sourdough bread: a beginner’s guide

sourdough bread: a beginner's guide | The Clever Carrot

In 2013, my culinary resolution was to learn how to bake bread.

For the last year, I dedicated myself to this process. I researched, tested and baked countless loaves with both good and bad results. I started with a yeasted ‘no-knead’ recipe, and eventually worked my way up to the holy grail; sourdough.

Sourdough is a unique type of bread in that it does not require commercial yeast in order to rise. It is made with a starter which acts as a natural leavening agent. Sourdough is known for its characteristic flavor (ranging from mild to strong), chewy texture and crisp crust. From a health standpoint, it dominates when compared to standard loaves. The naturally occurring acids and long fermentation help to break down the proteins and gluten, making it more digestible and easy for the body to absorb.

And it tastes darn good.

sourdough bread: a beginner's guide | The Clever Carrot

In this tutorial, I will attempt to explain the sourdough making process based on my personal experience. There is no kneading involved and you do not need a bread machine. I’ve broken it up into sections so that you can easily reference a particular area of interest. If you’re a recipe anaylizer like me, you have come to the right place. If it’s not your thing, feel free to skip through and enjoy the photos!

Without further ado, I now present the longest post ever…

sourdough starter | The Clever Carrot

THE STARTER: a sourdough starter is made from flour and water. It attracts wild yeast and bacteria from its surrounding environment creating a culture of microorganisms that will leaven your bread. It must be kept ‘alive’ with regular feeds (flour + water) to maintain its strength. A well-fed, active starter is characterized by lots of bubbles and a puffy or ‘spongy’ texture.

Once this is achieved, you are ready to make the dough.

TIP: fill a glass with water and drop a teaspoon of starter into the glass. If it floats, it’s ready to use. If it sinks, give it an additional feed.

*Starters can be made from scratch, purchased online or if your lucky, someone will share theirs with you. They range from thick to thin in texture and can be made with a variety of flours. My friend Celia dehydrated a portion of her starter and mailed it to me all the way from Sydney! Miraculously, a packet of  questionable white flakes made it through customs and onto my doorstep… 

sourdough bread: a beginner's guide | The Clever Carrot

THE DOUGH: add everything (except the salt) to a large bowl. Squish the mixture together with your hands until all of the flour is absorbed. The dough will look rough and shaggy.

Let the dough rest or ‘autolyse’ for about 30 minutes.

TIP: for best results, weigh all of your ingredients using a digital kitchen scale. Use bread flour for better gluten development and overall texture.

AUTOLYSE: resting period by which the flour hydrates and gluten begins to develop. Strong gluten = good bread. Your dough will be easier to shape after autolyse.

*In general, autolyse can range anywhere from 15 minutes up to 4 hours depending on the type of bread you are making and your personal baking schedule. I find that a minimum of 30 minutes works best for me in this recipe. 

sourdough bread: a beginner's guide | The Clever Carrot

THE SALT: after autolyse, add the salt to the dough. Sprinkle with a tiny bit of water to help it dissolve. Lift and fold the dough over itself several times, squishing with your hands to incorporate. The dough will tear slightly as you fold, and the salt will not fully dissolve. Don’t worry- this is normal.

*A note on salt- although there are varying opinions on the subject, adding salt before autolyse will tighten the gluten, which is why it is recommended to add it after the dough has had time to rest. However, I’ll be honest with you – I’ve thrown it in with the rest of the ingredients out of sheer laziness with very good results. You be the judge.

sourdough bread: a beginner's guide | The Clever Carrot

BULK FERMENTATION: cover your bowl with plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel. Leave it in a warm, sunny spot to rise. This initial rise is called ‘bulk fermentation’ and is very important to the development and strength of the dough.

Your dough is ready when it no longer looks dense, and has increased in volume about 1 1/2- 2x its original size. This can take anywhere from 3-12 hours depending on the temperature of your ingredients, the potency of your starter and surrounding environment.

TIP: allow the dough to rise in a bowl or clear container with measuring marks. You can visually track its growth and won’t be tempted to rush the process.

