sourdough bread: a beginner’s guide update + a gift to you!

sourdough update + a gift to you! |

Are you a bread baker?

Do you aspire to be a bread baker?

I did.

Two years ago, my culinary resolution was just that.

I started out with yeast breads, mastering buttery brioche and various sweet doughs. I was really into it. Whoever walked through my door was greeted and welcomed with the aroma of warm, homemade bread. At one point, I boasted my baking skills to my grandfather thinking he’d be proud of my new found self sufficiency. He was from the recession.

But you know what he said?

“Emilie! Don’t you have something better to do with your time?”

Ha! He was right.

I was ready for something new.

Sourdough bread.

sourdough guide update + a gift for you! |

Here’s the deal with sourdough: it tastes absolutely delicious.

Its chewy interior, crispy crust and tangy flavor is highly sought after.

But baking sourdough can be tricky.

Sourdough does not contain fast-acting, commercial yeast. This means it takes considerably longer to rise and can be somewhat unpredictable. There’s a myriad of factors that can hinder your success as well- shaping, spreading, baking, collapsing- I experienced them all.

Long story short…

I failed.

To be honest, I was shocked. I followed the recipe(s) to a tee:

“Begin with an active starter, do a long overnight rise, and bake in the morning. Et voila! Homemade sourdough.”

So, where did I go wrong?

Was it my starter? My oven? Did I need one of those professional steam injectors?

Check it out:

sourdough guide update + a gift for you! |

This was my first loaf.

It looks like an underwater sea vessel.

I was so proud.

But I couldn’t stop comparing it to more designer loaves.

I continued to bake everyday until I got it ‘right.’

And what I learned is that sourdough takes motivation and commitment.

It’s like being a first time parent.

You can read tons of guide books, listen to all the advice in the world- but at the end of the day everyone’s situation is different. You need to practice. And improvise. Following technique is only half the battle.

Once I fully embraced this understanding…

I baked a good loaf!

And another one.

And then a better one.

So I wrote a guide.

Because I wished there was a hotline I could call when I was knee deep in flour cursing the baking gods!

Sourdough Bread: a beginner’s guide marks my journey of bread baking through my own personal experience. It serves as a tutorial for beginners and seasoned bakers alike. I also wanted to create a community where like-minded bakers (and hopefuls) could chat about a common theme.

Take a look at the comments section- there are many of you with the same questions… issues.. ‘aha ‘moments.

People want to learn.

And share.

That was my inspiration.

sourdough guide update + a gift for you! |

In 2015, I’ve made some updates to to my original guide based on your questions and feedback.

I’ve included answers to the following:

  • How do I know when my starter is ready? When do I do the float test?
  • Help! Why is my dough spreading out like a pancake?
  • How do I get a good rise?

I’ve also re-structured the guide with bold headers for easy reference.

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

People always ask, why bother?

And what I hope to convey is that bread baking is not only about the end result, it’s about the process. Making something from nothing. Touching, turning, kneading- that crackling sound when it comes out of the oven. I crave it.

Never in a million years would I think of sourdough as therapeutic.

But it is.

It sparked something.

sourdough guide update + a gift for you! |


    • Emilie says

      Hi Karen! Definitely give it a try! I was on the fence at first, only because I thought sourdough was too involved. But it’s really not. Most of the time is hands off, if anything. Once you bake a good loaf you’ll be hooked :)

  1. says

    How lovely blisters, well done, I would probably burst all of them – for therapeutic purposes :) As you pointed out, sourdough is very therapeutic – I am especially in love with long cold fermentations so I would bake wholegrain rye or einkorn bread.

    • Emilie says

      Haha… very funny ;) I am partial to the long, cold fermentation process as well especially when I can leave my dough overnight to rise on the counter. It’s perfect in the morning. In the summer, I pop it it the fridge.

      Next on my list is to bake more with whole grains. Do you have Tartine Book #3?

      • says

        Whole grains are great, a little bit of (water) challenge if going for the big holes but very tasty :) Yes, I have Tartine Book # 3, however I’ve only baked some of the sweets from the book so far and I only look at the photos of bread before going to sleep :) For the bread, it is definitely an inspiration for someone who is already familiar with sourdough bread and someone who likes bread stories.

