Sourdough Focaccia

Focaccia bread – where have you been all my life? I have made focaccia before but it wasn’t until I started using my sourdough starter that focaccia has become a staple around our house. Airy, filled with craggy holes and a crisp, crunchy bottom, this focaccia bread is perfect for sandwiches, to dip in some oil and vinegar or just to eat plain. Every time I make this recipe, the bread disappears within a day. My family can’t get enough of it and I don’t blame them. It is show-stopper worthy!

This is an advanced sourdough recipe. Click the links some beginner sourdough tips, tools and recipes.

Jump to Sourdough Focaccia Recipe

Sourdough Takes Time

One thing to always keep in mind when working with sourdough is that it takes time. Sourdough starter is not the same as instant yeast. It’s going to take at least 24-48 hours for this focaccia bread to make it from your mixer to your belly, and that’s okay! Leaven is mixed and rises. Dough is mixed and folded using the coil fold technique. The dough is spread in a pan and left to sit overnight in the refrigerator giving a beautiful crust and flavor to the focaccia bread. You can find a sample schedule below:

Focaccia Sample Schedule

Day 1: Build Leaven

10 PM: Mix the leaven using ripe sourdough starter. Cover and let sit overnight.

Day 2: Mixing/Developing Dough 

8 AM: Mix the dough using a stand mixer (affiliate link). 

9 AM: Use coil folds to strengthen the gluten in the dough. Let the dough bulk rise

12-1 PM: Stretch the dough into an oiled pan, cover and refrigerate overnight.

Day 3: Bake Day

8 AM: Pull Focaccia out of the fridge, let it bubble up and come to room temperature.

12 PM: Top and bake focaccia

High Hydration Dough

This recipe for focaccia uses a very high hydration dough. Hydration is the percentage of flour to water in a recipe. For this focaccia you will be working with a dough that is 85% hydration. This can be a little tricky because the dough is so wet. The benefit of this high hydration is the beautiful crumb that will result in your focaccia. It will be airy, bubbly and have lots of holes throughout. To help deal with such a high hydration dough, keep a jug of water nearby to continuously water your hands as you work with the dough. This prevents dough from sticking to your fingers. The dough is initially mixed in a mixer on low speed for five minutes and then high speed for five minutes to develop the gluten. It will be very, very wet. Don’t worry! You will see a beautiful change in the dough as you proceed with folding the dough over the period of a few hours.

High Gluten Bread Flour

Another trick to help with the high water content is to choose a high gluten bread flour (affiliate link). High gluten bread flour will have a protein content at or above 14%. You can find it here. Please do not substitute all purpose flour for this recipe as written. Transforming the gluten in this dough is very important to a beautifully risen focaccia bread. If you don’t have high gluten bread flour, use bread flour and add vital wheat gluten (affiliate link) to the dough. You can find more information about the benefits of using vital wheat gluten in your bread baking here. Check the recipe notes for the exact measurements. If you are adding the vital wheat gluten instead of using high gluten bread flour, you can also try decreasing the amount of water in the dough by 25 grams to make the dough easier to work with.

Coil Folds

The coil fold is a technique of picking up the dough from the middle and letting the dough fall down onto and under itself, resulting in a coil. Once the dough is initially mixed, it will be very sticky. Place the dough in a rectangular container or glass pan. Cover it and let it sit. After half an hour, open the container and perform 4-6 coil folds. The dough will be very sticky for this first set of coil folds but will strengthen over time. Wet your hands with water. Place your hands under the middle of the dough and pull up. The dough will stretch up (but should not tear) and release from the bottom of the bowl. Once the dough releases, let the dough fall back under itself. Repeat the process for both sides of dough. Then turn the container and repeat the coil fold. Don’t worry if the dough is super sticky for the first one or two coil folds. It will transform into beautiful dough throughout this process.

I find it very helpful to watch this process before attempting it.You can watch the process here:

Focaccia Pan and Refrigerated Rise

After the dough has been developed through coil folds, let it bulk rise for an hour or two. Then it is time to put the dough in a pan. I have tried this recipe in a glass pan and a metal pan – the metal pan (affiliate link) wins hands down. I personally love using this pan. Coat a metal pan with olive oil and transfer the dough to the pan. Stretch lightly to get the dough into all four corners of the pan. If the dough resists, wait a minute and then try again, lightly stretching until the dough fills the pan. Cover the pan and place in the refrigerator overnight. This refrigeration process adds flavor and texture to the focaccia bread. I have baked the focaccia before without the refrigeration, and I think the bread turns out best when it has been refrigerated. If you really can’t wait, you can let the focaccia rise in the pan for another hour or two and get bubbly on top. Then dimple, cover with toppings and bake. For best results, though, use the overnight refrigeration method.

Good Quality Olive Oil and Salt

Another important step to amazing focaccia bread is using good quality olive oil. Olive oil coats the bottom of the pan that the dough is baked in. The focaccia will take on the flavors of the olive oil and give the most beautiful crispy crust. It may just be my favorite part of the focaccia bread. Top the focaccia bread with a flaky sea salt, some fresh herbs and maybe parmesan cheese for a delicious flavor. You can also top focaccia with tomatoes, olives, peppers, really anything that would be delicious in bread.

Dimpling the Dough

Focaccia bread is known for its dimpled look. Once the dough has been refrigerated overnight, pull it out of the fridge and bring it to room temperature (this may take longer in the winter months and shorter in the summer). Watch for the dough to bubble up and see that fermentation happening. Once the dough is bubbly and puffed up, top with desired toppings. Then take your fingers and press down lightly into the dough all around the pan. The entire top of the bread should look dimpled and bubbly. At that point it is ready to bake.

The Perfect Slice

Once the focaccia has been baked at high heat, let the bread sit in the pan for about 5-10 minutes. This lets some of the oil soak into the bread dough a little more and keeps the bottom nice and crispy. Remove it from the pan after 5-10 minutes and let cool completely on a wire rack. We all agree that focaccia is one of those breads that tastes better cooled or room temperature. The flavors have a chance to blend and it is just perfection!

If you’ve never made focaccia before, what are you waiting for? It is one of our favorite breads to snack on and never lasts more than a day around our house. If I ever have any leftovers I love to slice them up and freeze them in a big ziplock bag. I hope you love this recipe as much as we do!

Sourdough Focaccia

Crispy, light and airy sourdough focaccia bread. This recipe is made with 100% sourdough starter and makes delicious bread to eat as a sandwich or to enjoy plain.
Prep Time 1 d 12 hrs
Cook Time 25 mins
Total Time 1 d 12 hrs 25 mins
Course Bread, Sourdough
Cuisine Italian
Servings 1 9 by 13 pan

Ingredients
  

Leaven

  • 1 teaspoon ripe sourdough starter
  • 50 grams room temperature water
  • 50 grams all purpose flour

Focaccia Dough

  • 100 grams leaven
  • 425 grams room temperature water
  • 500 grams high gluten bread flour (14% protein or higher) see recipe notes for substitution
  • 13 grams salt

Instructions
 

Leaven (night before you mix the bread, day 1)

  • Mix together 1 teaspoon ripe sourdough starter with 50 grams water and 50 grams flour. Cover and let sit overnight at room temperature until bubbly and passes the float test. You can also substitute 100 grams of bubbly sourdough starter if you have some on hand.

Focaccia Dough (Mixing/Developing Dough day 2)

  • To a bowl with a stand mixer, add 100 grams leaven, 425 grams water and 500 grams high gluten bread flour. Mix together with a spoon until a sticky dough forms. Cover and let rest for 20-30 minutes.
  • Add the salt. Place the bowl into the stand mixer and fit it with a dough hook. Mix for 5 minutes on low speed (I use a 2 on my KitchenAid, affiliate link). After five minutes, on low speed, mix for 5 minutes on high speed (6-8 on my KitchenAid). Don't add more flour. The dough will be very wet but stays together.
  • Get your hands wet and transfer the dough to a shallow container. Cover and rest for 30 minutes.
  • Coil Fold 1: Open the container and perform 4-6 coil folds. The dough will be very sticky for this first set of coil folds but will strengthen over time. Wet your hands with water. Place your hands under the middle of the dough and pull up. The dough will stretch up (but should not tear) and release from the bottom of the bowl. Once the dough releases, let the dough fall back under itself. Repeat the process for both sides of dough. Then turn the container and repeat the coil fold. I find it very helpful to watch this process before attempting it. You can watch a video of the coil fold here. Cover and let rest for 30 minutes.
  • Coil Fold 2: Wet your hands. You will notice the dough is stronger than your first set of coil folds. Repeat the coil fold 4-6 times. Cover and rest for 30 minutes.
  • Coil Fold 3: Wet your hands. Repeat the coil fold 4-6 times. Notice the dough is getting stronger and the coil folds are easier to perform. Cover and rest for 30 minutes.
  • Coil Fold 4: Repeat the coil fold 4-6 times. Cover and rest for 1.5-2 hours.
  • After the long bulk rest, prepare a 9 by 13 baking pan (my favorite here, affiliate link) with 1/4-1/3 cup good quality oil. Pour the oil in the pan and tip the pan around to cover the entire bottom.
  • Turn the dough out into the pan and stretch slowly to fill the edges of the pan. Pull up gently on the underside of the dough to stretch it into place. If it doesn't want to stretch, let the dough rest for a minute and then try again.
  • Cover the pan with plastic wrap and stick in the fridge to rest overnight.

