Sourdough Bread: a Beginner’s Guide

sourdough bread: a beginner's guide |

In 2013, my culinary resolution was to bake more bread.

I researched, tested, and baked countless loaves with both good and mixed results.

My journey began with a yeasted no-knead artisan bread and eventually, I worked my way up to the holy grail: Sourdough.

Sourdough bread is unique because it does not require commercial yeast in order to rise.

It’s made with a live fermented culture of flour and water, a sourdough 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 baking process based on my personal experience.

Over the years, I’ve adapted and changed my method until I found something unique to my baking preference and everyday schedule.

There is no kneading involved and you do not need a bread machine or a stand mixer.

I widely credit my knowledge to the lovely Celia from Fig Jam and Lime Cordial who initially inspired my sourdough bread baking journey.

And now, without further ado, I present the longest post ever (grab a cup of coffee!).

sourdough starter |

The Starter

Before you begin, you’ll need a sourdough starter.

If you don’t have a starter, you can purchase one here.

Simply put, a sourdough starter is a live culture made from flour and water. Once combined, the mixture will start to ferment which develops the naturally occurring wild yeasts and bacteria present within the mixture. A small portion of this culture is used make your bread rise.

But it doesn’t stop there.

Your starter must be kept alive with regular feedings of flour and water to maintain its strength for maximum rising power. It’s all part of the process- like feeding a pet.

How to Feed Your Starter

Every baker has their own method, and with practice you’ll eventually develop your own routine.

Here’s what I do: To begin, pour off some of the culture (about half) and then feed it with equal weights of flour and water. Whisk well with a fork until it’s lump-free. Let it rest at room temperature or in a warm spot until it becomes bubbly and doubles in size. Then, you can use it to make bread dough. This can take anywhere from 2-12 hours or more depending on temperature and the condition of your starter. Be patient!

Float Test: If you’re still unsure whether your starter is ready, drop a small amount (about 1 tsp) into a glass of water; if it floats to the top it can be used. If it sinks, your starter should be fed again.

Where to Obtain a Starter

All sourdough starters are different. They can be made from scratch, purchased online, or if you’re lucky, someone will share a portion of their starter with you. Starters range from thick to thin in texture and can be made with a variety of flours. I use two different starters; one is homemade and the other was a gift from my friend Celia. She dried a portion of her starter and mailed it all the way from Sydney, Australia.

How To Use Your Starter

After you have fed your starter, and it’s bubbly and active, pour some out of the jar to weigh or measure. That’s it. Then, don’t forget to feed what’s left in the jar with more flour and water to keep the process going.


If you only bake a few times a month, keep your starter in the fridge and feed it once a week. If you’re an avid baker, store your starter it room temperature and feed it at least once a day.

Want to Know More?

For troubleshooting and FAQ, please visit this post.

sourdough bread: a beginner's guide |

Mix The Dough

Once your starter is bubbly and active, you can mix the dough.

To begin, whisk the water and starter together in a large bowl. This recipe also includes olive oil, which you’ll mix together with the wet ingredients. Then, add the flour and salt. Squish the mixture together with your hands until the flour is fully absorbed. The dough will look rough and shaggy.

Tipfor best results, weigh all of your ingredients using a digital kitchen scale. You’ll get more consistent results weighing your ingredients rather than using measuring cups. Also, use bread flour instead of all-purpose flour for better gluten development and a higher rise.

The next step is to let the dough rest or ‘autolyse’ for about 30 minutes. This will make the dough much easier to handle.

Autolyse: the first 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. For timing, autolyse can range anywhere from 15 minutes to 1 hour or more, depending on the type of bread you are making and your own personal baking schedule. I find that a minimum of 30 minutes works best for this recipe.

*A Note on Salt- as you continue to bake you’ll notice that some bakers prefer to add the salt only after autolyse. This is because salt slows down the gluten development. I’ve followed this technique for years, but no longer continue to do so and have updated this section to reflect my current method. I prefer to mix all of the ingredients at the same time. It produces excellent loaves (plus, you won’t forget to add the salt later on!).  I’ll leave the choice up to you.  

sourdough bread: a beginner's guide |

Bulk Fermentation

After the dough is mixed, it’s ready to rise.

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. Remember, because sourdough bread does not contain commercial yeast, it will take considerably longer to rise. In the summer, it can take anywhere between 3-4 hours @ 85 F whereas in the winter, about 6-12 hours @ 65 F. It is very important to watch your dough and not the clock. It’s ready, when it’s ready. Be flexible.

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. If you are still struggling with the rise of your dough, especially when the weather is cold (and it’s taking forever!) you might consider using a proofing box. This is basically a temperature controlled ‘greenhouse’ for your dough. This is the one I use and it FOLDS FLAT.

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. For this dough, which is quite dry and not that easy to stretch, repeat this technique 1 to 2 times, spaced 30 minutes to 1 hour apart. You don’t have to be exact with your timing here, so don’t worry. Although this step is not mandatory, it will increase the total volume of your bread which is really nice.

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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.

To shape, use a bench knife 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). This is the bench knife I use.

Starting at the top, fold the dough over toward the center. Give it a slight turn, and then fold over the next section of dough. Repeat until you have come full circle. Then 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. 

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

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The Vessel

I bake my sourdough bread in a Dutch oven.

The pot 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 I found them to be very cumbersome and not realistic for everyday use. Nothing worked. 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.’ Using a Dutch oven is a great solution.

sourdough bread: a beginner's guide |

Second Rise

After shaping the dough, generously coat the bottom of your Dutch oven with cornmeal. Alternatively, you can line the bottom with non-stick parchment paper instead.

Place the dough inside where it will need to rise again (please read tip below- it’s important).

This time, the dough will rise for a shorter period, about 30 minutes- 1 hour. It is ready when the dough is slightly puffy and no longer dense. 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. As an alternative, 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, paring knife, or bread lame.

*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 |

Baking Sourdough Bread

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. 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 will 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!

For more info on sourdough bread, click here to purchase Artisan Sourdough Made Simple.

*This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for your support!*

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


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.

**Post updated 2019**

sourdough bread: a beginner's guide
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
This is a low-hydration recipe, meaning it will yield a 'tight' crumb (small holes). It is great for sandwiches and toast.
Serves: 1-2 loaves
  • 5.35 oz / 150g active, fed starter
  • 8.80 oz / 250g warm 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: Whisk the starter, water, and olive oil in a large bowl. Add the flour and salt. Squish everything together with your hands until all of the flour is absorbed. Rest (autolyse) for 30 minutes.
  2. After the dough has rested, work the dough in the bowl into a rough ball,about 15 seconds.
  3. Bulk fermentation: Cover the 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 this once or twice spaced an hour apart. 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). Starting at the top, fold the dough over toward the center. Give it a slight turn, and then fold over the next section of dough. Repeat until you have come full circle. Then 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.


    • jim draw says

      Emilie As someone who has made sourdough bread-off and on- for 25+ years I can honestly say that these are the best, simple, coherent instructions I have ever seen.
      A comparison of yours to the ones from, say King Arthur, which are very good, will illustrate this very well.
      A friend whom I’ve been trying to instruct on the rhythm of bread baking sent me this to show me what I’ve been trying to say.
      Chapeau… as the french would say.. Very nice work..


      • Emilie says

        Ah, that’s wonderful Jim! Thanks so much for your feedback, I really appreciate it. This comment made my day :)

        • Tom says

          Is it possible to make a honey sourdough bread using this recipe? Would you just add a little honey to recipe? How much? and when? Thank

          • Emilie says

            Hi Tom,

            You can certainly add honey to this recipe. The amount depends on the type of bread you’re looking to achieve- I would start with 1-2 tbsp and take it from there. Are you looking for a rustic country dough with just a hint of sweetness, or something more enriched with butter and eggs? Just curious! Ps- add the honey in the beginning when you mix all of the ingredients together.

        • Lalise says

          I use unbleached all purpose white flour with Great success. I make my starter with 50g of whole wheat flour. I feed the starter with the white flour and when it looks very pale add in some more whole wheat.

          The wheat flour adds a bit of flavor as does some apple cider vinegar (approximately 1tsp) in the water if you are looking for a more robust sour dough taste.

          I was hoping that you would do a video of this process. I have found the Stella Culinary video helpful; however, since that recipe is a more open texture and I am looking for more of a sandwich grain it would prove helpful to see the process as you complete it. I find it difficult to apply that method to your recipe. I am visual but not good at multi tasking lol. tyvm


      • Aspendot says

        I second Jim’s motion! I’ve disappeared down the rabbit hole of SD baking but starting to climb my way back out! The schedule is very helpful to get off on the right timeline! This article gets an A+++++

      • Lois Nicholls says

        Dear Emilie

        I am new to sourdough, but my sour is bubbling and my results are getting better – thank you so much for this guide, which answers a lot of my questions! Now all I need is my big red Le Creuset back from my son at uni…

        With Jim – Chapeau!

        Best wishes in sourdough


    • 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

  1. 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!

        • 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.

      • 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 :)

      • Lynne Renton says

        I’m eager to get started making my own sough dough bread, but you haven’t given instructions on how to make the starter. Thanks.

        • Emilie says

          Hi Lynne,

          Sounds wonderful! Bread baking, especially sourdough, is a wonderful journey. How to create a sourdough starter will be included in my upcoming book: Artisan Sourdough Made Simple due this fall.

    • 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 :)

  2. 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

    • Michelle says

      How did you dry your starter? And how best and long may it be stored? I’d like to dry some of mine for when I must travel and don’t want to start a new starter when I return. Thank you , Michelle

    • 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 :)

  3. 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

  4. 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

  5. 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! :)

  6. 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 :)

  7. 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? :)

  8. 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:)

  9. 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.

  10. 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!

  11. 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 :)

  12. 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 :)

  13. 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!!!!

  14. 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! :)

  15. 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.

  16. 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!

  17. 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 :)

        • Emilie says

          Hi there!

          Thank you for your comment!

          Unfortunately, I do not include the volume amount because it’s not as precise as weight measurements. There will be less room for error when all ingredients are weighed on a kitchen scale (you can pick up an inexpensive one at any home store). I hope this clears up any confusion! :)

  18. 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…

  19. 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!

  20. 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 :)

  21. 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.

  22. 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 ;)

  23. 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 :)

  24. 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 :)

  25. 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!

  26. 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?

    • Lea says

      I realize your comment is over a year old, and I’m sure you’ve already made the bread. But I thought I’d respond for those with the same question. :)

      I made this today using all-purpose flour, and it turned out perfectly! I didn’t do anything different; I followed the recipe exactly and the bread turned out beautifully.

      Thank you, Emilie, for writing such detailed instructions. They are awesome!

  27. 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!

  28. 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 :)

  29. 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! :)

  30. 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.

  31. 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!

  32. 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.

  33. 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 ;)

  34. 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! ;)

  35. 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!

  36. 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!

  37. 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 :)

  38. 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 :)

  39. 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!

  40. 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 :)

  41. 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!

          • Jeremy Sheldon says

            Just wanted to let you know how much I love your no-knead sourdough recipe: am currently finishing of my Bakers course…your recipe and hints have meant I’m turning out wonderful crusty bread with deep flavor and fantastic crust! Attached pics are two loaves I’ve made at home. Next time I’ll show you the results from using a professional 3 deck bakers oven if that’s not too bread-geeky! Also, love the enthusiasm that oozes from your writing…very inspiring.

  42. 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! :)

  43. 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!

  44. 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!

  45. 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!

  46. 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!

  47. 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!

  48. 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.

  49. 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?

  50. 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.

  51. 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!

  52. 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.


  53. 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 :)

  54. 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! ;)

  55. 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.

  56. 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:)

  57. 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 :)

  58. 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 :)

  59. 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! :)

  60. 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!!

  61. 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!

  62. 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 :)

  63. 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? :)

  64. 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.


  65. 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

  66. 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.

  67. 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!

  68. 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!

  69. 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.

  70. 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.

  71. 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!

  72. 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 ?

  73. 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.

  74. 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!

  75. says

    Hello Emile,

    I wrote to you in January when I was trying to make sourdough for the first time. I had some big failures due to my starter. I am writing back to report that I inherited a scoop of started from a neighbor and was finally able to once again try your recipe, but this time with a frothy bubbling starter! And just as you advised, this starter can float!

    My bread turned out amazing! It looks just like yours!!! I don’t even have a digital scale or thermometer and still everything worked out perfectly! I can’t wait to bake again and to move on to some other recipes.

    Thanks again!

    All my best,

  76. Jerry says

    Hi Emilie!
    I have finished baking my first edible “baked in a dutch oven” sour dough artisan round bread. I think it taste pretty darn good myself. I took some pictures and they sure are pretty. I wish you could see them. Do you accept pictures? I do need to keep practicing and trying different things.For example, when in a bread recipe could I add different whole grains, raisins or chopped sunflower seeds?

    I really need some help with one other thing. My wife, who is a fantastic cook, really wants me to bake what see calls the “the traditional sour dough bread, french loaf style, that comes out of the traditional deli from a grocery store.It is white,has a nice acidic taste and crunchy crust. I need to find a recipe and can’t. This is want she wants. No kiss unless I can deliver…Help!

  77. Tranylle says

    Hi, I’m just wondering about the measurement for making the actual bread once your starter is good. I don’t have anything to weigh my measurements, and I’m assuming when you say 5.35 ounces you mean by weight, correct? How do I convert that to cups/tablespoons? My starter is ready to go and I am really having a hard time figuring this out. It is my first time making sourdough. Thank you!

  78. Mae says

    My first sourdough parchment caught fire, second sourdough unrise hard dough… Now I realise my starter seems to be very watery… wHY? PLS advice..

    • Emilie says

      Hi Mae,

      Oh, no! It caught on fire? How did that happen? Was the lid on? What kind of pot were you using? So sorry to hear about that- that must’ve been incredibly frustrating.

      When you say second sourdough unrise- did it not rise at all?

      A watery starter is normal. This is what happens when it has exhausted all of its strength and must be fed again before using (the water is called ‘hooch’ by the way). When this happens, simply pour it off and discard, including some of the starter itself. Then, give it a feed. Watch your starter for signs of readiness ( see the ‘Starter’ section above). You might have to feed it a couple of times to get it going depending on how often you use it. This could also be the reason why your 2nd loaf didn’t rise… Once it’s ready go ahead and bake.

      Good luck and let me know how it goes!

      • Mae says

        Those tries were before I found you… First try was not using Dutch oven. Second try dough look promising but doesn’t rise up! Simply spread to sides… After bake, one solid piece of weight.. If I colour it black can easily slot into those weights machines in gym..
        Now waiting for my starter to give me a float.. That’s after reading your thorough explaination.:)

        • Emilie says

          Ah, ok. I understand now. Definitely use a Dutch oven in the future for best results. And to stop the spreading, do your second rise in a cloth lined bowl. It will contain the dough. Also, it sounds like your second rise is too long- shorten to 30 minutes.

          • Emilie says

            Mae, what kind of starter are you using? Purchased or homemade? Normally, it should be fed equal parts flour and water but starter thickness will vary. Just because yours is thin doesn’t mean it’s inactive. You can try adding more flour if you prefer and see how it goes. Remember, you’re looking for signs of readiness (bubbles, double in volume) regardless of texture.

  79. Rebecca says

    Thanks for the very detailed instructions! I’ve been trying to get the hang of making sourdough for a while but just can’t seem to get it. Not sure why I haven’t given up yet. :) Following your recipe was my best attempt yet. Here’s the problem: after the first rise, my dough was a sticky, goopy mess! no way could I pick it up and form it into a shape. Since it had actually risen, I poured it into a loaf pan, did the second rise and baked it. It turned out somewhat dense but edible. Thoughts?

    • Emilie says

      Hi Rebecca!

      Quick question- did you weigh your ingredients using a kitchen scale? It sounds like your dough was too wet, and you might not have added the right amount of flour. Even if you did measure correctly, sometimes you’ll have to add more or less of different days. That is the baking way!

      So next time, I would go ahead and add more flour, just a sprinkle at a time when you’re mixing up your dough. It should feel shaggy but not incredibly wet. Also, if you do stretch and folds (see post above) you’ll have a chance to get in there and feel your dough throughout the rising process and can add more flour if necessary.

      Good luck and let me know how it goes!

      • Rebecca says

        success (almost)! i guess my starter was too watery. turned out beautifully, and so tasty! the only thing is that it stuck like glue to the bottom of the dutch oven. i think i’ll use some parchment paper next time. thanks again for the tutorial and helps!

        • Emilie says

          Hi Rebecca!

          Great job! To prevent sticking, make sure there is a generous dusting of cornmeal on the bottom- think blanket. Or, as you’ve suggested, go for parchment paper. That is the best insurance policy! So glad to be of help! :)

    • Emilie says

      Mae, it sounds like your homemade starter is not ready. Keep feeding it, everyday, it until it is alive and bubbling.

          • Mae says

            After 2kg of flour into feeding and I still do not pass the floating test… Tomorrow I’ll just proceed to make a loaf hopefully my starter works like some of the people here who has great loaves but no floating starter… Very very sad looking at my starter…

          • Emilie says

            Hi Mae,

            Are you using filtered water or tap to feed your starter? The chemicals in tap water could be the problem… where are you from?

  80. Mae says

    Malaysia. I used filtered! Today I tried to just make it ! We’ll fail obviously BUT the bright side is I can see some holes inside the hard underbaked looking dough. Flat but better than my first attempt… The starter container started to grow fungus around it I’m worry of food poisoning …what shd I do?

    • Emilie says

      Mae, get rid of your starter. Mold is not good. Start over from scratch- flour and filtered water. Or just order one online if you can’t be bothered. Do you store it in the fridge? That is the best for storage to prevent mold and fungus.

  81. Liz says

    Hi, Just a question, i have 2 different starters, started. They came from the same de-hydrated starter. But, they look different.
    Can i mix them together? And, how often do i feed the starter? Also, how long can i keep the starter in the frig.? Some sour dough
    is more sour then others, how do u know what level of sourness u will get? I want to get started on trying my hand at making sourdough bread. Sorry, for all the questions. Thanks, Liz

  82. Mae says

    Thank you and I finally DID it! I used my saved up starter it’s still watery no float effect… But I was adamant and try it again! i want to be sure and bake another round to announce to you I did it and it is not flute shot;)

    Thank you for your patience in guiding! And I actually read all your comments to put up a brave front to go ahead with watery starter;)

    I would advice all to read up all the comments and feedback here to learn. Very very informative on top of the detailed article to succeed in it!

    Last question how do I keep a sourdough bread and how long does it last?

    • Emilie says

      Hi Andrew!

      I’ve done it before, but you have to play around with your oven temperature. Sometimes the vessel gets too hot! But don’t let that deter you, because any well made pot with a tight fitting lid should be sufficient. Just make sure to bake on the center rack so that the bottom of your bread doesn’t burn.

  83. Susan says

    First, i have used your recipe with great success. Thank you! Second, Help!!! My starter smells like nail polish. I read elsewhere that it is still fine to use but I do not think I will feel comfortable proceeding without your input. I have fed it multiple times since but it still smells the same. Should I toss it and if so, what did I do wrong?

    • Emilie says

      Hi Susan!

      So glad you’ve had success with sourdough! Isn’t bread baking fun?

      Here’s the thing: that ‘nail polish’ smell is somewhat normal, it’s the fermenting alcohol in your starter. This usually occurs after your starter has exhausted its rising strength and needs to be fed again, or if you haven’t baked in a while. A fresh starter should smell soft and fruity, but not harsh. Does (or did) it ever have a layer of liquid on the top? That is called hooch, and it characterized by an alcoholic smell.

      Here’s what you do: don’t bake with it yet. You mentioned that you fed it, but did you pour off most of your starter first? Discard about 80% (sounds scary, but trust me). That’s the only way to get your starter fresh again. Now, give it a good feed of equal parts flour (whatever you’re using) and fresh filtered water. Let it do it’s thing. You might have to feed it a couple of times to get it puffy and bubbling. Once it’s ready, note the smell- it should be completely different, without any traces of pungent alcoholic. This is considered ‘fresh’ and ready to use. Repeat these steps anytime that smell comes back.

      Does that make sense?

  84. says

    I just fell into this blog, only after starting my bread. I, too, am looking for the ideal sourdough bread recipe and your blog is going to be a big help. BTW, I received my starter, named Priscilla’s 10K Expedition to Florida, from ClaireK and she got it from one her friends, who might be Fig Jam and Lime. My first try was the bread machine and I was pleased with the results and am now diving in to more hands on. Thank you for helping us newbies to be comfortable with sourdough starter.