        Looking forward to your next sourdough bread :)

  2. says

    Ah, simply beautiful! I have been baking sourdough bread for about 10 years now with a decades old starter that was given to me by a friend. She was kind enough to teach me the ropes too and I can so relate to the trials and tribulations of the process and effort. Great work!

    • Emilie says

      Hi Celia! Yes, I remember you mentioning this a while back. How lucky to have such an old starter. One of my favorite things about sourdough is sharing. My friend (Celia!) shared some of her starter with me from Australia. I use that one, plus one that I made myself. They both yield slightly different results and are fun to play around with. Ah! I do love to bake bread… ;)

  3. Autumn says

    WOW this is so timely for me!!! My friend is a chef on yacht charters and back in november he gave me some of his sourdough starter that he claims is over 100 years old. I’ve never made bread before but I love to cook. He told me how to care for it but I slacked off for sure over the holidays. Just this weekend I text him and he told me how to resurrect it by pouring off the blackish water and re feeding it etc. He’s working down on a yacht in St Barths right now so it’s hard when I have questions so this could be a big help :) I’m excited to make my first loaf!

    • Emilie says

      Welcome Autumn! Perfect timing is right! I love when this sort of thin happens. You’d be surprised- when you keep your sourdough in the fridge feeding it at least 1x per week, you will be able to successfully maintain its potency. And your friend is correct- pour off that blackish water from the top before you give it a feed. That liquid is normal, by the way.

      Happy Baking! Good luck ;)

  4. Connie Raffa says

    Looks so delicious. I could eat it off the computer with some strawberry jam from Maine. Bravo!!!!! Auntie Connie

    • Emilie says

      We make some of the best peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with this bread. The boys love it (I eat the crust, happily). And we also love that Jordan Pond jam :) xoxo

  5. says

    Em, this is the BEST prize ever! I couldn’t think of anything better if I was starting SD baking that to have you holding my hand! And your guide was fantastic when you first wrote it in 2013, can’t believe you made it even better! Thanks again for teaching me how to bake in a pot, darling xxx

  6. Carol says

    I love your bread story. I too am obsessed with baking and desperately want to make great bread. I have been making sourdough for a couple of years now and still have some disasters but mostly successes – I just love those huge holes I get in my bread. I am now on a mission to get a sourdough sweet bun recipe….can you help out with that? PS I love your posts.

    • Emilie says

      Welcome Carol!

      It really is an obsession isn’t it? At least it’s a good one. Sometimes, I will wake myself up in the middle of the night to feed my starter. The thought of baking actually puts me back to sleep. How about that?

      For a sourdough sweet bun- are you looking for something similar to a hot cross bun, minus the icing? Or more of a sweet, eggy brioche?

      Thank you for your sweet words! :)

    • Emilie says

      Thank you dear friend! I bet you would excel at this. I will give you some of my starter if you’re interested. No pressure, of course ;) xo

  7. says

    Thank you for this post!Just perfect-exactly what I was looking for.Two weeks ago I visited a lovely bakery in Oxford,where I purchased the best bread I’ve eaten in my life.I got so inspired I decided I wanted to learn to bake sourdough bread.I looked for the recipes and found your website!!!And last week I baked my first sourdough bread from your recipe!I was so proud of myself although I knew it needed some improvements.And here comes this post!Thanks xxx Best wishes from freezing cold England!

    • Emilie says

      Hi Bea!

      Oh my goodness- how fantastic is that? I’m so glad that you gave it a go! The process of sourdough takes time to master, and when I say ‘master’ I mean getting it to your liking. Everyone has their own preference and style.

      The bread featured in my original guide is considered low-hydration, meaning it has small holes. Many of my readers have asked for a bread with larger holes and is most likely similar the the artisan loaf you had at the bakery. If this is something you’re after, I will be posting the recipe next week. The good news, is that the method is the same. Just different measurements :)

    • Emilie says

      Thank you Laura! I was so inspired when I first started out, I really wanted to help others in the best way that I could. It’s a process that continually evolves :)

  8. jacquie says

    what a wonderful looking loaf of bread. is it possible to make a whole grain version of sourdough bread? that is what I would like to learn how to do.

