sourdough bread: a beginner’s guide

sourdough bread: a beginner's guide |

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 bread.

Sourdough is unique because it does not require commercial yeast in order to rise. It’s 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 |

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.

*Quick note: there are several types of sourdough; this particular bread yields a medium crumb (small holes) making it excellent for sandwiches.

And now, I present the longest post ever…

sourdough starter |

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 naturally 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.

BONUS TIP: at what point do I begin the float test? Is there a specific time of day?

To begin, remove your starter from the fridge and give it a feed. It might need one or two feeds depending on the last time it ate. When it has doubled in size (height), looks puffy (like roasted marshmallow fluff), and bubbles appear on the surface- do the test.

Keep in mind, starters will look different on different days. Do not overthink this; it’s just the way it is. Some days your starter will look bubbly and frothy. Other days it will appear mellow, but rose so fast it blew the top off your container! That’s why there isn’t a specific time to perform this test.

If you track these characteristics you will be able to spot an active starter in no time. The float test will become second nature.

*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 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 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 |

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 bread 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 | theclevercarrot.comsourdough bread: a beginner's guide |

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. 


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

sourdough bread: a beginner's guide | theclevercarrot.comsourdough bread: a beginner's guide |

The Vessel

I bake my sourdough 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.

** I recently bought enamel roasting pans (with lids) to use in lieu of the Dutch oven. They work great. I wanted try out something that was less heavy and easy to store.

sourdough bread: a beginner's guide |

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 30 minutes- 1 hour. 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’ which means it does not contain a lot of water. 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.

On the contrary, if you are working with a high hydration dough or if you add more water to this recipe, it might spread out like a pancake due to the increased moisture content. This is normal.

SOLUTION: instead of doing a free form second rise (as indicated above), place your dough in a cloth lined basket or shallow bowl. I use a small pyrex mixing bowl. It will contain the dough and hold its shape properly.

OVEN SPRING: achieving a good rise requires some effort. Please refer to *note below.

SLASHING: right before your bread goes into the oven, make a slash about 2-3 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. This can be difficult to judge. 30 minutes- 1 hour should be sufficient but you will need to experiment and make adjustments if necessary. An over-proofed dough 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 |


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. Or, remove the bread from the pot and let it bake directly on the rack. The latter produces a more 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 |  theclevercarrot.comsourdough bread: a beginner's guide |

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

Just one last thing- baking sourdough bread 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.


1/19/15- I’m offering a free Skype consult to chat all things sourdough.

See this post for details.

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


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
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 1-2 loaves
  • 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
  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!
*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.

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    • 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!


    • 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! :)

        • cooking with microbes says

          I have always had a problem making a starter, until this last try. I had bowl of ripening tomatoes and peppers I brought in from the end of the garden and some of them were starting to rot. I just so happened to make my starter at this time and it worked, voila! A good use for rotting veggies! Good Luck.

    • says

      I tried taking notes from the lengthy and helpful post but finally just printed it. Where do I get starter for sourdough? If I make it, what do I do?

      • Emilie says

        Hi there! Have you checked online? I know King Arthur Flour sells sourdough starters. Making a starter yourself is not difficult, but more of a lengthy process. Writing a post with pictures would be better than trying to explain it here. I think I’ll have a go at that next :)

    • 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 :)

      • T Geist says

        Im having trouble understanding the refrigerator ferment. Let me start off by giving you an idea of what I’m working with. I have two starters that I use in Alaska, typically it takes about 9-12 hours for the starter to be at its “prime”. (Yeast still making gas within a half hour of starting to deflate.) I typically use that as my ferment time as well. Im now in florida and it is about 78 degrees room temp. The starters reach their prime here in about 4.5-5.5 hours. The trouble is I feed my starter before bed I wake up and it has collapsed. Therefore I feed it in the am and by noon it is ready to bake. How ever typically I have been feeding it at noon again so I can make dough around 5. I would like to then bulk ferment overnight in the fridge (room temp is over fermenting) so I can form/proof/bake in the morning. How long after pulling out of fridge do I wait before doing this. When I pull it out of the fridge it still has not doubled…it has grown but not doubled. Do I take it out of fridge and wait for it to finish doubling then shape/proof/bake? I have done a lot of sourdough baking in an environment where i can ferment overnight and this warm fast ferment is really messing up the timing of things. Any Ideas or tips about retarding the bulk ferment and the steps to take after removing it from the fridge. Ive also tried retarding the final proof by putting the banneton in the fridge overnight but then how/when do i bake after removing from the fridge?

        • Emilie says


          I completely understand where you’re coming from. This happens to me every year when the seasons change (I’m in NY).

          Here are my recommendations:

          1.) Mix up the dough at around 5 pm (as you’ve indicated) and proof at room temperature for 1-2 hours. By doing this, you are giving the dough an extra boost in a warm environment. Keep your eye on it so that it doesn’t rise too much or fast- this will depend on the weather that day. Then, place the dough into the fridge to finish bulk fermenting. Once it’s refrigerated, the rise rate slows down because of the cold holding temperature.

          2.) Mix up the dough at 5 pm and throw it straight in the fridge to bulk ferment.

          On the morning you are ready to bake, remove the cold dough from the bowl and allow it to ‘relax’ on a floured surface for 10-15 minutes. It does not need to’double.’ (see next paragraph). Shape in preparation for the second rise. Because it’s warm by you, the second rise will be short, about 30 minutes-1 hour, depending. The dough is ready when it’s slightly puffy and no longer looks dense.

          The reason why your dough doesn’t look doubled in size after bulk fermenting overnight in the fridge, is because the cooler temperature slows down the rise. However, if it goes in the fridge at 5 pm and you remove it at 8 am the following day, the rise should be sufficient (granted your starter is active enough). This is a strange concept to grasp, but it’s true.

          That’s why both options 1 & 2 work.

          As for your last question- you can do the final proof in a banneton in the fridge. That’s a great option. In the morning, you can either bake straight out of the fridge (cold) or you can let it rest, in the banneton for 30 minutes to an hour to take the chill off (again this will depend on the temperature). I know people who like to bake bread cold, however the latter is my preference. I find that my bread is lighter and fluffier.

          Does this answer all of your questions?! I hope I got everything. Feel free to let me know if something doesn’t make sense or you need additional info. Good luck!

  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 ( 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 :)

  22. Nadejda says

    Thank you so much! I tried baking sourdough bread before following the starter manufacturer instructions and had that hard-to-bite crust every time no matter what I tried! You advice on the dutch oven is priceless! My bread turned out almost perfect, considering it sat on the counter a day longer, the vessel was too small, and no knife was sharp enough.

  23. says

    Wow, Emilie. I just found your blog tonight and I can honestly say it’s going to be one of my favorites! Your photography is absolutely stunning and your recipes and so creative. I think it’s so cool that you taught yourself to bake bread, as that is what I’m doing! I’m alright of regular yeast loaves, but sourdough is my ultimate goal. Pinned this!!

    • Emilie says

      Hi Leigha! How sweet of you- thanks so much! I love to bake bread and how wonderful that you’re doing the same. There’s something so unique about being able to do this yourself. Any time you want to chat, I’m all ears! Talking bread is so my thing ;)

  24. Katie says

    I’m so happy I found this post! I knew that sourdough was difficult to make, so your attention to detail is appreciated. My loaf came out great, though the slit didn’t really open up as yours did, neither is my crust as brown. Any idea why? Are you using an electric oven?

    • Emilie says

      Hi Katie! I’m glad you found this post helpful! Sorry to hear about your loaf… this has happened to me before and is very frustrating.

      To find a solution, I just need a little more info so that I can help you properly- how long did you let the dough rise (1st time) and did it look round and puffy or was it deflated? Also, how long did you leave the lid on the pot before removing it?

      Thanks, Katie! We’ll get to the bottom of this :)

  25. John says

    In my research for making sourdough, your method is the only one that does not use “knead” the dough and to “bulk ferment” the dough. Although you indicate to stretch the dough, most sourdough recipes call for 10-15 minutes of solid kneading. I would be happy to “get away with” not having to knead. What’s your view on this? I made my first sourdough loaf today using a selection of instructions from various recipes – including kneading, based on my intuition. It turned out great. Great to have your instructions in so much detail.

    • Emilie says

      Hi John, welcome! When I first started baking bread (sourdough in particular) I was convinced that I had to knead the dough. Most recipes said so. But after reading Chad Robertson’s Tartine and having many chats with my fabulous baker friend I’ve learned that kneading is not necessary.

      The no-knead approach only works if you are working with a relatively high hydration dough and your bulk ferment is sufficient (12-24 hours). The enzymes in the flour breaks down the proteins in the dough and this is where the ‘magic’ happens. The reason I do stretch and folds in my recipe is to strengthen the dough even more. However, I don’t do it every time based on the day.

      Do experiment with this method, it will yield wonderful results! Plus, once you’ve got the hang of it you’ll be able to establish you own baking schedule and make adjustments according to what you need.

      I hope this info helps! Good luck and happy baking! :)

      • John says

        Thank you Emilie for your wise advice. I will definitely give your method a go. Re: your “relatively high hydration dough”, could you please use descriptors to indicate how “sloppy” the dough should be before bulk fermentation.

        • Emilie says

          Sure! After mixing the dough, it should feel wet, sticky and not smooth (low hydration doughs will be dry and a little more stiff). After autolyse, the dough will become more soft, manageable and easy to shape. The stretch and folds (preformed during the bulk ferment) improve the dough’s structure and you will see that after each one, the dough becomes a lot easier to handle. And that’s about it! I hope this helps :)

  26. Sarah Dershem says

    When you “stretch and fold” during the bulk fermentation stage, is this at the beginning at the end? You say every 30 minutes for 2 hours, but I am not sure at which point in the process. It is a bit cool here, so it is taking about 12 hours to rise.

    Thank you!

    • Emilie says

      Hi Sarah! The bulk fermentation stage is always at the beginning (the ‘2nd rise’ happens towards the end right before the dough goes into the oven). Does that make sense? You will do your stretch and folds after mixing the dough and autolyse. And don’t worry about the temperature- it’s cold here as well. I usually make my dough in the late afternoon and leave it to rise overnight (covered) on the counter. In the morning, I shape the dough for the 2nd rise and then bake when it’s ready. I hope this helps! Let me know if you have any other questions!

  27. Ryan says

    Thanks for the recipe, I’ll be trying it soon. Do you have any suggestions on using all purpose flour and proportions of the flour and water. I’m living in cusco Peru right now and I can’t find any bread flour.