Baking the Focaccia (day 3)

  • Take the pan of dough out of the fridge and set on the counter. Let it come to room temperature (2-4 hours). The focaccia dough will begin to bubble up as it sits on the counter.
  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  • After the dough is at room temperature, puffed up and you see little air bubbles, take your fingers and gently dimple the dough. Start at the top and work your way down the dough until the entire focaccia is dimpled and bubbly.
  • Drizzle olive oil over the top of the dough. Top with your choice of fresh or dried herbs, salt and parmesan cheese (or any other topping you would like ie: cherry tomatoes, peppers, olives, etc…).
  • Bake for 25 minutes until bubbly, crispy and light golden brown on top. Let cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes before removing to a wire rack.
  • Cool to room temperature before slicing. Enjoy!

Notes

High Gluten Bread Flour: The high protein content in high gluten bread flour is really important for this recipe because of the high hydration level in this dough. Flour with 14% protein content or more works best. You can buy that here or if you don’t have bread flour, you can substitute with:
440 grams all purpose flour and 60 grams of vital wheat gluten
475 grams bread flour and 25 grams vital wheat gluten
The vital wheat gluten adds enough protein to the flour to give a similar texture to the high gluten bread flour. 
Keyword focaccia, sourdough

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Sourdough Blueberry Crumb Cake

My family has shopped at Costco since I was a child. I was actually brought home from the hospital to Kirkland, Washington (Costco’s headquarters city) where my parents lived at the time. That name may sound familiar to you if you’ve shopped at Costco, because Kirkland is the “Costco” store brand. My grandma used to buy us Costco muffins (you know those giant muffins that are more like cake than muffin?!) and I would always, always pick blueberry. I love the taste of the tart blueberries mixed with a sweet muffin. The minute I cut into this sourdough blueberry crumb cake I had a childhood flashback to those Costco muffins. This cake is thick and full of blueberries. It also has considerably less sugar than a Costco muffin and is jam-packed with tart blueberries. The crumb topping takes it over the top and had me coming back for “tastes” throughout the day. If you are also a fan of blueberry muffins, you’ve got to try this sourdough blueberry crumb cake.

Jump to Sourdough Blueberry Crumb Cake Recipe

Sourdough Discard or Sourdough Starter?

If you’re new around here, you may not know that I love baking with sourdough. I’ve got a whole bunch of recipes that use sourdough discard and sourdough starter. Because I refresh my sourdough starter often, I end up with quite a bit of leftover discard in my fridge. I don’t like this discard to go to waste, so I find muffins, waffles, crackers, pretzels and breads to put it into. The sourdough discard enhances the flavor and creates less kitchen waste. Not all sourdough discard is created equal, though. The longer the discard sits in your fridge, the more fermented and sour it will taste. If you like this flavor in your baked goods, use discard that is older. For a more mellow flavor, use discard that is only a day or two old. If you love baking with sourdough but don’t want any sour flavor, use bubbly sourdough starter instead of the discard.

Fresh or Frozen Blueberries?

My local Kroger had a great deal on blueberries this past week, so I used fresh blueberries in this sourdough blueberry crumb cake. The fresh blueberries gave this crumb cake delicious flavor. If you can, I recommend using fresh blueberries. If fresh isn’t not an option, you can use frozen blueberries. Truthfully I don’t always have fresh blueberries on hand and more often than not have a bag of frozen berries available. Toss the frozen blueberries in 1-2 teaspoons of flour, lightly coating them before stirring the berries into the cake mixture. This helps so they don’t all fall to the bottom of the cake and will be more evenly dispersed throughout. I’ve made this sourdough blueberry crumb cake with fresh and frozen blueberries and it’s delicious both times. The frozen blueberry cake did take a little more time to bake, so be prepared to add on 5-10 minutes of bake time if you use frozen blueberries.

Blueberry Crumb Topping

One of the things that sets this cake apart is the delicious crumb topping. Melt the butter, add in the dry ingredients and mix together with a spoon until you get a thick and crumbly topping. Use your fingers to sprinkle the crumb topping all over the top of the cake. I also like to dot the top of the cake with a few more fresh blueberries, pressing them in between pieces of crumb topping so that there is blueberry in every bite. Once this crumb topping is baked up, it makes the perfect sweet, crumbly crust. My four year old could be found sneaking pieces of crumb topping all. day. long. And I don’t blame him. It is GOOD!

Baking the Sourdough Blueberry Crumb Cake

Sourdough blueberry crumb cake takes a little over an hour to bake. It bakes up nice and tall and can be cut into 16 good sized pieces. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and bake the crumb cake for a little over an hour. I like to check on the cake after about 55 minutes (oven temperatures can vary). If the cake is jiggly in the middle, keep baking for another 10 minutes. I’ve found that my cake needs about 65-75 minutes to bake all the way through. If you are using frozen blueberries it may take a little bit longer than if using fresh blueberries.

I love this sourdough blueberry crumb cake. It is not overly sweet (you can add a little more sugar if you want a sweeter cake) and the blueberry really shines through. The cake rises beautifully and would be perfect for a family brunch, to pull out as a special after-school snack or even to drink with a cup of tea on a snowy day. If you are a blueberry muffin lover like me, add this recipe to your “to-make” list. It’s delicious.

Sourdough Blueberry Crumb Cake

Sourdough blueberry crumb cake is a lightly sweetened cake made with sourdough discard, studded with sweet blueberries and topped with a sweet crumb topping. Perfect for breakfast, brunch or a snack, this crumb cake is delicious!
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 1 hr 5 mins
Course Breakfast, Dessert, Snack
Cuisine American
Servings 16 slices

Ingredients
  

Crumb Topping

  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter melted
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup all purpose flour

Sourdough Blueberry Cake

  • 1.5 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter softened
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup sourdough discard or bubbly sourdough starter
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk see recipe notes for substitutions
  • 2.5 cups fresh blueberries see recipe note for frozen blueberries

Instructions
 

Crumb Topping

  • Melt 6 Tablespoons of butter. Add the sugar, vanilla, cornstarch, salt and flour. Mix together until it forms a moist, crumbly topping. Set aside the crumb topping for later.

Sourdough Blueberry Cake

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • To a small bowl, add the flour, cornstarch, baking soda, salt and baking powder. Fluff together with a fork. Set aside.
  • Using a stand mixer or a handheld mixer, mix together the softened butter and granulated sugar until light and creamy.
  • Add the egg, egg yolk and vanilla. Mix again, scraping the sides and bottom as needed until fully incorporated, light and fluffy.
  • Pour ¾ cup sourdough discard (direct from the fridge or use ripe sourdough starter) and add to the bowl. Mix together.
  • Add the flour mixture and mix until just incorporated. Pour in the buttermilk and mix until smooth.
  • Add 2 cups of fresh blueberries (reserving ½ cup for topping) to the batter and stir lightly to combine. See recipe note if using fresh blueberries.
  • Line an 8 by 8 pan (my favorite, affiliate link) with parchment paper. Pour blueberry cake mixture into the pan and spread evenly.
  • Sprinkle the crumb mixture on top of the cake, spreading it evenly and breaking up clumps with your fingers as you go. Dot the top with the reserved ½ cup of blueberries.
  • Bake the cake for 60-75 minutes until baked through. Once the cake has stopped jiggling in the middle, take a sharp knife and stick it straight in the middle of the cake. If it has batter on it, continue baking a few more minutes. If it comes out clean, the cake is finished baking.
  • Cool and slice to serve. The cake stores well at room temperature for a day or two or can be frozen for longer storage.