    • Emilie says

      Hi Jacquie!

      Absolutely! Are you looking for something 100% whole grain, or 50/50?

      I’ll be posting some new recipes soon. Be sure to check back! :)

  9. Jane says

    Help! I just took a class this weekend on maintaining/feeding the starter – but we didn’t get to baking. The instructor also mentioned using a dutch oven – so I used your recipe. Tried baking it this morning and it burned like crazy! My dutch oven is cast iron – very dark non stick – is that why?

    • Emilie says

      Hi Jane,

      Oh no! So sorry to hear about that!

      What temperature was your oven set to? Did you preheat your Dutch oven?

      I believe the hot oven temperature coupled with the type of Dutch oven (as you mentioned) caused the dough to burn. Cast iron heats up very quickly and traps the temperature.

      To remedy this, I would begin by baking at a lower temperature. Perhaps start at 400 F. Use an oven thermometer for to monitor the temperature and to check for accuracy. Also, do not preheat your dutch oven (I coat it generously in cornmeal so that the dough does not stick). Bake in the center of the oven so that the bottom doesn’t burn.

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

  10. says


    This post is so beautifully done, so well shot, and such an inspiration. Kudos to you. Your sourdough bread is absolutely beautiful. I love the dark, blistered crust. I have never done much with sourdough baking, but you have inspired me. I have always admired your posts on bread. They are some of the finest ones out there. I am serious here – have you considered writing a book? Give it some thought, amica. You’ve got the gift. Also your Skype prize is THE coolest give away ever. What lovely work.

    • Emilie says

      Thank you, Adri!

      I’m glad it’s an inspiration- huge smile on my face :) It took almost a year of researching bread and sourdough for me to take the plunge. I thoroughly enjoyed it, I have to say.

      Now, a book? Wouldn’t that be something! I would certainly love to take on a project like that. I’m wondering about the market… I will be thinking about this for the rest of the day. LOL. Thanks. xo

  11. Steve Down says

    Hi Emilie

    Thanks forthis and your original post. I’ve been making sourdough for a year or more now; its reassuring that I have arrived at something very close to your weekend schedule; but…

    I am trying to achieve something like the very large bubbles in the loaf in the penultimate picture above. Most of my loaves end up with the smaller more regular bubbles in the loaf from your original post.

    What is the difference between the two? Is it moisture content, adding oil, exceptionally active starter, higher ambient temperature for proving, more steam, longer proving once shaped?

    I’ll have fun experimenting, but it would be good to try and narrow the field before starting. Can you help?


    (following yr blog via feedly)

    • Emilie says

      Hi Steve,

      In my experience, a long bulk ferment coupled with a high hydration dough will yield a bread similar to the one above.

      What method are you currently using for sourdough?

      And thanks for following the blog! I hope you enjoy :)

      • mendip5000 says

        60% hydratíon, started with a sponge using 50% of the flour then a long initial rise/fermentation followed by proving in floured banetons for 3hrs. I then bake on preheated heavy steel sheet starting at 230 deg C in an oven with enough water to make steam for the first 20-25 mins. I usually use 800g Canadian flour/480ml water to make 2 loaves.

        When you say long bulk ferment, do you think more bulk than that migt help?

  12. says

    Ah that bread looks absolutely perfect! I usually feel pretty good about my gluten free bread-making but I also try to remind myself that baking gluten free is “relatively” new compared to the art of baking traditional breads. That being said, if there were a way to bake a convincing gluten free sourdough, I think that would make my month.

    As usual, you are so inspiring Emilie!

    • Emilie says

      Ooo, I’ve never made a gluten free sourdough bread before. I’m sure there is a way.

      The good thing about traditional sourdough, is it’s easier to digest even when made with traditional flour. The long fermentation time helps to break down the enzymes associated with bloating etc.