    Have you or anyone tried this recipe with all purpose? Any suggestions on making the best out of it with all purpose?

  28. Anthony says

    Hi Emilie,

    First of all, I love my food blogs and food photography and your blog has some of the highest quality food photography I’ve ever seen! Love the bokeh!

    I’ve just got a couple of questions which I was hoping you might be able to assist with.

    I’m quite a methodical person so when it comes to cooking/baking if I am following a recipe I like to follow it 100% the first few times, so I can get a bit needy with detailed instructions! That plus being new to bread baking means there are a few small things which I’m not sure what to do.

    Firstly, you say bulk ferment in a bowl. I know you also said this dough is quite low hydration but mine seems quite wet/sticky and if I put the dough directly into a nice big plastic bowl, by the end of bulk fermentation, it is completely glued to the bowl. Sorry if this is baking common sense but you don’t mention doing anything like oiling/flouring the bowl before putting the dough in. Do you do anything like this to prevent sticking?

    Also, I’ve followed your recipe to a T a few times now and each time I find that by the end of second rising my dough is quite flat and has spread out rather than up! My starter is well-fed approx 12-18 hours beforehand, is frothy and bubbling, and passes the water-float test, so I can’t imagine its a lack of leavening from the starter. Any ideas? This latest batch I bulk fermented in a kind of boiler cupboard which is fairly large for a cupboard, more of a pantry, and is fairly warm, for 8 hours. By the end the dough was quite soft and aerated. In general the proving and fermenting process seems to lead to some rising but a lot of it sideways rather than up! I definitely am not getting the kind of beautiful round shape you do in your pictures. Obviously flavour wise the loaf is still delicious, but aesthetically its just not there! Any ideas?

    Sorry for the epic post.. Great blog!

    • Emilie says

      Welcome Anthony! Thank you very much for your kind compliments. I really appreciate the feedback :)

      I’m going to dive right in:

      1.) In terms of the dough sticking to the bowl, this is totally normal. Mine sticks all the time (even though it’s low hydration). If the dough is too hard to handle, try dipping your fingertips in some flour first. Then shape. There is no need to oil the bowl. However, if this is something that you’d like to experiment with, give it a go.

      2.) The second rise is often the most tricky to judge.

      Let me first begin that dough rises two ways: up and out. So, the fact that your dough spreads out is normal. But in your case, it sounds like it’s spreading too much.

      If you have weighed all of your ingredients, we can rule out too much water as the culprit.

      How did you do the second rise? In the Dutch oven, brotform or cloth-lined bowl? Using the latter 2 suggestions will contain it’s shape and prevent it from spreading. I would suggest doing this next time.

      And one final thing- How long is your second rise? Usually, if the dough spreads out too much and does not bake up into a nice round shape, you are over proofing the dough. The rising strength has been exhausted and you are unable to get a good oven spring. I would shorten the time. It’s always best to under proof than over proof when dealing with the second rise (not bulk ferment).

      Bottom line: Use a brotform or cloth lined bowl for the second rise. Shorten the second rise. Use floured fingertips to deal with sticky dough.

      No worries about the epic comment- I love to chat about bread. It’s all about taking a recipe and finding a method that works for. Consistency is the hardest thing to achieve. That’s why it’s important to get to know your dough. As a beginning bread baker, this is key.

      I hope this helps! Let me know how it comes out! :)

      • Anthony says

        Hi Emilie,

        Thanks for your fast response!

        Sounds like you could be on the money right away with both suggestions! I was doing second rise in the Dutch oven, which is a big, 6.7 quart (I think – I’m from Australia so not 100% on this!) so obviously this is not containing the sideways rising which would definitely impact on the shape. I’ll try in a cloth-lined bowl next time AND perhaps a shorter rise because, after the second rise on my most recent loaf, the outside of the dough on top had almost separated into a kind of skin in that when I touched it it caved in a cm or so before it touched the rest of the dough, almost like there was air caught between the dough – does that make sense?

        Yes I’m weighing all my ingredients on a digital scale and using fairly high quality, organic products so that element I’m confident is not hindering my bread!

        In terms of second rising, the most recent loaf which was as per above a little bit strange in texture and flabby on top after second rise, was left for about 1.5-1.175 hours in a warm cupboard – perhaps a bit long in hindsight? I really struggle to tell and also being busy I tend to end up bulk fermenting and second rising based more on when I’m back home from work or the shops to determine how long (I know, not ideal for good bread making).

        Sorry also just to clarify… When you’re stretching and folding every half hour for 2 hours, the dough is obviously quite sticky… Do you tend to be quite rough and tear it up off the bottom of the bowl and fold it over or is there a need to be quite delicate and careful with this process? If so I think I’ll have to oil my bowl because doing this folding would tear the dough from the bottom of the bowl without oil or something to keep it from sticking…

        Now that I have your tips I really want to try another loaf right away but unfortunately I’m away for 4 days so I’ll have to wait! But as soon as I get back I will try out your tips.

        Thanks so much,


        • Emilie says

          Hi Anthony!

          I apologize for the delay in my response. I took some time off to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday.

          So, to get back to our discussion- based on your first paragraph above, the dough was definitely over proofed. The fact that it caved in and started to separate is a classic indicator. Because it is summer in your part of the world, the warmer temperature will cause the dough to rise faster than you think!

          Your 2nd rise at 1.5-1.75 hours was too long. That might work in the winter months, but for now try shortening to 30 minutes to an hour. The dough is ready when it no longer looks dense, is slightly risen and puffy. Remember, it’s better to under proof than over proof for the 2nd rise. This will take some practice :)

          With regards to stretch and folds- this process will become easier to handle depending on how long you autolyse (refer back to this section if necessary).

          So, in the beginning of autolyse, your dough will be rough and sticky. My recipe suggests to let is rest for 30 minutes, but you can leave it up to an hour. The longer it rests the easier it will be to shape. And when done properly, the dough should not rip apart.

          Instead of using oil, lightly wet your fingertips to do the folds. After each one, the dough will become softer and less sticky and you will find that you don’t need any water at all. Does that make sense?

          I hope this helps to clarify your questions! Please let me know how it turns out :) Good luck!

          • Nothing says

            Hi Emilie,

            No worries about the delay and thanks for getting back to me!

            Sorry I realise how misleading my comment was about being from Australia! I come from there but I live in the UK so it’s actually very cold and wintery over here right now!

            I really am at a loss at what to do. I just can’t understand why I am struggling so much. I’ve baked maybe 15-20 loaves now since starting on my sourdough journey about 3 months ago and only 1 has risen to maybe 85% what you’d want from a nice sourdough loaf.

            I’m keeping notes, measuring ingredients to the last gram, bulk fermenting for longer to counteract the cold temperatures, baking in a Le creuset cast iron Dutch oven (giving great crust and base) and doing the starter floating test and all I’m getting is delicious tasting discs of bread…

            My last loaf I bulk fermented for 17.5 hours on the counter and at this point it had grown in size approx 1.75 times and was fairly springy. I then took it out of the bowl (it stretched and stuck a bit, perhaps this ruined some of the gluten?) and folded it in on itself maybe 8-10 times, formed it into a ball, split it into 2 loaves and second rose these in small cloth lined bowls. 1 I put in a warm cupboard and left for 2 hours for second rise, then baked. At this point the dough had not grown in size at all really but had cracked a bit on the bottom. It barely rose at all and was very disc like. The second loaf I second rose in a less warm location in the counter for 3 hours 20 mins. At this point it had grown in size a little bit but was not very soft to touch however my schedule required that I bake it then. It also did not rise much at all (though a tiny bit more than the first loaf).

            Sorry for the essay description! My best guess is that my main issue is temperature. It’s winter here and I’m bulk fermenting either during the day when at work or overnight and I suppose the house gets fairly cool during those times – though not sure to what degree as I don’t have a thermometer. But I’m wondering if that’s the issue – no matter how long I bulk ferment for there just isn’t a high enough temperature to achieve the necessary fermentation to rise the dough? I really have no idea what to do. I’ve never struggled so much to perfect any area of cooking I’ve tried!

            Sorry for the epic message.

            Any suggestions appreciated!


          • Anthony says

            Hi Emilie,

            Sorry not sure why my other message says its from ‘Nothing’… Whoops!

            Anyway I must be the most challenged baker on the planet because I just cannot get this right. My last attempt today was awful. Cut into 2 loaves to test different second rising methods and both barely rose above a disc. I feel like my problem comes in after bulk fermentation. I leave it fermenting all day while at work and every time when I come home, it has risen substantially and feels soft and springy, but it is also very sticky and sticks a lot to the bowl when I try to take it for shaping before second rise. The result is the dough always stretched and sticks and becomes messy and I have to shape it back into a ball, but the dough is still not firm or well shaped. I think this is possibly where I am ruining my rising chances. My key question therefore is… Can you ruin the gluten strands / leavening in your dough after bulk fermentation by not handling correctly or if its too sticky and it stretches? I really have no idea in this area and so feel like my movements between bulk fermentation and second rise are where I’m going wrong. Especially seeing as I start with a perfectly healthy, active starter and quality, measured ingredients, and finish second rising in a cloth lined bowl and baking in a Le creuset Dutch oven (all which feel right to me).

            Sorry but… Help!?

          • Emilie says

            Hi Anthony!

            Here’s what I think: sounds like your bulk ferment is fine. The dough is supposed to stick to the bowl, in fact, you should see lots of ‘strings’ sticking to the sides when you take it out. That is the gluten.

            I believe the problem is over shaping the dough after the bulk ferment. In your previous comment (above) you mentioned shaping it 8-10 times. This could potentially deflate the dough. That’s why it doesn’t grow as much during the second rise, and doesn’t grow at all in the oven.

            So, here’s what you do: after the bulk ferment, tip out the dough onto your work surface. Let it rest for about 15-30 minutes lightly covered with plastic wrap so that the surface does not form a skin. This will allow the dough to regain some of its strength before shaping. Then, gently shape into a ball. If you are having trouble, stop and let the dough rest again for 15 minutes. Try shaping again. Then place into your cloth-lined baskets.

            Does this make sense? We’re getting there Anthony, I promise!

          • Emilie says

            Also, can you tell me the brand & type of flour you’re using? If you can send pictures of your dough at the questionable stage that would be helpful too. Thanks!