    • Emilie says

      Hi Helene! You want to know something? One of my starters is an offspring of Priscilla as well! I got it via Fig Jam and Lime Cordial! Although I am in NY you and you’re in Australia, we’re connected by the same family. I’m so glad that you’re enjoying the art of bread baking. Thanks for your comment! :)

  85. Emma says

    This is exactly the well written explanation that i’ve been looking for. Thank you so much, I cannot wait to try this method. I wondered though, if I want to make this with wheat free bread, what would you recommend substituting the white bread flour with?

    • Emilie says

      Hi Emma! So glad you found this tutorial helpful.

      I’ve never made a gluten free version of sourdough. The tricky thing is replacing the bread flour, which is very high in gluten and is essential to the bread’s structure. Perhaps, try experimenting with a gluten free blend? Sorry I can’t be of more help :(

    • Emilie says

      I don’t stir my starter before using. First, I pour off any dark liquid and discard both the liquid and a portion of my starter. I give it a good feed and once it’s ready I make the dough. :)

  86. Katie says

    Hi Emilie!

    Thanks for the thorough post. I was just gifted a 160 year old starter that is absolutely gorgeous. Made some blueberry pancakes so far after its first feed that were to die for. Now I’m saddling up to conquer the bread world. I’ve had my eye on a couple of le creuset dutch ovens at the thrift store so this is the perfect excuse to go for it but I was wondering if you ever make more of a baguette or any other shapes that aren’t enclosed in a dutch oven? I’ve got more starter on my hands than I want to keep fed and am going to a family get together soon so thought that I could bust out a ton of baguettes or something similar that could be bulk baked versus the singular pot method.

    Thanks! -Katie

    • Emilie says

      Hi Katie,

      You can bake baguettes and other types of loafs on a sheet pan instead of using a Dutch Oven. But I would suggest adding steam to your oven to create a good rise and crust. There are many steaming methods (Google) and you will have to experiment until you find what works for you.

      Good luck & happy baking! Your starter sounds divine…

  87. says

    I have been making sourdough for almost a year, but has continuously been frustrated with the density of my bread, although the taste has been good I have missed the texture that you get on the sourdough at a bakery. I have been looking for a long time for a good explanation like this, and must say it did the trick. Thank you so much. Also it is great the water trick. I never knew this and am very glad I found it.

    I just have a question. From the measurements you have in the recipe my dough comes out slightly on the fluid side and on second rise it tends to widen rather that rise up. Should I just add a bit more flour that the recipe suggest? I know it can vary for the type of flour you use. I have been a bit hesitative to add more flour as I am afraid it will get too dense. My sourdough is 100% from rye-flour and I use white spelt as the main flour.

    • Emilie says

      Hi there,

      Dough will rise both upwards and out to the sides. And in your case (as you’ve already mentioned) it’s because of the specific water content. You do not need to add more flour; I would proof the dough in a cloth-lined basket or banneton to contain it’s shape. This way, it won’t spread during the second rise.

      Hope this helps!

  88. Diane says

    Yea!! This is it! I have been trying for about 9 months to find the perfect sourdough recipe. Effort after effort has been either barely edible, or edible but disappointing. I have been looking for great flavor (not masked by commercial yeast), texture and appearance. I followed your tutorial to the letter and produced two beautiful, delicious loaves. Thank you!!

  89. Shelley says

    Hi I used your baking instructions today for my sourdough bread. ( – I made two round loaves with 2 batches of dough vs. the small buns she describes.

    I wanted to try a different method than a baking stone, so I used my cast iron dutch oven and a pyrex covered casserole. I dusted my loaves liberally with flour and coated the bottoms of both dishes before putting the loaves in them to rise. I followed your baking directions, and both loaves came out with a beautiful crust…but both were completely stuck to their pans – so much so that I couldn’t get them out after letting them cool in the pans for 10 min. I had to mangle them to get them out and most of the bottom crust stayed in the pans, to my great dismay.

    Any idea what might have gone wrong? I guess I should have greased the pans but I believed you about the cornmeal…


    • Emilie says

      Hi there Shelley!

      Your blog is beautiful. Sorry to hear that your loaves stuck to the pans. I’m sure it was quite frustrating when trying to pry them out.

      When I coat the bottom of my Dutch ovens, it looks like a blanket of cornmeal (you can barely see the bottom of the pot, and if so, I add more). Based on your experience, perhaps you did not add enough cornmeal? I’ve never had a problem with sticking when the proper amount was added. Add more next time, or if you prefer, try lining the bottom of the pot with cornmeal and parchment paper. It’s up to you! Good luck! :)

  90. Ayesha says

    I just tried this recipe – after a few failed attempts trying other recipes – and followed it to the T. Just pulled the loaves out of the oven. They loaves look absolutely heavenly. I hope they taste as good.

    I used all purpose flour (only because I started this last night and didn’t have bread flour) so not sure how that will affect the taste.

    Thanks for sharing this recipe and my whole family can’t wait to try the bread (I am holding them at bay given that it needs to rest for an hour!) with the pane con tomato sandwiches.

  91. wakeupwithesun says

    I LOVE YOU!!!!
    I have been searching for WEEKS on the internet for simple, no frills, sourdough bread recipes, using weight measurements. I have had very little luck until now. Thank you! And thank you for your easy to understand directions and for astonishingly anticipating the questions I had and never needed to ask. I SO wish that I could give you a hug right now!!!!
    I am trying out this recipe tonight; so excited. :)

    • wakeupwithesun says

      I decided not to wait for a second rise as I haven’t had much luck with getting loaves to rise back up with any significance. I just pulled it out of the oven 30 min early and its done. I’m so confused why this happened. That aside its yummy :)

      • Emilie says

        Hi there!

        When you say that it’s ‘done’ was the bread too dark too soon? Or was it actually cooked all the way through and the internal temperature was correct? With a little more info I can properly advise! :)

        • wakeupwithesun says

          Thank you for the reply. It was a great color very light golden brown but super super hard, like knock on it and hear a wood sound. If I had left it in any longer I don’t think I would have been able to cut it with a knife. However when I did cut into it, the inside was definitly not done, still slightly gummy, but edible.

          • Emilie says


            What you experienced is normal. The bread will definitely be hard at first and will soften slightly as it cools. Don’t worry, you’ll be able to cut it.

            Because the inside was undercooked, next time you’ll need to bake it for longer. If I were you, I’d lower your oven temp by 25 degrees (double check that it’s accurate with an oven thermometer- this is important) and keep the lid on for 40 minutes. Don’t take it off before then. After it’s been baking for 40 minutes it should still be pale, maybe slightly golden (see pics above). Allow it to brown for the last 20 minutes or so. FYI- a few minutes of extra baking time won’t hurt your bread like it would cake. You have a little more wiggle room. Let it do its thing. And finally, if you’re still unsure remove the loaf from the oven and take its temp. to check for precise doneness on the inside.

            Good luck and hope this helps! Let me know how it goes :)

  92. wakeupwithesun says

    Thank you Emilie. I think bringing down the temp did the trick. I usually have to raise it because I live above 6,000 ft. In all my attempts the lid was definite on but this time I kneaded the dough for 30 min then added the salt and this let it have a second rise. It didn’t fun up the way I was hoping it would but maybe i need to pamper all the way through the 1st rise as you suggested.
    Thank you again, you are very helpful. :)

    • Emilie says

      No worries! Sourdough takes a lot of patience. I’ve totally been there.Your altitude definitely plays a role in your bread baking too.

      If I could give you one last piece of advice; you don’t need to knead! Once you mix up the dough, let it rest (autolyse) and then add the salt, like you did. Now, at this point, you can leave it alone. Let it rise until almost double in size- this can take a really long time so don’t rush it. Once the dough is nicely risen, then you are ready for the second rise. That should do the trick!

  93. Sheri says

    I’ve been doing the Paul Hollywood sourdough for nearly a year, but it just wasn’t doing it for me. Found your recipe and followed most of the techniques to T, though my second proving was longer. I’m baking it now–fingers crossed! I love the autolyse technique!!! So nice not kneading and it turned out stretchier than the kneaded versions I was doing! It’s looking rather flat–guess I should have shortened the second prove…but hey-ho! I’ll be giving it ago again. It’s an adventure in sourdough! Thank you for all of your nifty tips :-)

    • Sheri says

      Update – tastes better and the texture is better. Will time it so i can do the 1st proving stretch & the shorter second on the next batch. Love it–Yum!

    • Emilie says

      Hey Sheri! You are absolutely right about shortening your second proof. I always used to let it go for too long and my loaves were tasty, but on the flat side (and even more so if it was a high hydration loaf). Try 30 minutes next time if you are doing your second rise at room temp.

      Another alternative, is to allow your dough to come to full rise at room temp, followed by a 30 minute pre-shape. Then, shape the dough and place into a banneton. Do the second rise overnight in the fridge. In the morning, bake from cold (score first!). I’ve been following this schedule lately and it’s very convenient. Plus, the second rise is more controlled in the fridge :)

        • Sheri says

          Emelie, I’ve been totally following your method, and I have to say ‘YES!’ I’ve been doing the overnight fridge proof, and it works a treat. Thank you, again! Also made your salsa using red, yellow and orange tomatoes that were at the supermarket last weekend. Dee-lish! Loving your blog & would love your cookbook :-)

          • Emilie says

            Hi Sheri! That’s fantastic! Isn’t it the best when it finally ‘clicks?’ That’s what bread baking is all about- finding the right method and timing for you. The recipe, in my opinion, is secondary.

            So glad you made the salsa too! There’s just something about those fresh flavors… My husband defrosted a small packet of salsa the other night, quickly strained the juice, and folded it into a grilled cheese with sharp cheddar. Divine!

            Thanks for the feedback, Sheri! I really appreciate it. And hope you’ll enjoy the cookbook too. Pre-order coming up in November ;)

  94. JamesH says

    Just wanted to come by and say thanks for this recipe. I had been using the Paul Hollywood basic sourdough recipe with poor results – very dense bread. I tried yours last night and I am very pleased with the result – and even better, no kneading is required! Fantastic. I must admit that I was sceptical at first, but the bread that I got was much lighter, with a crispier crust. Thank you!

    • Emilie says

      Fantastic news James! Thanks so much for stopping by with your feedback, I truly appreciate it. The more you bake, the more your method will adapt to your daily schedule and needs. It’s quite interesting to see the evolution. If you have any questions along the way, please do not hesitate to ask. :)

  95. Kristian says

    Thank you so much for this brilliant recipe. Just finished this today (after an overnight slow second rise in the fridge)–it looks picture perfect and tastes amazing. I’ve tried maybe three or four different recipes online and, maybe due to my sourdough beginner’s incompetence, they all came out subpar. I look forward to using this website many many more times.
    I’m interested in putting some variations in it going forward (maybe partially whole wheat, maybe some added fillings). Where do you recommend I start?

  96. Ivan says

    Hi Emilie,

    I am a complete novice in the kitchen but your recipe seems very detailed so I’ll give it a go over the weekend. Starter is doing good after fourth feed so I plan to make a dough Saturday evening and bake it Sunday morning. Since I don’t have Dutch oven yet, can you give baking times for open baking pan?

    Thanks for very good share.


    • Emilie says

      Hi Ivan,

      The baking times will roughly be the same in an open pan, but you will need to adjust as you go. I’ve found that my bread hardens too fast, causing splitting at the sides, when baked this way. Hence, this is why baking in a pot is such a great method (it traps in steam which slows down the hardening of the crust). Perhaps, you might want to start baking at 375 F and increase the heat as needed. Hope this helps!
      PS- you can also look up various methods to create steam in your home oven.

      • Ivan says

        Thanks. I’ll try with lower temperature and hope for the best. I am making dough tonight and baking in the morning. Will be back with results.

        PS. Dutch oven is in the plans, but I didn’t have time to check what’s on the market. This is why this first try will be like this.

          • Ivan says

            Here comes the update :)

            I was very disappointed when I saw dough didn’t rise as much as I expected. It was in the bowl for 12-13 hours and gained some volume, but I am not sure how much. Maybe it was 1.5 in size, but that’s a guess. The other disappointment came when I touched it. It was very sticky, so shaping was very tough. Since it wasn’t really big, I decided to skip cutting it and shape it as good as possible and put it on baking paper for final rise. It rose for 1 hour and spread a bit, but not too much.
            Baking went fine. I didn’t go too much with high temperature and, surprisingly, it turn out very very edible. Maybe I could have baked it just a bit more, but it was completely OK in the end. End result can be seen here:

            So, the biggest issue for me was that it didn’t double in size during whole night in 23-24C and it was very sticky after bulk fermentation. I suppose the problem was in the starter. It was not spongy to much but more on the watery side. It is completely new starter which I used after 5 days of feeding and no time in the fridge. I stirred it before last feeding and didn’t discard liquid part from the top when I used it for making dough so maybe that increased amount of water in the dough.

            Maybe I did something else wrong and cannot tell since I have no reference point when it comes to bread baking since this is my first bread ever. I’ll try it again if day or two and hope it will be better.


  97. Jackie says

    Hi…my friend gave me some sour bread starter and the baking instructions for sourdough. I have not had time to do anything with it, but stuck it in the refrigerator. When looking at the instructions for making the bread I think I’m ready to go…. BUT… I’m SO confused on the starter. How do I keep it alive? What do I feed it with and how much? How do I now run out? Help!

  98. Sean says

    Thank you for the great instructions!

    I just finished my first loaf yesterday, using a homemade starter I’ve been working on for a few weeks. The bread tastes great, but it’s a bit flat and not very photogenic, not bad for my first attempt though.

  99. Rochelle says

    Success! I got a starter and after growing it for about 3 weeks or so I made 7 loaves, from two different recipes, that were a disaster. So frustrating. Then I found your recipe. I followed this to a tee and My bread came out perfect! I made one large loaf and today I will make it again to produce 2 small loaves.
    A couple problems I think I had was my starter may not have been quite active enough, and per the recipes I was following using all purpose flour and too much water.
    I am so excited I have conquered this process and I plan to try your higher hydration recipe too.

    thank you!

    • Emilie says

      Excellent! Wonderful news, Rochelle! I’ve worked with both thin and thick starters and they do produce very different leaves. My starter, I’d say, if somewhere in between. When it’s perfectly active, it looks like marshmallow fluff! :)

  100. says

    Hi emilie,
    Congratulations, you are truly inspirational. I admire you determination, passion and unselfish nature. The message sent is don’t give up, it is achievale.
    I love SD bread, but never had the courage to make one. I have had several failures in bread making and they have put me off bread making for many years, until I came to your website yesterday.
    Yesterday, I made my first SD bread and it turned out very well. However, it was not sour/tangy enough.
    Also the holes were small. I like them with larger holes. Can you please advise on how I can achieve a more sour taste and create larger holes, i.e a more holey bread.
    How do you get your crusty to be so textured? Love the little circles on the crust.
    Love your bread.
    Thanks you, Susan
    I live in Cardiff, Wales, UK, which is always cold and windy!

    • Emilie says

      Hi Susan! Welcome! Can you please tell me what type of starter you’re using for your sourdough (i.e. type of flour)? What recipe did you follow? And how long was your bulk ferment? With a little more info, I can properly advise! Thank you so much!

      • says

        Hi, thank you for your swift reply. I used an all white bread flour starter. And the dough was also 100% white bread flour. Bread was fine, but not many holes and not sour enough.
        I did not use your recipe, used one I found on the web.
        Today, I was about to use your recipe when I found that my starter, created 10’days ago, smell like wine. It does not smell sweet, neither does it smell bad. It smells a little,sour and acidic. It has a layer of froth on top. Has it gone off? Texture is sort of gueey, sticky and stringy. Like it is fermenting!

        So that you can advise me properly, I am going to start a new batch of starter. Can you please please give me a recipe for making a new batch of starter..I need specific instructions on amount of flour to start off with, type of flour, feeding, how much flour and water to feed and when to feed.
        Thanks you, Susan

        • Emilie says

          Hi Susan,

          Whats happening to your starter is normal. The ‘wine’ smell and liquid on top is common when your starter has exhausted all of its strength and needs to be fed. Your starter should smell fruity (not like alcohol or nail polish remover).

          To remedy this, You DO NOT need to make a new starter from scratch. To fix your smelly starter, pour off and discard most of it, leaving only a small bit in the container. Give it a feed of equal parts flour and water and mix until dissolved. Start with 1/2 cup of each. You might need to repeat this process a few times until it becomes active (discard and feed). A good active starter will be nice and bubbly with the consistency of marshmallow fluff. Keep in mind, your starter will look different on different days. Please refer to the starter section of my tutorial for more details. Also, you’ll know it’s ready to bake with when it passes the float test (that’s in the tutorial too).

          PS- Most bakers will advise to feed your starter at the same time everyday. But I don’t do that, and my bread turns out just fine. You’ll have to see what works for you!

          • says

            There is no water on top of my starter, Just the funny smell of alcohol and foamy.
            I will discard some,as you have advised, and leave a little to reconstitute it.
            Should I use WHITE bread flour to feed.
            Do I have to discard some every time I feed?
            If so, how much to discard?
            Do I continue with half cup of each, flour and water, or do I use one cup or less.
            Sorry for being such a nuisance?
            Thanks you,

          • Emilie says

            Yes, you can use white bread flour to feed your starter. I always discard some of my starter every time I feed it. This will ensure a fresh smell, especially if it has been sitting in the fridge for one week unfed. But this is just my preference. The amount you poor off depends on smell and what it looks like. If your starter has a strong odor and the top portion of the starter is slightly darker than the rest, pour off most of it. If it smells and looks ok, just pour off a little. There is no set amount; you have to experiment with this. For feeding your starter, I mentioned 1/2 cup each flour and water because your particular starter needs to be well fed. It has exhausted it’s strength. However, with regular starter feedings, a few times a week, your starter might only need about 1/4 cup of each. Hope this helps :)

  101. susan hodges says

    Hi Emilie,
    Is it possible to HALF your recipe, as I am not confident and am afraid of wasting the ingredients
    in case my SD bread does not rise etc.
    Have you ever made a SD bread in a Panasonic Bread Maker? Is it possible?
    Instead of olive oil, can I use walnut oil?

    • Emilie says

      Hi Susan! I wouldn’t half the recipe. I promise your bread will rise, as long a your starter is properly activated. I think if you master the initial steps of SD first, the rest won’t seem as daunting! I just responded to your questions above- once I review your answers, we’ll get you on your way! xx Also, I have not made sourdough in a bread maker before. I’m sure it’s possible, but you won’t achieve that artisan style crust. It might be good for SD sandwich loaves… And yes, walnut oil is fine. The oil, by the way, is for a touch of color and to prevent the dough from sticking.

      • says

        Thank you. I think I need to make a new batch of starter so that I can get on the right track. Do I have to feed the starter everyday at thesame time of the day?
        Can you,please give me an idea what a good/healthy starter should smell like? Mine started off smelling sweet, but the sweet smell has now turned to a sour/wine-y alcohol smell. Not a bad or foul smell, but a beery smell.

        Please send me your recipe for a starter. Thanks, Susan.

  102. says

    Hi Emilie,
    Thank you for all your help. Following your recipe, my bread turned out nice and tasty.
    However, I have a few problems.
    1 the bread did not erupt like yours. I tried to,slash the top just before putting it in the oven, but the dough kept closing in. Hence when it came out of the oven, the top was FLAT.
    It was difficult to make the slash as the dough was resisting. There was a lot of air under the skin, hence I could not slash in deep. Dough was airy and quite SOFT.
    2 my bread was not tall like yours, as it spread. What has gone wrong here. This is important to me, as I like my bread to look.TALL and proud.
    3 the holes are medium size with lots of smaller holes. Prefer large holes.
    4 the top crust was NOT crunchy like the bottom crust. The top crust was soft and rubbery, not crusty. It was crusty when it came out of the oven, but when it cooled, it became soft and limp.
    Please advise on what has gone wrong.
    I am pleased, as it tastes very nice. But I would prefer if it were a tinge more sour.

    I hope you don’t mind me asking all these questions, but I think I’m making good progress.
    I am so looking forward to hearing from you,as to how I can improve the quality of my bread. Believe me, I am quite excited as I cannot believe that I have come this far.
    I am going to make another bread tomorrow.