BONUS TIP: During bulk fermentation, you have the option to perform a series of ‘stretch & folds’ to strengthen the dough. Simply gather a portion of the dough, stretch it upwards and then fold it over itself. Rotate the bowl 1/4 turn and repeat this process until you have come full circle. Do this every 30 minutes for 2 hours. Although this step is not mandatory, it will increase the total volume of your bread.

*Because sourdough does not contain commercial yeast, it takes considerably longer to rise. In the summer months, it can take anywhere between 3-4 hours @ 85 F whereas in the winter, about 6-12 hours @ 55 F. It is very important to watch your dough and not the clock. It’s ready, when it’s ready. 

sourdough bread: a beginner's guide | The Clever Carrotsourdough bread: a beginner's guide | The Clever Carrot

CUTTING + SHAPING: before you begin, divide your work surface in half; lightly flour one side (for cutting) and leave the other half clean (for shaping).

Remove the dough from the bowl, and place it onto the floured section so that it does not stick.

Cut the dough in half to make 2 loaves, or leave it whole for a single loaf.

TIP: you do not need to ‘punch down’ the dough; it will gently deflate as you fold and shape it (as described below).

To shape, use a bench scraper to move your dough to the non-floured section of your work space (if there is too much flour present, it will be difficult to shape- brush away any excess). Gather the dough, one side at a time, and fold it over into the center. Flip the dough over and place it seam side down. Using your hands, gently cup the sides of the dough and rotate it, using quarter turns in a circular motion. You can also pull it towards you to even out the shape. Repeat this process until you are happy with its appearance.

*When shaping, the idea is for the dough to catch enough surface tension on a non-floured area in order to create a tight ball. If there is flour present, it will slide around…and drive you nuts.

sourdough bread: a beginner's guide | The Clever Carrot

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

sourdough bread: a beginner's guide | The Clever Carrot

THE VESSEL: I bake my bread in a Dutch oven(s). It traps in heat and moisture which is essential to baking good bread. These elements play a key role in how the slashes will open up or ‘bloom’ and the Dutch oven helps to control this process. So, unless you have a professional deck oven with steam injectors, this happens to be a very reliable alternative. Go Dutch.

*In the past, I’ve tried baking on pizza stones and cookie trays with no luck. My bread would tear at the bottom and sides. I used various steaming methods to remedy this, however the lack of moisture in my oven quickly hardened the outside of the bread before it had a chance to fully rise. As a result, it caused my bread to ‘blow out’ (as they say). Using a Dutch oven is a great solution.

sourdough bread: a beginner's guide | The Clever Carrot

SECOND RISE: after shaping the dough, coat the bottom of your Dutch oven(s) with cornmeal. Place the dough inside where it will need to rise again. This time, it will rise for a shorter period, about 1-2 hours. It is ready when the dough is slightly puffy. Again, factors such as the temperature of your dough and surrounding environment will effect the growth rate.

TIP: This particular dough is considered to be ‘low hydration’  (not a lot of water). They are great for beginners because they are easy to handle and hold their shape very well. That’s why I do the 2nd rise directly in the Dutch oven; it does not spread out. However, higher hydration doughs will require cloth-lined bowls or brotforms to hold their shape. Keep this in mind when playing around with other sourdough recipes.

SLASHING: right before your bread goes into the oven, make a shallow slash about 2 inches long in the center of the dough; this allows the steam to escape and the dough to expand. You can use a serrated knife or bread lame. I use a very sharp ceramic pairing knife.

*It is important not let the second rise go for too long. If this happens, your gluten will have exhausted all of its strength and your bread will not get the boost it needs to produce a nice, round loaf. 

sourdough bread: a beginner's guide | The Clever Carrot

BAKING: preheat your oven to 450 F. Place your bread into the oven (lid on) and reduce the temperature to 400 F. Bake for 20 minutes. When you remove the lid, your bread will be pale and shiny. Continue to bake (uncovered) for an additional 40 minutes or until deep, golden brown. Keep in mind that all ovens are different; you might have to make minimal adjustments to these temperatures.

TIP: during the last 10 minutes of baking, crack open the oven door. This allows the moisture to escape, leaving your bread with a crisp crust.