  29. Cara says

    Had great success with this recipe. The tip about checking the starter in the glass of water is invaluable. The dutch oven worked beautifully. I used my 4-1/2 quart Le Creuset soup pot and a tall, round, covered Pyrex casserole dish – both with perfect results. Many thanks for the step by step instructions. Made 2 sourdough boules.

    I use King Arthur flour exclusively.

    And for the first-time ever, weighed all the ingredients as recommended (used my digital postal scale until I can get a food scale.)

    I used my empty, unheated oven as the place for a draft-free rise.
    Baked the bread in an electric oven.

    Here’s a good video about how to stretch and fold

    Did not do all the stretching and folding this first time, but will give it a try. Love the tang of this bread. Thank you for this recipe and your comprehensive write-up. Will be making this bread for holiday gifts.

    • Emilie says

      Fantastic Cara!

      Isn’t that tip about the sourdough starter great? I learned that a while ago and it was a life saver. Sourdough starters vary so much I found it very difficult to judge when it was ready. This is fool proof.

      I always bake in my Dutch oven. It produces the most beautiful, consistent results. Thanks for the tip about the Pyrex! It’s good to have options.

      The video is great. When I first started baking, I never did stretch and folds because my results at the time were good enough. Then, I chose to experiment and it really improved the overall rise and structure of the bread. Plus, I had an excuse to touch the dough during the bulk ferment. Just from that alone I could tell how it was going to turn out when baked.

      I’m so glad that you had success with the recipe. Thank you for taking the time to stop by with feedback! Happy holidays :)

  30. Monique says

    Good morning. Firstly, I have just begun experimenting with sourdough starter as I have always been a traditional “yeast” baker. I have a starter, an old starter from a dear lady at Church who has been baking sourdough for quite some time and she graciously shared. Hers is a starter which is fed with potato flakes and has a “soupy” consistency. It works and I have been successful in creating loaves. Have you had experience with this sort of starter? I don’t believe the water test would work with this starter.
    The flavor of my bread is much stronger than hers and I wonder if there is a method to reduce that?
    Also, my last question is to inquire as to what type of Dutch oven should be used? Cast iron, ceramic or just the typical stainless steel, or possibly any of the sort.

    Thank you for your post and photos. Your information will be valuable in my branching out to the free form loaf as my recipe is for the standard bread loaf form and is without question wonderful. However I want the crusty chewy loaf at times.

    Thank you again.

    • Emilie says

      Hello Monique!

      Congratulations on the success of your loaves. Although I’ve heard of potato starters, I’ve never used one before. Is sounds very interesting! And you’re right, not sure about the water test but you could always experiment and compare it to your past experience with readiness.

      With regards to strong flavor- sometimes two different bakers with the same starter (and same recipe) will have different results. This is normal. However, it’s usually the length of initial rise/bulk ferment that determines the ‘sourness’ of the bread. For example, if my sourdough bread rose in 4 hours at room temperature, whereas my friend did an overnight rise (8-12 hours) her bread would have a more sour flavor. There is more time for the flavors to develop. How long is your initial rise?

      With regards to the Dutch oven- mine is ceramic. You could also use enamel pots. Cast iron is a good option, as long as it has a tight fitting lid. I wouldn’t use stainless steel because the material is too thin. The bread might burn at the bottom.

      You are most welcome for the post and photos! It is my pleasure. I do love to bake bread and I hope that this guide has been informative. If you have any other questions please let me know! Good luck baking! :)

  31. Patrick says

    Hi Emilie, Just came across your post on sourdough bread from a Google search for recipes. I read a few others but have bookmarked your because it is the most thorough and complete for a “sourdough” beginner as myself. I am a traditional yeast bread maker but want to expand into this. I ran into a high school friend today at the grocery store and she was complaining that she cannot find a good sourdough anymore, so I opened my mouth and said I would bake her and her husband a loaf or 2. Thank goodness I didn’t really say when I would do it, it seems I may need to make several before they are presentable. Anyway, just wanted to say thank you for this great post. I will let you know how many loaves I had to bake before they look good.

  32. Kerry says

    Hello, loving your blog! Quick question: I would like to bake my loaves in a regular loaf pan, do you have any thoughts on this? They would be baking uncovered, im not sure how this might affect the baking process.

    • Emilie says

      Hi Kerry! Great question. The reason why the Dutch oven method works, is because it creates steam. Steam is essential for a good rise. So, in order to bake (uncovered) with regular loaf pans you will need to create steam another way. There are many methods for ‘steaming ovens’ and it might take a couple of tries to find one that works for you. Here’s my method: I preheat the oven to 450 F with a cast iron skillet placed onto the oven floor. When I’m ready to bake, I put the bread in first and then throw a handful of ice cubes into the skillet. This creates instant steam. At the end of your bake, the bread should be well risen and light. If not, you might have to experiment with more steam. I hope this advice helps! Good luck and have fun, Kerry!

    • Emilie says

      Hello Kevin! Welcome! Have fun baking this weekend. If you have any questions, please let me know :)

  33. Shawna says

    Thanks for a great tutorial. I have been learning a lot, and, many sites had me confused. I am now on my second batch, using your recipe.
    My first attempt, with a different recipe turned out rather flat (but still tasty!)
    This recipe was fantastic, and I even left out the Olive Oil, because I had ran out…. Can’t wait to try it with it.

    • Emilie says

      Hello Shawna! You are quite welcome! I’m glad you found this tutorial helpful. And once you get the hang of it I’m sure you’ll come up with your own tips and technique to suit your baking schedule.

      The olive oil is a great addition but doesn’t make (or break) the recipe. In fact, many bread doughs do not include it at all. Olive oil helps to tighten the crumb, creating less holes, making it perfect for sandwiches.

      Happy baking! Have fun with the recipe! x

      • Shawna says

        Could I bake this in a loaf pan, with another turned upside down on top of it? Or, will that not give it enough room?

        • Emilie says

          Hi Shawna! Great question! I wouldn’t bake this in a loaf pan with another loaf pan on top- there won’t be enough room! Plus, the bread not only rises up, but out to the sides as well creating a dome effect. Alternatively, there is a way to create steam that a lid normally would have provided. Preheat a cast iron skillet and place on the bottom the oven floor (or lowest rack) before the the bread goes in. When ready to bake, add a handful of ice cubes to the skillet. This will create immediate steam. Add your loaf pan and quickly shut the door. This will help to create a more humid environment for the bread to rise. Now, you might have to play around with this steaming technique to get it right, but in general it should help. Good luck!

          • Shawna says

            What I have done, that has worked the last 3 bakes….
            I fill a loaf pan with water, cover it with foil that I poked holes in (just a few).
            I placed it in the very back of my oven when I first turn it on to preheat, and leave it in during baking.
            It has created steam inside my oven. It seems to be working really well.

          • Emilie says

            Excellent! I’m going to try that one myself. Thanks for the tip! x

  34. says

    The bread looks beautiful, I’m sure it’s as delicious as it looks. Great directions. Fabulous pictures! I love working with sourdough – it’s like magic.

    • Emilie says

      Hello Ann! Welcome! Thank you for your kinds words. I too love working with sourdough, and find bread baking in general very addicting. It’s a magical process ;)

  35. Brinn Clayton says

    I’ve been working on learning sourdough bread for about a year. My starter is about that old. I first had 7 or 8 months with limited success and lots of failure. Your post has been the most instructive so far. Thanks. I received a dutch over for Christmas. Your post appeared while searching for a recipe.
    I started the recipe last night and baked this afternoon after church. The result is the best looking sourdough I’ve made yet. But I had a few problem along the way.
    First my starter had a good amount of liquid on the top. It has always been a watery starter. I thought this was natural. I did pour off the liquid before feeding, but it is still quite watery. Should I be shooting for a more spongy starter. Would I use less water in feeding to achieve this result. I currently use 1 part bread four and 1 part water.
    The result of the bulk ferment was rather sticky. The bulk ferment was about 12 hours. Even with floured hands I could not get it to shape. It would just stick to my hands. I folded in more flour but it never got the beautiful smooth look yours has before it went into the dutch over. I trace this back to the watery starter. I’m guessing I should have increased the four before the bulk ferment. What should the texture of the dough be prior to the bulk ferment?
    The rise in the dutch over was more of a flattening. It did gain bulk but it was no longer in the shape of a ball.
    I may have used more salt than needed. Though I thought I measured it correctly. I ate two slices after the hour cool down and my tongue desires to take a swim. What suggestions do you have to keep down the salt, just reduce it until I am satisfied.
    The correct taste I am looking for is there. The saltiness has masked it. Now that I know it’s there, I just need to coax it out

    • Emilie says

      Hello Brinn!

      I’m happy to help you with your questions.

      1.) With regards to your starter, the liquid that rose to the top is called ‘hooch.’ This usually appears after the starter has exhausted itself and needs another feed to regain its strength. Pour off the liquid, including some of your starter (this will yield better flavor), and then give it a good feed. All starters look different- but in general, you are aiming for a spongy appearance. You do not need to use less water to achieve this result. Your 1:1 ratio is fine.
      *Note: if you notice that your starter is still incredibly watery even after pouring off the hooch, you can add a little more flour to reach your desired consistency. It should resemble pancake batter.

      2.) Prior to bulk ferment, your dough should be wet and sticky just like the corresponding picture above. Add additional flour if necessary after autolyse. If you choose to do stretch and folds during the bulk ferment, the dough will change from sticky to smooth. This is what you want.
      Now, because your dough was too sticky after the bulk ferment, I believe you had too much water in your recipe. Do you weigh your ingredients with a digital scale? This will yield the most accurate results. Different flours absorb water at different rates. I don’t think it was due to your watery starter.

      3.) For the salt- what type (i.e sea, table, kosher) and brand did you use? All salts are not created equal, unfortunately. This bread should not taste like sea water! LOL. I would reduce the amount for now based on whatever you’re using. My preference is a fine grain sea salt. Mine is Trader Joe’s brand.