    Thanks, Susan

    • Emilie says

      That’s fantastic news, Susan! As you already know, sourdough is quite the journey :)

      1.) What did you use for your second rise? Brotform? Cloth-lined basket? Or was it free form?
      2.) What did you use for slashing? Serrated knife? Bread lame? Razor blade?
      3.) You will need to add more water to the dough. However, the dough will be more difficult to shape. You will also need a cloth-lined basket for the second rise because it will spread.
      4.) Remove the bread from the Dutch oven after the first 40 minutes. Place it directly in the oven to finish baking. This will harden the top more. Also, when finished, open the oven door and let it sit in the oven for 10 minutes to ‘dry out.’ Keep in mind, the top crust will never be super crispy. And what you experienced is somewhat normal. It’s just the nature of the bread and how it’s baked. However, for extra crispy bread, you can skip the Dutch oven altogether but you might encounter problems with rise due to lack of steam in your oven. That’s another story…
      For more sourness, you might want to try a 1/2 white flour + 1/2 whole wheat flour starter. Or, simply use the starter you have and swap of 50-100 g of bread flour for whole wheat. The increased acidity might help, although you’ll have to play around.

  103. susan hodges says

    Hi Emilie,

    This is obsessive disorder. I was up at 6 this morning just to have a look at my sourdough! Madness.
    Thank you for your quick reply. So glad to hear from you as I am about to start another loaf.

    1) Second rise was in my Dutch oven, as you have indicated in your recipe. Should I place dough in a basket lined with a floured kitchen towel? Should I invest in a Bannetone basket. What is a Brotform?
    Should I leave it to second rise in a basket and then transfer it to the Dutch oven to bake it in.
    As you have said, I need to bake it in a Dutch oven so that it will create steam and generate a crusy loaf.

    2) I tried a serrated knife and then an ordinary sharp knife. It was difficult to slash, as the bread was left for its second rise in my Dutch oven. The sides of the oven was in the way. Should I invest in a bread lame? I am trying not to buy too many pieces of kitchen equipment. But if it is necessary, I would have to.

    3) How much MORE WATER should I add to achieve larger holes?

    4) I now know why my first loaf had a SOFT crust. In a hurry to cool it, so that I can taste it, I placed my
    dough in the dining room which is always cold. As with cakes, if a hot cake was left in a cold room after coming out of the oven, it has the tendency to SINK. I left my second loaf in the kitchen and it remained crusty. Hurray!

    I am a bit confused about OVEN TIMES: Do you mean to say –
    – bake for 20 mins with LID ON.
    – bake for 40 mins with LID OFF
    – bake for ANOTHER 10 mins with oven door open? At this stage, do I leave the oven ON or turn it off? and leave oven door WIDE OPEN? Will the heat not run away leaving a warm/cool oven?

    VERY important question: I am going to swap some white for WHOLE WHEAT flour as you have suggested.
    Are you referring to whole wheat BREAD flour or ordinary wholeMEAL flour.
    In the UK, we have both, the former for bread and the latter is ordinary wholemeal flour which can be used for bread and cake.

    Thank you for you patience, but slowly, this crusty student is getting there. It is a learning curve.
    I am praying that my bread will turn out better today. Await eagerly your reply so that I can embark on my second batch.


    • Emilie says

      Hi Susan,

      Don’t worry, the obsession is normal! It’s called the Sourdough bug :)

      1.) In your particular case, do the second rise in a bannetone (cloth lined basket) or brotform (basket with coils for patterns). Different brands of the same flour absorb water differently, and because your dough spread a bit, it needs to be contained. Important- when your dough is placed in the basket, it goes in seam side up (it will go in the Dutch oven later). To help with the transfer, invert your basket of dough onto a small sheet of parchment (that will fit in your pot) heavily coated in cornmeal. Then slash. Lift up the sides of the parchment and place into pot.
      2.) What you used is fine. I think your slashing will be easier if you follow the suggestion above.
      3.) Try increasing to 300- 350 g. You’ll have to experiment with this.
      4.) The oven is off at this stage, oven door wide open. The heat will escape the oven and so will the moisture. You want this to keep the crust hard. The oven won’t get completely cool, so don’t worry.
      5.) Ah! I forgot you’re in the UK. Try whole wheat bread flour.

      Okay, you’re on your way Susan! Good luck! xx

  104. says

    Hi Emilie,
    Brilliant and succinct advice. I have decided proof the first rise overnight.
    So will execute second rise and bake in the morning.
    If the bulk appears to be a little wet (after overnight proofing) is it possible
    to add some flour at this stage?
    A thought: To prevent a dough from spreading during the second rise, would it be
    a good idea to pour the dough into a tall cake tin, 6-7 inch diameter, and place the
    cake tin with dough in it into the Dutch oven.
    The cake tin will contain the soft dough from spreading side ways.
    I am indebted to you and thank you.

    Ps I have just prepared a no- knead bread (your recipe) to bake tomorrow.
    For this recipe, Can one substitute one cup of the white flour with
    one cup of wholemeal or rye or spelt?
    Can one add nuts or dried fruit to this recipe?

    • Emilie says

      Long overnight proofs are my preferred method. I’ve baked sourdough after 6 hours room temp, and the bulk rise was sufficient, but nothing compares to a long overnight bulk ferment in my opinion.

      I wouldn’t add flour after bulk ferment. You will risk handling the dough too much, and all of those air pockets and holes you’re looking to create will deflate. Sprinkle a little flour on the bench if you think it’s going to stick. The only time you should really add additional flour is after autolyse to correct the texture. But again, this is my opinion.

      You could definitely try this. 3 things: either spray/coat the sides with a little oil to prevent sticking bc you may have trouble getting it of the cake pan. Also make sure the bottom is well coated in cornmeal, and I’m talking a lot of cornmeal. 2. Your bread won’t be perfectly round; the sides will be more square with a domed top bc of the cake tin. This has no effect on flavor, just appearance, which is not the end of the world. 3.) One final note, if you use the tin, don’t put the dough in seam side up as suggested previously. There’s no need, since you won’t be inverting the dough into the Dutch oven.

      Yes. You can substitute. Why don’t you try this recipe: You don’t have to add the honey and oats if you’re not in the mood. Since you like holes, increase the water to 2 cups. And, if you add nuts or dried fruit, you must soak them in water for at least 30 minutes prior to adding. Drain before using.

      Good luck! You are quite welcome!

  105. susan hodges says

    Hi Emilie,

    SOS. I am so disheartened I am about to give up on SD bread.
    Yesterday, I left my dough, following your Walnut and raisin recipe to the letter, and baked
    the bread this morning.
    I had left the dough to bulk ferment all night in a cool place. mixed AT ABOUT AFTER LUNCH
    This morning, it rose VERY TALL and fluffy, and when I pour it out of the bowl, there were loads of air bubbles, especially at the bottom of the bowl. The dough was stringy, full of AIR holes and just flop out of the bowl.
    Dough was VERY WET. I used 2/3 WHITE bread flour and 1/3 WHOLE WHAT flour.
    I JUST COULD NOT SHAPE IT INTO A BALL. I floured the board very generously and still it would not
    take shape.
    Anyway, I put it in a bowl on top of a well floured tea towel and left it to prove (second round).
    Did not rise much after 1 hour, so I knew all was not well.
    I then put it in the oven. It did not rise much in the oven, and spread side-ways in my Dutch oven.

    It tasted nice, tangy and crusty, but it refused to grow tall or be ROUND.
    It was only about ONE INCH tall.

    I don’t know what to do next. GIVE UP?
    I don’t even know where I went wrong as I followed the recipe to the letter .

    PS – Good news- The NO-knead bread turned out brilliantly. Nice and big, but again, not ROUND even though I tried to shape it. It was tall and elongated taking the shape of my OVAL dutch oven.

    I am sorry to be such a pain and for being trying! But I am trying. Lol


      • susan hodges says

        Hi Emilie, Sorry, I meant to say that I used for the dough 400g white bread flour and 100g of wholemeal flour, as I ran short of white flour.

        • Emilie says

          Hi Susan!

          As mentioned in my tutorial, sourdough is a learning process. And although it may seem frustrating at first, what you are experiencing is actually a good thing. Patience, practice (lots!) and persistence is the only way to prevail. You’ll get there.

          To answer your question- this dough has 100 g more water than my original SD recipe. This is considered high hydration (wet dough). If you read through our past conversations, I mentioned that high hydration doughs can be difficult to work with. They’re wet, and tricky to shape. The only way to master wet doughs is with practice.

          Here’s my suggestion- stick with my basic SD until you are happy with its appearance, shape, size, rise etc. Once you’ve mastered the technique, move on to higher hydration doughs. You will have abetter feel (both literally and intuitively) for what the dough should look like and how to handle it. Remember, dough will behave differently on different days; it’s not an exact science. That’s why, I think it’s best for you to master the basic approach first. The rest will come more easily with less frustration!

          • says

            Hi Emilie,
            Thank you for your advice. I will certainly concentrate on the basic SD bread for a few weeks until I get the feel and hang of it.
            Meanwhile thank you very much indeed for your time and for all the tips and help,you have rendered me. Much appreciated.

          • Emilie says

            Of course, Susan, anytime! I know how you feel and I admire your excitement about sourdough. When I first started baking, I had a friend who was my SD hotline. Keep on practicing and feel free to send me pictures of your progress :)

  106. Marla Mollicone says

    Hi Emilie!
    Great tutorial:) Mucho thanks from a sourdough beginner!

    I apologize if this has been asked before. I followed your directions exactly. However, after I bake it with lid on for 20 min (at reduced 400 as instructed), It is already almost done, according to internal temp! You say to bake it for around 40 more min but I can never get to 10 or 15 more before it reaches internal temp of 205 degrees.

    At this point it is pale still and usually the crack isn’t very pronounced.

    Any suggestions to why mine is such a lower bake time? I don’t want to overcook but should I let it go longer to darken?

    Thanks so much!


    • Emilie says

      Hi Marla!

      What type of thermometer are you using? Digital or regular? There’s a strong possibility that it’s inaccurate or not calibrated correctly.

      In my experience, I’ve never been able to bake a loaf of sourdough in 20 minutes! Based on what you’ve described with regards to it’s appearance, your loaf is not cooked all the way (regardless of internal temp). It should be golden brown.

      Here’s what I would do- don’t worry about the internal temp for now. Bake again, according to the instructions, and only take the temp after the full hour.

      Hope this helps!

      • Marla Mollicone says

        Hi Emilie!
        Ok, so round two was much better after your advice! It darkened up a lot more but I cheated and took it out after 50 min..It read 210 at that point, on an instant read thermometer. I was using a digital before.

        The second rise was only an hour so that seemed to work well.

        I think I am getting the hang of this! haha
        I would still like it moister..It is a bit dry. Any suggestions for that??

        Also, should I be baking on the convection setting or just regular bake on my oven?

        Thanks again Emilie! You have been very helpful!


        • Emilie says

          Hi there! Glad round two was much better! All it takes is a little practice ;)

          When you say your bread is dry, what does that mean exactly? What is the brand name of the flour you are using? Thanks! PS- you can use either setting on your oven- both will work!

  107. Marla Mollicone says

    Oops…forgot to mention that I may have let the second rise go too long, 2 hrs as I had to run out to unexpectedly. Could that have been the problem? Especially with it not rising more in oven and getting a nice crack?

    Thanks Emilie, any advice is appreciated. My friends think I am crazy, all I talk about is sourdough bread! haha


    • Emilie says

      Hi again!

      Thanks for the info. I don’t believe your 2nd rise had anything to do with your loaf, as mentioned above. However, you’re better off shortening the 2nd rise to 30 minutes to 1 hour based on how warm your kitchen is. You’ll have better rising results.

      And don’t worry, you’re not crazy! You’ve been bitten by the sourdough bug, that’s all! We’re all like this ;)

  108. Eli says

    Hi Emilie,

    I’m totally new at this – I’ve had my starter for about 3 weeks. Since it was doubling after every feeding (about every 12 hours) and it had the bubbles and the spongy look when I pulled it away from the walls of it’s jar I figured it was a good time to try it out.

    It came out beautiful and I took it to work and everyone loved it – so thank you! However, it really didn’t rise much (if at all) so it was super dense. Do you have any suggestions? For my starter I use 25% rye and 75% ap flour and it seems awesome. However, I’ve experimented with the bit of yeast I would normally trash, I fed that bit all ap flour and after 2 feedings it’s already rising like 70% less. I wonder if maybe because the recipe doesn’t have rye in it my yeast won’t work?

    I’d love your feedback!

    • Emilie says

      Hi Eli,

      Quick question- when you say you’ve experimented with yeast, are you talking about adding it to your starter? Or the dough itself? I couldn’t figure that part out ;) Thanks!

  109. Eli says

    I guess that part wasn’t very clear LoL I meant adding to my starter – though I kept my original starter the same with 1/3 rye and the rest ap flour. I don’t plan on making bread again ’til the weekend so I end up throwing out half my starter every day (for now). I leave it on the counter and feed it daily – my understanding is that keeping it that way will make it a bit less sour. Also, it’s a young starter so I figure it’ll mature faster and I’ll understand how long it takes to rise and fall from the daily interaction.

    After doing some research last night I think I didn’t use the yeast at it’s peak and I didn’t do a float test (which you suggested, it slipped my mind). I’m gonna make those adjustment this weekend using my original starter.

    Is this what you would recommend? I’m kinda going on all the info I’m reading online. Is there anything more or different you would do? Do you think I’m better off spending some time developing a ap flour or bread flour starter?

    I have so many questions haha

    • Emilie says

      Hi Eli,

      I don’t add any extra yeast to my sourdough starters. This is not necessary as the whole purpose of creating a starter is to capture the wild yeast in its surrounding environment; this will naturally leaven the bread.

      In terms of using your starter, the float test really helps to determine when it’s ready. I would keep that in mind when you can!

      Everything else you are doing is good. It wouldn’t hurt to have an ap or bread flour starter on hand so that you can compare their behavior to your rye starter. I work with two starters myself and they are like night and day!

  110. sc says

    My dough does not stretch at all. It is to “brittle” I made it with whole wheat flour, it did rise a bit but i had to add a lot of flour since it was very sticky. Also the starter smells too acidic, i think. Any chance you can help me trouble shoot it? :-)

    • Emilie says

      Hi there!

      Are you new to sourdough?

      If your starter smells too acidic, it’s normal, don’t worry. It just needs to be refreshed and fed again in order for it to work properly. It’s ready to use when it’s nice and bubbly and smells more fruity than alcoholic. See tip above re: float test.

      Hope this helps!

  111. sc says

    Little more info: it was an 3 year old starter from my fridge – i don’t remember how exactly i mixed it originally, but for the last 2-3 weeks or so, i have been feeding it whole wheat flour and water only (while throwing out a bit once in a while). Admittedly have not been very careful with the starter, it went 3-4 days without feeling for a couple of days, when I threw out the the top bubbly bits and fed it again. it looks quite bubblyv and smells really really sour (and somewhat chalky). Any thoughts what could be going on? Too much acid, too little yeast? Why does that happen?

    • Emilie says

      100% whole wheat starters will smell more acidic than ap or bread flour starters. But it should smell pleasant rather than astringent. If you are pouring off some as you go, with regular feeds, my guess is that it’s just because you are using a whole wheat starter with no other flours mixed in.

      If this bothers you, try using a 100% ap or bread flour starter OR 50% ap or bread flour + 50% whole wheat.

      • sc says

        Thanks Emily

        To troubleshoot, I experimented with the same starter (100% whole wheat) but made the bread with 100% all purpose flour. That came out quite good.

        Fed the starter also more – it smells better now.

        Now just need to find a reliable 100% whole wheat flour recipe (that results in “holey” bread) :-)

  112. Sus says

    Hello Emile,
    I’m first an established cook before a decent baker. I came across your lovely site and couldnt help reading it. I have always made bread loaves freehand but have seen many mention of the usage of dutch ovens for home bakers. Do you need a dedicated dutch oven for baking? Wondering if flavors can be imparted into the bread. Also, will the baking process mess up the dutch ovens ( I hate to char up my Le Creusets permanently)!)

    • Emilie says

      Hi there! Welcome!

      I don’t have a dedicated Dutch oven for my baking; I use the same pot for soups, stews & sourdough. I never had a problem with flavors imparting into the bread (and mine is very, very old) but this is all relative.

      Expect some wear and tear on your pots! But it’s nothing that can’t be scrubbed clean :)

  113. Alex says

    You should try using a butterfly cut on your sourdough, it always comes out looking really great! Just slash your bread down the middle lightly and the run your knife gently sideways along each side of the cut just under the surface of the loaf. It causes the edges of the cut to come slightly away from the rest of the loaf.

  114. Hakan says

    Thank you for the great recipe. I did modify it a little bit since I didn’t have a kitchen scale and I also wanted to bake a smaller loaf. I used 1 cup starter and 2 cups of bread flour instead. I raised it for 2 hours during bulk fermentation and re-knead the dough by adding some more flour using the kitchen mixer. The dough seemed a lot more moist and sticky after 2 hours of rising, and that was my reason to add more flour. I then raised it for another 2 hours before baking. I also admit not using a dutch oven, and baking it in the open. Although the result was good, the taste wasn’t as sour as I would like it to be. Now I know that you may not be able to make recommendations to somebody, who modified the recipe this much, but I appreciate if you can troubleshoot with me for making it taste more sour :). Should I change starter/flour proportion to 1 you think? Any recommendation will be greatly appreciated!

    • Emilie says

      Hi Hakan,

      Your starter/flour proportions are not necessarily the issue. Keep them as is if you were happy with the texture. For flavor, try using a different starter, one made with rye or whole wheat flour instead.

      Hope this helps! Good luck!

  115. M says

    Hello! Thanks so much for this extensive and instructional post! Do you use the same size dutch oven regardless of whether or not you halve the dough? And if you do halve the dough, can you bake both halves at the same time?


    • Emilie says

      Hi there,

      Yes, I use the same size Dutch oven for my bread regardless of whether the dough is cut in half. It works totally fine.

      I wouldn’t bake 2 (halved) loaves at the same time in one Dutch oven; do it in two pots simultaneously.

      Hope this answers your questions! Happy Baking!

  116. Jerry Gottheil says


    I found your post a few days ago. I tried your instructions. Success!!
    Excellent shattering crust and tasty tender crump. Five out of five.
    You are approaching the second anniversary of your post.
    Many happy anniversaries helping people achieve excellence in producing their own personal staff of life.
    Thank you,

  117. Valerie says

    Hello and thank you for posting this blog!

    In the instructions it says to “add all ingredients except for the salt” — what are the ingredients?

    I do not have a starter and prefer to make my own — do you have instructions for this?

    Kind Blessings,
    Valerie M.

    • Emilie says

      Hello Valerie,

      You are quite welcome! I hope you found this tutorial helpful.

      To clarify the ingredients: add the starter, water, oil and flour to the bowl. The salt goes in after autolyse. Does that make sense? Also, I will be posting a sourdough starter course soon.

      Happy baking!

      • Valerie says

        Thanks Emilie, it is helpful.

        My starter is really runny. I was adding to it everyday then saw that it wasn’t bubbling (because it began snowing outside — I thought that may have slowed the process?), so did not add stater for one day and today it was very runny, so I added more flour + water.

        I was looking forward to baking bread this morning , but the “float test” bombed as I’m sure you could imagine.

        Any tips here?

        I understand the starter is supposed to bubble, is it also supposed to smell? That is what I am waiting for so please clarify if you would.

        Also, for baking, I add the entire starter? I’m guessing I keep some aside to carry on with?

        This is my first loaf, sorry for all the questions!

        p.s. a starter class would be amazing :)


        • Emilie says

          Hi Valerie,

          No worries. I can help you. Just a few questions before we get started:

          1.) What kind of starter are you using? (i.e. type & brand of flour, homemade vs. store bought, % of hydration)

          2.) Where are you storing your starter? Fridge or counter?

          3.) How often do you feed your starter?

