The plastic lid landed in a trash can about 8 feet away. Thus I learned an important lesson. Do not keep sourdough starter in a sealed container!! A loosely fitting lid is appropriate.

Once I put my starter in it’s new home I fed my it per my friend’s instruction – 1/2 cup of flour and a little less than 1/2 cup of purified water. I stirred it up and covered it. A while later I could see it bubbling. I then started reading about sourdough on this website. The website has lots of information on fermenting foods. I learned that perhaps I should be feeding it twice a day, and that the best way to measure the amounts of water and flour to feed it is to weigh equal amounts of each.

Since the starter does not speak up when it is hungry and I am afraid I might forget to feed it, it has been given prime real estate on my kitchen island. Thus far I have maintained my starter by feeding it 2 ounces of flour and 2 ounces of water – one or two times per day.

Naming My Starter

This may seem a bit odd but it seems to be common for people to name their sour dough starters and I do think it is easier to refer to it by name than “my sour dough starter” all the time so my friends, meet Trixie.

She Does Tricks

To be honest getting and maintaining the starter has been the easy part.  Since baking good sour dough bread has been more of a challenge I have decided to share those trials and errors in an upcoming post.

Thanks for reading. 🙂

Have you ever eaten sour dough bread? Do you make your own?