      I hope some of this information helps you on your way! Let me know how it goes. Good luck! ;)

  36. Aaron says

    This post has by far been the most helpful on sourdough I have tried. Last night was my third attempt, using your directions. It came out the best tasting and with more air holes inside than others I have done before. However I still have a common issue. My bread tends to rise out instead of up during the bulk and second rise. I use a scale set to grams. Initially it was very dry. I actually had to add a little more water just to get it to hold together. So not sure how others get it to wet (had that issue before with other recipes). Nothing really happened during the autolyse, which I did at room temp (68 deg), and I did not expect anything. Folded in the salt/water just fine and then set it rise at room temp for 3 hours. It spread out, but not up. So i warmed the oven to 100 deg turned it off, waited about 10 min and set the bowl in to finish thinking it would help speed up since it is winter here. After 4 more hours it seemed to be a little taller. Pulled it out onto floured surface. Folded the edges under and tried to form as tight a ball as possible, however it seemed to stay flat. Left it second rise on a piece of parchment with a large pot over it. I don’t have a dutch oven, so I figured I would second rise on Parchment and slide onto a baking stone then cover with the pot. Allowed it to second rise for about 1.5 hours and it never really grew up. Just out a little. Well, it was getting late, so I slashed it, baked it, cooled it.

    The taste is great! and texture better than others I have done. Just want more lift (hard to make a sandwich with 2.5 inch tall bread). I used King Arthur Bread flour. I did not do the water test for starter, but it looked just like your picture (obvious to do next time). It did kind of stick to the bowl after first rise, so maybe it deflated too much when I formed it? I guess I either waited too long or not long enough somewhere. Any thoughts? Also, I did not do any pulling/folding during the bulk ferment. Thanks, can’t wait to try your other recipes!

    • Emilie says

      Hi Aaron! Happy to help!

      So from what I understand, your dough is spreading out during both the bulk & second rise?

      For the bulk ferment, this should be done in a bowl (not free form like the 2nd rise). If your dough was dry, this is normal. Different types/brands of flour absorb water at different rates. Adjust with water to compensate. Now, because it is winter it will take very long for the dough to rise- that’s why you didn’t see dramatic results after the first 3 hours. In fact, during the colder months I leave the dough to rise overnight on the counter (see my winter baking schedule at the end of the post). Then I bake in the morning. This type of dough benefits from a long initial rise so I would recommend trying my baking schedule.

      For the second rise- instead of doing it free form, place the dough in a cloth lined basket, or brotform. This way it will be contained and won’t spread. FYI- dough spreads both out and up. So what you experienced is normal. However, the more water in a dough recipe the more it will spread.

      *Also, I wanted to point out that the length of your second rise was too long. It should be around 30 minutes to an hour tops. In your case, I think it over- proofed which will decrease its oven spring (height) when baked.

      Bottom line: bulk ferment in a large bowl and leave over night to rise. Do your 2nd rise in a cloth lined basket to contain spreading, and shorten the length so that it looks just slightly puffed. Bake as directed.

      I hope this helps Aron! If you have any other questions please let me know! Good luck :)

      PS- the stretch and folds help to strengthen the dough as well, giving it great height. Give it a try!

  37. Rob says

    Emilie –
    Just wanted to say thank you …
    Your sourdough post is just simply amazing . Great photographs and prefect direction!
    I received a cookbook this Xmas called ” the nourished kitchen ”
    It has a great sourdough starter recepie – super simple / super easy…( way better than king author )
    Live struggled with sourdough starters for a few years now. ( maybe living in Philadelphia our air Bourne yeast is ??? – lol ) yet finally , I have an amazing , strong, active yeast starter that I’m very proud of . – I really should name her !! As I’m keeping this kid alive !!! )

    I just finished up mixing my first dough … It’s in its first stage as we speak , I’ll bake tomorrow and really can’t wait !!!
    I’ll let you know how it turns out !

    I’m a beer brewer and I’ve played with yeasts for years … If you or your fans might be interested , I have a simple easy recepie for a Ginger Bug starter that works great for making a ton of different ginger ales / fruit ales and ginger beers …

    Again – I can’t wait to bake tomorrow and taste !
    One quick question – can you sugest a way or method to get big holes / air pockets into my breads ?
    Some of the best sourdough I’ve ever had was when I lived in the PNW -Seattle – they had an amazing , chewy, big air pockets , crunchy crust round loaf that Im so trying to reproduce …
    Any thoughts?

    Ok cheers – and again , thanks . I’m hoping to munch on this bread to ring in the new year with my New Years Day Hoppin John !!!

    ThNks again

    • Emilie says

      Hello Rob! Thank you for your comment- it made me smile ;)

      So, how did your sourdough bread turn out? Good I hope!

      In terms of achieving sourdough with an open crumb (lots of holes), you will need a high hydration dough coupled with an overnight rise. High hydration doughs have a lot of water, they’re sticky, and can can be difficult to work with. But once you get the hang of it, it’s not so bad. Plus, you’ll be addicted to the end result it will force you to practice!

      Comparatively speaking, my recipe is on the lower end of hydration. You can see from the pictures the crumb is tighter (less holes). Because it’s not very wet, it is pretty easy to handle and great for beginners. This type of bread is also great for sandwiches. You don’t want mayo dripping through the holes ;)

      To get the look you want, you have 2 options:

      1.) Add more water (total 350 g) to the above recipe


      2.) Use the my Dukkah Sourdough which is a high hydration (there are lots of pics with holes). This one uses a different starter that is half bread flour half whole wheat. Obviously, leave out the Dukkah is you want.

      Hope this helps, Rob! Keep me updated :)

      • Rob says

        Hello Emilie – thank you so much for the reply…
        Kinda funny ….
        I can’t stop making bread / sourdough ….
        I did a lot of research looking for a bigger open crumb and as you said it’s all about hydration … I’m on my 6th or 7th loaf as I type.. And totally enjoying the learning curve ! I will defiantly check out the recepie you recommended …
        Also , my sourdough starter is getting quite the work out … Any sugestions ? It’s still yeasty Bready n bubbly , guess in doing something right !
        Cheers and happy New Years !

        I’m going to enjoy this next warm sourdough loaf this evening with my homemade spinach / mushroom stuffed manacoti .


        • Emilie says

          Hi Rob!

          I know the feeling. Baking sourdough is extremely addicting ;)

          I’m glad you’re enjoying the learning curve, because that’s exactly what bread baking is. You have to improvise, adapt, and really get to know your dough. Corny, but true. And the only way to improve is to master your mistakes. I’m still learning.

          With that said, keep up the good work! High hydration doughs coupled with a long bulk ferment will yield the best open crumb (holes) bread. I use a starter that’s half whole wheat & half bread flour that I love for a good country loaf. It has great flavor. Speaking of, your manicotti sounds delicious! Enjoy!

        • Emilie says

          No, not over stepping at all! In fact, here’s my version of that exact same recipe: No-knead Artisan Bread. It follows the same concept of squelching the dough together by hand followed by a long overnight rise. The only difference is the yeast (as you mentioned), no stretch and folds, and I add salt after autolyse in my sourdough recipe. But the no-knead concept is the same, as is the use of the Dutch oven.

          Good eye, Rob!

  38. Bob says


    Many thanks for your well written instructions, they are great.

    I have been playing with sourdough for about 8 months, and have had varying success. As you mentioned, there are many recipies and methods on the net, and a lot of conflicting information as well.

    Good news is I have not thrown any bread out, it has all been eaten.

    My best result was a mistake with some electronic scales. The method I was following called for adding 1kg of flour in 250gram lots, about an hour apart. First time I did it the bread rose well and was lighter than previous efforts. Second time I had a seniors moment, and think I forgot to zero the scales, and added all the flour in 1 go. It rose about an inch above the loaf tin. It also tasted great.

    Just baked my first loaf following your instructions, and you will be pleased to know that your method was much much better than my best effort by far. The bread was very light and tasted fabulous. Even made a mistake and forgot to slash the dough till it was time to bake with the lid off !!! Yes, took your advice and bought a cast iron Dutch Oven, and after this success, will continue to use it, but will remember to slash prior to bakingnext time.

    The only deviation from your instructions was the timing. We have just had a couple of 40 degree days in Melbourne, so the bread rose well sitting on a table on the patio. Mixed it in the morning and baked it that night.

    Next loaf will be a herb bread with Rosemary and Thyme. Will let you know how it goes.

    Again, many thanks for the brilliant post.


    • Emilie says

      Hello Bob!

      This is wonderful news! Glad to hear my method was helpful.

      As you mentioned, there are so many variations of the same recipe out there it’s really all about improvising. And you are doing it already- since it’s nice and warm in Melbourne (where about? Love that city) and because you were watching the dough, you knew exactly when it was ready. This same recipe might’ve taken a good 12 hours to rise in our cold weather here in NY.

      Keep up the good work, Bob! I can almost smell your herb bread from here :)

  39. Justin says

    This was the second bread recipe I ever tried, and the best. The bread turned out fantastic!!! I was so busy taking puctures that I forgot to slash the top, so the sides blew out, but it turned out perfect. Thanks for taking the time to do this step-by-step write up, it helped.

    • Emilie says

      Ahh! That’s fantastic, Justin! Thank you so much for the feedback. I really appreciate it. And if you remember to take any more shots, I’d love to see! I’m glad this tutorial was helpful :)

  40. says

    Hello Emile,

    Thank you for this lovely post. I am on my first batch of sour dough. I am following your recipe and I’ve just started my bulk ferment. I created my starter from scratch using the King Arthur blog post by PJ Hammel, I called their baker’s hotline because after feeding my starter for six days I was getting a lot of nice surface bubbles but no floatation. The baker i spoke with said that their starter recipe is not the kind that floats. I decided to just go ahead and try your recipe with my non floating starter. Hopefully something edible will come of it. Right now I am an hour into bulk fermentation and have been doing the stretch and fold every 30 minutes. Everything seems to be going well but I don’t have any plastic wrap! Is that an important key during bulk fermentation to trapping moisture? I just have mine in a bowl under a tea towel. I live in Long Beach, Ca and it was 80 today so thankfully my kitchen is about 70 degrees right now. I would love to hear about the plastic wrap. Thanks for your great post and I’ll let you know how it all turns out!
    Kind Regards,

    • Emilie says

      Hello Chelsea! Congrats on getting started with sourdough- once you get the hang of it you’ll never look back ;)

      If after 6 days your starter has doubled in size, and has lots of bubbles, it’s most likely ready.

      I looked at the link you sent, and I use an identical starter to KA (whole wheat + bread flour). Mine passes the float test all the time. I think the reason you were told otherwise is that you might’ve tested yours when your starter began to fall. Are you familiar with the rise and fall process? Basically, when you give your starter its first feed it’s flat. As the bubbles start to appear, it begins to rise. At its peak it will be double in size, and you might see lots of bubbles and/or the starter itself bursting through the lid! You want to do the float test at this point. Then it falls. And the bubbles slowly start to disappear. Do you think this could be a factor?