Notes

Buttermilk: If you don’t have buttermilk on hand, you can substitute 1/4 cup milk mixed with 1/4 cup sour cream.
Blueberries: Fresh blueberries are best for this recipe, but frozen blueberries work too in a pinch. If using frozen blueberries, toss them in 1-2 teaspoons of flour and then gently stir into the batter. This helps the blueberries spread throughout the cake and not sink to the bottom. Using frozen blueberries may also increase the baking time about 10 minutes. 
Keyword blueberry, crumb cake, snack cake

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Sourdough French Bread

As a girl living in the San Francisco Bay Area, I used to always add loaves of French bread to the grocery list from our local grocery store. It was light, fluffy and was easily one of my favorite breads of all time. That bread, however, doesn’t exist in many parts of the U.S. so I decided to make my own loaf of French bread using 100% sourdough starter and no commercial yeast in sight. While the end product doesn’t taste exactly like the Bay Area store-bought version (which undoubtedly has commercial yeast, dough enhancers, etc…), it is a stand-alone delicious bread in its own right. This sourdough french bread is initially a little crispy on the outside. As it cools it softens and you cut into a tender, light and just slightly tangy inside. With just a few simple ingredients and an active sourdough starter,  you can have this bread on your dinner table too!

Jump to Sourdough French Bread Recipe

Power-Feed the Starter Before Baking

Before beginning to bake a loaf using 100% sourdough starter, make sure that your starter is active. I like to “power-feed” my starter before beginning a loaf that has no commercial yeast in it. Starters can be trained to rise bread predictably and giving them a little power-feed refresh is the best way to do this. In the past when I have not power-fed the starter, I tend to get a sluggish rise from my bread. There’s nothing worse than spending two days to make a loaf of bread and coming out with a sub-par rise. Note that if your starter is already doubling or tripling in size every time you feed it, you may not need to “power-feed” before mixing your leaven.

How to Power-Feed Your Starter

A day before you mix up the bread, feed your starter 2-3 times in a 24 hour period. To do so, discard all but a few Tablespoons of starter. Feed with ½ cup flour and ¼ cup water (may need a tad more water depending on how you scoop your flour). Mix, mark your jar and let rise. About 6-8 hours later repeat the process, noting how much your starter rose. Discard starter for the second time (all but a few tablespoons), feed the remaining starter again and mark the jar. Six to eight hours later, before you go to bed, repeat the process a third time, discarding and feeding. When you wake up the next morning, your starter should be doubling or tripling in size (check it out with the marked jar). This is the kind of activity you want to see from a starter to be able to raise bread.  

Double Check With The Float Test

If you are like me and want to double check that your starter is ready to raise bread, you can always perform the float test. Fill a clear cup with some room temperature water. Take a little spoonful of bubbly starter and plop it in the cup. If it floats, you are ready to proceed with the recipe. If it sinks, give it a bit more time and test again in another hour. If your starter is still not floating, but it has doubled or tripled in size, it may be over-ripe. You can still use this starter, but your bread may end up with more “sour” notes. You can see a video of how to perform the float test here.

Making the Leaven

Once your starter is consistently doubling or tripling in size, you are ready to use it to mix up the leaven for the bread. I think of my sourdough starter as my “mother starter” that I constantly feed. To make any of my sourdough breads, I take some of the “mother starter” and add flour and water to it to create the amount of leaven I need to use in my bread. Technically you could directly use bubbly sourdough starter, but I find that recipes are easier to understand and come out more consistently when I use my starter in this way. To mix up the leaven, take 1 Tablespoon of sourdough starter and add to it flour and water. Cover it and let it sit 8-12 hours until it has risen and can pass the float test. Then it is ready to raise the bread.

Vital Wheat Gluten

I don’t always have bread flour on hand. To help combat this issue, I bought a large bag of vital wheat gluten (affiliate link). Vital wheat gluten is made from wheat flour and is almost pure gluten. I use this all the time in my bread recipes to increase the protein in bread, build structure and improve the elasticity and rise in my dough. A little goes a long way and I typically use about 1 teaspoon vital wheat gluten per cup of all-purpose flour, which makes a great substitute for bread flour. If you don’t have vital wheat gluten, you can substitute bread flour for the all purpose flour in this recipe and omit the vital wheat gluten.

Time and Health Benefits

As with all sourdough and natural yeast recipes, this recipe is going to take some time to rise. The cultures in your fresh yeast break down the bran of the wheat, making the bread more digestible and providing more health benefits than bread made with commercial yeast. The temperature of your kitchen will have an effect on the length of time the bread will take to rise. The recipe calls out a range of time because of those temperature factors. If you are making this sourdough french bread in the winter it may take closer to 6 hours for your loaf’s second rise (depending on the warmth of your kitchen). One of the reasons I love this recipe is that the bulk rise happens overnight, which means the starter is doing all the work while you are asleep.

A Sample Timeline: Sourdough French Bread

Day 1: Power-Feed Your Starter 2-3 times (omit this step if it’s already doubling/tripling in size regularly)

Day 2: 

  • 8-10 AM Mix the leaven. Cover and leave to rise until it has doubled in size and passes the float test.
  • 6-8 PM Mix the dough using a stand mixer. Cover and let rise overnight.

Day 3

  • 6-8 AM Shape dough, cover and let rise in a warm place until puffy and almost doubled.
  • 11-2 PM Score loaves and bake.

Baking Tips

I often place my loaves on a parchment-lined baking sheet to rise and they turn out great. If you want your loaf to turn out similar to a traditional baguette and you are planning to bake a lot of baguette style loaves, investing in one of these (affiliate link) special baguette pans is worth it in my opinion. They help give a crispy crust with the air flow around the entire baguette and produce a superior product. This is not to say you can’t get a beautiful loaf on a traditional baking sheet and if you aren’t planning to bake much baguette, I wouldn’t worry about a baguette pan. To help either type of loaf get a crispy crust, I like to throw a few ice cubes into the bottom of my preheated oven right before before baking the baguettes. The ice cubes produce steam throughout the baking process which gives a beautiful crispy crust to these sourdough baguettes. 

If you love sourdough or want an easy-to-follow recipe to use your starter with, this recipe is really a great one. The dough is mixed in a stand mixer, it rises overnight and produces a few delicious loaves of french bread. The only “tricky” part for sourdough newbies is just making sure your starter is active and able to raise a loaf of bread. I’m hoping these tips will help you feel confident to try it out! Before you know it you can be pulling out some beautiful loaves of sourdough bread to sop up some soup, enjoy with butter or just to tear apart on a a family picnic. Enjoy!

Soft Sourdough French Bread

Crispy but soft, tangy and light this sourdough french bread is made with 100% sourdough starter and is absolutely delicious.
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 35 mins
Total Rise Time 16 hrs
Course Bread
Cuisine American
Servings 2 loaves

Ingredients
  

Leaven: 8-12 hours before mixing dough

  • 1 Tablespoon sourdough starter
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup room temperature water

Dough

  • All of the leaven or 1 1/4 cups bubbly sourdough starter
  • 2 cups room temperature water
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon salt
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 6-7 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 Tablespoons vital wheat gluten *see recipe notes

Instructions
 

Leaven

  • Eight to twelve hours before mixing the dough, add 1 Tablespoon of ripe sourdough starter to a small bowl.
  • Add 1 cup of flour and 3/4 cup water to the starter. Mix together and cover with plastic wrap. Let sit for 8-12 hours until it has doubled in size and passes the float test.

Mixing the Dough

  • To the bowl of a stand mixer with a dough hook add the bubbly leaven, water, sugar, salt, and vegetable oil.
  • Add 5.5 cups flour and the vital wheat gluten and mix. Continue adding flour until the dough pulls away from the side of the bowl, the dough is tacky (but not overly sticky) and you can pinch of a piece of dough, roll it in your fingers and just have a little bit of residual dough on your fingers. Check out these tips to know if your dough is ready.
  • Knead the dough for about 8-10 minutes (set a timer and let the mixer go) and add a Tablespoon of flour at a time as needed.
  • Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 8-12 hours (overnight).
  • The next morning the dough will have risen. The amount of rise depends a lot on the temperature of your kitchen. Don't worry, if your starter is very active, it will be okay.
  • Transfer the dough to a countertop. Cut the dough in two sections for two large loaves or in three for three smaller loaves.
  • Pat the dough into a rectangle and roll up cinnamon-roll style, pinching the seams closed as you roll.
  • Repeat with the remaining sourdough loaves.
  • Place the loaves on a parchment-lined baking sheet or use a baguette bread pan. Cover with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap. Let the loaves rise for 3-6 hours until puffy and almost doubled in size (the time will depend on the warmth of your kitchen).

Baking the Bread

  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Throw a handful of ice cubes into the bottom of the oven while it preheats.
  • Slash or score the loaves with a bread lame or sharp knife.
  • Bake the bread for 35 minutes until a nice golden color. Brush with melted butter and let cool completely before slicing. Enjoy!