      I’ll keep my eyes peeled for you if I find a good recipe worth sharing :)

  13. says

    Your sourdough bread looks amazing, Emilie! I have always considered myself a decent baker, and I love taking on new challenges. I just have always been intimidated by making sourdough bread. I failed miserably making kombucha a couple years back, but I have determined to make some successfully this year. Same goes with sourdough. I am ready to take on the challenge! Thanks for the tips! I’d be down for a whole-grain recipe, as well.

    • Emilie says

      Hi Jayme!

      Sourdough can be incredibly intimidating at first. I mentioned (above) somewhere that it took me almost a year to jump on board! But I’m glad I did. Most of the time involved is hands off and you will need to plan ahead. To bake on Sunday, you need to start as early as Friday! It’s just one of those things… but with practice, fitting it into your schedule becomes second nature.

      When you’re ready, I’ll send you some of my starter. Just let me know :) xo

  14. says

    Thank you for your guide and wisdom about sourdough; you’ve come a long way! And how generous of you to share your ups and downs! Thank you! My first sourdough starter came from an Alaska starter dating back to the 1940s; it was a gift from a baker. I killed it. I let it sit too long in the fridge without any attention. This was years before I started to have an inkling about the living starter and how it has to be nurtured to pull out the most flavorful notes of sourness a bread can offer. I’m still learning and have vowed to get my starter going again. Fabulous crust and crumb, Emilie! Congratulations on your accomplishment! Oh, and the blistering… perfection!

    • Emilie says

      Anytime, Traci! I love talking about bread.

      So sorry to hear about your starter! You must’ve been so upset. It’s one of those new things you have to work into your routine. Speaking of, I brought both of my starters back from the dead recently. I hadn’t fed them in ages. Like yours, they just sat in the back of the fridge and I think they might’ve froze… Anyway, it took almost 4 days to get them going again. And one perked up faster than the other; it was interesting to see the difference. You live and you learn, right?

      If you’re interested, I can send you some of my starter. I’ll never forget when my friend Celia shared her starter with me and I’ve been using it ever since! That is the magic of sourdough. xo

  15. says

    What an excellent post! I did dabble with my sourdough starter for a bit but after some questionable successes and a few failures it sat in the back of the fridge and saw no action other than sourdough waffles (which are actually awesome). You have inspired me to give sourdough a proper chance – soon as my kitchen is finally finished that is!

    • Emilie says

      Excellent! So happy to hear that you have found inspiration again. Sourdough is a tricky thing, you know? It takes a bit of time to master and to find a schedule that’s best for you. I’m happy to help along the way. I hope you entered the giveaway!

    • Emilie says

      Hi! Thank you!

      You can definitely make sourdough rolls. However, because there are multiples, they will be tricky to bake in a covered pot as per the original recipe. You’ll have to bake on a tray and add steam to your oven for a good rise!

  16. Janine says

    A few weeks ago, a friend gave me some of her sourdough starter, and I’ve been diligently feeding and caring for it. I’ve baked various types of breads, never sourdough, and I was somewhat hesitant to go into this new unknown. I then gave some of my starter to our daughter, and she was as intimidated as me. Then she found your post, made this bread, and she said it was the best she’s ever eaten. I finally bit the bullet on Monday night, followed your overnight directions as it’s very cold here, and baked my loaf on Tuesday. Wow, what a beautiful loaf of easily made, absolutely delicious bread. Thank You, Thank You, Thank You!!!!

  17. Bob says

    Posted a comment last year and thought I would follow up.
    Have made many loaves following your directions, and as mentioned previously, evry one is great. Made herb with parmesan cheese and am in the process of doing your Dukkah recipe. In an effort to get the bread more even in size, I have been using a cake tin with a removable bottom in the dutch oven, which works very well. Only problem now is the bread hits the lid in the 1st 20 min in the oven !!, It is comming out almost the same height all over, which is good for sandwiches. We are now calling it cake bread because of the shape. Still tastes great.
    We have also tried a few of your other receipes for main meals and each one has been a success.
    Keep up the good work.