      Either way, only time will tell…

      With regards to plastic wrap, no worries! Just place a damp kitchen towel over the bowl. Since it’s warm by you (lucky) check the towel once in a while to make sure it’s still damp. You want that moisture trapped in so a skin doesn’t form on the surface of your dough. I do this all the time. Some of my friends use shower caps too, by the way.

      Just one quick thing- are you baking today/tonight? Or are you doing a long overnight rise? If you’re doing the latter, you might want to refrigerate your dough overnight. Since it’s warm by you, the dough might rise very fast and could possibly over proof (and spill out onto your counter!). Not the end of the world, but difficult to shape and work with the following day. To do this, just cover the bowl in the same kitchen towel, adding more water to it so it survives the overnight. You want it pretty damp. I’m actually refrigerating my dough overnight even though it’s freezing here. I made a batch in the afternoon and know it will be over proofed by morning. You have to improvise :)

      OK! I hope this helps! Please let me know if you have any other questions or if my bread ramblings make no sense! Happy baking :)

      • says

        Wow, thanks for the quick reply. I think I’ll bake in the morning since I also made my dough this afternoon. I tested my starter a few times in the morning before it’s 1st morning feed. Maybe that was the problem, or maybe I didn’t wait long enough because I wanted to bake bread so badly. I guess time will tell, my fingers are crossed. I now have it covered with a damp kitchen towel and I’ll put it in the fridge before I go to bed. It’s already cold here now that the sun is down and we don’t turn on the heat but if yours is in the fridge over night then that’s what I’m going to do too. I’ll report back tomorrow about how it turns out. thanks again, this has been a fun adventure so far and I love the terminology that you use, like “squishing” it makes the recipe so much easier to translate! Cheers!

        • Emilie says

          No worries Chelsea! I’m happy to help.

          PS- doing the float test before the first feed was definitely the problem. But I can’t blame you!

          So in the morning, remove the dough from the bowl and shape into a ball. If it’s too cold, give it a minute or two on the counter. I cut mine in half and shape into 2 balls (I have 2 Dutch ovens) but you don’t have to do this. Then, let it rest again for the second rise. The dough is ready when it’s puffed slightly and no longer looks dense (see instructions above). Now you’re ready to bake!

          Can’t wait to hear how it turns out. Fingers crossed :)

          • says

            Hi Emile,

            I’m sorry it took me a few days to report back on my bread comedy! Yes it was a comedy. :) I think in the end I didn’t wait long enough for the starter. I let my dough rise over night on the counter after it rose all afternoon on the counter. I didn’t end up putting it in the fridge for a night rise because I had a suspicion that something was awry as it didn’t really change shape much between 2pm and midnight. In the morning as you may guess by all of this it was maybe 5% larger. I decided to still bake it of course. I ended up with an edible but very dense and chewy bread that both my husband and i could only eat one piece of as test subjects. I baked in my dutch oven and the bread itself was about 8″ in diam. and at best 3″ high so really no rise, it just sort of spread out. I also did something regrettable. I wet my hands after I shaped it to try and smooth out the surface a bit so I think that might have also been a no-no. I just took my remaining starter out of the fridge and gave it a feed. I have it sitting in the sun and plan to wait as many days as it takes until it floats! Thanks for your help Emile, maybe loaf two will be lighter than the brick I just baked :).

          • Emilie says

            No worries at all Chelsea! Thanks for taking the time to report back.

            I think you’re right- the issue was most likely your starter. There’s no reason why your dough shouldn’t have doubled in size. Especially since the length of your bulk ferment was sufficient.

            The good news, is that you can fix it. You gave your starter another feed which is the right thing to do. Keep feeding it until it doubles in size, bubbles appear, and it passes the float test. Then, make your dough. And just as a rule of thumb- always feed your starter before mixing up a fresh batch of dough. Don’t mix straight from the fridge with a cold starter. Sourdough is a labor of love.

            Not sure if wet hands hindered the process… Perhaps in appearance, but nothing of major concern. Don’t worry about smooth surfaces for now. The main thing is shaping the dough properly and achieving good oven spring. No one likes to eat flat discs ;)

            If you have any other questions please let me know! Good luck!

  41. Erica says

    I really want to try this recipe but I do not own a kitchen scale. Do you have the conversions from weight to volume? I have tried looking up conversions on line but cannot figure it out. I do realize that weighing is better but I just don’t want to buy a scale just for this bread recipe. This is just to beautiful of a bread to pass on because I don’t know how much of each ingredient to use.

    • Erica says

      After going over the recipe again I realized that it is written in ounces and grams. I am used to cups, TBSP, tsp measures. (But I will probably end up buying a scale soon). I have the starter ready and am anxious to bake this bread. It looks that good!

      By the way, I love the your winter schedule instructions. I have never seen anyone lay it out like you do. And that means a lot to someone like me who likes those little extra steps!!

      • Emilie says

        Hi Erica!

        I don’t blame you for not wanting to buy a kitchen scale :)

        I don’t have the exact measurements in cups. However, 1 cup of bread flour is equal to 160 grams.

        Here’s my estimate:

        Bread flour: 3 1/4- 3 1/2 cup
        Water: 1- 1 1/4 cup
        Olive oil: 1 tablespoon
        Salt 1 1/2 tsp.
        Starter: 1 cup (active)

        Please keep in mind that the above will not be 100% accurate. This always happens when dealing with conversions. But once you get the hang of the recipe, you’ll be able to make the necessary adjustments.

        Good luck! Have fun with the recipe :)

  42. Patrick says

    Hi Emilie, I am making this bread as I am writing (bulk fermentation) but I have a question, I got a call that I have to go into the office early tomorrow, I was planning on baking this in the morning, I live in the desert of California and we have been cold (20’s -30’s). My question is, can I put it in the fridge for over 12 hrs? I’m thinking it may be almost 20 hrs before I can bake it or should I go ahead and put it on a warm oven and bake it before I go to bed? I have tried making sourdough bread several times (with yeast) but have not had much luck. The loaves come out flat but taste great. Thank you for such a detailed post on the subject.

    • Emilie says

      Hi Patrick!

      Excellent question. Put your dough in the fridge- it will benefit from a long overnight rise. Now, I’ve never done a 20 hour ferment before. Maybe up to 15 hours. But your bread won’t be ready to bake tonight. Even in a warm oven there’s no guarantee of a good rise (all sourdoughs rise at different rates depending on starter potency) Plus, you have to give yourself time for the second rise tonight as well. You’ll be baking at 1 in the morning! Trust me. There’s nothing worse than rushed bread!

      Hope this helps! Let me know how it goes- is this your first time baking a true sourdough?

      • Patrick says

        Hi Emilie, Thank you! I will try it and see what happens. I agree, I don’t want to be baking the bread at 1am, especially since I have to be up at 4am. This is my first time doing bread like your recipe, I have tried other sourdough recipe’s with out any luck. I also wanted to say, I have had my starter going for a while but it just didn’t seem to be very good. Not much aroma, bubbles like crazy but no smell, I followed your blog on starter and I have to say, it looks better, smells good and that is what I used in this loaf. I will post an update tomorrow on how it turned out. Thank you again, I love the information you provide, very through and relevant!!

      • Patrick says

        Hi Emilie, Update for you. The Bread came out looking so beautiful, and the texture was perfect but it had no sourdough flavor at all. I must be doing something incorrectly, my starter has a nice sour smell tang to it but my bread doesn’t reflect that. Any suggestions?
        I will post a couple of pictures on your FB page, if thats ok?

        • Emilie says

          Absolutely! I love pictures… I’ll head on over to FB and check it out. And I have a solution to increase that sour flavor as well… Be back in a bit :)

        • Emilie says

          Hi Patrick!

          Thanks for the update! I’m glad the bread turned out well considering your schedule :)

          Now, it terms of sour flavor- is your starter homemade or did you purchase it online? Is it made from 100% regular flour or a combo of whole wheat and regular flour?

          In my experience, there are 3 things that make up a sour flavor: starter made with 50% whole grain flour, long bulk ferment, and whole grain flour incorporated into the recipe itself.

          Now, you don’t need all 3 to achieve a sour flavor.

          Let’s analyze:

          Since you did a long bulk ferment, we can rule that out.

          If your starter is 100% regular flour, then go ahead and replace about 50-100 g of bread flour with whole wheat flour in this recipe. Whole wheat flour is more acidic and will contribute a more sour flavor. It will not make this bread look or taste like whole wheat; it just elevates the flavor. I gave you a range, because I’m not sure how ‘sour’ you want it to taste. Experiment until you achieve what you’re looking for.

          If your starter is a mix of whole wheat & regular flour (or something else) you can also apply the above method to this recipe.

          If you’d like, go ahead and email me your bread photos. They won’t post to FB because of my settings.

          Thank you! And good luck!

  43. says

    Hi Emile,

    I think I’m still confused about the float test. My starter has been out of the fridge for 24 hours, it’s had 2 feeds. When is the exact best time to do the float test. I gave my starter the morning and night feed yesterday. It looks really bubbly right now. From what I understand I should do the float test after giving it the first feed of the day? So at what point? Mix in new flour and water and let sit for a period of time then do the float test or wait 12 hours before the night feed and do the float test before giving it that 2nd feed?


    • Emilie says

      Hi Chelsea,

      The float test is performed when your starer has doubled in size, looks fluffy, and has bubbles.

      For example, if you took it out of the fridge, gave it a feed, and in a couple of hours it appears as described above? It’s time to do the float test.

      Keep in mind- your starter will look and act differently on different days. That’s why there isn’t a specific time to do the float test. It might be ready after the first feed, or it might take 3 feeds to get it going. I think that’s where the confusion is. It’s ready, when its ready.

      Do me a favor, the next time you feed your starter, mark its height with a piece of masking tape on the outside of the container. As it grows, you can visually track its progress. Once it’s around double in size (approximately) it will look less dense and bubbles will start to appear. This is a good time to do the test.

      Tip: Only place a small teaspoon (or less) of starter in a glass of water. Do not add too much.

      Does that make sense? I hope this helps! Let me know how it goes! :)

  44. Londi Lohse says

    I tried this recipe for Christmas dinner this year and it was amazing. I did the stretch and pulls as suggested and wow what a difference. It bulked up so nicely. When we pulled it out of the oven it was so big and soft on the inside and crispy on the outside. It really was incredible. This is my second time making sour dough bread. I’m new to homemade bread baking. Thank you for the recipe, all the tips and clear instructions. I will use it again and again.