Notes

Vital Wheat Gluten: If you don’t have vital wheat gluten (I buy mine here), you can omit it and use bread flour in place of all purpose flour. 
Keyword soft french bread, sourdough bread

Follow me on Instagram @amybakesbread, like Amy Bakes Bread on Facebook or follow me on Pinterest for more baking ideas.

Please share this recipe if you enjoyed it! Post a photo and tag me @amybakesbread so I can see your bake.

Dehydrating Sourdough starter: Long-Term Storage

I love baking in general but sourdough has a special place in my heart. I have spent countless hours researching, experimenting and baking with sourdough starter. Sourdough is a labor of love and I still have a spark of joy every time I take the top off my dutch oven and see the “oven spring” in a beautiful loaf of bread. 

What do you do when you need to take a break from your sourdough “baby?”

Because keeping sourdough alive is such a process, (tips for maintaining your sourdough starter here), it can be a little disheartening to leave your “sourdough baby” when you have a vacation or you just want to take a little break from the daily or weekly feeding process. In the past, after months of successful baking, I have let my starter die because I didn’t know how to travel with it or store it properly when I needed a break from the daily feeding process (when I had my babies, job changes or moves, etc…). 

This year I feel a particularly special connection to my sourdough starter. We’ve been through a lot together…COVID-19, my son’s type 1 diabetes diagnosis, “unintentional homeschooling,” and starting up this blog. We have baked a lot of good loaves of bread together. When I decided to travel across the country to visit family post-quarantine, I didn’t want to leave my sourdough starter behind. I knew I had to find a way to travel with it that didn’t have me stopping at gas stations every morning to feed my starter or having it confiscated at airport security for it being a “liquid.”

Long-Term or Short-Term Sourdough Starter Storage

Sourdough starter can be kept in your fridge with a weekly feeding and honestly it can usually keep in the fridge for up to a month or longer if you really “forget about it” (though I wouldn’t recommend it!). The best way I’ve found to travel with sourdough starter or to store it if you just need a little break from a weekly feeding is to dehydrate your starter. Once the starter has been dehydrated and placed in an air-tight container, you can store the starter in a cool, dry, dark location for many months…even years.

How to Dehydrate Sourdough Starter

  1. If you have been feeding your starter at room temperature daily: Feed it like normal and wait until the starter barely doubles in size (usually 4-6 hours) and is very bubbly.
  2. If you have been feeding your starter weekly in the fridge: Feed your starter like normal and leave it on the counter. After 12 hours, feed it again and wait 12 hours at room temperature. Feed it for the third time and wait (usually 4-6 hours) until it is very bubbly.
  3. Once the starter is very bubbly (usually 4-6 hours after feeding), line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using an offset spatula (affiliate link), spread the bubbly sourdough starter very thinly onto the piece of parchment paper.
  1. 4. Let the starter air dry for up to 24 hours. If after 24 hours the starter is not dry, try setting it in your oven with the oven light on. Make sure your oven is turned OFF. Turning the oven on will kill your starter. Leaving just the oven light on with the starter inside and the door closed will give off enough heat to help dry out the starter. Alternatively you can leave it out at room temperature to dry for another few hours.
  1. 5. Once the starter is completely dry, break it up into little pieces and place in an airtight container. Store in a dark, cool place for many months or up to a few years (Full disclosure: I haven’t stored my starter for years, but everything I’ve researched has shown that with proper storage a dehydrated starter will store for a long time).

Travel. Take a Break. Mail some to a Friend.

Once your starter is dehydrated and stored, go ahead and feel the freedom of traveling…or just not being tied to the feeding process. Sometimes you need a little break. Bring a little starter with you if you want to bake for family/friends you are visiting, or keep it in your pantry if you want a little break. You could even mail some to a friend who wants to make their own sourdough bread but can’t seem to figure out how to get a starter going. If you need tips for creating your own starter, check them out here. Once you are ready to bake with your starter again, start the re-hydration process. This will take about 2 days (48ish hours) to get your starter nice and bubbly, and is very dependent on temperature and climate, so plan accordingly.

Dehydrated starter ready to re-hydrate (or store in an airtight container).

How to Re-hydrate your Sourdough Starter

Note: If you are in a new-to-you area and don’t know the properties of tap water (some tap water has small amounts of chlorine in it, which is not good for sourdough), feed your dehydrated starter with distilled or bottled water

First Hour

Choose a jar to rehydrate your starter in. Place the dehydrated starter into the new jar. Using distilled water (or water from a water bottle), cover the dehydrated starter with water. The water should just cover the dehydrated starter.

1-4 Hours

Stir the starter every hour for about four hours. Every time you stir the starter, notice how the sourdough is breaking down and the mixture is turning cloudy. After about four hours, the starter should be dissolved in the water. If it’s not dissolved, give it a little more time and keep stirring. Proceed once the starter is completely dissolved.

4-16 hours (or overnight)

Spoon about 1/4 cup of flour into the dissolved sourdough and mix to combine. Add more flour if the mixture is soupy. It should be the consistency of a thick batter. If needed, add 1-2 Tablespoons of water to keep the mixture the consistency of a very thick batter. Let the mixture sit overnight or about 12 hours.

16-28 hours Stir, Feed and let sit for 12 hours 

Check on the mixture. Look for bubbles, activity and maybe even some hooch (a thin, sour smelling liquid on the surface of the starter). If the starter has bubbles and looks active, feed* it. If it doesn’t look very active, let it sit in a warm place for a little bit longer.

*To feed the starter, discard 3/4 of the starter. Add 1/3-1/2 cup flour to the jar with the 1/4 cup starter remaining. Add a few Tablespoons of water and mix to combine to a thick batter consistency.

28-40 hours Stir, Feed and let sit overnight (12 hours)

Stir down the starter, pour off any hooch and feed the starter. Mark your jar and watch as the starter rises and falls.

40-52 hours Stir, Feed and let sit for 12 hours

If the starter hasn’t doubled in size yet, repeat the feeding process. Feed the starter. Mark the jar and watch for it to become bubbly and rise.

Ready to use Again

Once your starter is rising and falling predictably, it is ready to use! Location, ambient temperature, environment etc… will determine how quickly this process or re-hydrating works but your starter should be rising and falling within 48-72 hours.  

Ready to bake with! One bowl of leaven and continuing to feed my starter.

From this point, you are just a few simple ingredients away from some very, very good bread that won’t take you a week or more to make your own starter! If you are looking for some good sourdough bread recipes, check out some of my favorites here, here and here.

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Sourdough Discard: Crispy Crackers

When I started my sourdough journey many years ago, I initially thought, “What do I do with all this waste?” I felt like I was constantly feeding and then throwing out a lot of the discard every day. I didn’t realize at the time that discard is actually pretty amazing in its own right and can be used in a variety of recipes. This is especially nice right now when we are doing our best to use up every little bit of flour we can.

I keep my discard in a Tupperware in my fridge. Remember to stir it before using it.

I keep one (sometimes two) Tupperware in my fridge and every time I feed my sourdough starter I “discard” about 80 percent of it into my Tupperware. If I’m feeding my starter once a week and keeping it in the fridge I don’t end up with very much discard. If I’m feeding my starter daily, the discard really piles up and I have plenty to use in special “discard” recipes. 

I’ve been experimenting with different recipes for “discard” crackers for the past month and this recipe turned out even better than I anticipated. When I set them out for my family to try all of my kids said, “Mom, these are AMAZING!” And that is high praise coming from some pretty picky eight-year-olds. The wonderful thing about this recipe is how adaptable it is to what you have in your pantry. You can add in your favorite herbs or choose to sweeten them up with a little cinnamon and sugar. We like them with our favorite cheese baked in too. These crackers are thin, crispy, light and have the perfect tang that sets these apart from your regular crackers.

So I’m here to tell you don’t throw away that discard! This recipe is so simple, so delicious and can be made today. You will want to keep a sourdough starter going just so you can make these crackers…they are that good! My kids devoured them.