    • Emilie says


      Thank you so much for your kinds words. You have no idea how much it means to hear that you’ve been successful with bread baking. Sourdough is one of those things that you have to keep practicing and it sounds like you’re well on your way. Congratulations!

      Just curious- how do you do your second rise? Free form or in a cloth lined bowl? If you try the latter the dough will maintain its round shape as it rises and when placed into the Dutch oven. However, if your cake pan method works don’t change a thing!

      Thanks again for the update, Bob :)

  18. Stephanie Lopez says


    I love the recipe you have created for sourdough. I get a perfect loaf evertime. I was wondering if you have experimented with rye sourdough? I have a New Zealand rye starter and I am not sure if I should use all rye flour or use the rye starter but continue with the regular recipe with the bread flour? Any thoughts??

    • Emilie says

      Hi Stephanie,

      Hooray! I’m so glad you are having success with sourdough. That’s terrific :)

      With regards to your rye starter- it all depends on what type of bread you’re going after; one is not necessarily better than the other. A rye starter + rye flour will be very intense. A rye starter + bread flour will be tangy but not as hearty. If I were you, I would experiment with the rye starter by using all bread flour BUT swap 50 g of it for rye flour. This will give you good starting point. From there, you can make your adjustments.

      If you’re planning on using rye seeds in your recipe, you might want to soak them first before adding to the dough.

      Happy baking and have fun! :)

  19. Keith says

    I love your post. I must say the pictures, and descriptions, are wonderful. I am a cake baker, and have only dabbled in bread a few times with very limited success. I really want to try your recipe and process, but I can’t seem to find the proportions of the starter to make it from scratch. Is it best to order it rather than make it? Also, how much once it is started to you feed it? Is it equal parts of water and flour?

    Thanks so much for all of the great direction in this baking process. It makes it seem less daunting for someone who has never really had a successful bread making experience.

  20. Elizabeth says

    I have used your sourdough bread recipe several times with great success. Now I would like to try it with part rye or whole wheat flour. My question is this: Should I substitute half he bread flour with half rye by weight (250g white, 250g rye), or would an adjustment have to be made because rye flour is heavier than the white? Would the amount of water have to be adjusted because rye flour requires more?

  21. Lisa Bradford says

    Dear Emilie-

    I tried your SD recipe and this was the first loaf I was actually able to cut with a bread knife. After using up 20 lbs of flour and baking 3 loaves a week for over a 2 month period, I had to get a hand saw to even attempt to cut those loaves which had to be thrown out – what a waste. My husband said he didn’t know that 4 lbs of flour could weigh enough for police to use the loaves as night sticks. I did learn from your blog that I made a mistake in not disposing of half the starter each day when feeding and I started over with it. However, I have not been able to get my starter to ‘float’ like I read on your recipe tip and wonder what I’m still doing wrong. The loaves I baked from your help and recipe tasted like SD as we actually were able to eat them, however I was unable to get the large holes I’m looking for with it. So I did order some starter but find that I still have to feed it and get it to float and don’t know if that will ever happen. My own starter smells great and tasted excellent in the loaves I baked from your recipe, but I still think I’m doing something wrong as it will not ‘float’ and I keep wondering if that makes the bread heavy. Any help you can provide would be greatly appreciated and I thank you so very much for helping all of us who read your recipe/blog learn [even if we will never bake SD as well and tasty as yours]. Thank you so much for all I’ve learned.

    • Emilie says


      Thank you for your message!

      In my experience, I’ve noticed that the float test is directly linked with the overall strength of your particular starter.

      For example, when a starter is at its peak (doubled in size, has lots of bubbles, and is the consistency of marshmallow fluff) it will immediately pass the float test.

      On the flip side, as your starter begins to fall, it will still have bubbles which indicates readiness, but it doesn’t pass the test because it’s just too heavy or runny. Or in your case (2nd comment) it slowly rises to the top after sinking.

      To answer your question- I think it’s a timing issue with your starter. You will need to perform the float test at its peak. A good way to judge when it’s peak is to place a rubber band or a piece of masking tape around your jar of starter to visually track how much it’s grown. Once it’s bubbly and bouncy, do the test. This helps tremendously.