          Also, your starter is not supposed to smell strong or alcoholic. You’re looking for a light, fruity pleasant smell. Yours sounds like it needs to be refreshed (but we’ll go over that when you answer the questions above!). And for baking purposes, you are not using your entire starter, just the amount indicated in the recipe, mine or otherwise (i.e. 150g active bubbly starter etc). And yes! Working on the something for homemade starters coming soon ;)

          • Valerie says

            Hi Emilie,

            Thanks for your reply. Here are the answers…

            1.) What kind of starter are you using? (i.e. type & brand of flour, homemade vs. store bought, % of hydration)

            –I am using Everland organic all purpose white; then they ran out, so I added whole wheat from the same brand; but will go back once they restock the all purpose…

            2.) Where are you storing your starter? Fridge or counter?

            –I am keeping it on top of the fridge; I live near Vancouver, BC Canada so it’s aprox. 5 degrees celsius outside (cold) right now in January.

            3.) How often do you feed your starter?

            –everyday: the recipe calls for 3/4cup + 2 tblsp flour, and 1/2 cup of distilled water; I began this experiment on Wednesday, December 30th and thought I’d be making my first sourdough loaf on January 4th or 5th, but it’s not going well… please help!

            I wish I could post a picture here. Today it looks like mushed oatmeal, but stickier and the water test failed again. There’s no water on top, but there was some brownish water last week, I just swirled it in… should I have drained it off?

            Last night, I added only the flour, and it is thicker now, but it will not float. I am at a loss for how to get it to the ready point — and pass that water test!! lol

            Thank you :)

          • Emilie says

            Hi Valerie,

            Here what I’d like you to do:

            1.) Pour off & discard most of your starter, leaving about 2 tbsp. Transfer the remaining starter to a clean glass jar.
            2.) To the jar, add 1/4 cup (unbleached) all-purpose flour or bread flour + 1/4 cup whole wheat flour + 1/2 cup distilled water. Mix with until no visible flour remains.
            3.) Cover the jar and place back on top of your fridge (the current cold temp. is fine).
            4.) Place a piece of masking tape on the jar to mark the current height of your starter. As the starter starts to build up, this will help you track & measure its growth.
            5.) Check on your starter after several hours or overnight. An active starter should look be double in size, and have lots of bubbles on the surface.
            6.) After 24 hours, if it has not grown, pour off a little bit more of your starter and repeat step #2-#5. You might have to do this several times to build up its strength.
            7.) Once your starter has risen, is bubbly, and the consistency is like marshmallow fluff, it will pass the float test. Only perform the float test when you see these visual indicators, otherwise it won’t work.

            Hope this information helps! Please let me know if you have any questions. :)

  118. Will says

    Fantastic blog getting underneath the crust of how to make sourdough! I’ve had my starter a while but finally got something that other people would eat following this. Thank you for all the great information.

  119. JenP says

    I nearly-doubled this recipe and made two wonderful 7″ diameter boules with it today. Thank you thank you! Very nice. My husband said it’s among some of the best bread he’s had.

    Because I like a more sour sourdough I also doubled the proportion of (100% hydration) starter and also aged the dough in the fridge for an additional day.

    I love the extra-crunchy crust!

    The easiest starter culture I ever made on my own was with the pineapple juice method. Works a treat, and very quickly. I used citrus juices and water instead of pineapple, but I still had a good strong starter going by day 3.

    • Emilie says

      Wonderful! Sourdough is all about finding what works for you; it’s a process that builds on itself. I’m excited to hear that a few simple tweaks yielded what you were looking for! Thanks for the feedback!

  120. says

    This recipe is so easy to follow! I just made my first sourdough loaf and it turned out great! It is nice and moist with a good crust. The bottom of the loaf got burnt a bit, do you think that this was because I used a cast iron pot or that it was too close to the heating element? Anyways, a great recipe that I will definitely make again! :)

    • Emilie says

      Hello! It sounds like it might have been too close to the heating element. Try placing the pot in the center of the oven next time, or lower the oven temperature slightly towards the end of baking.

  121. RJ says

    What is your recipe? The website i am looking at does not actually show the recipe. How much bread flour,Salt…etc…

    Thanks for your post i will be trying sourdough for the first time.

    Excited in Long Beach,CA

  122. Susan says

    Thanks for the article! I’m trying my first ever sourdough bread using 100% rye flour. Only one hiccup reading your post…I honestly thought (when you were explaining how much the dough rises) that 11/2 – 2x was an algebra equation. But I’m going to hazard a guess that I was the only one hahaha.

    • Emilie says

      Hi Susan! That’s too funny. No algebra here! I’m sure you figured it out already, but the dough should rise about one and a half to two times its original size.

      Good luck with your first loaf!

  123. Samalander says

    Hi Emilie

    Wow…so maaaaaany posts. Some great questions and great answers.

    I’ve started to mill my own wheat berries. I’ve done the both red and white berries. Bread tastes great.

    However, even tho I’ve been baking bread now for four or five years, I still have sooooooo many questions.

    I learned to bake sourdough from Chad Robertson’s Tartine book.

    Chad does a three or four hour bulk and an overnight proof. You do the opposite: Long bulk, short proof.

    Do you think it matters one way or the other??? I.e. as long as the dough gets roughly ten hours of fermenting, plus or minus a couple of hours depending on the weather?

    How did you come to the long bulk fermentation/short proofing schedule? Trial and error? Just curious…

    One other question…I bake bread for church. I make small little 500 gram “rolls”. They often come out too flat-ish. I wonder if it’s b/c I am proofing them in too large a panneton. I.e. how important is it that the pannetton “fit” one’s bread?



    • Emilie says

      Hi Sam! Wow! Milling your own wheat berries is fantastic. I’m sure your bread tastes wonderful.

      To answer your questions- bread baking is unique in that there are many ways to get to the end result. One method isn’t necessarily better than the other; you have to choose what’s right for you.

      In comparison to Chad’s method, my dough was never fully risen after 3-4 hours at room temperature, especially in winter. Only in summer did the rise time speed up, but I was never ready to bake when it was ready for me! Proofing overnight gave me more control. To expand on that statement, when you do a long overnight bulk ferment, there is no need for a long 2nd proof. The dough will over proof. That’s why my 2nd proof is about 30 minutes- 1 hour depending on current room temperature. I figured this out all by trial and error, and continue to change my baking schedule as needed.

      Now with that said, you can also experiment with this method:

      1.) Mix your dough early in the morning, let’s say around 7 AM. Leave it to bulk ferment at room temp. roughly 65 F.
      2.) By dinnertime, or around 8-ish, your dough should be fully risen (of course, there are variables to this etc.)
      3.) Shape dough, and place in basket to proof overnight in fridge.
      4.) Bake from cold in the morning

      This method is the most similar to Chad’s except, I allow the dough to bulk ferment longer than 3-4 hours. I utilize this method in winter.

      For your rolls, they’re most likely flat because they are spreading too much in the banneton. For a better fit, I would proof them in a tray with sides, so that they fit snuggly. This way their shape will be contained.

      • Sam Palmer says

        I’m glad to read your comments about Chad’s bulk rise being too short. I have never gotten to 2X, tho I have definetly gotten to 1 1/4 or so. If you are seeing bubbles in your bulk, does that mean the bulk is going too fast. OR….is that what we want??????? I often get panicky when I start to get bubbles in my bulk, thinking, “OH NO….it’s going too fast.”

        I think for next time, I’m going to slow things down….

        BTW, here is where I get my wheat berries: You can also get them at Amazon:

        The berries also make a great porridge….tho they can take a while to cook.

        • Emilie says

          Hi there!

          I think it’s so incredibly important for bread bakers to talk and share their stories. Who knows, maybe Chad’s starter is way more powerful than mine, or his kitchen is super hot- that’s why his dough is ready in that timeframe (my kitchen is so drafty, maybe that’s my problem!). It’s all about trial and error.

          For the bubbles, do you mean bubbles on the surface or on the sides as it grows?

          And thanks for the link! xx

    • Emilie says

      Hi there,

      It depends on the type of bread you’re looking to create. Do you want 100% ww vs. 50%? With lots of holes or a smooth crumb? Once you decide on what you’re looking for it will be easier to advise.

  124. Kimberly K says

    I just pulled out an absolutely gorgeous loaf of bread from the oven following your recipe. Pretty pretty pretty! Loved how easy it was to handle and the idea of baking it in the dutch oven gave a beautiful crust. And I think it will make spectacular croutons if it lasts that long LOL.

    I can hardly wait to taste it! Must…wait…for…bread…to coooool……..

    • Emilie says

      Wow! That’s wonderful Kimberly! I’m so happy for you. And I know, the hardest part is waiting. I hope it tastes fantastic! xo

  125. Helen says

    Hi Emilie, great job here. I am Helen from Nigeria and I am new to sourdough bread. I don’t have access to bread flour except if I am willing to buy a 50kg bag. However, I can easily get all purpose flour and this is what I use for my starter. I didn’t follow your recipe exactly as I like rich breads and so I added 2 tbsp of dried milk powder, 50g margarine, 2 eggs, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/4 cup salt, 3/4 cup starter, 1/4 cup warm water and it is in a dark oven for the bulk rise. Do you think it will rise?
    I use 1/4 cup all purpose flour and 1 tbsp of water for my starter and feed it everyday. It tastes sour, has bubbles and froths sometimes. It was very frothy yesterday night as it had increased in bulk but I decided to feed it first before making the dough this afternoon. When I started to combine the ingredients, it wasn’t as frothy as yesterday but had a lot of bubbles, is that good?
    I look forward to your response.

    • Emilie says

      Hello Helen!

      Thank you for your comment!

      A great way to test if your starter is ready is to perform a float test. To a small glass of water, add 1 tsp of your bubbly starter. If it floats to the top, it’s ready. FYI- sometimes, your starter won’t float right away. It might rise slowly. If it looks a bit sluggish, feed it again, and then do another test. Good luck! Hope it works out for you! :)

  126. Loretta says

    Hi Emilie,

    After a few years of trying with modest results, I came across your blog. I followed your recipe to the letter, and my family agrees that it came out absolutely outstanding.
    Thank you for sharing it with us.
    I have a few questions though.
    For the second rise(proofing), if I cannot use the dutch oven, is there another vessel that you recommend? Should I use a banetton?
    I used the winter method that you described with proofing in the fridge for a weekend baking, and it came out great. I was wondering if you can suggest a method to keep it in the fridge longer, let’s say for a few days, so I can bake another bread in the middle of the week. Iwant to make sure it would still be ok, would not deflate, and would still rise a little in the oven.
    Also, I was wondering if you have suggestions to use siurdough starter but for savory recipes, not only pancakes or pizza.

    Thank you again very much for the post. It renewed my interest and my energy

    • Emilie says

      Hello Loretta!

      To answer your questions:

      1.) Yes, you can use a banneton. This has been my preferred method lately, especially when dealing with wet doughs; it contains their shape and prevents spreading.

      2.) Keeping your bulk dough in the fridge for a longer period of time is a little tricky. Because all starters are different, and some are stronger than others, you have to experiment. For example, I’ve done this before, up to 2 days and it worked. But, my dough was mixed when my starter was at optimal peak stage. If you try this however, it may not work. It all depends! And it’s not as reliable as if you were working with a dough made with commercial yeast (I believe that can last in the fridge up to 5 days).

      3.) Sourdough is wonderful for homemade crackers, flatbreads, focaccia, bagels, bundt cakes, and homemade brioche.

      I hope I’ve answered your questions. Happy baking!

  127. Anne Branca says

    My eldest daughter was living in New Jersey,making yummy sourdough bread. She moved to San Francisco taking her starter with her. She sent some of her starter from SFto me,I am presently in Florida. I found your website and am attempting my first loaf! Your instructions are fabulous. This bread will be well travelled.

  128. Thomas says

    When you say active fed starter, should I feed my starter right before I combine the ingredients? Or feed, wait 24h, then use it.


    • Emilie says

      Hi Thomas,

      You starter needs to be fed at least 24 hours before using it. It will become ‘active’ once it doubles in size and has lots of bubbles on the surface. Sometimes, it might even take longer than 24 hours; it all depends on how vibrant your starter is. Do not feed your starter and then immediately mix up the dough (it won’t work).

  129. Aishling says

    I’ve tried your method and had a lovely loaf after a few much denser loaves. It didn’t rise as much as I thought but it was really nice and fluffy.
    I was wondering though if I could sourdough to other bread recipes instead of active quick dry yeast? And if so what is the ratio for swapping? I like the starter I have and would to add it to more things, you mentioned using it in foccacia, pizza bases, yummmm…would love to try those.


    • Emilie says

      Hi there!

      Unfortunately, there isn’t a set ratio for swapping yeast for sourdough starter. I’ve come across a few ‘methods’ online, but they vary greatly and because of this, I’m not sure how reliable they are. Your best bet in this case, is to specifically search for sourdough recipes (i.e. sourdough pizza dough, sourdough focaccia etc.). You will have better results this way! Hope this helps!

  130. says

    Hi! I’m new to sourdough baking and really want to try your recipe. However, I don’t have a kitchen scale. Is there any chance you can post the ingredients in cups/tablespoons/etc. rather than ounces and grams?

    • Emilie says

      Hi Ashley!

      Great question. Unfortunately, I do not provide measurement in cups/tbsp because they are inaccurate. In bread baking, it’s best yo weigh your ingredients for accuracy. I can’t stress this enough! I highly recommend (especially if yore new to sourdough) picking up an inexpensive digital kitchen scale at Bed & Bath or a kitchen store.

  131. Madeleine says

    Hi, first time bread maker, I live in a hot humid climate, current indoor temperatures between 25-28c. I am currently making starter, 4 oz flour and 4 oz water feed daily by same. Days 1-3 very good with lots of bubbles and activities. Day 4 starter had ‘brown’ water on top, no bubbles. Mixed in and fed, after a couple of hours bubbles again, day 5 brown water, no bubbles. Question is should I disregard half, feed and see what happens? Or what. My recipe says should be ready to use on day 5.

    Thanks so much for your help.

    • Emilie says

      To answer your question: yes. Throw out half and feed it again. Although your recipe says it should be ready on day 5, it has not taken into account the temperature of YOUR specific environment. This is very important. Your starter is activating faster that your recipes suggests, which is totally fine. Feed it again, allow it to double in size and then you’ll be good to go.

    • Emilie says

      Hi there! It all depends. You have to watch your dough to see how quickly it rises. On the other hand, if it’s taking forever, then you should be fine at your current temp. From experience, I don’t think you will have any problems!

      • Mary Joseph says

        Honestly, I don’t have a great way of tracking how much it rises, as I have no bowles with markers on them that would be appropriate for letting bread rise in. I only have glass 32oz measuring cups which (I assume) are too small for bread to rise in. What do you use?

        • Emilie says

          Hi there,

          I use either a Pyrex bowl of the bowl of my KitchenAid mixer. You can use a regular large bowl without markers; place a piece of masking tape on the bowl to measure growth.

  132. says

    Thanks so much for the lovely information. I just finished mixing my dough for autolyse and am waiting around to do a little stretching and folding. Fingers crossed!

  133. Jody says

    Ok, so I’ve followed everything and after several starter fails, finally figured out I wasn’t feeding it often enough. On average after day 2, I needed 2 feedings a day and then after day 5 3 feedings a day before it was ready.

    Anyhow, I have a question. I had this nice lovely shaped loaf in my pyrex bowl and was ready to transfer it to the dutch oven…Uh oh, it stuck! Getting it out burst all the lovely bubbles. I reshaped and put it in the dutch oven and let it rise again, hopefully it’s got enough in it to get a 3rd rise. Anyow, how do you transfer it from the bowl to the dutch oven and have the dough retain that LOVELY shape. I now have a wide dough. :( We’ll see how it bakes up.

    • Emilie says

      Hi Jody,

      The only way to prevent sticking is to line your bowl with a clean kitchen cloth. Flouring the bowl doesn’t work as the dough will absorb it all. Hope this helps!

      • Jody says

        Oh ok! Thank you. I did just have it floured. The loaf did make the 3rd rise and was SO pretty when I pulled the lid off the dutch oven. My loaf was a nice oval and had a great crumb and chew. Thank you so much!

  134. Karen says

    Let me start by saying “thank you” for this recipe and the amazing post that goes along with it. It’s just what I was looking for! I watched the “Air” episode of Michael Pollan’s _Cooked_ series; it has convinced me to begin the journey to learn how to bake fermented bread.

    I know every baker is different, but I would love your advice on one thing: I consider myself a moderately good cook and baker. I feel pretty confident when trying new recipes and with new techniques. However, I have close to no experience with any sort of bread. I have tried pizza dough and no-knead yeasted bread a few times with moderate success, but I do not consider myself comfortable with either. Do you advise that one become familiar with baking yeasted bread before taking on fermented bread?

    • Fabiana says

      Hi Karen, that’s the same reason I looked for sourdough! The episode from Michel Pollan! So great we are now trying to bake at home. I’m so grateful for the documentary and for this website. My bread has just come out from the oven, beautiful and healthy. (as for your question, if my experience helps: I’ve tried baking other kinds of bread or doughs and last night I started this method and found no difficulty even not being a good cook/baker. I’d say you can try it with no worries. Good luck!

  135. Libby says

    I made my first starter this year with Rye flour and have started a second from the first using organic white bread flour. Because we use our bread mostly for toast and sandwiches we mostly bake in a loaf tin, occasionally free form, so many thanks for the tip of using a “Dutch Oven”. What I am looking for is recipes for different types of bread using the starter, can it be used for muffins? ciabatta or other types of bread? Almost all commercial bread made in the UK is made with the Chorleywood process which I find totally indigestible, for some time I thought I had developed a wheat allergy, but couldn’t understand why pasta or homemade cakes were OK, having totally cut out commercial bread and only eaten sourdough the symptoms have not returned, so I would really appreciate recipes for other types of bread using a starter.

  136. Garrett says

    I just want to say thank you. I’ve never baked bread. I begged some starter from a local bakery, fed it up, followed your recipe, and perfection first try. I’ll never go back to store bought bread.

  137. Beverley McCarron says

    Hello Emilie,
    I received a starter a few months ago from my friend who also emailed me this very link. I have hummed and hawed about finally getting going with the bread making process and just the other day bought a n5 qt. enamel dutch oven so no more excuses! I have a question to your first set of instructions when you say “Remove starter from the fridge and pour off any liquid from the top. Scoop some into a bowl, give it a feed and cover.” And so after measuring 150 g of this active, fed starter, what does one do with the remaining fed starter? Can it be added back to the starter in the fridge?
    Cheers, Beverley

    • Emilie says

      Hi Beverly,

      After measuring out the starter for your recipe, give it another feed and place it back in the fridge. Store it there until ready to use again and repeat this process as needed.

      • Beverley McCarron says

        Hello again Emilie!
        I know it must be pretty straight forward but as I’m totally new to this, it still seems a bit confusing. So,,, I scoop out some starter into a bowl, give it a feed (how much should that be?) and cover. From that active, fed starter, I then measure out 150g and then here is where I’m confused…Do I then mix the any leftover fed starter back with my existing starter I have stored in the fridge?
        Hopefully, Beverley

        • Emilie says

          Hi Beverly,

          No worries! I just updated ‘The Starter’ section. Have a look and let me know if you have any questions from there. I think it will answer any questions you might have!

          • Beverley McCarron says

            I finally made it!!! It turned out amazingly! Thank you for updating the starter section, your instructions were very easy to follow. I was so excited to put the bread in the oven that I actually forgot to slash the top. But it still turned out fine. And now I am addicted. Thank you again Emilie.

  138. Steffanie says

    What kind of enamel roasting pan do you use to bake your loaves in? I’d love to buy something like that to bake mine in, instead of a Dutch oven, and I’m not sure where to start looking :)

  139. Jennifer Jacobs says

    Thanks for this recipe! I’m new to sourdough baking. It’s going ok. I made this yesterday and I let my dough rise overnight and it rose tooooo much! Do I have to throw it out? Can it be saved? Thanks!

    • Emilie says

      Hi Jennifer,

      What happened to you is pretty common, especially when the weather starts to get warmer (the dough will rise faster). You can still use the dough; gently pull it out of the bowl onto a lightly floured surface. Shape into a loose ball and cover with a damp kitchen towel. Rest for 30 minutes or so, for the gluten to relax. Then continue on with the rest of the method (shaping into ball for second rise). Hope this helps! x

  140. Martina says

    Hi Emilie!
    Thank you SO MUCH for posting this – I sincerely appreciate the step-by-step instructions and the logic and “why” behind each step. I’ve been baking bread for years and I had always been daunted by making bread without adding commercial yeast. And I have never been able to get a nice, crispy, chewy crust on ANY bread. I made my starter using rye and white flour (per the recommendation of another website) and instead of cornmeal on the bottom of my Le Creuset pot, I just used a piece of parchment (I’ve never liked cornmeal).
    My loaf turned out delicious! Thank you again!