    • Emilie says

      Hello Londi!

      That’s fantastic! The stretch and pulls really do make a difference in overall height and structure of the bread. I’m so glad you gave it a go. I was very resistant to this method at first, dubbing it as ‘just one more thing I have to do’ but it’s not bad at all. And even if you forget, it’s not the end of the world.

      Now that you got the hang of it, check out some of the other sourdough recipes on the blog! I have one with a dukkah crust and a delicious version with raisins and walnuts.

      Have fun baking!

  45. Ken says

    I have never made bread before , but I do cook at a better than beginners level.
    I basically followed your recipe , used your weight to measure conversion that you gave in a previous comment. I just bought a starter online and have only been growing it a few days.
    Having extra starter I decided to make some sourdough …
    The crust was crisp , the inside was light and had the right size and amount of air pockets , it had the right consistency for bread, and it tasted great , BUT … It wasn’t very tangy , How do I get more tang (sour taste) in my starter ?
    Thank you so much for your recipe , tips , and comments, they were very helpful !

    • Emilie says

      Hi Ken!

      I’m so glad the measure conversion worked out for you. Sometimes that can be a bit tricky…

      Another reader (above) asked the same question with regards to sourness.

      Here is my response:

      Is your starter made from 100% regular flour or a combo of whole wheat and regular flour?

      In my experience, there are 3 things that make up a sour flavor: starter made with 50% whole grain flour, long bulk ferment, and whole grain flour incorporated into the recipe itself.

      You don’t need all 3 to achieve a sour flavor.

      Since you followed my recipe, we can rule out long bulk ferment as the cause.

      If your starter is 100% regular flour, then go ahead and replace about 50-100 g of bread flour with whole wheat flour in this recipe. Whole wheat flour is more acidic and will contribute a more sour flavor. It will not make this bread look or taste like whole wheat; it just elevates the flavor. I gave you a range, because I’m not sure how ‘sour’ you want it to taste. Experiment until you achieve what you’re looking for.

      If your starter is a mix of whole wheat & regular flour (or something else) you can apply the above method to this recipe as well.

      I hope this helps, Ken! Please keep me updated and if you have any other questions. Good luck!

  46. Shea says

    Dutch oven- genius! I’m pretty comfortable with bread, but will admit I’ve stayed away from sourdough at home. When I was fresh out of high school, I worked in a bakery where we made authentic SF sourdough. I’ve since left the food industry, but have been looking for a way to mimic those wonderful steam ovens ever since! This is the best suggestion I’ve seen and the photos of your bread are beautiful. Finally, a chance to see if I still have what it takes to make those perfect sourdough cuts (we always used disposable salpels). ;-) Thank you for sharing this!

  47. says

    Em, this updated version is fantastic! Love the tip on putting starter in a glass of water to check if it’s ready. And so glad to hear the enamel roasters are working!! :)

    • Emilie says

      It’s a great tip. Especially when you find yourself in that confused state. I know I was always baffled at what my stater should look like. Such moody little things…

      I love my enamel roasters! They’re so pretty too- that white!

  48. Geoff says


    I’ve been making sourdough loaves each weekend since last autumn. I’ve blasted through many a post on the internet about the no-knead process and, this far all my loaves have been eaten!
    I’ve recently bought a cast iron enamel-lined dutch oven, and hope to improve.

    What I find interesting about your method is that you final prove your dough in a cold dutch oven and then place that into a hot oven. It’s strange but you seem to be one of the few who do it this way. I can see it’ll save some energy, and it’ll be interesting for me to follow this idea and get the same results as you!!
    One thing I don’t have is cornmeal – but presumably ordinary flour will also do on the base of the dutch oven.

    Great informative post, thanks for sharing ….

    • Emilie says

      Hi Geoff!

      Congrats on baking sourdough. Sounds like everyone is enjoying your efforts!

      With regards to my method- I cold prove (2nd rise) free-form because this recipe is a low-hydration dough; it spreads out minimally. However, if you are working with a high- hydration dough you will want to prove in a cloth lined basket or brotform to contain the spreading. I’m not sure what hydration % you are working with… just something to keep in mind.

      No matter what hydration I’m working with, I always bake in a cold Dutch Oven with plenty of cornmeal coating the bottom. I never have a problem with sticking when prepared correctly. Flour will work but there needs to be a good amount on the bottom. You could also line the bottom with parchment paper cut out to fit the exact shape of your pot. Using my method, I get an excellent rise and the heat remains trapped within the vessel. I began doing this because I was frustrated dealing with a preheated (hot!) Dutch oven- I kept burning myself.

      If you keep these 2 points in mind, you should get good results! Again, you might want to check the hydration % before you free form proof.

      Happy baking!

      • Geoff says

        Thanks Emelie,

        Thank you for your response.

        I’ve just done a loaf – very beautiful – but I chickened out of using your method. Sorry.

        A cast iron pot is designed to heat up slowly, so placing a cold and covered one into a hot oven seems counter-intuitive; plus there’s a certain worry in my mind at cold into hot = shock.
        But you obviously succeed. I’ll bear the idea in mind for my next one (or so when I get courage :D)

        My hydration always seems on the high side; though the dough is dry into the first prove – I have difficulty getting all the flour incorporated. By the end of the first prove the dough is quite wet and sloppy. I fold with difficulty and drop a slop into a parchment-lined dish for the second prove. Until today I’ve put dish and dough into a hot oven, but today using my dutch oven for the first time, I just dropped parchment and dough into the bottom. (Pre-heated).

        It looks OK ….. I’ll let you know after we’ve eaten it this evening :D

        Thanks again …. from a chilly Scotland.

        • Emilie says

          Hi Geoff,

          The beauty of bread baking is that one must do what’s best for them. Guides and tutorials are meant as such. If you are having success with a preheated pot (which I know works), don’t change a thing!

          If your dough is dry in the beginning, consider extending your autolyse. You’ll notice a big difference from 30 minutes to an hour.

          Also, high hydration doughs are tricky to work with especially stretch and folds. It takes practice!

          Looking forward to hearing about your bread. Enjoy!

  49. Geoff says

    Thanks Emilie

    Will let you know.

    This latest batch started on Friday morning. Flour, water, salt and starter all mixed together – left to first prove until Sunday lunchtime – probably my normal length of time – we don’t have a warm house (kitchen at this time of year is around 50F).

    I did intend baking yesterday, but an emergency delayed things.

  50. Abby says

    Thank you so much for this awesome post! I’d love to try my a sourdough this year, and I’m encouraged to see that there is an art to getting it right! Any tips on creating a starter for those who may not have access to one that’s already been created?

  51. Jim says

    Thank you so much for your awsome recipe and instruction. I am a new bread baker and feel encouraged by this. I made a loaf using my own fresh ground red and white winter wheat and a starter I started with pineapple juice and fresh wheat a few weeks ago. I yealded a beautiful 6″ loaf that I think should have been a little bigger since I didn’t split the dough into two loaves.. My elevation is 4800′ and it has been in the 30 to 50 degree range here. It is quite dense but beautiful in shape and the split. Any suggestions for using fresh ground whole wheat flower. I did sift it and it looks like store bought. Also, I don’t think my starter is quite up to par yet. I tried the float test today and is sank like a rock in the glass. Lots of nice bubbles but they deflated when I scooped it out of my jar. One final note I tried a recipe from another site and it failed miserably. Yours at least let me know I am on the right track.

  52. Zhuo says

    I find your post very informative! I just started my sourdough culture 2 weeks ago and now I am overflowing with left over sourdough culture, I have only baked 2 loaves by now, and I guess I still have a long way to go. I have a few questions that I hope you can help me with: 1. my sourdough culture doesn’t float very well in a float test, depending on the bubbly appearance and the fact that it always doubles its size after a feed every 12h, I would say my culture is pretty lively, but will it matter if my starter doesn’t float? 2. My bread doesn’t have a good oven spring, besides I should control the time of second rise, as you mentioned, what else should I consider? 3. I only baked my bread for about 30min at 425F, and i already found the crust a little bit too hard, do I need to go longer? I thought it would harden my crust even more. 4. How do you store you sourdough bread? I put them in a tupperware box, but it seems to dry out really quickly.

    • Emilie says

      Hi there!

      Congrats of baking your first 2 loaves! I know how exciting this is :)

      To answer your questions:

      1.) If you starter doesn’t float, but it is bubbly and has doubled in size, perhaps you are adding too much starter to the water. Try a very small dollop next time. However, if your bread has doubled in size during the bulk ferment, you know your starter is active regardless of the test. That’s why I think you might have added too much starter to begin with…

      2.) Besides controlling the 2nd rise, if your bread doesn’t have oven spring it’s possible that your loaf wasn’t fully risen (see above answer) due to inactive starter and/or shortened bulk ferment. Baking at 425 F is fine, so temperature was not the issue.

      3.) Did you bake in a pot? Follow the directions under ‘baking’ and your crust will not harden in the beginning. Also, what happens is, if your bread hardens too fast it prevents the dough from rising to its maximum potential. This could also be a possible factor for lack of oven spring (see answer #2). I don’t think 30 minutes @ 425 F is long enough. Double check for with an internal temperature.

      4.) For storage, I wrap my bread in plastic wrap and leave on the counter. Homemade sourdough is best consumed within 1-2 days of baking. Remember, it does not contain any chemicals to lengthen its shelf-life.

      I hope this helps, Zhuo. Good luck!

      • Zhuo says

        oh man I was just scrolling to see others’ questions and comments and I saw this and I was like, this answers my question, damn I should have looked at all the comments earlier! And then I saw that it is your reply to mine!! Thanks for the answer, another one in autolyse. hah!

        • Emilie says

          Hooray! Don’t you love when that happens? I hope you find this information helpful. :)

  53. Jim says

    I too have sinking starter yet it doubles in size each time I feed it. My question is how large are the finished loaves. I tried a tiny dollop and it still sank. There is a good sour odor and lots of bubbles in the starter. It raises in about 12 hours. I have baked two loaves using this recipe, one whole wheat, and the second using bread flower. Both have been about 6″ -8″ across. I did not split the dough into two loaves and it has been raining both times I made it…. Bad timing I think… Any advice would be helpful and appreciated. My thoughts are this should be twice the size. Am I wrong?

    • Emilie says

      Hi Jim,

      What kind of starter are you using? What hydration percentage? At what point are you doing the float test? Once I have a little more info I can better advise.