BONUS TIP: you can also take the internal temperature of your bread to double check that it is done. For sourdough, it should read about 205 F.

When the bread is ready, remove it from the oven and transfer to a wire rack. Cool for at least an hour before slicing. Don’t cut too soon or else the inside will have a gummy texture! Patience…

*I used to preheat my Dutch oven before baking, but I have found that this is no longer necessary. When coated with cornmeal, my bread never sticks to the bottom and the crust is always crisp. This saves on both time and energy.

sourdough bread: a beginner's guide | The Clever Carrotsourdough bread: a beginner's guide | The Clever Carrot

CONGRATULATIONS!! You’ve made it to the end!

Just one last thing- sourdough is more than just a recipe… it’s an understanding. You’ll notice that there are similar recipes out there and yet no two loaves look alike. The process is all about method, timing and personal touch. Use this tutorial as a guide and make your own adjustments as you go. Once you’ve established a baking schedule (see mine below) the process becomes an imminent rhythm. In the end, you will have created your very own masterpiece that is the ultimate reward.

And don’t forget to eat your mistakes.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

WINTER WEEKEND BAKING SCHEDULE

Bread baking is all about timing. Here’s what I do for weekend sourdough -

  • Friday Evening: remove starter from the fridge and pour off any liquid from the top. Scoop some into a bowl, give it a feed and cover. Leave on the counter overnight.
  • Saturday Morning: check the starter- if it’s alive and bubbling, time to make the dough. If not, give it another feed (this is common). Remember to use the water test mentioned above if you’re unsure.
  • Saturday Afternoon: make the dough. Leave on the counter to bulk ferment overnight. The cool winter temperatures slows down the rising process so don’t worry about it billowing over. In the summer, I would bulk ferment overnight in the fridge.
  • Sunday Morning: cut and shape the dough. Place in Dutch oven for second rise. Slash. Bake. Cool. Eat.

*This post was inspired by the lovely Fig Jam + Lime Cordial, Tartine bread, and my epic failures in bread baking. I hope this tutorial finds you well. 

sourdough bread: a beginner's guide | The Clever Carrot

5.0 from 6 reviews
sourdough bread: a beginner's guide
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Serves: 1-2 loaves
Ingredients
  • 5.35 oz / 150g active, fed starter
  • 8.80 oz / 250g water, preferably filtered
  • .90 oz / 25g olive oil
  • 17.65 oz / 500g bread flour (not all purpose)
  • .35 oz / 10g fine sea salt
  • fine ground cornmeal, for dusting
*6 quart Dutch oven
** This recipe was tested with King Arthur, Gold Medal + Pillsbury bread flour
Instructions
  1. To make the dough: In a large bowl, combine the starter, water, olive oil and bread flour. Squish everything together with your hands until all of the flour is absorbed. Rest (autolyse) for 30 minutes.
  2. Add the salt + ½ tsp. of water (to help it dissolve). Lift and fold the dough over itself several times, and squish with your hands to incorporate. The dough will tear slightly as you fold, and the salt will not fully dissolve. Don't worry- this is normal. Work the dough as best you can until it comes back together into a rough ball. At this point, you shouldn't feel any grains of salt beneath your hands.
  3. Bulk fermentation: Cover your bowl with plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel. Leave it in a warm, sunny spot to rise. Your dough is ready when it no longer looks dense, and has increased in volume about 1½- 2x its original size. This can take anywhere from 3-12 hours depending on the temperature of your ingredients, the potency of your starter and surrounding environment. I make my dough in the afternoon, and leave it to rise overnight. See my Winter Weekend Baking schedule (in post above) for more details.
  4. Stretch & folds: During bulk fermentation, you have the option to perform a series of 'stretch & folds' to strengthen the dough. Simply gather a portion of the dough, stretch it upwards and then fold it over itself. Rotate the bowl ¼ turn and repeat this process until you have come full circle. Do every 30 minutes for 2 hours. Although this step is not mandatory, it will increase the total volume of your bread.
  5. Cutting & shaping: To cut and shape the dough, divide your work surface in half; lightly flour one side (for cutting) and leave the other half clean (for shaping).
  6. Remove the dough from the bowl, and place onto the floured section so that it does not stick. You do not need to 'punch down' the dough; it will gently deflate as you fold and shape it.
  7. Cut the dough in half to make 2 loaves, or leave it whole for a single loaf.
  8. To shape, use a bench scraper to move your dough to the non-floured section (if there is any flour present, it will be difficult to shape- brush away any excess). Gather the dough, one side at a time, and fold it into the center. Flip the dough over and place it seam side down. Using your hands, gently cup the sides of the dough and rotate it, using quarter turns in a circular motion. You can also pull it towards you to even out the shape. Repeat this process until you are happy with its appearance.*See note below.
  9. Second rise: Coat the bottom of your Dutch oven with cornmeal. Place the dough inside for a second shorter rise, about 1-2 hours. It is ready when the dough is slightly puffy.
  10. Slashing the dough: Right before your bread goes into the oven, make a shallow slash about 2 inches long in the center of the dough. Use a bread lame, a sharp pairing or serrated knife.
  11. Preparing the oven: When ready to bake, preheat your oven to 450 F.
  12. Place your bread into the oven (lid on) and reduce the temperature to 400 F. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove the lid, and continue to bake (uncovered) for an additional 40 minutes or until deep, golden brown. Keep in mind that all ovens are different; you might have to make minimal adjustments to these temperatures.
  13. During the last 10 minutes of baking, crack open the oven door. This allows the moisture to escape, leaving your bread with a crisp crust.
  14. You can also take the internal temperature of your bread to double check that it is done. For sourdough, it should read about 205 F.
  15. Cooling: Remove the bread from the oven, and cool on a wire rack for at least an hour before slicing. Don't cut too soon or else the inside will have a gummy texture!
Notes
*When shaping, the idea is for the dough to catch enough surface tension on a non-floured area in order to create a tight ball. If there is flour present, it will slide around...and drive you nuts.