  141. Martina says

    As a follow-up to my post from the other night, I feel the need to add that other that using a starter I already had made (with a mixture of rye and white flour) and using parchment instead of cornmeal on the bottom of my Le Creuset pot, I followed your recipe exactly (going by feel rather than exact times on the rises, of course) I shaped it into one large oval batard and baked it in my large oval Le Creuset.
    I left it to cool on a rack all night, and in the morning, my husband devoured half the loaf and I the other half – it was absolutely delicious and looked like I had bought it at a commercial bakery.
    I’m eager to make a whole wheat and also a rye levain.
    Thank you again for your inspiration!

  142. Fabiana says

    Dear Emilie
    Thanks for sharing your experience. I read and recalled a friend who has an starter … called him immediately to try all your tips. Baked the bread with “Ozzy”, (how he calls the live started he’s got for over 4 years) and my bread looks beautiful. I used only whole wheat flour. It tastes a bit bitter, that’s because of the flour or the starter gives this flavor?
    Regards from Brazil,

  143. Michelle says

    I’m excited to try this and have made my own starter already! Would you be able to post the amount in cups? Of all the recipes I’ve seen I like yours the best, but I don’t have a kitchen scale!

    • Emilie says

      Hi Michelle!

      I do not use measurements in cups for sourdough. Although it’s more convenient, it’s not as accurate as weighing your ingredients. :)

  144. says

    Thank you! A few years ago, I made my own starter and tried to make sourdough from it. Almost every time, it would be too flat and hard and almost inedible. I was really disappointed and shoved my starter to the back of the fridge until recently when a friend told me about her results with your recipe. The first time, I followed it exactly and it also went flat like a pancake. Reading your posts and others have made me realize that most of my breads have been too wet. In my second try, I cut down the water to 200g and it turned out so much better. It held the free form and still had a great taste. I was so proud and happy because as a baker, this has been one of the things that has eclipsed me until now.

    Today, I made your sourdough noir and it turned out well too. I’ll share my notes in that post.

    I have been using bread flour, but I mainly use AP flour. In Canada, our AP flour has higher gluten so previously when making Jim Lahey’s No Knead bread and other breads, I used AP flour with whole wheat or other grains with no issues. I may start using Canadian AP for the whole recipe again when I run out of bread flour.

    Can’t wait to make my third ‘plain’ sourdough and second sourdough noir. Thanks again, Emilie!

    • Caroline says

      I live in Canada too! Can I just use any organic whole wheat flour? I have yet to be successful – the stater is always just nearly a success… thank you :)

    • Emilie says

      You are welcome, Athena! Sourdough is all about the process. I’m glad you were able to achieve success with a few adjustments that work! xx

  145. Caroline says

    Thank you so much ! I will try it again…. I keep going paste the optimum time for the starter and find it flat at my cupboard. I will feed it again this afternoon, and give it a go :)

    • Caroline says

      Dear Emilie, my starter pretty much doubled, but flunks the floating test…. so I got impatient and made a loaf that is cooking right now – but I think I will have made my second brick of the year haha.
      what could i be doing wrong? Is it wrong for me to stir my starter ? (that goes flat after)
      Also, it seems that putting my starter in the fridge after a feed is the only way to get it do double (or almost) in size… is that normal?

      You know, I hate cooking, so this is really demanding on me haha – but I do make my kombucha for a few succesful weeks now :-)

      I’m using whole grain wheat as starter…

      • says

        Hi Caroline. I’ve found any organic WW wheat works, but like I said above, I find baking bread with AP unbleached (Robin, Five Rose) works as well.

        As for your starter, are you feeding it often? When I want mine to be bubbly, I feed it twice a day. Try some rye flour, that can help as well. Maybe Emilie or others have more suggestions.

        Good luck!

  146. tom says

    thank you so much for the best and most informative post I’ve found yet! this method works o well for me. I did have an issue with the first 3 loaves, after the initial 20 minutes covered, I removed my kid and tried to bake for an additional 40 minutes with burnt bread every time. I had to reduce the uncovered baking time to 20 minutes as well, now perfect texture and finished internal temp of 205 every time. I am curious how your loaves can sustain that extra time – do you reduce the heat lower than 400? thanks again for a wonderful method.

    • Emilie says

      Hi Tom! You are quite welcome! There are a few things that could’ve caused your bread to burn:

      1.) Is your oven temp accurate? I used to think my oven was accurate until I used an oven thermometer; it was 20 degrees off!
      2.) What kind of starter are you using? How long was your initial bulk ferment? Both can play a role in the overall color of your bread.
      3.) Was the bread burnt on both the top and bottom of the loaf?

  147. Joan says

    Hello – I was given a starter from a friend, I have been feeding it every evening with white cake flour, the first few days I put in a more or less amount, stirred it, and left it in a old coffee jar with the screw top lid closed loosely. But after reading you excellent and nicely detailed step-by-step instructions, I started adding about 35 mls of cake flour and under a quarter water, stirred with a fork.
    I have just done the float test, dropped a tspn of the starter into a glass of water, and it immediately sank to the bottom!! Does it rise immediately, or would one need to wait a while to see I if it floats??
    It seems to be sort of bubbly and has a fruity smell. Do you think I need to wait a day or so later, I have been feeding it since Monday evening, it is now Friday after midday this side of the work. (South Africa)
    I have just fed the starter again now, and stirred it, then it looked all bubbly on the surface,and when I dropped a tspn the starter into the water, a portion of it floated, then eventually dropped to the bottom, would this indicate that it is not quite ready?
    I would so appreciate your advice and guidance. not sure if I have waited too long?????

    • Emilie says

      Hi there! Is there any particular reason you are using cake flour? I would not recommend this. Cake flour is usually made with bleached wheat which inhibits a starter from rising, or perhaps in your case, passing the float test. Try feeding your starter with a combination of plain flour and whole wheat flour; it will be stronger. Also, your starter will only pass the float test when the entire container of starter has doubled in size. Bubbles are not enough.

  148. Maria says

    Followed your instructions very loosely, made three different loaves one plain, added walnuts to the second, the third was made with pumpkin seeds and Pumpkinseed oil. All turned out fabulous. I use parchment paper in my baskets and my oven actually has a bread proof setting works perfectly. I simply lift the bread with the parchment paper directly into an enamel roasting pan when it is done rising. Then slash and spray with water bake covered for 20 min finish baking uncovered . I find the receipe works even if you don’t follow it exactly.

  149. Leslie says

    I’ve been working with my 3rd homemade starter with limited success. Coming across your post (from 2013!) Was great & got me back at the sourdough challenge. I like the idea of the Dutch oven & have one that was retiring to the garden after finding a crack in it. Not now, it’s going back to work as a bread pot! The water test is great, thanks! I always stirred the hooch back in but I’ll try pouring it off now. My doughy friend is on its first rise & hopefully I will have a success story to tell you about. I have a VERY hard time waiting for warm bread to cool before cutting, thanks for the patience reminder. Great post!

  150. rick long says


    Thank you so much for posting your tutorial on making sourdough bread. I have tried several recipes that did not quite work out for me. I did take your advice and get a food scale and thermometer. The bread came out great even though I could not get my starter to pass the float test. I fed it several times to no avail. I got my starter from King Arthur’s flour about 2 months ago. I had it refrigerated and fed it every week. About a week ago I decided to leave it out of the refrigerator and fed it several times to try and get it to float. Finally I just used and the bread came out perfectly. Thank you for all of the help…!

    • Emilie says

      Hi there! Yes, your starter needs to be at room temp and fed several times before using. Never use your starter straight from the fridge even if you just fed it; it’s not ready!

  151. says

    Thank you for this guide, Emilie! It looks quite straight forward. I have my own sordough starter growing in my kitchen right now. I’m excited to try this recipe this weekend ;-)
    Thanks again and take care!

  152. Tricia in Torbay says

    Hi Emilie,

    I’ve made two more loaves which turned out better than the first two, so some progress! One thing puzzles me – neither of the two starters I have double in bulk after feeding. At the most they bulk by about a third. The ratio is 20g wholemeal/30g white bread flour now for both starters and though they are both treated the same only one passes the floating test.

    I’d like to make a levain from one of the starters for my next loaf – what are the metric quantities please? (I think that the British cup and spoon measurements are different from those of the US.)

    I was confident enough about my latest loaf make a present of it to my friend – she is already looking forward to the next one!

    • Emilie says

      Try feeding your starters more often; they don’t sound strong enough. Also, are you using tap or filtered water? For the levain, I don’t have exact quantities for you- it will all depend on the recipe you are using.

    • Emilie says

      Yes. Just divide the dough into your loaf pans. Also, because you are not baking in a covered pot, you won’t be able to trap steam inside your oven. This might hinder the rising process resulting in dense bread. I would research alternate steaming methods if you run into this problem.

  153. Jen says

    I made this and had an issue. Although I suspect I know what happened, I wanted a sanity check.

    During shaping, the dough started to feel like it was disintegrating in my hands. It started to tear and got progressively more sticky – at some point, it was like caulk.

    All ingredients were fine; I used a very coddled and well fed starter. I’ve made sourdough breads of all sorts so I am pretty familiar with the process – not to mention how the dough should feel at various stages.

    But this time…

    The house was pretty cold, so I’d opted to let it rise in an oven that had been preheated to its lowest setting and turned off (170 degrees). I do this all the time with traditional yeast bread to ensure an even rise.

    I let it rise for more than 4 hrs with stretch/fold over the first 2. Everything looked normal until I turned it out to shape.

    What did I do wrong? Should I have avoided the warm oven altogether? I started to think so and that maybe the heat interfered with the gluten formation. Is this not something a sourdough loaf can handle?

    Thanks for the help. I want to avoid this in the future!

    • Emilie says

      Hi Jen,

      Hmmm… I think 170 F was too hot. Whenever I proof sourdough, I adjust the temp to only 80 F because I’m afraid a higher temp might kill the starter (does that make sense?). So, although traditional yeasted doughs can withstand higher proofing temps, sourdough is more fickle. I would try proofing at a lower temp, if possible.

      Tip: Do you have a microwave? We don’t have one anymore, but when we did, I would place the bowl of dough inside with the door ajar (light on). The heat from the light helped to warm up the dough which accelerated the rising process.

      Hope this helps!

  154. says

    I’ve been raising my starter for 6 months now and I decided it’s time to make a real round sourdough loaf (already picked out the spinach dip recipe ☺). Your recipe sounds great!! But I don’t have a scale, so I’ll hunt down another recipe that shows measurements in cups and I’ll use your process. Wish me luck!

  155. says

    Awesome instructions. Still working on the perfect sourdough bread. Have a from-scratch starter (Murrieta starter) and a purchased San Francisco starter, which I remember to feed MOST of the time (they did almost die once. Stinky! Recovered them : ) which I have hauled around with 4 moves. Lid on should definitely help with steam. Nice! BTW, love Tartine Bakery. Dough is currently resting before addition of salt and other ingredients. Fingers crossed!

    • Emilie says

      Hello Sharon! Thank you! Baking in a covered pot is my preferred method- you will definitely see a difference. Fingers crossed :)

  156. says

    Thank you for the recipe!

    Tried it twice in 2 days, 1st time was a disaster … completely my fault; did not bulk ferment it properly and did not have cornmeal to line the bottom of the dutch oven. Came out gummy, “big holes” in the bread and bottom was badly stuck to the dutch oven.

    2nd time was almost a charm. Bulk ferment it overnight, oiled the dutch oven and lined with grease proof paper, sprinkle the bottom with semolina and turned out beautiful. It was slightly gummy in what looked like the folding area, I must have been too enthusiastic with the folding before the final proofing.

    Next round, I will try to be careful with the folding; stretch and flip approach. And also may have to reduce the amount of water to adjust for the 80-90% humidity in Singapore.

    • Emilie says

      Hello Alex! The secret to becoming a great baker is to bake the same loaf over and over and over again- and you’re already doing that! Sourdough always needs to be adjusted based on time and temperature. Take notes, compare, make adjustments- you’re well on your way :)

  157. says

    Your step by step directions gave me a clear understanding of what I needed to do….and the courage to try with my homemade wild yeast :) I have made two previous loaves (term used very loosely) that looked like frisbees…hard as nails…to wet not active enough starter…ugh… I learned a lesson in each failure but I cannot tell you how happy I was to try your recipe and actually get a edible sourdough. I did not cut it deep enough so too much moisture was trapped inside making it too dense and heavy…but it still had lots of bubbles! I’m hoping my next attempt will yield a lighter loaf and denser crust.

    After reading endlessly in sourdough books and trying recipes that I clearly got lost in I want to thank you for your beautiful site and clear way of speaking…you make a wonderful teacher.

    Looking forward to my next attempt :) xox Laura

  158. Catherine says

    My loaf is in the oven right now, and it looks and smells AMAZING! Thanks for the very helpful and detailed instructions.

  159. Carlos says

    Thanks a lot!
    This must be the most complete and specific guide for sour dough I’ve read so far. The last couple of weeks I’ve been going like a mad man all over the internet looking for guidance and tips on how to bake a good sourdough. I even stumble across an article that talked about lactic acid and acetic acid in the sourdough. I felt a lot of what I read contradicted it self and no recipe had a complete and understandable walkthrough for a person with zero experience in baking.
    With what I had found I manage to bake not only my first sourdough bread, but my first bread ever. I a total new beginner. But it feels as if I had to use a great deal of time before I had enough information to start.That’s why it’s relieving to find well-written recipes like this one.
    Looking forward to come back later with the results after trying this out.

    • Emilie says

      That is so wonderful to hear, Carlos! Thank you so much for your feedback.I know the process of sourdough can be very intimidating at first. But once you get the hang of it, it’s really pretty simple! Happy baking! :)

  160. Sarah says

    I was a little intimidated by sourdough, but after successfully making a starter, I searched long and hard for a recipe, and yours was the clearest, most detailed and thoughtful, and yet easy to understand I could find. I followed it exactly and am just sitting down to the most delicious piece of toast I’ve ever eaten. I can feel the stirrings of a passion beginning :) Thank you so much! Sarah, Australia

    • Emilie says

      Hello Sarah! That is so very kind of you to say. I’m delighted that you’ve had success with the recipe and method. Cheers to you! And thank you for taking the time to let me know! x

  161. Tammy P says

    Decided I wanted to try making homemade sour-dough. The first website I came across (not yours) wasn’t very user friendly and when I got to the part where I start adding my ingredients to actually make the bread, it states ” use only 1 Tbs, I know it doesn’t seem like enough but trust me it is”. Well it wasn’t!!! That first loaf was horrible, husbeast didn’t even want to try it!! It was BAD!!! But I wasn’t going to give up, I still had plenty of starter left so I put it in the fridge and waited until the next weekend to try again with YOUR recipe!! Hubs LOVED it! This is my 3rd weekend and this was the BEST yet!! I shaped it into loaf pans and put them one at a time inside Dutch oven with a little water so as to not scotch my Dutch. OMG IT IS DELICIOUS!!!I can’t thank you enough for your easy to follow and CORRECT recipe.

    • Emilie says

      Oh wow! That’s wonderful Tammy, thank you! I’m so glad that your loaf pan method worked out too- that’s what bread baking is all about. It’s meant to be adapted and changed to suit your specific needs. Keep on baking, girl! :)

  162. TK Oliver says

    Really awesome blog! I just stumbled upon this while searching for bread recipes. And your photos are superb! Also, where did you buy that “N0 18 Paris Rouen, Rennes” kitchen towel? It’s absolutely gorgeous!

    • Emilie says

      Thank you! I really appreciate that :) I got the towel at Sur La Table about 3 years ago. Perhaps if you google it, you might be able to find one.

  163. Michael Foti says

    I might be tired and just missed it, but do you provide a starter recipe in this article on sourdough bread? I went out and found one but would prefer to use one that you recommend.

    • Emilie says

      Hi there! I’m working on a user friendly recipe and method at the moment. I’m sorry I can’t recommend one online!

  164. Erin C says

    I’m so glad I’ve found your sourdough guide because after I initially had successes, I have been going through a slump. Not only is your recipe easy to follow, but also yields success! I’m now wondering why I was bothering with making a leaven which adds an extra 12hours.?! Quick question: Have you tried heating the dutch oven before adding the dough? So many recipes I’ve seen call for this step but I wonder if it makes any difference? Thanks

    • Emilie says

      Hello Erin, that makes me so happy! Thanks so much for your feedback! Yes, I used to preheat my Dutch oven but I no longer do so. Too many burns, and it was too awkward to score the dough once inside of the pot (sides are too high). I’m perfectly happy with the results in my non-heated pot. Some will argue that there is a difference in their final loaves, but for me, it’s not enough to make me go back preheating. Hope this helps! And happy baking!

  165. Sarah says

    Hi Emilie
    Wow! Thank you so much for this recipe!!! It has changed my sourdough life! After 3 miserable attempts, actually more than that as I did try sourdough many years ago, but now I have made beautiful loaves I am ecstatic! Question is can I put some wholemeal into the mix, say 100g and 400g white . Also Id like to double the mix and bake 2 big loaves at the same time would I have to adjust cooking time. Thanks so much again!

    • Emilie says

      Hi Sarah!

      Thank you for your feedback! Happy to hear about your baking success! You can certainly add wholemeal flour as per your measurements, but you might want to increase the water a bit to compensate- wholegrain flours are a bit more ‘thirsty.’ The exact of amount of water will depend on feel, so unfortunately I cannot advise without touching the dough myself! So, experiment, little by little, until you have a nice soft dough.

  166. Kristina says

    Hi Emilie! I just wanted to thank you for such a beautifully written and photographed sourdough tutorial. I am new to bread making and your directions are the clearest and most concise I have come across (there are a LOT out there!). Thank you for sharing your passion for healthy comfort food :-)

    • Emilie says

      You are quite welcome! Thank YOU for taking the time to leave feedback. It really helps, especially when I write posts like this. I appreciate it! :)

  167. Arden says

    I read through your post and have just begun a starter. Plan to make bread next weekend.
    Thank you so much for all the info and the comments.

  168. Jill Ford says

    Greetings from Australia. I’ve been too scared to try making sourdough for three years but then a friend told me to use your recipe and I finally plucked up the courage to give it a go. I’m pleased to report my first loaf turned out perfectly! I followed the recipe exactly and it was so tasty. Thank you for taking the time to share your knowledge!

    • Emilie says

      Hi Jill! I know- sourdough can be very intimidating at first. It took me almost a year to get into it. I’m glad you took the plunge! Thank you for taking the time to leave feedback here. I’m happy the recipe turned out well for you. :)

  169. Nicolas Ghantous says

    Hello, I worked on this recipe today yet not sure what happened, My loaf didn’t bake properly, doughy inside not sure were I went wrong..I appreciate any input..thanks

    • Emilie says

      Hi there!

      So sorry to hear that! A variety of things could’ve went wrong. Without actually seeing a picture of the loaf it’s hard to diagnose the problem. With that being said, a doughy inside is usually consistent with undercooked loaves. Perhaps your oven was too hot which browned the outside indicating doneness, or your dough might’ve been too cold when it went into the oven leaving the center undercooked. Try an oven thermometer next time and check your final dough temperature. Hope this helps!

  170. says

    Such a brilliant, informative and thorough post. Forgive me if I have missed something, but in one of your photographs it looks as though you have two Dutch Ovens in your oven. I see that you mention splitting the dough in two. I’m keen to make two loaves at once, so am just wondering what size Dutch Ovens you use in order to fit two on the same oven shelf, and does the cooking time vary if you cook two loaves rather than one?

    Many, many thanks – so pleased to have found this wonderful post!

    • Emilie says

      Hi there!

      Thank you! Great questions! I own 2 Dutch ovens; one oval and one round. The oval is 14 inches long and the round is about 10 inches. I cannot fit them side-by-side in my oven at the same time. I usually bake one while the other is proofing. However, if you have a double oven you can definitely bake at the same time ;) The cooking time should be about the same. Please let me know if this answers your questions!

  171. MS says

    Hi I started being interested in sourdough bread recently and came across your great post! I am sensitive to gluten and heard that the sourdough bread is tolerated much better than the regular bread. How long do you suggest I let the dough ferment to get rid of the gluten?