      The good news is that your bread is rising-

      I’m not sure how large the finished loaves are when baked…that’s a great question. I never measured them. Their size will vary depending on how much your dough spreads and what hydration %. Are you aiming for something larger?


      • Jim says

        Thanks for responding,
        I am using whole wheat flower I ground from red winter wheat and soft white wheat for my starter 50/50. My bread has nice holes in it as your loaves do on the website. The whole wheat loaf was a little dense when I made it but had great flavor. I did make a loaf using bread flower and had similar results. A 6-8″ loaf of bread. It did rise and looked beautiful. As for feeding I mix 1/2 cup flower to a little less than 1/4 cup filtered water to feed my starter. We are on a well and do not have chlorine or additives in our water. It seems the rains do impact my rise. Not really sure why but it does. One final note, this recipe works great and the loaves do look very nice.


  54. Sharda says

    Hello good morning,

    Boy have i learn alot about sourdough bread. I’m on my first rising, i will try you method and let you know the result. Thanks for all the help Emilie!


    • Emilie says

      Good luck Sharda!

      I’m looking forward to hearing your feedback. And remember, if you’re just starting out, it does take time to get the hang of. If you need me, I’m here :)

  55. Teri says

    do you have any advice for handling high hydration dough? I’m using a recipe for 75% hydration. It sticks to the banneton even with heavy flouring with coarse flour. There is absolutely no way that I could free form this dough.

    I am having good results using the dutch oven, good oven spring, nice crumb and excellent flavor however I am unable to score it….being so wet. The score closes immediately.

    I’m not sure about the tension thing….maybe I need to work the door more in the final shaping?
    But most info, says not to over work or over flour.

    • Teri says

      I may have solved my problem today…I put linen in the bannetons and viola! the dough popped right out and I was able to score the dough as well. What a surprise since when I was doing the final shape last night, that dough was sooooo sticky. I thought for sure it wasn’t going to come out.

      • Emilie says

        Hi Teri! I was actually going to suggest the same thing!

        I line my bannetons or bowl with a cotton kitchen towel or (sturdy) paper towel, believe it or not. I score in the pot.

        Glad you had success! ;)

  56. says

    Just randomly came across this post and I am in complete awe. I admire how detailed you are. I’ve only tried to make sourdough once and failed miserably but your most inspires me to try again! Such great and valuable tips. Thank you so much for this. Bookmarking it so I can try it out on the weekend.

  57. says

    Hi Emile… what a fabulous resource! Thanks so much! Have been baking for decades but only just made my first sough dough (with Celia’s guidance) today. Thanks heaps for more great info! xox

    • Emilie says

      Hi Lizzy! Congratulations! I can’t wait to see it! Isn’t she the best? You are quite welcome for the info.

  58. Melketsadek says

    It’s one of the best test on a bread. It remind me the thin bread my mom used to bake in Ethiopia called ‘enjera’. Emi if you get time try ethiopian food ask for enjera/doro wote, you will be surprised with the test. Good job with a great test we all love it:)

  59. Jim says

    Hi Emile ,

    Well, ten loaves later, I now have many happy people, (test subjects) thanks to your awsome recipe. I am new to bread making and my starter is now about a month old. Each loaf seems to be more beautiful than the last. Many good reviews from friends and most important my granddaughter who helped me make a loaf over the weekend. It seems like I need to finess the bread but it never lets me down. I am using whole wheat as well, about one cup per loaf. My starter wants to float away now it is so aggressive! Thank you so much!


    • Emilie says

      Jim, that’s fantastic news! You know, I think your starter just needed to be more active in order to past the float test (as you mentioned). And this, unfortunately takes time and practice. But I’m so happy to hear you stuck with it! Give your starter regular feeds and it will not disappoint. You are now on your way! Thanks for taking the time to leave feedback. Feel free to send me any pics, if you’d like :)

  60. Carly Nix says

    love the post on making sour dough.

    I am a real novice when it comes to sour dough but really want to try and make my own. I have been lucky enough to be given a sour dough Starter, which in now tucked up in a air tight container in the fridge. but i have a couple of basic questions before I start to try to use it. I would love some help.

    1. the Starter is made from Rye flour, can I use any bread making flour to feed the Starter or dose it have to be Rye based?

    2. When I feed the Starter should it be out of the fridge for a time (how long) and how often should i feed it if its not being used all that much?

    3.Also if you have any other tips in relation to using a Starter I would me stoked to know them.

    Looking forward to your response : D

    • Emilie says

      Hi Carly, thank you!

      1.) Is your starter 100% rye or a combination?

      2.) Your starter doesn’t have to be out of the fridge for an extended amount of time before you feed it. I feed mine cold. Take it out and pour off the water including a small portion of the starter. Feed it from there. The amount of feeds will depend on how active it is.

      3.) You always want to use an active, well fed starter before you bake. Starters will look different on different days, however you’ll know it’s ready when you do the float test (see above).

      Hope this helps! Good luck and happy baking :)

  61. Jude says

    Just wanted to thank-you for this great tutorial and recipe. I’ve been trying to find a great sourdough recipe that has the perfect crust. This was the third recipe I tried and followed your direction. It turned out better than expected. I don’t have a dutch oven, so I used my cast iron pan with water and baked at 20 minutes @ 425, then removed the pan and reduced the oven temp to 350 and baked an additional 20 minutes.

    • Emilie says

      Excellent! I’m so glad that you found this tutorial helpful. A cast iron pan with water is a brilliant way to bake… Thank you for the feedback Jude! :)

  62. Peri says

    after 6 months -have just stumbled on this great website after finding just about every other one on the internet-and getting more and more confused. Have had early successes and lately more failures.
    Have moved from hand kneading to stretch and fold and to mixing in a Kenwood mixer with dough hook which goes quite fast but mix only til dough is shiny and gathers into a ball.
    Q1. Can this last option overbeat/overheat my sticky dough?
    Q2 .Have used 1 or 2 rises equally successfully._or am I wrong?.
    Q3. My recipe uses 300g starter but same water and flour as yours. Others recipes looked at use much more starter than yours. Do I make it too wet?
    Q4. Whether the bread is warm or cold – it is often tacky? -looks and feels like crumpet texture to touch
    Q5. I cook in a heated covered enamel dutch oven – plopping the dough which has been rising in a dish on baking paper into the dutch oven, spray the top with water, slash and cook for approx 50 min (removing the lid after 15 minutes). But way too often the crust is usually very hard rather than crunchy
    Q6. Which shelf is best to cook on – I cook on bottom??
    Lastly my husband does not like it too sour so I try not to overprove but still not achieving best results.
    Thank you for your site – I will follow this religiously to see if I have some better results.
    In anticipation!!

  63. Liz says

    My first attempt at sourdough and I followed your directions exactly. I was AMAZED by the results. For a first attempt, it was excellent. Next time, bigger slash at the top, and potentially cracking the oven door for better crust (I took it out of the dutch oven for the remaining 10 minutes). But, I’m nitpicking. The results were awesome. Thank you!

  64. Barry says

    Hi, Emilie…I tried this recipe (on the weekend schedule) last week for the first time, and had the best results I’ve had in my new sourdough baking hobby!

    Now, a couple of questions for you…

    1. I am the only person in my family who is NOT gluten intolerant, so the only one who eats the bread. Would it be OK to freeze one of the two loaves made using the recipe above? If so, how would you suggest wrapping the dough?

    2. Along those lines, I’ve never made homemade bread before, and am finding that it goes stale very quickly. I am putting the baked bread directly in a brown paper lunch bag and keeping it at room temperature. Is this appropriate? Is there a better way to keep it fresh longer?



    • Emilie says

      Hi Barry,

      Congratulations on your bread baking success!

      1.) Yes, it’s ok to freeze one of the loaves. Once it’s completely cooled, wrap the bread in plastic wrap and then again in foil. Freeze until you are ready to use. Some people slice their bread before freezing as well. This is up to you.

      2.) Homemade bread is best consumed within 1-2 days of baking. Remember, it doesn’t contain preservatives which would extend its shelf life. So, what you’re experiencing is normal. Instead of a brown paper bag, I would wrap the bread in plastic wrap and store at room temperature. The crumb will stay a little softer this way.

      Use stale bread for French toast or blitz in the food processor for homemade bread crumbs (you can freeze those too!).

      Hope I’ve answered your questions. Happy baking :)

  65. Barry says


    Thanks so much for the quick reply – I didn’t expect to hear back so fast!

    I’ve baked one loaf (perhaps even better than last week), and frozen the other. Only question now – when I prepare to bake the frozen loaf, do I need to do more than just thaw it out? Should I give it some time to proof before baking?

    Thanks again!


    • Emilie says

      Oh my goodness- I thought you meant freezing a baked loaf, not the dough itself! I’ve never done this… I’d say, freeze the dough after the bulk ferment and shape it into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap then freeze. When ready to bake, thaw the dough and re-shape into a ball. Once it’s puffed up a little (this will depend on how cold your dough is, including the temp. of your kitchen- I’d say 30- minutes to an hour) then bake it. This will act as your 2nd rise.

      Does that make sense? :)

  66. Barry says


    Makes perfect sense! You cracked me up with your surprise – I thought it was weird that you said some folks sliced the bread before freezing!

    I’ll follow your instructions on the second loaf, and let you know how it comes out.


  67. Pamela says

    Ahh, so disappointed you didn’t include a sour dough starter recipe. I thought for sure you would. That may be the key to your wonderful loaf and without it I don’t know how to begin. Help?

    • Emilie says

      Hi Pamela!

      Have you subscribed to the blog? I’ll be doing a post on this in the next week or so. This way you won’t miss it. You can sign up here

  68. Devon Cassidy says

    First off thank you so much for this post! i made my first loaf of bread last weekend using your recipe and tips and I am hooked! My starter is fed using flour, sugar and milk. I was wondering if you know if I can change what I feed it, ie to water and flour, or if that will kill it. Thanks!!

    • Emilie says

      Hi Devon,

      You’re welcome :) I’ve never used a starter fed with milk and sugar, so I’m unable to advise. If you’d like to feed it water and flour exclusively, I would obtain a starter made with those two ingredients only.

  69. Mardi says

    I’ve had great success with your recipe for white sourdough bread. I divide the dough in half and shape it into two loaves and place them side by side in my Dutch oven to rise and bake. The result is two nice loaves for sandwiches.