Comments

    • Emilie says

      Thank you lovely! I will trade you for some of your yummy sweet treats ;)

  1. says

    Your bread looks delicious. I didn’t know about the water test – will have to use it next time. Do you ever leave your dough to rise in the fridge?

    • Emilie says

      Hi Anne! I didn’t know about it either, but the water test works like a charm. I do let my dough rise in the fridge, it just depends on how full it is! If I’m baking in the winter, I’m comfortable with leaving it out on the counter instead. However, in the warmer summer months, I will throw it in the fridge if I’m doing a long ferment. xx

  2. says

    Hooray! This is so exciting to me! I am an avid bread-baker…but sourdough really IS the holy grail, as you said, and I’ve never conquered it. And in fact, I’ll have to try this in complete secrecy because my husband will either laugh at me or divorce me if I try making sourdough bread, yet AGAIN (he’ll laugh!).

    Anyway, sourdough is so yummy and I’m going to use your tutorial to try it one more time!

    Thanks!

    • Emilie says

      Hi Lori!
      Let me tell you- my first sourdough loaf was the ugliest thing ever. I made my slashes (3) way too deep and the bread itself was completely lopsided! The funny thing was that I was SO proud of my creation. I took a million pictures of it. If it weren’t for all my sad looking loaves, and there were plenty, I would have nothing to write about!
      If you’d like to troubleshoot, I’m happy to help. Feel free to comment here or send me an email (blue button up top with the little white envelope).
      Happy Baking! :)

      • says

        Thank you! My biggest issue with sourdough is keeping the darn starter going & alive. I don’t know why in the world I struggle with that! I actually bought a starter & it drove me crazy having to “feed” it all the time. I have six kids, for goodness sake, I don’t need something else to feed! :) But…I know that’s part of it. I will definitely give ‘er a try!

        Thanks for your offer to help. I’ll definitely get in touch if/when I get myself into a fix!