    • Emilie says

      Hi there,

      Great question! Although long fermentation times helps to break down the enzymes, sourdough does not get rid of gluten. You would have to bake a truly gluten free sourdough bread made with alternative flours. If you want to make sourdough, you will have to play around and experiment to see what’s best for your biochemistry. I ferment most of my doughs for 10-12 hours. Hope this helps!

  172. Tonya Hughes says

    Good morning! I am making my third batch from your recipe today using a starter from my brother. He has been making beautiful sourdough for years. I followed your process and mine is every bit as beautiful as his :) I used all purpose flour the first time, then bread flour the next, both worked well, but the bread flour made a bigger loaf. I also followed my brother’s habit and added 2 tablespoons of cracked wheat, 1 tbsp of ground flax, and 1 tbsp of wheat germ, then flour so that the total dry ingredients came to 500 g. This makes a nice grainy bread (but not too grainy). Thank you so much for this guide, your writing style is approachable and friendly and your instructions clear and easy to understand.

    • Emilie says

      Hello Tonya,

      Thank you so much for your feedback, I really appreciate it. There are so many ways to explain the process of sourdough and it can certainly get confusing. I’m glad you were able to navigate through my words with success! The reason why you loaf with bread flour baked up bigger is due to the higher protein content. Bread flour fosters ‘better’ gluten development attributing to a higher rise. The texture of sourdough made with bread flour is slightly different than all-purpose flour, but both are good for different reasons. Thank you for your brothers suggestion as well- sounds delicious! PS: is the cracked wheat soaked first?

  173. 'Tonya Hughes says

    Oh, and another poster said she would like to double the recipe. I have been doing this by just making it twice, in 2 separate bowls using 2 clay casserole pots, and making 2 loaves at a time. Have you tried making a double batch in one bowl? I was concerned maybe the larger dough size and weight would make it harder for the yeast to rise? Maybe I’m just being silly. Thanks again!

    • Emilie says

      Hi! I’ve done it your way and in one large bowl. For the latter option, the additional weight does not effect how it rises. Great question! ;)

  174. Sophia says

    Hey! Just wanted to say thanks for this beautifully written post – I just baked my very first sourdough loaf (and only my second ever bread of any sort) using your instructions, and I burned it a bit on the bottom (I made a pretty small boule so it probably overcooked – I’m not terribly worried about it), but otherwise it came out beautifully!

    I have 2 questions for you:
    – Can you bulk ferment for TOO long? I’ve read in some places that if the second rise goes too long, the yeast might expend all its energy (or something along those lines) and cause the bread not to rise properly while cooking.
    – My dough was just a bit sticky and I had a little bit of trouble getting it out of the bowl it fermented in without tearing it a bit at the sides. Do you have any tricks or tips for getting the dough out without tearing? Or do you just get it out as best you can and don’t worry about the bits of dough left stuck to the sides? (I tried to oil the bowl lightly but I may have gone too light – I think I over-oiled on my first breadmaking attempt, which wasn’t sourdough, so it didn’t shape very well and now I’m paranoid about over-oiling!)

    • Emilie says

      Hello Sophia! That’s wonderful news (not the burning part, lol)! Next time, try baking on the center rack in the oven or place a cookie sheet (upside down) on the rack below to help block some of the heat coming up from the bottom. ;)

      To answer your questions:

      1.) Bulk ferment and the second rise are two different steps. The terminology gets confusing! The bulk ferment refers to the first or initial rise, and the second rise or final proof is the last one. In both cases, it’s possible to let the dough proof for too long.

      I think your particular question refers to the second rise/final proof. And yes, you are correct: if the second rise goes for too long you risk over proofed and collapsed dough. I usually let it go for 30 minutes- 1 hour (depending on temperature, of course). The dough should look slightly puffed but not fully risen before baking.

      2.) Dough sticking to the bowl is common, don’t worry. I would use a rubber spatula or small plastic dough scraper to gently guide the dough from the bowl without tearing. That should help a bit.

      I hope I’ve answered your questions! Good luck!

  175. Karen Adair says

    Thanks for the clear concise directions. I made my first loaf this morning before work. It was beautiful and at lunch time I cut a piece. The texture was great but it tasted a bit too sour for me. I brought it home for my husband (the real sourdough lover) to try and low and behold the bag my Dutch oven was in broke. Down went the Dutch oven and the bread came out and landed on the garage floor. Loaf number two is doing the first long proof overnight tonight. We will see how it comes out. This morning’s loaf I did not stretch but tonight’s I did. Hoping that this one comes out well also.

  176. Emilie says

    Oh my goodness! I can’t even believe it! Good thing it didn’t land on your foot ;) I’m curious to see how your new loaves turn out. Keep me posted!

      • Emilie says

        Hi Karen! Happy to help! In order trouble shoot properly, can you please give me some more information? How often do you feed your starter? How long did you let the dough proof? What kind of flour are you using? Was the dough refrigerated at all? Thanks!

  177. Lynne Taylor says

    Ok, I’m sorry for swearing but this is the best dam post I’ve ever read on how to actually make sourdough bread. I finally have a healthy starter from scratch and looking all over for a recipe. I found recipes but really no instruction to how to actually MAKE it. Thank you so much because I know this post was a LOT of hard work. The schedule is the BEST thing ever. I now have somewhere to start. Seriously, I cannot stress how happy this made me. Some people might read this and think, “Oh dear, get a life.” But I know that lots of you reading know where I’m commin’ from. I’m doing the happy dance.

    • Emilie says

      Oh my goodness, I don’t know how I missed this comment! My apologies! You are so very kind, Lynne, thank you so much. I’m happy to know that you found the tutorial helpful. Your comment made my day (also doing a happy dance). x

  178. says

    There are a lot of posts here and it’s possible this has been covered before. I’ve been making sourdough bread for 18 months or so and it used to be lovely. Lately, however, the bread has been a disaster – I could have built a house with the bricks.

    The starter seems lively, it bubbles happily and it floats in water. Yet once I add it to flour, water, salt etc., it simply stops rising. I knead it in a breadmaker, always have done, on the French bread setting.

    Any suggestions?

    • Emilie says

      Hi Gordon!

      It’s hard to say at first glance- Can you walk me through your exact method, with rise times? Also, is it winter or summer by you? And, what kind of flour are you using? Thanks!

  179. M, says

    Hi Emilie,

    Your website is beautiful, and I really love your bread How-To!.

    My problem is that I have tried to make a sourdough sponge 3 times, each time it comes out smelling sour – not fruity. The last two times we had a heat wave while it fermented on the counter (I work nights and slept through the heat not realizing). I am on my third starter; (a packaged SFO sourdough brand) again, it smells really sour, not fruity. How long is to long on the counter – will the water test tell me if the starter is good – and not just active? There is no mold, no evidence of growth, it just smells bad (like the gym socks you describe). I have not baked with it yet, threw the first two out, sitting here with the third, wondering….should I waste my time and four on this stuff?

    • Emilie says

      Hi there,

      Thank you so much :)

      Understanding and maintaining your sourdough starter is a process of trial and error. I think what’s happening in your case, is that it’s left at room temperature for too long. That’s where the smell is coming from- do you have some dark liquid on the top too? When your starter is left at room temp, you have to feed it 2x per day. Otherwise it will rise and fall quickly, especially in the heat, and ‘burn out’ so to speak. Pour off most of your starter right now, leaving just a little in the bottom (you want to get rid of them smelly stuff). Feed with equal parts flour and water. If you can’t feed it twice a day, put it in the fridge. 1-2 days before you want to bake, repeat the discarding and feeding process until it becomes bubbly. Then do the float test; if it passes, you’re ready to bake.

  180. Charles says

    Your page is wonderful. But, I feeling a little stupid today. I have a blank spot in my mind about SD. I made a starter from a book using mashed potatoes. It should be ready, according to the book, today. Now I’m lost. Even your excellent blog has me lost.

    My confusion is the next steps.
    Let’s say my starter has about 3 cups. I need 1 cup for my recipe. What do I do? I feed the whole thing? Once it’s all bubbly again. I take out my one cup. What do I do with the rest. Throw out all but one cup?

    Or do I take out my one cup. Feed BOTH? Do I reduce my starter?

    I have found some recipes online that call for 2 cups of starter. What if I only have one or less cups of starter? How do I increase my starter and still have some to keep?

    I read through everything you have. No one else seems to have this problem. I believe I am missing something obvious.

    The book I am using my wife bought while we were on vacation in Alaska. “Alaskan Sourdough Cooking.” It lacks any clear instructions on how to care of the starter.

    Thank you for your help.

    • Emilie says

      Hello Charles-

      My apologies for the late reply!

      First, I do not have experience with mashed potato starters, so I’m unable to advise on specifics. But I can help with starter questions in general :).

      To answer your 1st question, I would feed the whole thing and then scoop out what you need, 1 cup in your case, when it’s nice and bubbly. You can use the remaining starter (2 cups) to make either another loaf of bread or any non-bread recipes such as waffles or cakes. Personally, I do not prefer to keep a large container of starter because I never seem to have time to make additional recipes with the leftover amount. I end up dumping it. And I do not like waste. If you fall into the same boat, consider keeping a smaller container.

      You could also feed both as you’ve indicated above. But keep it easy on yourself and choose either or.

      Which brings me to your next question…

      If a recipe calls for 2 cups of starter and you only have 1 cup, you can increase your total starter amount at anytime. Just give it a big feed (you might need to switch jars to compensate for growth) until you have the amount you need. Starters are very forgiving once you get a hang of the concept, I promise.

      Does this help? I hope so! Please let me know if anything is unclear.

  181. Terence Pearson says

    Followed you instructions and It worked out Brilliant.I have never made a sourdough before.
    Thank you so much
    Regards , Terry

  182. trey moxey says

    Hello, I am on my 3rd loaf of sourdough and still not getting the rise I want. My starter is almost 3 weeks old and fed daily. It smells great and is bubbly, but it just wont make my dough rise. The first 2 loaves were dense and barely had any holes. I follow this recipe exactly and let the dough rise in a 75 degree kitchen and it never got close to doubling or even getting 1.5 x bigger. Is there some way to get the dough to rise better?

    • Emilie says

      Hi there! I completely understand your frustration. Let me see if I can help…

      First and foremost, if your bread did not double in bulk or at least increase by 1 1/2, that is the reason your bread is dense- it needs more time. This can happen with sourdough, so what you are experiencing is not out of the norm. But, as a general rule of thumb, if your dough is not puffed up, billowy and filled with air bubbles, your finished product will be flat.

      If you can provide a little bit more info based on your experience, I can come up with a plan for you:
      -How long did you let the dough rise for?
      -Did you stretch and fold during the bulk rise? Or did you opt for no-knead?
      -Does your starter pass the float test?
      -What type and brand of flour are you using?
      -Are you using tap or bottled water?

      I know this is a lot of questions, but it will certainly help get you to where you need to be, faster and more efficiently. Thank you!

  183. Angela Woodford says

    I’m about to embark on my third sourdough loaf. Yours are by far the best instructions I’ve found anywhere! Thank you!

    But I see that your recipe advises 150g starter, and 250g water. Shouldn’t these be in mls, being fluids?

    I’ve used a big Le Creuset casserole as a “Dutch Oven”. I didn’t know what a Dutch Oven is, but hope they are similar.

    I find it a bit tricky to slash the loaf attractively and then lift it into the Le Creuset. Maybe my mixture is a bit too soft?

    What an intriguing process it is!

  184. Pat says

    Why does this work so well for so many people and I’m having such terrible results. Have already tried it about 5 times thinking I needed more practice but each time I get a rock hard flat loaf that I need a power saw to cut. My starter is great, no problems with that . IThe dough seems fine when I make it, a few times it was really soft and hard to handle but other times nice and manageable but so far I have had no luck with the finished loaf. I bake my loaves in a clay baker. What am I doing wrong? I weigh everything very carefully. Please help!

    • Emilie says

      Hi Pat,

      Bread baking can definitely be challenging- I understand your frustration. There are so many variables that can lead to dense bread, so it’s hard to pin point the cause exactly. How long are you letting the dough rise for? Usually, a short bulk rise leads to dense loaves or it’s possible the second rise went for too long. make sure the dough is double in size (use a bowl or container with measuring marks) and try a short second rise about 30 minutes or so. Also, what brand of flour are you using? This is a very dry dough so it really shouldn’t be hard to handle at all. But all flours are different so it’s possible yours has a low protein content which could also lead to flat loaves. Please let me know!

  185. Megan says

    Hi, I am new to bread baking and not very good at advanced sort of things like this (I consider this advanced anyway). If I do not have a dutch oven, can I put the bread just on a baking sheet or in a loaf pan (like you might use when making banana bread)? Is there something I can do with that to help ensure moisture? One of my friends said she has made it that way tons of times.

    Also, for rising, could I put it outside on my patio in the sun? My apartment tends to be about 70-75 this time of year. I live in AZ so it isn’t that cold or hot this time of year.

    Also, feeding between loaves. Does that mean adding a certain amount of flour and water? How much do you add? And what kind of flour is required? I have some generic all purpose flour (bag also says enriched and self-rising on it). Should I get bread flour?

    You said that the starter turns into a levain (Sp?). So is that when you take the starter from the fridge and add more of those ingredients but just let it rise outside of the fridge?

  186. Laura says

    Hi Emilie,
    Just wanted to thank you very much for this beautiful, detailed instructional on Sourdough! I had been wanting to try making Sourdough for a long time and was struggling with where to start when my Auntie (who was also on a Sourdough mission) referred me to your page. I left her place with a little jar of some of her starter and have since made about 4 or 5 delicious loaves with different variations of flours and herbs but always referring back to this post for guidance.
    Many, many thanks!

    • Emilie says

      Hi there! You can if you want, which will help keep the moisture in tact. Or, simply cover the pot with a damp cloth. Either one will work!

  187. Dalia says

    I love your website and recipes… for a long time trying to attempt to make sourdough challah bread but I am not sure how to make a starter. Your guide is great but i cannot find how to make the starter… can you help me?
    Thanks and keep up with your amazing cooking recipes

  188. Lynn says

    Thankyou so much for posting these detailed instructions. I tried other recipes but this one finally worked for me! It is now my staple sourdough recipe. I did experiment with autolyse time and just mixed the flour and water (added a bit more water) and held off putting in the salt, starter and oil for two hours. I added starter then salt mixing with my hands then added oil last and hand mixed until it became smooth. The dough was so much easier to shape and was not sticky. Let it sit for two hours and baked it in my dutch oven following your directions the rise was amazing and it tasted incredible! I did not split into two loaves made one large loaf. Looking forward to experimenting more. Thanks again :)

  189. Matt says

    Great guide Emilie. Thanks for this. Really helps to understand the theory a bit more.

    I’m on loaf 3 now and they still are not quite right – tasty but not at all something I could put in the county show! So will keep experimenting.

  190. Camille says

    Thank you for such a detailed guide, it’s amazing ! My question is, when you take you dough out of the fridge, after an overnight bulk fermentation, do you wait for it to warm up before shaping and counting down the time for the final proof? Do you knead it slightly again when just out of the fridge ?

    My dough was fairly hard and cold when I took it out,and didn’t look like there was any air bubbles in it, so I though I should wait until it got to room temperature. I am terrible at shaping, I don’t know how to do it, so I kind of made a ball, put it into the pirex bowl it will cook in and then waited. But it didn’t seem to rise or do anything (apart from oh so slightly spreading out, which is ok because it is low hydration). I didn’t want to waste so much flour and probably tasty bread, so I added a little bit of commercial yeast and kneaded that in, just in case. But I’m determined to make a sourdough loaf without any commercial yeast, it’s the whole point ! That and that it tastes “traditional” and feels like such an accomplishement.

    Thank you again for that post, it is brilliant !

    • Emilie says

      You are quite welcome!

      So, after a overnight bulk fermentation, I remove the cold dough right away and shape it. I let it rest for 10-15 minutes, and then tighten it’s shape. Then, I transfer the dough, which is still cold, to a cloth lined bowl (8 inches) for the second rise. I know the second rise is done when the dough no longer looks dense and juggles a bit. The dough does not need to double in size at this time. And, it might be slightly cold when going into the oven- this is okay.

      Now, in your situation, it sounds like your dough wasn’t fully risen before it went into the fridge, overnight. I typically only refrigerate fully risen dough. I would have waited for it to rise more at room temperature until you saw all of the key signs for properly risen dough. Then, I would’ve proceeded with the rest of the instructions; does that make sense? Hope so!

      PS- I’m currently working on my second book, Artisan Sourdough, set to release in October 2017. You’ll find plenty more helpful info there! :)

  191. Gloria Whitchurch says

    Although I didn’t understand everything about sourdough, I was turning out some nice loaves. I worked at a few bakeries, growing up, and have little problem with the FUN of making breads! My problem came with the sourdough starter: I was told I had to feed it DAILY, and I ended up with what I then called ‘that hungry-starving white stuff’ everywhere, it seemed! I kinda quit- I put it in the fridge and never looked at it again, till I threw it out!! LOL. Out of sight, out of mind! So, question is: would love to start again, but how do I avoid needing a dozen huge containers to hold the starter in? (Exaggeration)

    It was also good to read about the black, or dark liquid on top, and to just pour it off, or maybe research other uses for it, but that it is OK. Response kindly appreciated, I thought by the dates of the first post that maybe this one was closed for comments, but it’s great to see it still going!

    • Emilie says

      Hi Gloria,

      The beauty of sourdough, is that you don’t really need to understand all of the details before getting started. Sounds like you’re well on your way!

      Information regarding sourdough starters varies across the board. There is NO NEED for a huge vat of starter. The amount you keep is up to you, depending on how often you bake, and how much you need for your recipes- it’s flexible. I’ve changed my formula somewhat since writing this post, and typically only use about 50-60 g of starter for my dough. That’s about 1/4/-1/3 cup. So, the total amount in the jar is never really more than 1 cup to begin with. Does that make sense?

      For the dark liquid, I never use it. It’s an indication that your starter needs to be fed, and has a very strong smell. To me, instinctively, I don’t want to mix that back into my starter, and it’s not worth saving. But some people do it, and again, the process is flexible.

      I’m currently working on my second book, Artisan Sourdough Made Simple, which will be available in October. There will be more details, including a full break down on how to create & care for sourdough started within the pages :)

  192. Gemma says

    What a great recipe ! I had attempted anothers fist and it was eatable but not like what I was able to produce with your guide. Thank you so very much for the time it took you to post all this and sharing your knowledge. One of the things I found essential was the use of the grams. The dutch oven – clever !!
    I do have a question. I like my bread to be very fluffy. what can I do to improve the flufflyness?

    • Emilie says

      Hi Gemma,

      Thank you! Grams are very important in baking, I agree. You will get the best results. For fluffy bread, please tell me your exact method and recipe (if different than mine) and I will be able to better advise you. And brand of flour too, please! Thanks!

  193. Zach says

    I am new to the scene of sourdough, so your beginner’s guide has been most helpful. One problem I have had though is that my dough is extremely sticky. I added more flour when I mixed everything together but wasn’t sure how much to do. I am in the midst of the bulk rise now and its not any better. Can I add more flour to stiffen it? Or am I better off starting over?

    • Emilie says

      Hi Zach,

      This particular dough is not sticky (it’s very dry and stiff!), so it sounds like you will need to add more flour- you don’t have to start over! What brand are you using?

  194. ks says

    Do you think it would work to double this recipe so that I can make two large loaves at a time? Thanks for your advice!

  195. Sharon says

    Wonderfully clear instructions! I’m really looking forward to trying your recipe. I have a couple questions.

    You mention this is a low-hydration dough. I maintain a 100% hydration (KAF-AllPurpose) starter – is that OK as the 150g of starter you mention in the recipe, or do I need to get it to a lower hydration first?

    Also, I’ve only had a starter for a few weeks, and have been feeding it daily on the counter. I want to go ahead and put it in the refrigerator since I am not able to bake with it every day. At what point in the feeding process, do you put it in the fridge? When it’s at its highest/bubbliest? Or some other time?

    Thanks for your help. My family is very much enjoying the fruits of my new hobby, although the loaves I’ve baked haven’t always been the prettiest things you’ve ever seen. *lol*

    • Emilie says

      Hi Sharon!