Yield: 1 half sheet pan of crackers

Time: 10 minute mix, 40 minute bake

Ingredients: Pick one of the recipes below

Herb Seasoned Discard Crackers

  • ½ cup sourdough discard (about 135 grams)
  • 2 Tablespoons all purpose flour (about 25 grams)
  • 2 Tablespoons (about 25 grams) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon “everything but the Bagel” seasoning (or dried herbs)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

Cinnamon Sugar Discard Crackers

  • ½ cup sourdough discard (about 135 grams)
  • 2 Tablespoons all purpose flour (about 25 grams)
  • 2 Tablespoons (about 25 grams) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 Tablespoon white sugar, plus another 1 Tablespoon for sprinkling on top
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

Cheesy Discard Crackers

  • ½ cup sourdough discard (about 135 grams)
  • 2 Tablespoons all purpose flour (about 25 grams)
  • 2 Tablespoons (about 25 grams) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 Tablespoon grated Asiago cheese (or other hard, strong-flavored cheese)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
Front to back: Herb seasoned, Asiago, Cinnamon Sugar crackers

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 300 degrees and line a half sheet pan with a piece of parchment paper.
  2. Stir down your sourdough discard (if there is any “hooch” on the top, pour it off). 
  3. In a small bowl stir together 135 grams sourdough discard, 2 Tablespoons of flour and 2 Tablespoons of melted butter. 
  4. Add ¼ teaspoon salt and your seasoning of choice. Mix together with a spatula. The dough will resemble a thick batter.
  5. Pour the batter into the middle of the parchment paper. Using an offset spatula or a butter knife, spread the batter very evenly and thinly to cover the parchment paper.
  6. If you are making the cinnamon-sugar crackers sprinkle the top with 1 Tablespoon of cinnamon.
  7. Bake for 40-50 minutes at 300 degrees. Check your crackers around the 30 minute mark to make sure they are not getting too brown. Oven temperatures do vary, so your crackers may need a little less or a little more time. I find 40 minutes to be perfect in my oven.
  8. Let the crackers cool for 10 minutes and then break into pieces. If you want them a little more flavorful, sprinkle a little extra salt on top. Enjoy! If you have any leftovers, store in an airtight container for a few days.

Recipe Notes: If you use salted butter, leave out the salt in the recipe. We love the “Everything But the Bagel Seasoning” in place of dried herbs in the Herb Seasoned Discard Crackers. If you want to “cut” the crackers into squares, pull the pan out after 10 minutes of baking. Use a pizza cutter to cut into shapes and then continue baking. 

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No Knead, Rustic Sourdough

I am the type of person who likes to do things really, really well the first time. I always want the best of the best and I like to “shoot for the stars.” This can be a good quality but it also has its downsides. Sometimes I won’t try if I don’t think I can do it well enough. Sometimes I bypass the “easy” and “beginner” recipes for the more complicated ones and miss out on some really great bread, like this no knead, rustic sourdough.

Jump to No Knead, Rustic Sourdough Recipe

Perfect Beginner Sourdough Bread

No knead, rustic sourdough is the perfect beginner recipe for a delicious loaf of crusty sourdough bread. It will produce an addictive, crunchy crust and a yummy middle. It doesn’t take much active time, just a lot of “hands off” time and you can have a delicious loaf of bread with no commercial yeast. This bread is no-knead and even the newest bakers can make it and treat their families and loved ones to some of the best bread right out of your home oven. Basically, it’s the perfect starter recipe. In some ways I wish I had learned to make this recipe when I first learned about sourdough because it would have been helpful to understand some basics before trying to wrap my mind around “more advanced” techniques. I also love how simple this bread is and that you can keep the dough in your fridge for up to two days before baking. Fresh-baked bread on demand?! Sign me up! If you are new to sourdough, this recipe is for you!

Sourdough Basics

If you are a sourdough beginner, it’s important to understand a couple basics. People will often use different terms when talking about the rising agent in sourdough. You will see recipes on the internet or in cookbooks that talk about starter and leaven (levain in French). The makeup of these is basically the same…flour, water and natural yeast/bacteria. The purpose of them is different. 

Sourdough Leaven Explained

A sourdough starter can be thought of as the “mother” (maybe you have heard of the term “mother yeast?). You keep the “mother” at the same level, re-feeding it weekly by getting rid of the discard and adding flour and water to the “mother” starter. Anytime you want to make bread, you take a portion of the “mother” and create leaven with it (the offspring of the mother). The leaven is the yeast that is actually used in the bread. It is an offshoot of the “mother yeast.” The process of building the leaven looks the same as the starter. Take a small amount of the sourdough starter (“mother”), add flour and water as dictated by the recipe and allow it to rise and ferment over the course of a few hours or overnight. This is a new leaven. The leaven is what you will use when you make your loaf of bread.

Said another way, your leaven is “built” using a small portion of your starter. In all my sourdough recipes, I keep my “mother” starter separate from my leaven. I always build a leaven (using the starter) for the recipe. Clear as mud?! You can also look at few of my other sourdough posts for more information on working with sourdough.

Making the Bread

I like to mix my leaven the night before I plan to make the bread. I let my leaven sit out, covered, on the counter overnight and then it is ready to use in the morning to mix the bread dough. After mixing the dough, you will spend the day doing a series of stretch and folds and letting the sourdough work in the dough to create air and gas bubbles. In the recipe notes I have an option to bake the bread the same day as you are developing the dough. This works but the flavor will be better if you can put it in the fridge overnight or up to 48 hours. To watch the recipe start to finish on IGTV click here.

Dutch Oven

One more important note about this recipe and about artisan sourdough bread is that you will need a dutch oven. A dutch oven helps trap the steam which gives your loaf of bread a beautiful “oven spring” and rise. If you don’t have a dutch oven or a bread and potato pot (my new favorite, affiliate link) and want to bake sourdough, you can try using a pizza stone (affiliate link). The pizza stone may not give quite the same results, but they should be good if you follow these steps: Throw in a few handfuls of ice cubes at the bottom of your oven right before you close the oven door to bake your loaf. This will generate some steam and give you some crust and rise. I do highly recommend investing in a dutch oven if you can and are planning to  make this bread. It is worth it. The caramelized crust and delicious flavor with a hint of sourdough are perfect when paired with some soft butter or a dollop of jam.

No Knead, Rustic Sourdough

The perfect no knead, rustic sourdough bread for beginners! This recipe will produce a crunchy crust, yummy middle and it does all the work itself in this relatively hands-off sourdough made with no commercial yeast. It's the perfect starter recipe if you are new to sourdough.
Prep Time 25 mins
Cook Time 45 mins
Resting/Rising Time 23 hrs
Course Bread, Sourdough
Cuisine American
Servings 1 loaf

Ingredients
  

Leaven (8 hour rise)

  • 50 grams ripe sourdough starter
  • 200 grams water, room temperature about 3/4 cup (plus 2 Tablespoons)
  • 200 grams all purpose flour about 1 1/3 cups

Dough (8-36 hour rise)

  • 230 grams leaven about 1 cup
  • 400 grams water, room temperature about 1 3/4 cups
  • 600 grams bread flour or all purpose (see recipe note) about 4 1/2 cups
  • 12 grams salt about 2 teaspoons

Instructions
 

Build the Leaven

  • To a bowl or large jar add 50 grams of starter, 200 grams of water and 200 grams of flour. Mix together. Cover and let sit at room temperature for 5-8 hours until the mixture has doubled in size (this will take longer in a cold kitchen and speed up in a warm environment).
  • Once the leaven has doubled in size it is ready to use. At this point you can do the float test to see if it is ready to use. Drop a small piece of the leaven in a glass of water. If it floats, it is ready. If not, leave it to sit a little longer. If you decided to mix your leaven the night before, let it sit out covered on the counter overnight. In this case you don't need to worry about the float test.

Sourdough Bread

  • Mix 230 grams of ripe leaven (you will have some leftover), room temperature water, flour and salt in a bowl using a wooden spoon or dough whisk (affiliate link). The dough will look “shaggy” but will come together. 
  • Cover the bowl and let it sit for an hour. After an hour, uncover the bowl and do a series of three "fold-and-turns". To do this, pick up the underside of the dough and fold it on top of itself, turning the bowl after each fold and picking up a different section of the dough to fold and turn. An example of this folding technique is found here (halfway through the video).
  • Cover the bowl again and let it rest for another hour. Notice how the dough is coming together. It doesn’t feel shaggy anymore and is becoming more stretchy and cohesive. For the second time, do the series of three folds.
  • Cover the bowl again and let it rest for its third and final hour. Repeat the series of three folds.
  • Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a lid and put it in the refrigerator to rest overnight. The dough can stay in the refrigerator for 8 to 48 hours. See recipe notes for instructions on baking the same day.
  • The next morning (or whenever you are ready to bake your bread), put a dutch oven (affiliate link and see recipe notes for more options) into your oven with the lid on and set the oven to 500 degrees. Preheat the dutch oven by leaving it in the oven for 50 minutes.
  • Immediately after setting the dutch oven to preheat, pull out a piece of parchment paper. Take your dough out of the fridge and shape into a round ball. Do not punch down the dough, just lightly form with the palms of your hands. It should be fairly easy to work with because it is cold. 
  • When your dutch oven has preheated for 50 minutes, score the top of your bread with a bread lame (affiliate link), sharp knife or razor.
  • Take the dutch oven out of the oven. Warning: This is a VERY HOT dutch oven. Keep those oven mitts on and be very careful not to burn yourself. Take the top off the dutch oven and place the dough and parchment paper into the dutch oven. Place the top back on the dutch oven and close the oven door.
  • Immediately decrease the baking time to 450 degrees and bake for 25 minutes.
  • After 25 minutes, take the top off the dutch oven and continue baking for 20 more minutes. This will produce the crisp crust you are looking for.
  • Pull your bread out of the oven. Wait (if you can) to cut into it until your bread has cooled. Enjoy!