        • Emilie says

          Ha ha… that’s too funny. No worries- when you’re ready, we’ll chat! :)

    • Emilie says

      Labor of love indeed! I’m amazed that the dehydrated starter made it through customs as well… I was going to post a picture of what it looked like (flakes and everything) but it didn’t come out very well. And once hydrated again, it worked out perfectly! So cool :)

  3. says

    What a glorious post, Em! I love how we all do things a little differently – you are so right in saying that it’s an understanding, and I think it’s also about developing a personal relationship with your starter, as each one is a little different. All the starters that budded off from Priscilla have developed their own personalities once they were exposed to their new homes, which is how it should be, and just wonderful! And your bread is looking absolutely amazing – definitely a 2013 achievement that you can be proud of! :) xxx

    • Emilie says

      So, I did good?! Sourdough really is a personal relationship on so many levels. You must be so proud to see all of Priscilla’s offspring (that was one of my favorite posts you did). And if it weren’t for those dodgy flakes you sent me in the mail, none of this would’ve been possible. You’ve created a bread baking monster!! And I love it. Thanks Celia! :) xx

    • Emilie says

      Thanks Jocelyn! Don’ be afraid, it’s a lot of fun. And besides- I’ve seen what comes out of your oven and it’s amazing! If you have any questions, just let me know :)

  4. says

    BRAVA!! Well done. I adore long posts, and step by steps are my fave. What a beautifully presented and comprehensive lesson, and your bread is drop dead gorgeous. Be proud of you work. It really is a cut above the rest. Happy New Year to you!

    • Emilie says

      Thank you Adri… you are too kind. Baking bread is one of my favorite things to do, and to me, it is both visual and instructional. I appreciate that you appreciate the length & step-by step presentation! I will definitely have more recipes to come! Happy New Year to you too!!! xx

  5. Pam Green @MyNewlywedCookingAdventures says

    What beautiful photos! And such funny timing. My good friend was just telling me this past week how she has 100+ year old sourdough starter she is going to give some of to me. So now I have your post here to guide me through the actual bread making process!

    • Emilie says

      Ooo… that is SO very special. 100 years old? Wow! I am excited to see how it’s going to turn out. I bet it will taste amazing xx

  6. says

    I’ve been baking my own sourdough for a couple of years, since getting a very old starter from family. I use it not only for bread, but to make fermented drinks too. Your bread turned out beautifully!

    • Emilie says

      So lovely to see you here Gintare! Isn’t sourdough baking such a rewarding experience? I can only imagine what it’s like using a very old family starter… I’ve heard of using it fermented drinks (very good for you) but have never tried it myself. What do you make? Thanks again for stopping by! :)

  7. says

    What a great guide for anyone interested in sourdough. It is amazing how many different processes there are, it is such a personal relationship you develop with your sourdough. I love how perfectly plump your breads always look. Awesome post Emilie, well done!!!

    • Emilie says

      Hi Sandra, thank you! Bread baking is such a wonderful, creative expression (as you know…) that I find very therapeutic. My friend who shared her starter with me, named Priscilla, did a whole post on her ‘offspring.’ There were maybe 15+ loaves all made with the same starter, and yet they were all different! It was fascinating to see how personal touch and method changed the original recipe. So cool. Now, send me some marmalade for my bread please :)

  8. says

    This is a wonderful post Emilie, fantastic tips for those of us who are sourdough-challenged (like me… I’ve killed two sourdough starters including one that was mailed to me in ‘wet’ form from my friend Brydie aka cityhippyfarmgirl). I just don’t seem to be able to get it right… though your instructions and amazing photos have motivated me to reattempt the process. I do love making things from scratch but I’ve felt rather defeated previously by lots of terrible heavy bread (even though some have tasted nice). Glad to see that you had success with this though! You give me hope! x

    • Emilie says

      Thank you so much Laura! Sourdough can definitely be a bit challenging, but once you get into a rhythm it’s quite fun (and more fun to eat!) All of my bread in the beginning was heavy and dense too. I felt cursed. Over time, I realized that I wasn’t letting it rise long enough, so essentially I was baking dense, under developed dough! Ah well… and by the way, I know Brydie too! I follow her and all of her lovely bread on IG. Small world, isn’t it? :)

  9. says

    You are my new hero Emilie! This is beautiful and congratulations on all your hard work! And what a fun science experiment for the kids to watch:)

  10. says

    Gorgeous post. I love how you put that sourdough is not so much a recipe as it is an understanding. I understand how to make a great tasting loaf of sourdough but although I’ve been working on my methods for years, I’ve never made anything remotely as pretty as yours. I’m going to throw out my entire methodology for the next time I bake and try everything you’ve suggested.