    I’d like to try whole wheat sourdough bread. Emilie, do you have suggestions about weights for replacing half the bread flour with whole wheat flour? The weight to volume ratios aren’t the same; I’m not sure where to start using weights. Most recipes make a simple conversion between volume and weights and that’s, strictly speaking, not accurate.

    • Emilie says

      Hi Mardi!

      Whole wheat can be tricky. Whole grain flours need more water. I would start by replacing 25% of the bread flour with whole wheat flour and increasing the water to 350 g. Then increase to 50% whole wheat flour if you want more. This will be somewhat of a trial and error based on the texture you are trying to achieve.

      Good Luck!

  70. Ruthie says

    I followed your recipe exactly, after having my last few sourdough attempts turn out pancake-flat but delicious. It looked perfect when I pulled my my cast iron pan out of the oven- until I realized that the bread has stuck so badly that I’m still working to get it out. I worry that I might have even ruined my Le Crueset pot. I’m currently destroying my only successful sourdough so far and it’s breaking my heart. What did I do wrong? I used cornmeal underneath as you suggested.

    • Emilie says

      Ugh, I know that feeling… But on a positive note, congratulations on your first successful sourdough loaf!

      For the dough not to stick, you need to use a lot of cornmeal. Blanket the bottom. This is what I do and mine never sticks. If you prefer, cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the bottom of your pot. Add cornmeal, and then place your dough on top. This way it really won’t stick.

      For your pot, once your bread is out, just soak it in plenty of warm water. If it has an enamel bottom, then you can go ahead and scrub all of the browned bits away.

      Hope this helps!

  71. Liz says


    • Emilie says

      Hi Liz,

      In its dried state, your starter should be good for quite a while. With regards on how to use it, it needs to be activated first. Don’t just add it (dried) to the recipe. Since all starters are different, your best bet is to ask her how to activate it. Once it’s ready then you can make the above recipe.

  72. Jerry says

    Hi Emilie, I am an older gentleman who has never baked except trying my wife’s homemade buttermilk biscuits. My children used them for hockey pucks! I have been following your post and quite enjoy it. I am now disabled, mentally challenged as Kathy would say, and enjoy gardening and am looking forward to try baking. My fifth attempt at the sourdough dough, I used to live in the San Francisco Bay area, was a disaster due to not using a kitchen scale among other things. I now have been informed we have a kitchen scale! I do have a question. My starter seems to be working out, but before you do the water test or add the starter to the recipe do you stir it or mix it all up so it is consistent from top to bottom? I’m thinking about doing the bulk fermentation in the refrigerator,we now live in upstate NY, north of Cooperstown. Thank you very much. Jerry

    • Emilie says

      Hello there Jerry! Welcome!

      Your comment made me laugh ;) And yes, you need a good kitchen scale for baking bread!

      For the float test, you do not need to mix up the starter before adding to the water; doing so would deflate it. Just scoop a little off the top. Now, your starter should look consistent throughout before you even do the test. Make sure to feed it, however many times it takes, to get it double in size and bubbly. No need to mix the starter before adding to the dough either.

      Bulk fermentation in the fridge is a great idea. I often do that in the summer overnight, so I can bake in the morning.

      Good luck and have fun baking!

      • Jerry says

        Thank you for the advice. The kitchen scale was the right answer! Following directions always works well. I still need practicing, but the dough looked and felt very much better, and baked liked you said it would. The water test worked well and I did nit mix it up the starter before the test.
        I think I might be still having some problems with my starter. The starter looks better now and is consistent with tiny bubbles from the bottom to the top and frothy with a little alcohol on top. I now have it in the refrigerator, since I won’t be baking until nest week. That is of course, unless you have some ideas, I might just take it out of the old ice box and feed it this week!
        My question is I am using water and bread flour for my starter, but the bread is not sour like it should be. The consistency seems to be OK and it is rising well, but I would like the bread to be much more sour. Do you have any ideas?
        Thank you,

        • Emilie says


          Excellent, so glad we solved that one ;) Kitchen scales are non-negotiable in bread baking.

          To increase the sour flavor, I’ll need some more info about your starter; what type are you using? Purchased or homemade? What kind of flour(s)? Fed at what hydration? If you don’t understand any of this lingo just let me know. We’ll go from there :)

          • Jerry says

            I do have a hard time understanding some things and lingo because I am new to baking and I have symptoms similar to dementia but it is not. It just slows me down a little because of my slow brain synopsis’, but I still have lots of fun! For example, this reply took me about 3/4 hour to write, because I need to check my work, if I didn’t you would never understand what I was trying to say!

            ANSWERS: My own home starter using plain filtered water and white bread flour (King Arthur). My starter is about 5 weeks old. I remove about 1/2 , stir it all up and feed it once a day; 1/2 cup of flour and 1/2 cup of water. I did put it in the refrigerator for 2 weeks once because I was tired. When I took it out, I fed it twice a day for 2 days till it looked better. I used to stir in the alcohol every time, but it was always pretty watery (still had bubbles) but never got very thick. Now I usually take out about 30% before feeding which includes the alcohol.
            My starter at this point looks bubbly, I take out a teaspoon and put it in a glass of cool tap water and it sits on top of the water…..after a few seconds it starts to break a part and filter to the bottom of the glass.
            I think that is about it for now. A lot of information, but not quite a book!
            Thank you for your help!
            Jerry in NY

          • Emilie says

            Hi Jerry,

            No worries at all :)

            For a more sour flavor, I would suggest creating a new starter: 50% whole wheat flour + 50% bread flour. Whole grain flours are more acidic which will give your bread more tang. Also, you can swap out 50 g of bread flour for 50 g of whole wheat flour in my recipe above. Heads up- don’t stir in the alcohol that rises to the top of your starter. Do as you’ve been doing; pour off about 30% (I discard almost 80%!).

            This should help with the flavor.

  73. Philip Hyde says

    Just want to say I absolutely love this site. I am making sourdough bread at this moment and am overwhelmed with excitement. It’s like a baby or something.. Also must say your photography is stunning.. I know it’s difficult to capture the true beauty of food in a picture but you do it quite well.. Bravo.

    • Emilie says

      Welcome Philip!

      Thank you so much for your kind comments and subscribing to the blog!

      Oh, I know that sourdough excitement. It is like a baby. And I will warn you, sourdough is seriously addicting. The overall process is quite empowering too. I’m excited to hear how your bread turns out! have a wonderful weekend and do keep me posted! :)

      • Philip Hyde says

        Amazing! Great success! I am well aware of the addictive nature of sourdough and I don’t care! If loving sourdough is wrong I can’t imagine being right. I Love this recipe and all of the super valuable knowledge that you’ve included with it. I’ve already started my second loaf. Thank You so much for sharing this!

  74. Emy says

    Hello, I would like to make a no-knead bread. A recipe I found says to place the dutch oven empty in the oven. I have a Pyrex casserole dish with lid. I have searched to see if it was safe. Not sure. Your recipe doesn’t call for that. So would it be okay if I placed the dough in the covered dish straight away ? Sorry I hope this makes sense…

    • Emilie says

      Hi Emy,

      Thanks for your question- how deep is your casserole dish? The reason why a Dutch oven (5-6 qt) works is because it is both wide and deep enough to accommodate the rising bread, which expands both out to the sides and up. If your casserole is too shallow it won’t work. Pyrex casseroles usually heat up to about 400 F if memory serves me correctly, however I don’t want to jump the gun since I haven’t seen your exact model! Another reader mentioned (above) that she placed her dough on a heated pizza stone and covered it with an oven safe Pyrex bowl to act as a ‘lid’. You might want to try something like that.

      Bottom line: check the depth of your Pyrex and make sure it’s oven safe to at least 400 F. You can always cut the dough in half and bake two smaller loaves to accommodate the size.

      Hope this helps! Good luck!

      • Emy says

        Hi Thanks for your reply ! Apparently mine is about 4qts (had to check as I use liters and it is 3.75L) and a bit more than 5″ deep with the lid. I don’t have a pizza stone but a pizza baking tray. Would that be any good ? Also, the description for the dish says that it can take up to 300 C so way more than 450 F. I have used the steam method with a ramequin full of water when making brioche which was uncovered. So If I had to use that would probably need a larger pan, like a cake one maybe ?
        Also, it is a bit cold for room temperature, so if I leave the dough out overnight will it rise ? Or should I put it in the boiler cupboard, covered up ?

  75. Jerry says

    Hi again,
    I have some continued thoughts after the weekend…I have been using tap water which is very chlorinated. So I am going to start a brand new starter with bottled filtered water and higher quality bread flour (commercial, I forgot the name). I have not thrown out my original starter, I will have the two to compare with and see what happens! I’m also looking into one of those basket proofing things and a dutch oven. If I get one from San Francisco my bread might turn out more sour!

    • Emilie says

      Hi Jerry!

      I just answered your previous comment :)

      Filtered water is my preference for feeding and maintaining starters. However, I do not believe this is directly related to a more or less sour flavor (it has to do with your flour type). As you’ve mentioned, it will be good to compare.

      Definitely get a Dutch oven! It’s the only way I’ve ever achieved professional style bread at home. There are many to choose from at a wide range of prices. I highly recommend for consistent results.

      • Jerry says

        Thanks for your swift reply. I am excited to do the 50/50 with water for a more sour taste. I did jump the gun and hope you can help. I had already decided to begin a new starter. So I put in a new glass container this morning: 1 cup of filtered water and 1 cup of white bread flour. I really do not won’t to throw this out; so if I add one cup of whole wheat flour that we have from the Amish store… much more filtered water should I add? I hope my question makes sense to you.

  76. Jerry says

    Hi Emilie,
    (By the way, I was about to send this and I remembered I forgot to ask you the question I had…would it be a good idea to use distilled water for my starter as I feed it?)

    I fixed my “sour” starter and will have to name it now. My wife Kathy just helped me order my 7 quart enameled cast-iron dutch oven! She thinks I’m in my second childhood! I also ordered a proofing basket. Thank you so much for your help. I really love this new technology that allows you to talk with and have friends instantly from around the world. It is amazing! It is better than a “pen pal”.
    I will keep you posted on how things go….I’m sure it will be a few weeks…Take Care!

    • Emilie says

      Hi Jerry!

      Yes, distilled water should be fine for feedings. Anything is better than tap!

      I’m so glad you ordered a pot and proofing basket; you will really see the difference in your loaves. The proofing basket is additionally great for when you work with wetter doughs that tend to spread out like pancake during the second rise. The bowl holds its shape.

      It is lovely to talk with people from all over the globe. I’m in NY too. Talk soon!

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