Notes

Bread Flour: If you don’t have bread flour on hand, you can substitute all purpose flour and vital wheat gluten. Use 600 grams of all purpose flour and add a Tablespoon vital wheat gluten. 
Instructions for Baking without Refrigerating the Dough: The sourdough flavor comes through the most and is more complex the longer you refrigerate the dough. If you want to bake the bread immediately without refrigerating, once you finish your series of stretch and folds, let the dough rest in the container a couple of hours to rise. Once it is puffed up and doubled in size, preheat the oven and pot. Gently shape the dough into a round ball, doing your best not to deflate the dough. Cover and let sit for another hour while the oven preheats. Then score and bake according to the recipe.
Dutch Oven: This is the dutch oven I have used for many years. I recently purchased this bread and potato pot and love the bake I get with it. If you don’t have a dutch oven you can also heat a pizza stone to 500 degrees. Once the pizza stone is pre-heated, throw a handful of ice cubes into the hot oven and place the bread on the pizza stone. This will mimic a dutch-oven bake.
Keyword beginner sourdough, easy sourdough, sourdough

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Sourdough Series: Maintaining Your Starter

Okay, so you’ve made or acquired a sourdough starter. “Now what?! Do I really have to keep feeding it forever??!! What do I do with it now? Help!!” These are thoughts that many of us have when we are new to baking with sourdough. I hope to set your mind at ease and answer a few sourdough starter questions for a sourdough “newbie.”

Feeding Your Starter

If you keep feeding your starter at the same time every day, it will be active, happy and ready to bake when you are. The proportion I like best is:

  • 30 grams starter
  • 100 grams flour (you can use all purpose, or a 50/50 blend of whole wheat and white – it’s your personal preference, but it is best to include at least some white flour in the blend)
  • 100 grams water, room temperature
A happy, active starter that is regularly doubling in size

Start by stirring it down. Usually by the time 24 hours is up and my starter is ready to be fed, it looks a little more runny than it does right after feeding. This is because the bacteria/yeast is hungry again and wants to feed on fresh flour. Discard all but 30 grams of your starter. To the 30 grams, add 100 grams of water and 100 grams of flour. If you do not have a kitchen scale, do yourself a favor and get one now. Almost all sourdough recipes use the metric system to measure all the ingredients, so a scale that can display metric units is ideal. If you don’t have one yet, you can take about 2-3 Tablespoons of starter and add 1 cup of flour and ½ cup water to the starter for feeding. 

Mark the top level of your starter (I use a rubber band to do this) and then watch as it rises throughout the day and falls. Feed it again 24 hours later. Choose a time when you are reasonably confident you will be able to feed your starter daily. I like feeding it either in the morning or the evening, pick whatever works best for you. If you are off by a couple of hours, it’s okay. Just feed the starter when you can.

I like to feed my starter every 24 hours because it fits better into the rhythm of my life. There are times when you may want to increase the daily feedings to two or three times a day, for example if you are trying to revive a starter or want to bake a lot of sourdough bread in a day. If you feed your starter twice a day (once in the morning and once at night), your starter will become more active and learn to rise and fall every 12 hours, doubling or tripling in size while rising. If you feed your starter 3 times a day (every 6-8 hours) it will be even more active.

But, Amy”, you say…“Do I really have to feed this starter daily for the rest of my life??!!” The answer is, “No!” One of the beautiful things about modern technology and baking is that we can use the refrigerator to our advantage. 

Refrigerating Starter

Refrigerating sourdough starter significantly slows down the fermentation process, which means you only have to feed it weekly. This is really nice for a home-baker who doesn’t make sourdough bread every day. You may only want to make bread once every week or two or even once a month. Many home-bakers who keep sourdough in their fridge keep it in a crock in the back of their fridge. Others use a covered mason jar or small tupperware. It doesn’t really matter what you use. What matters is that you continue feeding your starter regularly – once a week. 

When you are doing a maintenance feed to a refrigerated starter, pull it out of the fridge. Often the starter will have some liquid on the top that smells strong. This is called “hooch.” You can stir that back in to your starter if you want a strong-tasting sourdough. Alternatively (and what I recommend) is to get rid of the hooch by pouring it into the sink (when the starter has been kept refrigerated, the hooch should easily pour off while the starter will remain in the container). Once the hooch is poured off, stir down your starter. In your jar mix the following (the proportion is the same as above):

  • 30 grams of the stirred down starter (discard the rest of the starter)
  • 100 grams water, room temperature
  • 100 grams flour

Cover your starter and let it sit on the counter for 1-4 hours. Then put it back in the fridge for another week or until you are ready to use it. If you continue this process feeding it weekly, you will always have the key to sourdough bread at your fingertips. You can watch this process here.

When you want to bake with a refrigerated starter, pull your starter out of the fridge a day or two before you need to mix your leaven. Feed your starter twice that day (once in the morning and once in the evening). This will help revive your starter and re-activate the yeast back to its robust self. If you don’t do this your bread may not rise as well.

If you end up forgetting about your starter in the back of the fridge for awhile, don’t panic. Lift the lid and check it out. It may be possible to revive your starter. Pull back any dark discard/skin and look at the starter underneath it. Get rid of the gray/dark colored part and use the starter at the bottom (that is not discolored) to feed and try to revive. You may want to feed it two or three times a day to try and revive a starter that has been sitting in the fridge for a month or two without feeding.

Discard: The nitty gritty

What’s the deal with the discard? Discard is actually a pretty beautiful by-product of sourdough. It is the part of the starter that you don’t feed and that you can throw away, but I wouldn’t. Once you have a strong, active and healthy sourdough starter, the “discard” or the part of the starter that you get rid of every time you feed the starter can be stored in the refrigerator. I keep a tupperware in my fridge specifically for my sourdough discard. Every time I go to feed my starter, I take out the 30 grams I need to feed. Then I pour all of my unused starter into my discard tupperware and put it back in the fridge. I continue adding discard to this same tupperware throughout my week of baking with sourdough.

Store your discard in the fridge

I use the discard to bake with. Typically discard is used in a specific “discard recipe.” You can “google” discard recipes or check out some that I have on my blog. Discard is often found in recipes for pancakes, waffles, muffins, scones, white bread, biscuits, banana bread, homemade pasta, etc… Sourdough discard enhances the flavor of recipes. It does not act as the rising agent in the recipes but instead adds some acidity and can keep your baked goods very tender. So don’t throw away your discard. Keep it in your fridge and bake with it. I feel comfortable using my discard for up to about 2 weeks in the fridge.

Time to Make Bread

So now that my starter is active and I’m feeding it regularly, how do I actually use it in a recipe? That’s a great question and it kind of depends on the recipe itself. Typically you want to choose a recipe that is written for sourdough bread and starter. These recipes are formulated to the measurements needed for leaven instead of commercial yeast. I wouldn’t take a recipe for commercial yeast and sub in leaven…it most likely won’t work well. Almost every sourdough recipe is going to have you build a leaven before making the actual bread. This is an extra step that you wouldn’t necessarily take when baking with commercial yeast. 

To build your leaven you usually take a small amount of your sourdough starter and add flour and water to it in a separate bowl. The required amounts depend on the recipe. Often you will mix your leaven the night before you mix your bread. Sometimes you can mix your leaven the day of (it depends on the recipe). The leaven is kept separate from your starter, even though the process of creating leaven is very similar to feeding starter.

After you have mixed your leaven you will need to wait until it is ready to use for your recipe. To test for the readiness of your leaven you can perform the float test. The float test tells you if there is enough carbon dioxide to raise bread. Usually your leaven will pass the float test when it reaches its peak height (doubled in size).

Float test: Fill a clear cup with some room temperature water. Take a little drop of your leaven and plop it in the cup. If it floats, you are ready to proceed with the recipe. If it sinks, give it a bit more time and test again in another hour. However, leaven that has risen too much will not float. You can still use this leaven, but your bread may end up with more “sour” notes (not necessarily bad). You can watch an example of the float test here.

After your leaven passes the float test, you are ready to mix the dough for your sourdough bread. 

This beauty is worth the wait!