  11. says

    I’m back to report outstanding success! I didn’t deviate one bit from your recipe (which was really hard for me…I’m a horrible tweaker) and it came out absolutely perfect. In fact, I had some fresh starter left over, so I fed it again and I’m going to bake another loaf starting in the morning. This time I’ll do the overnight rise in the fridge to give a stronger sour flavor. Thank you again!

    • Emilie says

      Hi Valerie! You should’ve seen the smile on my face when I read your comment… I am SO happy that you had success with this recipe & method!!! I too tend to tweak everything so I can definitely relate. I do hope your second loaf comes out just as good as the first.

      Just curious- for this second loaf, did you bake cold or let it come to room temp. before going in the oven?

      Thanks again for reporting back!!! I really do appreciate the feedback :)

  12. Zoë Lapinski says

    Thank you so much for this posting! I have been search the internet for an instructional that would produce such a beautiful crust and the tips along the way are so very helpful. I have been tending my King Arthur Flour starter since Christmas and I have had some very sad looking loaves and few diamonds. I have followed your guide to the tee and there is a beautiful loaf in the oven…I cannot wait to take it out and cut in, after an hour if cooling that is ;)

    Once again, I just want to say thank you for all of the information and I’m so excited to see the results!

    • Emilie says

      Hi Zoe! I’m so happy that this tutorial found you well. When I first started baking bread, I had a million and one questions (and still do!). I was lucky enough to have a good friend to help me with all of my queries, and that was the inspiration behind writing this step-by-step guide. It’s a little something for beginner’s and experienced bakers alike.

      I can’t wait to hear how your loaf came out- stop by and let me know! Thanks for taking the time to comment :)

      • Zoë Lapinski says

        Hi Emilie

        The bread was AH-mazing! Your bread blog gave me the boost I needed to get of my bad loaf plateau. I have been churning out about two loaves a week since finding the recipe and my family and coworkers are loving it!! I just bought a bread lame for better slashing on my loaves and tonight I will be using an un-enameled cast iron Dutch oven for baking….any thoughts?

        • Emilie says

          Hi Zoe! How wonderful!!! I am eating a slice of sourdough as we speak ;)

          I have a bread lame, and will switch back and forth with my serrated & ceramic knives. What I like about my lame, is that is has a curved blade. If you hold it at a 45 degree angle when slashing, it will produce the coveted ‘ear’ shape. I still need practice with this technique, especially with very wet doughs. This particular sourdough recipe is on the lower end of hydration, so slashing shouldn’t be that difficult (it doesn’t drag or tear as much).

          As far as your Dutch oven goes, does it have a lid? This is essential in order to steam the bread. I’ve used an un-enameled one before in the form of a combo cooker. It works great. I like to generously coat the bottom with cornmeal so that it doesn’t stick.

          Do let me know how your bread turns out! Thanks for stopping by :)

  13. Liz says

    Your instructions are wonderful. My first loaf came out of the oven on Thursday – looking just as beautiful as your picture. Not knowing how it would taste did not prevent me from bringing it to a board retreat to share. I figured that we could throw it away if it tasted bad, drink a glass of wine and laugh about the experience. Tasted really good. Now I can’t understand why people have trouble with sourdough – you made it so easy for me to be successful. My two favorite tips were the water test and cooking in the dutch oven. Thanks again.

    • Emilie says

      Hi Liz! You are quite welcome :) It’s great to hear that your loaf was successful, and that it tasted good too. Although a glass of wine and a good laugh wouldn’t be so bad so bad either. I have to say that the water test is one of my favorite tips as well. When I first started with sourdough, the minute I saw a single bubble in my starter, I thought it was time to make the dough! But with the water test, it really teaches you to slow down and be patient. The results are well worth it. And I absolutely adore my Dutch oven. It’s the only thing I use to bake bread! Right now I have a beautiful tomato sauce simmering away in it…
      Anyways, thank you so much for stopping by to comment! I really appreciate the feedback :)

  14. says

    Great website!!! Your website is very beautiful. Your pictures look so real. I am very new at baking. I am trying to learn as much that I can. Your website has been very helpful. Thank for a great post. Awesome!!!!