      Hope this info helps, Lisa. Good luck!

  22. Lisa Bradford says

    29 January 2016

    Dear Emilie, I just wanted you to know that when I went to feed my started this morning, I once again put a few drops into the glass of water and they immediately sank to the bottom. However, when I looked a few moments later, I was shocked to see that they actually ‘FLOATED’ – oh my, talk about JOY, I was absolutely elated! So I don’t know why, but I had never before looked twice at the starter once it sank as I just figured that it was not ready. Funny thing is I’ve been feeding this starter each day for almost 2 months and know that the flavor is terrific. So after dinner, I plan to make my SD bread as I will leave it overnight to do its big rise. I would still like an answer to my previous question so that I can ‘know’ what I’m really doing with the starter if you don’t mind replying. Again thank you so much for all your great help as I truly do have the SD bug and won’t be happy until I can produce some loaves that look like your above photos. Lisa in Virginia

  23. Helaine says

    Dear Emily,
    I don’t usually like blogs; I have found that everyone who wants to be famous writes one and most are just plain stupid…then I stumbled across your sourdough bread recipe. I felt like I was reading a story about the last 2 years of *my* life trying to get a decent loaf of the elusive bread of the gods! I bought at least 10 books on sourdough exclusively, signed up for a sourdough Craftsy class and watched several seasons of the British Baking contest. Even though I was well educated in bread baking, my sourdough seriously sucked! It was always either under-proofed or overdone, the crust separated from the bread, *never* turning out anything I would eat, let alone give as a gift.
    I had Googled sourdough bread recipes “again” last weekend and happened upon your recipe. I read the accompanying story about your own trials and thought, “Why not?” Heck, I hadn’t thrown out a loaf of sourdough in a month or so…let’s do this! And I did it…REALLY DID IT! It wasn’t runny, it wasn’t dry beyond repair; it was perfection!! The loaf actually had oven spring and ears and the taste was Devine!
    So I wanted to write you and thank you for the first recipe that works for me! Thank you!!! I’m in the midst of fermenting a double batch this time…one loaf for me and one for my son & his fiancée!

    • Emilie says

      Hello Helaine!

      Thank you so much for your feedback. I completely understand where you are coming from. In fact, that’s why I wrote the original tutorial in the first place. I felt like most of the information out there was missing something… something personal. Anyone can read instructions. But’s it’s how to get there that’s most important. I’m glad that you are well on your way. And if you ever have any questions, please feel free to write. xx

      • Tricia in Torbay says

        Hi Emilie!

        I found your website through a link from a recipes forum about sourdough bread and spent hours scrolling through all the messages and making notes of your valuable tips and advice before daring to attempt actually baking a sourdough loaf, but now I’ve baked my second one – which was far better than the first one – I have a question that I don’t think you have been asked before. My oven is a combi convection fan oven/microwave so will only function with the door shut. I don’t think not being able to leave the door ajar for the last 10 minutes made any difference, but an wondering if I should use slightly lower initial temperatures to ensure a good spring rise. My first loaf was made by the bulk fermenting overnight option. The oven was preheated to 230C – the maximum for my oven, then reduced to 200C as in your recipe. Baked in an enamel Dutch oven the crust was superb, but the crumb, although it was quite holey, was a bit on the doughy side. I had preheated the pot too which may have hindered a good initial spring rise. (7cm). It tasted great and I was surprised to find that the crust was just as crunchy when I defrosted a slice or two for my lunch a few days later (with lashings of butter and Marmite!)

        Today’s attempt went differently – it was a lovely sunny day so I figured I would do a daytime bulk ferment after a 50 minute autolese. I did the pull and stretch four times over the first two hours, then covered the two liter Pyrex jug I was using and set it in the sunshine indoors before the patio doors. After the pulling and stretching the dough seemed very sticky and it appeared to get even stickier as the dough got rising, but after six hours it had doubled in bulk so I figured it was ready. Quite stringy to get the dough out of the bowl so I did use a bit of flour on my fingertips. I followed your instructions for mounding the dough into shape, but it did spread somewhat in the Dutch oven during the second rise. This time I preheated to 230C initially but reduced the temperature to 190C for the baking time, removed the lid after 20 minutes and baked for a further 40 minutes. This time the bread rose to 9.5cm, lovely crunchy crust but the lower 2cm of the crumb were visibly less springy and holey than the upper section. So do you think the cause could be the oven temperature?