      Thank you! Sure, I’m happy to help you…

      The word hydration can be used for both your starter and the dough itself. However ‘low hydration’ typically refers to the bread dough only, ranging anywhere from 58%-65% water. Your 100% hydration starter is in a category of it’s own, and can be used in this recipe, no problem!

      Answers will vary on this, but typically, I give my starter a feed and put it directly in the fridge (I don’t leave it out first). You’ll notice that it will begin to ferment and bubble in the fridge, but eventually calm down- all normal.

      You are quite welcome! Sourdough is definitely a journey, a fun journey, and I promise you’ll get there! I’m coming out with a new book this Fall: Artisan Sourdough Made Simple. Please let me know if you’d like to be on the mailing list for pre-order. It will go into much more detail about sourdough starters, caring for them, recipes and more! xo

  196. Phillip says

    This recipe reads well….but…it’s unclear where the recipe begins or how to follow along.
    Where is step 1?
    Ingredient list?
    Where are the ingredient quantities?
    You say to use a digital scale but don’t give any weights?

    Am I missing something here? Is there an entire other section I’m not seeing?

    • Emilie says

      I don’t think you are seeing the full recipe! Scroll all the way down to the bottom (it’s a long post). All of the info is there!

    • Emilie says

      Hi Philip,

      A levain is an offshoot of your starter. So, for example, if you pour some of your starter into a bowl, feed it with flour and water, you are now creating a levain. My method does not include this step. Once my starter is bubbly and active, I pour it directly from the jar and into the bowl to make dough.

  197. caitlin says

    I am a new to sourdough and I’m sure I made a lot of rookie mistakes, but maybe you can help me pinpoint them. This is my first attempt at sourdough after reading lots of different recipes out there and watching some different videos.
    1. I made a rye starter which I fed AP flour in the couple days leading up to making the bread. Fed equal parts water/flour. Starter was bubbly when I made the dough.
    2.I used ww bread flour (it was the only kind I had on hand). The flour was old, but had been in the freezer.
    3. When I mixed the dough, it seemed very dry to me compared to other videos/recipes I have seen. I realize this is a low hydration recipe, but it was dry enough that it was hard to incorporate the salt. I did weigh all my ingredients according to the recipe. I went ahead and let it sit overnight for bulk fermentation w/o any folding. Temp of the house was probably 64 F. The next morning it didn’t look like it had risen at all. Is my starter bad? Is it the ww bread flour? Any ideas?

    • Emilie says

      Hi Caitlin,

      Thanks so much for providing all of this info! Usually with bread, it’s a number of things that contribute to lack of rise etc, but it sounds like temperature was your main issue here. 64 F is cold. Fermentation takes place in the mid 70’s F, so that’s most likely why you didn’t see much of a rise, even after a long overnight period. It could also be your starter, but if it was bubbly when you used it, it should be fine. Fresh flour is important for enzyme activity, so next time use a fresh bag so at least you can rule out this variable. Also, use warm water in your initial mix. I hope this info helps! Keep me posted on your progress :)
      PS- this dough is very dry compared to others online. You can always add the salt to the initial mix instead of after the first rest.

  198. Katie says

    I have a question. I only have a Cuisinart (iron) dutch oven, and it says that the lid can only get up to 350 degrees. Any thoughts here on the recipe? Do you think I could cook it for a longer period on 350?

    Really appreciate the help :)!

    Thank you!


    • Emilie says

      Hi there!

      I haven’t tested this recipe at 350 F, so I cannot advise if it will work or not. The higher oven temperature is needed to boost the dough’s rise. But it doesn’t hurt to experiment! Good luck and please let me know how it goes :)

  199. vincent says

    Hello! If, for some reason, my schedule makes me do the dough around 1pm and im only able to bake the morning after, that make the fermentation go up to almost 18-19h…what happens if the dough over rises?

    • Emilie says

      Hi there,

      For every baker, it’s different! I would give it a test run to see if your dough will even last for 18-19 hrs. It’s too hard to judge without experimenting.If the dough over rises, it will actually collapse and look deflated- this will be your tell tale sign!

  200. cathy says

    I made this twice. Each time I had a great rise in the bulk fermentation phase. I did not do any stretch and folds during this stage, as I didn’t want to bother it. It was surely a good double in size. I then I took it out, cut it in half, gathered and folded it over once, flipped and placed seam in dutch oven. Then I let it sit. in 30 minutes it didn’t look like it changed at all, so I let it sit for another 30 minutes (total 1 hour). I still didn’t see much change but didn’t want to wait too long as stated it needs some rising left to do in oven while cooking.
    I cooked as directed, but didn’t get any rise. Maybe very slight rise but still not fluffy enough when it was done. Taste was great, very sour.
    any suggestions? should I just leave it as long as it needs in the low hydration stage. How much rise should I see in this stage?


    • Emilie says

      Hi there!

      If your bulk fermentation was okay, it sounds like your second rise went for a bit too long. During this stage, the dough won’t rise very much, so it’s hard to tell when the dough is actually ready to bake. Try 30 minutes next time, instead of the full 1 hour. It’s better to under proof than over proof. Let me know how it goes!

  201. Hannah says

    I’m brand new to all of this wonderful sourdough making. My starter *seems* to be thriving.

    I tried this recipe on my second attempt at a sourdough loaf. The first was a flop. This was better! But I did have some troubles.

    The insides are rather gummy. Taste fine but almost not baked enough? Not sure.

    The top had big bubbles of gas that deflated after cooling, leaving a rather leathery crust instead of crunchy.

    Any ideas? Thank you for your time!

    • Emilie says

      Hi there,

      It sounds like your loaf wasn’t cooked all the way through. Also, make sure to cool your loaf completely before slicing, otherwise it can lead to a gummy texture on the inside. For the crust, steam will escape as the loaf cools, which tends to soften the crust. Try cooling it in your oven (switched off) with the door ajar.

  202. Zuzana says

    Hello Emily,

    Thank you for a great recipe!!! I never worked with starter before. Got some on Amazon, didn’t know if it was ready or not. Kept trying the water test but it wasn’t working for me (too liquidy) It did look like it had plenty of bubbles so I went ahead and used it.
    Made some bread today. I guess my oven is really hot I had to cut the baking time way down but the bread still came out good. Not as crispy as I would like but that’s because I couldn’t leave it the oven any longer without burning it. Great tip on the internal temperature. Worked for me.
    The only difficulty I had it to score the dough. Not sure how deep I need to go.
    Thank you,

    • Emilie says

      Hi Zuzana,

      Sounds like you’re off to a good start! I was the worst with scoring when I first started out. It seemed like everything was happening too quickly. I would make one long cut down the center about 1/4inch deep and see if that’s helpful to visualize.

  203. Jem Hopkins says

    Hello. Thankyou for this blog and enabling me to make such lovely sourdough telling us all the details involved. Real bread at long last.

    At first try it went all soggy and didnt cook right. But then I wised up. My starter was too wet and that I should add less water and wow 2nd loaf = perfect. Have been trying off n on for years. The secret for me was to make sure my starter was really active.

    So thanks again. I am now a follower on pinterest and a subscriber. I pinned the sordough article for my Plain Life board. Jem

  204. Karen Gibbs says

    My Carl’s starter is a week old. I’ve made Banana bread and pancakes with my discard so far and they both turned out good.
    This is my first attempt at real sourdough bread without added yeast. I read through 75% of your comments and used your measurement conversion, and baked it in a covered stoneware baker .
    I did the folding for the first two hours then finished the fermentation in the fridge for 6 hours. I’m glad to say it had great rise and turned out awesome, not a lot of holes but it makes amazing sandwich bread. Thank you for all your advice it was very helpful.
    Have a great Valentine’s Day!

    • Karen Gibbs says

      PS ….I followed the water test with the starter in the beginning, and had a temp on the bread of exactly 205° after one hour of baking.

  205. Jane says

    I have been making this bread 2-4 times a week for a year now (4th time this week is in the oven now) it turns out beautifully every time. I usually make one loaf at a time but yesterday I divided it into 2 for bread bowls and again they turned out perfect. I live in San Diego and depending on the weather I will either let it rise over night on the counter or in the fridge. Either way it always turns out perfect. Thank you for your beautiful instructions, they gave me the courage to give sourdough a try.

  206. Elisa says

    In your instructions I found the ideal recipe to test my newly grown sourdough. It worked like a charm! There is but one thing that bothers me for a while now:
    I lack a proofing basket so I use a colander lined with a kitchen towel. I massage some flour into the towel because the dough often sticks. This works so far but I get a crust covered in flour. Since I saw your beautiful flourless crust I wonder how you do it. How do you keep the dough from sticking while proofing wherever?
    best wishes from northern germany!

  207. Sarah O'Brien says

    Hi! Do you think its possible to use whole wheat flour with this recipe instead of using bread flour? Also, do you have any tips on making your own starter? Thank you!!

  208. says

    I’ve never had much success with my sourdough bread, but this is the first time it came out as it should! I’m so pleased! Fantastic instructions. Thanks!

  209. says

    Hi clever carrot.
    Love your Sourdough piece, it’s fab.
    Please please could you describe ‘how’ to begin and create a new starter. (Including the fact that it will be made in a cool climate – Ireland) I would really appreciate it.
    Thanks a mill.

    • Emilie says

      Hi Ruth!

      Thank you so much! Unfortunately, I’m unable to include the sourdough starter steps here, as it will be published in my next book due out this fall. If you have any specific questions, please email me directly ;)

  210. Spencer says

    Hi Emilie,

    I was wondering how important it is to use bread flour vs all purpose flower.



    • Emilie says

      Hi Spencer,

      Great question! Bread flour is higher in gluten so it creates a stronger dough, and gives the loaf a higher rise. You can still use all-purpose flour for some breads, its just depends on the type of bread your’e baking. This flour has a lower gluten content so it won’t rise as high. It does however, attribute to a more fluffy texture.

  211. Fernando Bardia says

    You gave me the light when I was surrounded by darkness. I was following recipe after recipe to the letter. And when I was certainly thinking about over fermentation I saw your post. Priceless. Now I finally ‘ve got the mighty king of breads just as the pictures. Thank you so much!

    • Emilie says

      I love comments like this! Thank you so much! Please let me know if you have any questions as you continue to bake :)

  212. Carmella says

    Hi, so i have made this a few times and each time the bread comes out a bid doughy. I’m careful to ensure i’m not cutting into it until it has fully called and i cook until it has reached an internal temperature of at lest 205.

    What can i do to adjust, should i not have the lid on as long or just cook it longer…?


    • Emilie says

      Hi Carmella,

      There are a couple of things you can do… first, are you weighing your ingredients? Sometimes if there is too much water in the dough and it’s not baked long enough, the texture can be slightly doughy in the center. Second, do you have an oven thermometer? This will make sure that your oven is operating at the correct temperature. Even new ovens are off. Finally, try baking the loaf for an additional 10 minutes outside of the pot (directly on the rack). Make sure the loaf cools completely before slicing. Hope this helps!

  213. roger says

    I am curious what you mean by the bread having more volume if you perform 4 stretch-and-folds during a 2 hour period. A larger loaf? Does that mean the bread will have larger bubbles? or will it be taller?
    I assume you are talking about the FIRST 2 hours of the bulk ferment, right?
    I have not been able to achieve the roundness or height of your images. Any tips?
    Perhaps its because I am making one loaf rather than splitting into 2?

    • Emilie says

      Hi Roger! My apologies for the late response!

      Volume refers to the size of the loaf, so it would be larger/ taller/wider. Although stretch and folds incorporate more air into the dough, it does guarantee more bubbles. You can have a large loaf with great oven spring, but tiny holes on the inside. It all depends on how long the dough was fermented, the water to flour ratio, and how it was handled and shaped.

      Yes, I’m talking about the first 2 hours of the bulk ferment.

      If you are not able to achieve height on your loaves it could be die to a number of things. Make sure the dough has sufficiently risen and the second rise doesn’t not go for too long. On that note, you might want to use a banneton (basket) for the second rise; it will hold the dough’s shape while it rests and will prevent it from spreading. You might also need to split the loaves into 2 to have more practice with your shaping.

      Hope this helps!

  214. Regina says

    I have tried other sourdough recipes and this one is the best. Best flavor and a beautiful bubbly crust! Plus – so quick!

  215. Kristin says

    I really enjoy making this recipe, and it’s helped with my sourdough for sure. My question is about the hydration. I know you made a comment about it being more of a closer-texture loath, but I’m wondering if changing that is as simple as adding more water? Or should I just try to find another recipe? I ask because some other recipes haven’t worked as well for me, so it would be nice if I could use this one but just add more water…

    Ps: Any recommendations for this would also be greatly appreciated!

  216. Christine says

    You mention briefly different vessels for baking. Any chance you’ve experimented and have any tips for a loaf pan? I’m traveling and that’s all I have. Any advice appreciated! Thank you!

    • Emilie says

      Hi there! I typically bake this particular recipe in a dutch oven or covered pot to trap steam. It creates a round, artisan-style loaf with a crispy crust. But you could certainly morph this dough into a sandwich loaf, if you prefer. After the dough has doubled in size, remove it from the bowl onto a lightly floured surface. Gently flatten the dough to remove any air bubbles and then roll it into a log, tucking the ends underneath. Place the dough into a buttered loaf pan, seam side down. Let rest until it rises about 1 1/2-inches above the loaf pan. Bake at about 400 F (or 375 F) for about 45 minutes or so (I’m doing this from memory- just keep your eye on the loaf and adjust your baking time as needed). Hope this helps and happy baking!

  217. Tara wells says

    I’m very excited to say I successfully made my first sourdough loaf! I was given some starter and have been feeding it. A ton of googling and researching later I decided to use your recipe, more researching, squats inbetween and rereading your recipe guidelines and trying to also apply what I learned. I have a small countertop convection oven, so I had a bit of tweaking to do. Eeek! I watched it bake like a worried mother lol it looks beautiful and I hope it tastes as good. Thank you for such a great informational and simple recipe! I swear some articles seemed like rocket science to me. I did do an egg wash also and the color is golden! ;) I only got to 200°f instead of 205° I baked it at 375° for the recomended time, adding 10 minutes then turned it up to °400 for 15. I hope that won’t make too much if a diffrence. Wish I could post a picture. :D The suspense is killing me! I’m waiting for it to cool down….. So we can break bread. Lol

    • Emilie says

      Hi Tara! I’m so happy for you! Nothing beats the feeling of a successful sourdough loaf- congrats :) Thank you so much for this comment- you made me laugh! xx

  218. Tara wells says

    I had to come back to say it was absolutely divine!! (I say was because it’s now half gone.) lol I am so excited! I’m in love! This is going to become my weekend thing. Thanks again, my guy also says “yum it’s so chewy!” Through crumbs. :D

  219. says

    Thank you for this lovely tutorial. After having my starter for a little over a year, I’ve had the opportunity to try a few different recipes with varying luck. I think I finally have some of the understanding you talk about, but still need the direction of full detailed recipes. This one is great! I took my starter out last night, so I’m going to try this recipe today! Preordering your cookbook now! :)

    • Emilie says

      Hi Kaleigh,

      Welcome! I’m so happy you stumbled upon this site. I wrote this tutorial after experimenting with a few techniques and methods, and it is my hope that it inspires others looking to get started with sourdough. If you have any questions along the way, please feel free to ask! And THANK YOU so much for pre-ordering the book. I really appreciate your support.xx

  220. Doug says

    Love all the details, options, tips and pictures. My dough came out super wet amd wouldnt hold shape.

    I wonder if its our soft water here. Is your water hard?

    I’m going to try again with 25 g less water and ill update.

    If you have any other ideas or tips id love to hear them.

    • Emilie says

      Hi Doug! Thank you!

      What you’re experiencing is very normal and can happen to anyone- it’s all about how your flour absorbs water (which varies from brand to brand). What brand of flour are you using? And is it bread flour? Also, did you weigh your ingredients? If not, make sure to do so for accuracy.

      Otherwise, you are on the right path by reducing the total amount of water to compensate. You can also try doing your second rise in a banneton to prevent spreading during the second rise.

      Please let me know if the above info helps!

  221. says

    This is such an awesome recipe that it has become my “go to” for sourdough bread. It is so easy to follow, that I often make bread without having to look at the recipe for measurements or instructions. Only because I like a stronger taste to my bread, I normally make the bread at 5pm, then place it in the fridge for the night. In the morning, I take it out and let it continue to bulk ferment for another few hours, before I cut, shape, and give it the second rise (normally another 2-3 hours). I also put cornmeal in the bottom of my cast iron dutch oven to prevent any chance of sticking.

    Thanks so much again!

    • Emilie says

      Hi Luke! Thank you so much for sharing your method with us! I’m thrilled to hear that you have found success with the recipe and have made it your own. That’s what it’s all about. Enjoy the journey! x

  222. Derek says

    FOR ANYONE NEW AND FRUSTRATED, this is the BEST sourdough recipe I’ve found that works! Relatively new to bread baking, and have had many failed attempts at sourdough, finally settling on this recipe with a few very minor modifications that seem to work well. Here’s what I do:

    First, I DO use white unbleached AP flour (wheat and malted barley, organic 365 brand from whole foods), and it turns out amazing!

    DAY 1 MORNING: Take starter out of fridge, add 3oz flour, 3oz water, let it go for about 10-12 hours.

    DAY 1 NIGHT: I follow all measurements in this recipe within 1-2 grams, mix in my mixer for about 4-minutes, add 11g salt after a 30-minute rest (I cover the mixing bowl with a wet towel during rest), mixing the salt in with my mixer again for another 4 or so minutes, then transfer directly to an ungreased glass bowl, cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in my mid-70s house for about 11-12 hours (overnight). This is where I put my fed starter back in the fridge. I don’t re-feed before I put in the fridge, and it seems just fine whether I use it again the next day, or don’t feed it for another two weeks.

    DAY 2 MORNING: I grab the corners as described in the recipe and fold about 12 or so times (ensuring each side of the sourdough is folded about 4 times), then transfer to my cast iron dutch oven that has been oiled (EVOO), and very lightly dusted with organic corn flour, cover again with the same plastic wrap and leave for 10-12 more hours. I use a regular black lodge 5-quart dutch with lid, but think a 4-quart would work just as well or slightly better for rising.

    DAY 2 NIGHT: Right before throwing in a preheated 450 degree oven I slash with a VERY sharp knife about 4″. Toss in oven, covered with dutch oven lid for 30-minutes, uncover and cook another 15-minutes. As soon as it comes out I carefully remove from dutch oven so bottom doesn’t cook too much. Try your best to let rest 15+ minutes before cutting. I use my electric turkey knife to cut the bread. To keep from drying out after cut I throw in a 1-gallon ziplock, and sometimes cover the cut end with foil, in addition to the ziplock.

    • Emilie says

      Wow! Derek, you are too kind! I absolutely love to learn how others have made sourdough their own and I’m even more excited to know that I’ve been able to help you in some way. Great tip about the electric turkey knife ;) I really appreciate your feedback and detailed method!

      PS: I know exactly how you feel about Whole Foods AP flour. I get excellent results with it as well. King Arthur AP Flour and Trader Joe’s AP flour are similar to Whole Foods AP flour, too.

  223. Ingrid says


    Thank you for posting such a work of love. If it weren’t for you detailed knowledge, my odyssey down the rabbit hole of sourdough bread baking would have been abandoned. The gestation period for my first sourdough loaf was hinging on two weeks. What kept me going was love. I fell in love with those beautiful pictures you posted. I started my epic sourdough adventure with a starter; a labor of love that almost was abandoned 5 days in. With nothing happening I scoured the internet for proof (no pun intended) that I was still on track. Many sourdough apostles proclaimed “stick with it,’ and so I did. On the 8th day I had created life. A living, breathing starter! I honestly jumped up and down in my kitchen out of sheer joy. But what to do with this miracle? The answer was clear. I would follow, to the letter, your “Beginners Guide.” With two failed attempts racked up in rapid succession, I read and reread your post. A scale? Really? “Yes”, you said, a scale was mandatory. So a scale it would be. This proved to be the lynch pin that knitted all your knowledge together. Without precision, all was lost. Two beautiful loaves later all I can feel is love and pride! Thank you.

    PS I was so impressed by you Sourdough guide that I quickly purchase your cookbook and am looking forward to recreating your works of love.

    • Emilie says

      Ingrid, your comment absolutely made my day!