  15. Denise says

    What a wonderful tutorial, I am currently in the process of attempting to create a wholemeal starter.I shall follow your tutorial and let you know how it all turns out. Success or failure :)

    • Emilie says

      Thank you so much Denise! I hope you find this tutorial helpful. I’ve made many starters before from scratch, so if you have any questions please do not hesitate to ask. Happy baking! :)

  16. says

    After I made a starter from scratch, I hunted around online for the perfect sourdough bread recipe before I decided to make this one here. The pictures and step-by-steps instructions were convincing! The only thing that made me hesitate to try this recipe was there weren’t many readers who made the bread and review it. I’m here to report that I made this as a beginner to sourdough and almost beginner to bread. Emilie’s bread recipe has wonderful flavor and texture and it is the prettiest thing to ever come out of my oven. The breads (I made two loaves from the recipe) also looked professional. My only problem, which wasn’t with the recipe, was that the bottoms of my loaves were ever so slightly burned. I reached out to Emilie and she helped me troubleshoot the problem, which was that my dutch ovens were on a lower-than-middle rack (in order to fit in my small stove). I’ll definitely make this bread again. Thanks, Emilie, for posting this recipe and helping me out with my many questions about baking bread.

  17. says

    I must be doing something wrong. I have followed this recipe several times and the same thing happens every time. When I get to the shaping part after the bulk rise, I have a wet, runny, sticky mess. It gets every where and sticks to my hands and I have “monster” fingers that just get messier and messier. So I end up washing my hands. Throwing the remainder back in the bowl, stirring in more floor and getting a workable texture. Then I let it do the final rise in my Dutch oven. But it always ends up being thick and hard. Brick-like. Help! What am I doing wrong?

    • Emilie says

      Hi Abigail!
      Sorry to hear that you are having difficulty with your dough. I am more than happy to help you-
      There are several things that could have went wrong, but it sounds to me like there was too much water in your dough. This is a low hydration recipe, which simply means that it’s not sticky and should be easy to handle. Are you using a thick or thin starter? Do you weigh your ingredients? What brand of bread flour are you using? These could all be possible factors…
      As for the finished product- anytime this has happened to me in the past, either the dough didn’t rise properly during the initial bulk ferment or it was handled too much when shaping. Based on what you mentioned, it was probably overworked which caused the gases to deflate. Also, your starter may not have been active enough. Both of these factors will often result is a dense, thick texture that doesn’t rise well.
      I hope this information helps! If you have any additional questions or you just want to trouble shoot, feel free to email me (info@theclevercarrot.com). Good luck!

  18. says

    Thanks for the reply. No I didn’t weigh the ingredients, but I did use the ounces. Is that supposed to be a weight not a volume ounce? That could be my problem…

    • Emilie says

      I think that might have been it… for best results, I would always recommend weighing your ingredients. It is the most accurate. The ounces is a weight measurement, not volume. Do you have a scale? I use a digital kitchen scale, and I can go back and forth between ounces and grams easily :)

  19. says

    Well guess what? I got a scale and it came out great! I have noticed a difference in the type of flour I use too. I made one with einkorn and one with spelt. They are both good, but different textures…

  20. Morgan says

    Hey Thanks so much for posting this! My family loved it, sadly I am on keto so i could not try it : /.

    • Emilie says

      Hi Morgan! That’s so wonderful to hear! I’m glad that they enjoyed the sourdough. Thank you so much for letting me know!

  21. says

    Wow…now I have the courage to at least “try”. Your instructions were straight forward and simple. Can’t wait to smell the yeast and the bread baking! Thanks for taking the time to post gorgeous pictures and details of what you might expect to see. I’m excited!

    • Emilie says

      Oh good! I’m so glad to hear that Mary. Taking on Sourdough can be a little intimidating and that was the motivation for this tutorial. I wanted to create something for beginners and seasoned bakers alike. I hope this finds you well! If you have any questions along the way please do not hesitate to get in touch. All the best :)

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