        The starter is still quite young – about three weeks, but froths up beautifully on top of my bathroom vanity with the light left on! I began a second starter 10 days ago with a 50/50g wholemeal bread flour/white bread flour, fed it every 12 hours gradually reducing the ratio of wholemeal flour until it’s now only 5g to 45g white bread flour. I think I would like to reverse it back to maybe 25g wholemeal/25g white. Would this work? At the current ratio this starter did rise but only by a third on top of a bookcase in my office at a median temperature of only 18 C because the night temperatures are only maintained at 16C. The first starter is now in the fridge but I would like to change the ratio of the second one before putting it to rest in the fridge. My north-facing kitchen is freezing in winter – unless I am cooking the temperature is seldom higher than 15 or 16C so not good for starters or bulk fermenting dough!

        • Emilie says

          Hi Tricia!

          To answer your questions-

          1.) A lower initial oven temperature will not improve your oven spring; in fact it will hinder it. Stick with a high initial oven temperature and then reduce it towards the end of cooking. I don’t believe preheating your pot caused lack of oven spring. It was either your bulk fermentation (too short, even if done over night) or your second rise was too long and the dough was over proofed.

          2.) Your dough was sticky bc your ambient temperature was warmer, which is normal. With temperature change, expect changes in how your dough feels, behaves, rises etc. My tutorial follows a winter baking schedule where doing a fee form second rise works in a Dutch oven. However, when the weather warms up it’s best to do your second rise in a cloth lined bowl which will contain the spreading. Again, I think the issue here is not the temperature; it’s your second rise. If the dough spreads to the sides, it’s going to have difficulty ‘puffing’ up when baked.

          3.) You can convert your starter however you want. Mine is 50/50 white & whole wheat. I leave mine out at room temperature and feed it daily (I bake a few times a week).

  24. Tricia in Torbay says

    Thank you so much for your feedback Emilie. I think maybe the oven temperature could be part of the reason for the lack of oven spring though. As I said – the top temperature in my fan oven is 230C (433F) and has increments of 10C (50F) which means the reduced temperature would be 200C (404F). For normal baking it is recommended reducing the temperature by 20C when using a fan oven and this is my dilemma!

    Since I live alone and freeze the bread in slices it will be a week or two until I am ready to bake again, but I think I shall try your winter timetable next time and keep the second rise to one hour before baking.

    I’ll probably have to experiment with the oven temperature until I get it right! I wish I could bake more often, as you have said – it really is addictive!

    • Emilie says

      Hi Tricia! It’s all about the journey- do keep me posted on your experiments! Wishing you the best of luck, happy baking :)

  25. Emilie says

    **Update 4/2016: Thank you for all of your comments.
    To understand sourdough is to understand the journey itself. If you’d like to continue your journey, with support, I’m now offering individual consulting.

    Learn how to create a sourdough starter form scratch, achieve artisan style loaves, and master troubleshooting basics.

    Please contact me for more information. Spots are limited!

    Thank you for your continued support.

  26. Karen says

    Help! I’ve been on a sourdough quest and stumbled upon your post. 3 weekly attempts, still not quite getting it. My starter seems super responsive, I feed it and then wait until it gets really bubbly and passes the float test. I upgraded my scale to a digital one and measured all ingredients. Something seems to keep messing up in the big rise. It doesn’t rise very well, and seems to take longer than the 12 hours. And then my bread turns out flatter and denser.

    • Emilie says

      Hi Karen,

      A few questions: what recipe are you following? Is your bread rising at room temp or refrigerated? What type of starter are you using? Thanks!