Here are a few of my favorite recipes:

Basic Country White Bread (the crispy crust sourdough bread that dreams are made of)

Sourdough Sandwich Bread (soft, white sandwich bread that has a beautiful flavor and crumb)

I hope that this was a helpful introduction to maintaining a sourdough starter. You can do this! If you can’t find commercial yeast right now, you can still make your own home-made bread. Make your own sourdough starter using my guide, or find someone who will share some of theirs with you. If you are local to Kentucky, I’m happy to give you some 🙂

One more note: Sourdough will take longer to rise than traditional commercial yeast. This is normal. Be prepared for long rise times with the reward of delicious bread.

Please share this post if you enjoyed it. If you need help with your sourdough starter, send me a message on Facebook or Instagram.

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Sourdough Sandwich Bread

Perfect sourdough sandwich bread

When I first started making sourdough bread, it never occurred to me to make a loaf of sourdough sandwich bread. I love the crusty artisan bread so much and I had a favorite white sandwich bread recipe already, so I never thought about looking for a soft sourdough sandwich bread. That all changed a few months ago.

During this coronavirus epidemic, yeast is proving difficult to find. I am looking for more and more recipes that don’t use very much yeast so I can conserve the amount of yeast I do have…considering we don’t know when this pandemic is going to end. This sourdough bread is perfect because it calls for such small amount of yeast and can even be made with no yeast at all, if you have a really strong sourdough starter (just leave the commercial yeast out completely)! 

With the amount of sourdough starter used in this recipe, the rise time will be a little longer than most commercially yeasted breads. That is the nature of sourdough and natural yeast. Just make sure that your bread rises a little bit above your loaf pans before popping them in the oven and you will be good to go.

The crumb of this white bread is absolutely delicious, tender and great for the perfect sandwich, cinnamon sugar toast or just to eat plain. My whole family loves this bread and even when this whole pandemic ends, it will be one of my go-to white bread recipes. The sourdough doesn’t give any “sour” flavor to the bread, it just enhances the tenderness and flavor. It is such a delicious bread that I am already scheming for when I can make my next loaf. If you have a sourdough starter you’ve been playing around with these last few weeks, this is definitely a recipe you will want to try and bookmark. It’s delicious!

The sourdough gives this loaf a beautiful crumb and flavor

Yield: 2 loaves of white sourdough sandwich bread

Time: Overnight build leaven, 20 minute mix/knead, 2 hour rise, 10 minute shape, 2 hour rise (using leaven as the main yeast in the recipe makes the dough rise a bit slower than commercial yeast)

Ingredients:

Leaven:

  • 50 grams sourdough starter
  • 150 grams white flour
  • 150 grams warm water 

Dough:

  • 340 grams water (1 ½ cups)
  • All of the ripe leaven
  • 50 grams of sugar (¼ cup)
  • 2 ½ teaspoons salt, 20 grams
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast, 10 grams
  • 4 Tablespoons vegetable oil, 50 grams
  • 690 grams all purpose flour (about 4 ¾ cups)

Directions:

  1. The night before making the bread, mix the ingredients to form the leaven. 
  2. In the morning mix together the water, all of the ripe leaven, sugar, salt, instant yeast and vegetable oil. Add flour a cup at a time until the dough clears the sides of the bowl. The dough will still be sticky but should form a ball easily. Knead for 5-10 minutes. This helps develop the gluten and elasticity in the dough.
  3. Put a drop of oil in a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl. Cover with a kitchen towel (or plastic wrap) and let rise in a warm place. To encourage rising I will turn the light on in my oven (don’t turn the oven on) and place my covered dough inside the oven (not directly under the light). This acts as a “proofing” box and will keep the temperature warm for a quicker rise.
  4. After the dough has doubled in size, turn the dough out onto the counter and cut in half. This recipe makes two loaves of bread. Shape the dough into a rectangle. You will be rolling the dough into a cylinder shape. Starting at the edge closest to you, roll up the dough. Take care to press in the dough at the seam after each roll and pinch the seam closed at the end.
  5. Transfer the dough, seam side-down to a bread pan. I use an 8.5 by 4.5 bread pan. Repeat with the second loaf of bread.
  6. Allow the dough to rise again (1-2 hours), covered and in a warm place. The dough should just rise a little bit over the top of the bread pan (it will rise more in the oven). 
  7. Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees. Bake the bread for 35 minutes. Top with melted butter if desired. Enjoy!

Recipe Notes: This bread will work without the addition of the commercial yeast if you have a strong sourdough starter. It will take more time for the bread to rise (2-4 hours for each rise depending on the temperature of your kitchen), but if you have no commercial yeast (or can’t find any), you can still make a delicious loaf of white bread. Just leave the commercial yeast out and use the power of your strong sourdough starter to raise the bread.

Please share this recipe if you enjoyed it! Post a photo and tag me @amybakesbread so I can see your bake 🙂

Follow me on Instagram @amybakesbread or like Amy Bakes Bread on Facebook for more baking ideas.

Sourdough: Basic Country Artisan Bread

This is an advanced sourdough recipe. If you are looking for an easier, beginner version, check out this recipe here.

This recipe is what sourdough dreams are made of. About 8 years ago, I first started making sourdough bread. At the time I had twin babies and a toddler. I was exhausted all the time and had absolutely no time for myself. I would lie on the floor of my twins room, waiting for them to fall asleep for nap time and research sourdough bread. It was an outlet for me that was much needed at the time and it brought me a lot of peace. As I’ve refined my skills over the years, I’ve grown more in love with sourdough (and all baking) and am in a place to hopefully share my knowledge and love of baking with others.

My first loaf of homemade sourdough bread about 8 years ago

Being able to make a loaf of bread completely from three ingredients (flour, water and salt) is amazing. And this bread is also amazing. It is crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. This recipe comes from Tartine Bakery in San Francisco and I’ve given my take on the recipe below. When you read Tartine’s book, it reads like a story. An amazing story but it can be difficult to understand as a recipe for a home baker. I’ve tried to take that story and simplify it into an easier-to-understand version of the recipe.

With that said, it takes a long time. It is not an easy recipe that will result in a loaf of bread in one day. This is a multiple day process…but so worth it! Even though it takes a couple of days it does not require a lot of hands-on time, most of it is rising time. You can easily work some loaves of bread like this into your schedule over a weekend or when you have a mostly free day at home.

Scoring the bread is one of my favorite parts

Before you take on this recipe, I highly encourage you to check out my posts:

Sourdough Starter–making your own usually takes 1-2 weeks

Sourdough Tools

How to Make Your own Sourdough Starter

Video of the entire process, start to finish!

If you are planning to use a starter that has been kept in your fridge, add a day to this recipe, pull it out and feed it the night before building your leaven. Feed it again in the morning and then build your leaven that night.

Yield: 2 loaves of sourdough bread (the best you’ve ever had)

Time: about 36-48 hours

Directions:

Day 1 (at night): Build the leaven
In a small bowl, mix together the ingredients listed below. Cover and let sit at room temperature overnight or about 12 hours. This is your leaven. 

  • 1 Tablespoon (about 20 grams) of mature sourdough starter
  • 200 grams all purpose flour or white bread flour
  • 200 grams room temperature water

Alternatively, you can build the leaven on day two if you wake up early and have a little extra time. Mix the ingredients below. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 2-4 hours until doubled in size.

  • 113 grams of mature starter
  • 113 grams of warm water
  • 113 grams of flour

You will not be using the entire amount of leaven. You can save any leftover leaven as discard and store in the fridge for a week or two before using in a “discard” recipe.

Day 2: Mixing Day (you will need to be present at different times throughout the day to turn the dough)

The leaven you built should have doubled in size overnight (or within 2 to 4 hours if you chose to build it the morning of day 2). First test the leaven using the float test to make sure it is ready to bake with:

The leaven is floating in the water

Float test: Fill a clear cup with some room temperature water. Take a little drop of your leaven and plop it in the cup. If it floats, you are ready to proceed with the recipe. If it sinks, it either hasn’t risen long enough, or it has risen too long. If you think it needs to rise longer (for example, it has only risen a few hours or has been rising in a cold kitchen overnight), test again in another hour. If it has risen too long, you can still use this leaven, but your bread may end up with more “sour” notes.

Gather together a kitchen scale, a large bowl and these ingredients:

  • 100 grams of whole wheat flour
  • 900 grams of white flour or all-purpose flour
  • 700 grams water, plus 50 more grams kept separately
  • 200 grams leaven
  • 20 grams salt

Autolyse: Mix together the 700 grams of the water with 200 grams of leaven. Add 1000 grams of flour (100 whole wheat, 900 white or all-purpose flour). Make sure the flour is fully incorporated into the mixture and let it rest for 30 minutes.