      First, thank you for taking the time to even write such kind and sincere words. You have no idea how much that means to me. My mission with sourdough has always been to inspire and share, with love, and you get it 100%. In fact, someone pointed out to me recently that there is a ‘heart’ on the cover of my cookbook (on the right hand side of the bowl, about 3 o’clock, look at the two slices that overlap- a heart!). Baking and creating with love is what drives my passion and this book was a journey of the heart.

      Second, thank you for purchasing the book! Your support means much more than you’ll ever know.

      Third, please feel free to comment here any time if you have questions regarding sourdough! That goes for any one reading this comment too, by the way. I’m happy to help the best that I can.

      Best of luck to you and happy baking! x E

  224. georgie says


    Can you help me with what is wrong with my sourdough??? I had 8 loathe of failure so far. I 10-12 hour overnight fermentation is fine, but my 2nd rise , the one for 1-2 hour does not barely rise, and I get a real “dense” loaf.

    The texture of the dough is REALLY GUMMY AND WET from the overnight fermentation. Can you advise as to what is WRONG ???

    • Emilie says

      Hi there! Typically when loaves are dense, in my experience, the dough did not rise for long enough. Did it double in size before you shaped it? This is key! Sometimes if the dough is cold, this takes a lot longer to achieve.

      Regarding the second rise, the dough does not need to rise dramatically (or double) like the first rise. You’re looking for the dough to puff up when it’s ready. After a 12 hour rise (that has doubled) try 30 minutes- 1 hour for your second rise.

      If the texture of the baked loaf is gummy and wet, the loaf was either undercooked or it was sliced too soon. Make sure to use an oven thermometer to check your oven for accuracy, and allow the loaf to cool for one hour before slicing.

      Hope this information helps! Good luck! :)

  225. Polly Petersen says

    Emilie- Thank you for sharing your joy and passion and expertise. I am 70 years old and in love with bread making too. If I may add, I found the more I feed the sponge, (starter) the more “character” my bread has. Also, I feel making bread is a spiritual adventure. I am feeding those I love with good food, healthy sustenance to make healthy bodies, and my breads are made with respect for that notion and lots of love and I feed them with that too. OK enough, now for my question. I recently moved from my home at the beach in LA to the mountains. (6500 feet) Altitude affects rise and baking. Any tips for me?

  226. Helena Archer says

    Hi, thank you so much for your comprehensive instructions. I had to find a starter recipe and eventually got it going. I followed your bread instructions and my first loaf was delicious although a little too dense. I will, however, keep feeding the starter and allow it bubble up a day or so longer to make a lighter loaf!! I realise now it is a matter or trial and error and learning to understand the whole process. I’ve tried many other ways of baking the bread but this is the best!!

  227. Jennie says

    A thousand thank-you’s Emilie! We had been trying and failing with the whole sourdough adventure and then I saw a link to your page and – wowee! We’ve baked three amazing loaves in 2 days (might have to slow down soon!). I’ll need to mix another loaf tonight to bake for a communion service tomorrow- bread made with love for a love feast. Oh, and then there’s the community meal tomorrow night… can’t wait to see what you have in your book. Thanks and blessings.

  228. says

    This question may have already been asked but a lot of questions to read through so decided to ask. Do you have to have 2 Dutch pots and if no, what do you do with the second loaf.

    • Emilie says

      Hi there!

      It’s not necessary to have 2 baking pots. It’s just a suggestion if you want to divide this dough in half to bake 2 smaller loaves at one time. For this recipe, 1 baking pot is fine (just don’t halve the dough).

  229. Kathryn says

    I created a starter a week ago and during my research I stumbled across your Instagram and then I stumbled across this post in your blog. When I saw your weekend bread baking schedule I immediately preordered your book. I’m dying to get it so I can read what you say about feeding the starter and so I can start my attempts at beautiful sourdough bread! Thank you for this lovely, incredibly helpful post! Truly cannot wait to recieve your book!

    • Emilie says

      Hi Kathryn!

      Thank you so much for your support! In the book, I dedicated an entire chapter to sourdough starters, with feeding instructions and a FAQ section. I hope you find it helpful! You have a wonderful baking journey ahead of you.

  230. says

    Hi Emilie, I created my starter and tried a few times the float test, today my starter finally floated but only the portion taken from the surface of the starter, tried the float test with some starter taken from the bottom of my container and it still sinks. Is my starter ready to use or not? Thank you.

    • Emilie says

      Hi William,

      This is a great question. It’s hard to say exactly, without seeing the starter myself. However, you can do two things: if you you only need to use a small portion of starter, let’s say 50 g or so, then I would just use the bubbly spongey portion from the top (if it passed the float test). The other option is to whisk the whole thing vigorously with a fork to re-incorporate the mixture. I’ve has to do this a few times when my starter ‘separated’ after it was fully risen. I hope this makes sense!

  231. Patrick says

    Hi Emilie,

    I’m just writing to say thank you for providing an excellent aide to sourdough! I bake a little bread here in the UK (and I’m still at the mixed results stage – but i love it) and was struggling with sourdough. I made 4 straight loaves of dense stuff. Then I read your post and et voila…sourdough! We’re enjoying it right now with soup made yesterday…..

    Thank you very much.

    • Emilie says

      Hi Patrick,

      Thank you so much for leaving feedback, I really appreciate it! Sourdough is one of those things that requires practice and patience, and to be honest I’m still learning! But that’s the fun part ;) The other fun part is eating your endeavors and serving it with soup sounds fantastic (especially in chilly winter weather!) Enjoy!

      PS: excuse the shameless plug, however it might be helpful to you… my new book Artisan Sourdough Made Simple is now available. It’s a beginner’s guide that provides more in depth explanation about the process, with plenty of inspired recipes for you to try! You can find it on Amazon UK!

      Happy Baking!

  232. pam says

    Hi Emile, I’m so glad I found your website! I am currently in the process of making the beginners sd recipe. Ive done 30 min x2 s&f and my room temp is 25.3C at 6pm. (summer here) Should I place it straight in the fridge to do an overnight bulk for 12 hours or should I leave it out? If I do, place it in the fridge, do I need to wait for it to rise a bit first? Right now it looks quite solid. Thanks so much!

    • Emilie says

      Hi Pam! Thank you! At 6 PM, what did your dough look like? Was it double in size? How long was it out at room temperature before wanting to refrigerate the dough? With a little more info I can help you! :)

  233. says

    HI- I made this beginner sourdough recipe- and it was my first ‘successful’ attempt and produced 2 lovely little loaves of fairly dense, delicious sourdough bread. I would like to know if I could knead the dough at some point in the recipe- to add a little more lightness to the loaf? If not kneading- what might help to make it slightly less dense?

    One more question- can i “par-bake” these loaves and freeze for baking later?
    Thank you

    • Emilie says

      Hi Karen! That’s wonderful; thanks so much for your feedback. You can absolutely knead the bread if you prefer. After the dough has rested (autolyse) go ahead and knead it then. Some bakers say anywhere between 6-10 minutes is sufficient. Because this is a fairly dry dough, you might want to ‘knead’ in the stand mixer with the dough hook instead. In addition however, the lightness factor is also associated with how your loaf was fermented (i.e. the length of your bulk rise and/ or second rise). As a rule of thumb, if your loaf looks slightly dense going into the oven, it might come out looking the same way! For par-baked loaves, honestly, I haven’t tried this! If you experiment please let me know :) Hope this helps!

      • Emilie says

        PS: I forgot to add that you can stretch and fold during the bulk rise. If the dough has been properly fermented, it will help with the lightness.

  234. Heather says

    Thank you so much for these instructions and recipe! After years and years of failed bread making attempts, I had concluded that I just wasn’t cut out to be a bread maker. However, I was re-inspired after attending a Sourdoughs class at a Fun with Fermentation Fair. I made my own starter and googled a recipe – your site came up. I love how thorough you are and how simply you lay it all out. I have now successfully made beautiful sourdough breads several times – and they are awesome. Thank you so very much!

  235. Katherine says

    Thanks very much for vital help in making my first sourdough loaf. I’m looking forward to your book too. One note: There are lots of alternatives to plastic wrap! Use-once-and-throw-away plastic and lovingly prepared homemade sourdough just don’t fit together. Beeswax wraps are one alternative. A reusable ziplock is another, if you have to use plastic. We’ve been making sourdough long before plastic was invented!

    • Emilie says

      Hi Katherine! That’s great! Hope you enjoy the book :) You know, it’s so funny you mention the beeswax wraps… I just bough real beeswax pellets (Amazon) and fabric to make my own! I haven’t gotten around to doing it yet, but it’s been on my mind since plastic wrap can be wasteful (I use damp cloths now instead) and I’ve been looking for a fun and functional craft to take on. Thanks again for bringing it up!

  236. Iliana says

    Hi, there… after a few months of bread making, I decided to give the sourdough a go. Got my starter going successfully (in a humid climate) but as you said…making bread is more than a recipe…its an understanding…the flavor was missing…the wild yeast is key. Thanks for taking the time to pass on the knowledge. My bread came out beautiful and tastes like bread used to many years ago without adding preservatives and the rest.

    I’m so grateful :)

    • Emilie says

      Hi Illiana,

      Comments like this make my day! You are quite welcome. I love sourdough. It’s not a static craft- it pushes us to grow, to learn, and to love the art of good old fashioned bread! I’m grateful too. :)

  237. Catherine says

    Just made my first loaf using your recipe. Prior to this, my starter was used to make sourdough pancakes and waffles. Your recipe yielded a dense loaf with a crisp crust. Thank you!

  238. Deb says

    I would love to try this recipe, I must of missed the instructions for making the starter, how much flour nd water nd how often
    If I don’t use ll the starter, will it keep or cn I freeze it? Nd I don’t own. Dutch oven, what can I use instead?

  239. Jon says

    Hi Emilie: The recipe is great. I’ve been making sourdough for 3 years, and had given up on free-form loaves. This one rose up so high! I haven’t cut into yet, but will for dinner tonight. I had never done the autolyse step before, maybe that made a difference.

    Thanks again!

  240. Paige says

    Following your recipe, when during the bulk fermentation is it best to do the stretch & fold. I make the dough in the evening and bake in the morning. Also should the dough stick to your fingers slightly when done mixing or be wetter or drier. I am making 50% home ground whole wheat flour

  241. Schuyler says

    Hi Emilie,

    We have been making sourdough on and off for a couple years. We had never seen a recipe that doesn’t include a sponge or levain stage, so this recipe was new for us in that you go right from starter to dough. Our loaves came out great with this recipe! Your other tips and insights were also very helpful to us. Thank you so much for taking the time to write this page. By the way you continue to answer questions patiently and thoughtfully, I can tell you really love what you do.


  242. Karen says

    my first shot at sourdough baking! All the instructions and info on various other sites, this seemed to be the easiest to follow.

  243. Alesha says

    Newbie sourdough bread maker and I just wanted to let you know how great your recipe is. I just made my first starter last weak and for how challenging bread can be (too long of a proof, not enough needing, under baked, etc.) this recipe was easy and made the prefect loaf of bread!!! Thank you so much for you detailed instructions it really made all the difference! My bread was moist, airy, and had an excellent crunchy crust!!!

  244. Candice says

    This was my 2nd try with your recipe. The first time it turned out pretty good even though it was my very first attempt at bread ever :) A bit dense and super hard crust but very delicious nonetheless. Today, I used half white wheat and half whole wheat flour, let it rise overnight and it was absolutely perfect. Wow. My husband is a bread addict and even though he has praised my future attempts (because he is the sweetest husband), today he was really impressed. I will be using this recipe a million times in the future I’m sure. Any advice on using different flours? Like spelt? Would I keep the ratios the same? Again, I’m super new to all of this but really having a blast. Thanks!

  245. Alex says

    Hi Emilie! Thank you so much for this wonderful write up on sourdough. I’m just beginning my journey and things are going pretty well so far, however I’m still having some aesthetic issues.

    I’m slashing the top of the dough before it goes into the oven, however the dough is not really expanding into the slashes. The first loaf I made with this recipe, I think I may have allowed it to proof a little too long before going into the oven. The second loaf proofed for less time and I think there was a definite improvement there and there was more expansion in the oven. but still did not expand through the slashes and instead expanded from the bottom after the top had hardened.

    Do you have an insight as to why this is happening?

    I am using the stretch and fold method as I enjoy a more open crumb and that part seems to be going well. I don’t have a dutch oven but am using a cast iron pan to hold the boule, and have a tray of water on the bottom of the oven for steam through the first 30min. Could my oven not be dropping from 450 to 400 quickly enough?

  246. says

    Great recipe. I’ve made several successful loaves. Question: When I remove the loaves from the oven, and cool them, the crust cracks all over like a dry lake bed. Any ideas on how to fix this and help them look more like your beautiful bread?
    Thanks for the instructions and recipe,

    • Emilie says

      Hi Marta! What you are experiencing is normal. When the loaf cools, stream escapes through the crust of the bread (hence the cracks). To prevent/minimize these effects, bake the loaf directly on the oven rack for the last 10 minutes of baking. Then turn the oven off, keep the door ajar, and allow the loaf to cool inside.

      • says

        Hello Emilie,
        Thanks so much for the response. I will certainly try that on my next batch! Once again, thanks for sharing your knowledge and expertise.

  247. says

    Made your bread this morning for Easter brunch. Came out really nice. I bake bread quite often but am just trying to move from regular to sourdough so this was my first loaf.

    I did feel that the flavor wasn’t as sour as expected but read about adding whole wheat in one of the comments after so I’ll try that next time. I loved all the tips you added. Really great post!

  248. susan says

    As someone just starting to bake my own sourdough, you’re instructions are by far the most clear — thank you! just one question (apologies if you have answered it already but there are so many comments here I haven’t had time to read them all) Does the size of the dutch oven matter ? And if so what size do you recommend for this recipe?
    Also – your weekend schedule for baking is a huge help thanks!

  249. Laura says

    My dough seems very dry and struggles to absorb all of the flour.

    I am weighing and measuring everything.

    Using King Arthur bread flour.


    • Emilie says

      Hi Laura, this is a dry (low hydration) dough, so what you’re experiencing isn’t out of the ordinary. However, if you are having trouble mixing by hand, consider switching to a stand mixer until all of the flour is absorbed. Or, since you’re using KA bread flour (this is a high protein flour that absorbs more water than other brands), consider adding an additional 20 g of water to the initial recipe and see how that goes. Hope this helps!

  250. Jesse Freedman says


    Quick question for you regarding the Dutch Oven. Right now, I bake bread using a circular Dutch Oven, but I noticed that sourdough recipes often calls ovular-shaped ovens. Do you suggested the oval design? And if so, do you also suggested an ovular proofing bin?

    Many thanks for your guidance!

    Seattle WA

    • Emilie says

      Hi Jesse! Great question :) I recommend an oval Dutch oven only if you are planning to bake an oval-shaped loaf. Whether you bake oval or circular, the choice is up to you and not necessarily right or wrong; just preference. However, I do find that oval loaves are easier to slice. If you do decide to go oval, you will need an oval proofing basket.

  251. Amy says

    Hi! I have just purchased your book and this morning I baked the everyday sourdough. The crust was amazing and it tasted absolutely delicious. The only problem was that there were some pretty big holes throughout the loaf. Is there anyway to stop them from happening? I’ve had this problem before with other loaves. My dough seems to like making an uneven crumb!

    Thanks :)

    • Emilie says

      Hi Amy, after the bulk rise (and you have removed the dough onto a floured surface) try gently dimpling the dough all over to release some of the air bubbles. I do this with floured fingertips. When done correctly (and gently!), it will help to create a more uniform crumb. Hope this helps!

  252. Cristina says

    I tried this recipe 3 times, using my Dutch oven once and being disappointed it got stuck to the bottom in the worst way, making it impossible to eat it. The second time it just resulted too wet. I live in wet Washington State so I thought this recipe didn’t work for our weather. So I gave up for a while…I made it a third time, this week using a banneton for proofing, and I baked it on my pizza stone and the loaf was amazing! I finally succeeded. So in less than a week, I made another loaf using whole wheat flour, added sunflower seeds, rosemary, flax, poppy & sesame seeds and black pepper. The result was a bit more moist but fantastic nonetheless. I’m glad I stuck with it, Thank you for sharing. I want to try other flours, do you have a suggestion on what replacement & dosages?

    • Emilie says

      Hi Cristina! I’m glad you stuck with it. Baking is always till and error. As an alternative, and assuming you still want to use the Dutch oven, you can line the bottom with parchment paper to prevent sticking. It works like a charm. Regarding other flours, I typically start with appx. 20% of wheat let’s say, combined with bread flour. I’ll see how it comes out, and either increase the percentage or leave it alone depending on the results.

      • Cristina says

        Thank you Emile.. I liked the result I got using pizza stone baker and my round banneton. I have two baguette bannetons I want to try with your recipe too, which I’m doing today. I’ve replaced 150 gr of bread flour with whole wheat flour, and I’m hoping it’s the right dose, and today is not a cloudy day, so it’s perfect for baking as it’s not too wet and not too hot. :) I did notice the wheat flour takes in more water, so I increased that a bit. I hold the salt during the autolyse phase, as I noticed my dough responding differently, and I add it instead when I knead it, with a bit more flour to it. Seems to have done well for me. Again, thank you for sharing. I’ve finally named my starter too, as I gave a portion to a friend who wanted to embark in the journey of baking :) Although I don’t quite remember anymore when she was born… so Carolina it is. Happy Baking!

        • Cristina says

          PS: my next endeavor is Altamura bread… I found an original recipe for it, and I hope I can do it. Wish me luck.

  253. Patricia Pines says

    I’m excited to try your recipe. The loaves I’ve been baking are good but super hydrated. It is tough to make a nicely shaped ball. I started with one sourdough starter and now have three in my fridge. It just keeps multiplying! I’m trying to make other things with the discard so I don’t waste any. :-) What’s your favorite things to bake with the extra?

  254. Jesse Freedman says

    Hi again,

    Jesse here from Seattle.

    So I’ve run into an issue. I’ve tried to make this recipe — and the company one from your wonderful book — three times now. And I’ve not been able to get the dough to rise during the bulk fermentation step. It just doesn’t come close to doubling. I usually wait around 10 hours.

    I’ve made my owner starter using your instructions and I even bought one online. And neither is doubling.

    What do you think? I live in Seattle where it can be fairly wet. But otherwise, normal temperatures. Anything I’m missing here? It seemed odd that both starters wouldn’t rise. Thanks for your assistance!


  255. Anika Tsimberg says

    my question pertains to this part of the article – please email me so I get your response

    I believe you may want to back up and let us know exactly how to make the starter…..
    Then you state to take some of the “culture” – What culture? where does this come from?
    what do you do with the other half of this culture?

    “Simply put, a sourdough starter is a live culture made from flour and water. Once combined, the mixture will start to ferment which develops the naturally occurring wild yeasts and bacteria present within the mixture. A small portion of this culture is used make your bread rise.

    But it doesn’t stop there.

    Your starter must be kept alive with regular feedings of flour + water to maintain its strength for maximum rising power. It’s all part of the process- like feeding a pet.

    How to Feed Your Starter
    Every baker has their own method, and with practice you’ll eventually develop your own routine.

    Here’s what I do: To begin, pour off some of the culture (about half) and then feed it with equal weights of flour and water. “

    • Emilie says

      Hi Anika,

      This post specifically pertains to making sourdough bread only. Although having a sourdough starter is vital to the process, more detailed information including a recipe, troubleshooting, and FAQ’s can be found in Artisan Sourdough Made Simple. It would be too lengthy to include in this post! As mentioned above, you can also purchase a good quality starter to jumpstart the process. Hope this helps!

  256. Anissa says

    Thank you for taking your time to help the world with sourdough! I am new and had one failure before I found your post. Your directions are clear and work perfectly for me, I feel like a pro! Thank you!!

    • Emilie says

      Hi Anissa,

      You are quite welcome! Sourdough is one of my greatest passions and I’m happy to share my journey with fellow bakers. Happy baking :)

  257. JB says

    Thank you Clever Carrot!

    My wife and I are in the process of making our 4th sourdough bread and haven’t had success so far. I’d love to hear your opinion on our situation because we actually live in Asia! So maybe with your help we could figure this our. Here is our situation….

    1) It’s constantly 80 degrees and up in our home. How does that change our feeding process for our starter and how long should we let the dough ferment and have its 2nd rise?

    2) We do not have a Dutch oven. Any suggestions?

    Thank you for taking the time to consider this. And thank you so much for the detailed article!