After the resting period, add 20 grams of salt and 50 grams of water.  Combine using your hands by squeezing the dough between your fingers, pinching chunks of dough and reincorporating together. The dough will break apart and then reform in the bowl through this process. Fold the dough over on itself and transfer to a large plastic container or a big glass bowl.

  • Note: this recipe has you perform the “autolyse” process with the leaven mixed in with the flour and water. Many recipes only mix together the water and flour, let that rest for 30 minutes or up to 2 hours (helps with the extensibility of the dough) and then mix in the leaven. You can try it that way if you want to experiment more.

Turning the Dough: (the bulk fermentation/first rise/building the structure) As you begin this stage, it is important to remember that the temperature of your kitchen will make a difference in the length of rise time. The ideal temperature of the dough is 78-82 degrees.  I usually take note of the temperature in my kitchen and then place it in a location to add extra warmth or let cool it down a bit, depending on the season.

From leaven to mixing dough to bulk fermentation…it is possible to use the same container, but I like mixing in a big bowl first and then transferring to this container.

No traditional kneading is used in the process for this bread. Instead, you will be performing a series of “turns” throughout the next 3-4 hours. To “turn” the dough, wet your hand (so it doesn’t stick to the dough). Reach down to the bottom of the dough and pull it up and over the top of the dough. Then repeat this turning process on a different side of the dough (for even turning) a total of 2-3 times. 

Turn the dough once every 30 minutes for the first two hours. As the time progresses, notice how the dough changes. It should become more airy and you will see many bubbles develop. The dough will rise 30-40 percent or even double in size. Turn at:

  • 30 minutes
  • 1 hour
  • 1 ½ hours
  • 2 hours

After the first hour, be more gentle while turning, to avoid pushing the air bubbles out of the dough. Continue turning at:

  • 2 ½ hours
  • 3 hours (this will probably be your last turn if your dough has almost doubled in size)
  • If your dough needs longer to rise, continue the turning process until it has increased at least 30 percent compared to the start of the turning process.

Bench Rest: Tip your bowl upside down, allowing the dough to fall onto the counter. Using a scraper or bench knife, cut the dough into two portions. Flour the tops of the dough and then use your bench scraper to turn the dough over (so the flour side is on the counter). Lightly shape the bread into a circle, folding the dough as you go around. It may be helpful to check out my video of this process. Let rest for about 30 minutes. The dough will flatten out and look kind of like a pancake during this time.

Prepare the bowls: Line two small bowls with a kitchen towel. Liberally flour with a 50/50 blend of rice flour and whole wheat flour. You can also use plain white flour.

Shaping: After your dough has rested for about 30 minutes it is time to shape the bread into a round. Going around in a circle, pull the dough sideways towards you and then fold up to the top of the round. Move 90 degrees and repeat the same process pulling the dough sideways and then folding up to the top. As you continue this process around the dough, increase the tension as you pull. Gather the bread into a circle and use a bench knife to lift the bread and place into your lined bowl. I always liked seeing this process before doing it myself, so check out this video to see the shaping process.

Retard the dough: Cover your dough with some plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator overnight or for up to 18 hours. Alternatively you can let your dough rise outside the fridge for another 3-4 hours and then bake your loaves the same day. I prefer using the refrigeration option because it keeps my dough firm and easy to score.

Day 3: Baking Day (sometime in the morning…will take 2-3 hours to bake 2 loaves of bread)

It’s baking day!!! The day when all this hard work will finally come to fruition. 

Pre-heat: Put your dutch oven (top and all) into the oven and preheat to 500 degrees. Allow your dutch oven to heat for about 30 minutes at 500 degrees before baking your first loaf. You are working with very high temperatures and you don’t want to burn yourself, so make sure you have some good hot pads.

Once your dutch oven has heated for about 30 minutes, pull your first loaf of bread out of the refrigerator. Take off the plastic wrap and place a piece of parchment paper on top of the bread dough. Put a cutting board on top of the parchment paper and flip over so that the bread dough is now sitting on the parchment paper and cutting board. Take off the bowl and the kitchen towel.

Scoring: Smooth the flour over the top of the dough (add a little extra for more contrast) and score with a bread lame, razor or very sharp knife. You can do a fancy design or a simple square. The point of scoring is to allow the steam to rise through the bread for a beautiful “oven spring”, but it also makes for a fun look!

Baking: Remove your dutch oven from the 500 degree oven. Take the top off and place your bread into the dutch oven (including parchment paper–this helps with the transfer). Be very careful not to touch the sides of the dutch oven. Put your hot pads back on before you pick up the lid of the dutch oven and place it on top of the bread. Put the whole dutch oven back into your oven. Lower the temperature to 450 degrees and bake for 20 minutes. Once 20 minutes are up, take the top off the dutch oven. Ooh and ahh over the beautiful oven spring and continue baking for 20 minutes until the bread is a crackly deep brown.

Remove the bread (and parchment paper) from the dutch oven and place on a baking rack. Preheat your oven to 500 degrees again and place the dutch oven back in the oven to preheat for the next loaf of bread. Preheat again for about 30 minutes. You are building the steam back up in your oven. If you don’t allow it to preheat long enough you won’t have the oven spring you are looking for in your loaf. Follow the same process of scoring and baking your bread as you did above. You can even re-use the parchment paper if you want to.

Once your loaves are cooled, slice into them and enjoy with some butter, jam, as a grilled cheese sandwich or plain! I love to slice and freeze any extra loaves and toast them when we want a single slice of bread. They are delicious! I also love sharing a loaf with a neighbor or friend. 

As you go through this sourdough process, please feel free to send me messages or ask questions. I’d love to help if I can. This process has a special place in my heart because it got me through a really tough time in my life when I was surrounded by babies and exhausted. Having an outlet for me was a big deal. I hope that this “experiment” or amazing recipe, however you choose to look at it can bring you similar peace and enjoyment during any difficult times in our world. Thanks so much for being here!

Watch the tutorial here

Please share this recipe if you enjoyed it! Post a photo and tag me @amybakesbread so I can see your bake 🙂

Follow me on Instagram @amybakesbread or like Amy Bakes Bread on Facebook for more baking ideas.

How to: Make a Sourdough Starter

I love sourdough, always have. Growing up in Europe and the San Francisco Bay Area meant that I was always around delicious bread. Bread with a crispy crust and a soft interior. In Europe I loved the rolls and the crusty rye bread we’d buy from the grocery store. In the Bay Area we always made sure to pick up a loaf of San Francisco sourdough from my local grocery store. After moving away from these places it was hard for me to find “good bread”, and I realized that I would have to resort to making it myself.

In the years since, I’ve baked many, many loaves of bread. When I first discovered how to make a sourdough starter and then started baking with it, I knew I had finally found the bread that my dreams were made of. Airy, light, crunchy, crispy and utterly delicious. It is the perfect bread to dip in soup or to eat toasted with a schmear of butter.

As I’ve posted photos of the beautiful loaves of bread coming out of my home oven on social media, I’ve had many comments and questions regarding sourdough. Thanks to the cancellation of school, my trip to Morocco and the direction to self-quarantine for a few weeks, I figured it’s the perfect time to make a sourdough starter and share this process with you so you can make your own beautiful loaves and bread. Making a starter usually takes about 3 weeks (sometimes a little more or less) depending on the flour you use. Rye flour will react faster than whole wheat flour, but both will work well.

Download this worksheet below as a guide to making your own sourdough starter

I would love for you to follow along with us on Instagram the next few weeks as we make a starter together and then get ready to make a loaf of the most delicious bread!

To participate you will need:

1. A kitchen scale that uses metric system (grams)

2. 2.5 lbs whole wheat flour (or rye flour)

3. 2.5 lbs white all purpose flour

4. Distilled or bottled water

5. A jar with a mouth wide enough for you to stick your hand in and tall enough for your starter to rise a bit .

6. Optional: A rubber spatula

7. Download the sourdough starter worksheet for information and to make notes

Follow me on Instagram @amybakesbread for daily updates and troubleshooting. I will be sharing the process over the next few weeks and we will figure out how to grow our starters together – there’s no time like the present! We will begin on Monday, so get ready for a fun science experiment with your kids and to bake some delicious bread. I am so excited to get started!

Even if you don’t follow along starting Monday, you can use the worksheet below to get started on your own.

DOWNLOAD LINK ↓↓↓↓↓

Please share this post if you enjoyed it or know someone who would love to learn to make their own sourdough starter! Post a photo and tag me @amybakesbread so I can see it.

Follow me on Instagram @amybakesbread or like Amy Bakes Bread on Facebook to participate and for more bread baking ideas.