  27. Diane says

    Hi, I love you’re site so many amazing recipes. I’d like to give the sourdough bread a go but don’t have a starter. Would you recommend making one or is it best to find someone who can share. Is there a huge difference between the two?
    Thank you for all you’re inspiration. Diane

    • Emilie says

      Hi Nina,

      Thank you! Yes, I do have a recipe for creating a sourdough starter. I’m unable to share it here; it will be published in my new book ‘Artisan Sourdough Made Simple’ coming this fall. Would you like me to add you to the pre-order list? Thanks!

  28. Adrian says

    Almost 2 years ago I started making a starter. I planned on using it mostly for sourdough waffles. I have a serious waffle habit. So I’ve been using this starter for waffles all this time. Then I sthought that maybe I should move on and learn to use this starter for bread. The only bread I’ve ever made was when I was a newlywed 30 years ago and made a challah. This time I wanted to go artisan with sourdough. Some I found your beginners recipe and made it. It was some process but the end result was amazing! Thank you for sharing it. I do have to tell you my first loaf didn’t last the whole day. My family kept cutting pieces off it. I’m now moving onto making a sourdough rye.

    • Emilie says

      That’s fantastic! So happy to hear this, Adrian! Thank you for taking the time to leave feedback, I really appreciate it :)

  29. Anna says

    Do you have a good recipe for making the starter? Or does any recipe pretty much work?
    Thank you so much…looking forward to try this bread!

  30. Barry says

    So, when I make a sour dough bread, I add as much flour as either the recipie calls for or I add as much flour as feels “right” to me. I’ve been a “regular” baker for a long time. After allowing the sour dough to rise though, I alyways get the impression the dough is way too wet and I invariably add more which leads to either a crumb way too dence or a loaf that takes hours to barely rise. Any thoughts?

  31. Ashley says

    So I just made my 1st loaf. And it was a disaster. My starter was beautiful & bubbly. But my overnight rise didn’t go so well. Nothing happened. It didn’t rise at all. Not even a little. My house is fairly warm and it I let it sit for 11 hours. I baked it anyway and ended up with a brick. Any thoughts on why it didn’t rise? Should I let it sit longer?

  32. says

    I think the beautiful/ overlooked thing about this recipe is that if you give your dough the right conditions to develop, you can have fresh bread out of the oven in about 5-6 hours. The intense time commitment needed for high hydration doughs makes your successes super rewarding but your failures seem even more failure-y!

  33. Kirstin Avery says

    Emilie, I just ordered both of your books! When they arrived today, I literally squeeled with excitement. Like a crazy person.

    I had researched over a dozen sourdough or bread-baking books, and found yours to be the most promising.

    They are even better than expected! Very approachable, well-researched, clear/concise instructions, and plenty of bread recipes that I will actually make! So many books offer recipes that are so over-the-top, they no longer sound appetizing — or techniques that are so stuffy and complicated they take the wonder and joy right out of the process. Not the case with your easy-going approach and classic, comforting ingredients.

    Your books and recipes will be well-loved by my family, starting with our first “Everyday Sourdough” loaf tomorrow.

    Thanks for sharing your beautiful work!

    Best to you and your family,

  34. Sue Shannons says

    Just got your Artisan Sourdough book which I love. I have tried the regular sourdough (not quite sour enough) and mighty multigrain (which tastes amazing) Both are heavy as have been most of my previous loaves. I find the dough very wet and it simply does not hold its shape when rising and baking. As I live in NZ could it be that the flour is less absorbent and that I need more flour, or less water, or maybe a little more starter. Am beginning to lose heart a bit. My starter is lovely and fluffy and bubbly and floats instantly and I am baking in a cast iron casserole. Would be so grateful for some advise, then I can have a crack at some more of your lovely recipes !

    • Emilie says

      Hi Sue! Thanks for your feedback. What you’re experiencing could be due to a number of things. The loaves in the book shouldn’t be heavy and overly wet. Like you said, it’s possible that your flour is less absorbent than American flours. And in fact, this is quite normal. Correcting the consistency will take a bit of practice, but it can be done. I would start with reducing the water content first, and nothing else. Try reducing it anywhere from 30-50 grams. Hope this helps. Happy baking!

  35. Laurie says

    The first loaf I made following your Sourdough Bread: A Beginner’s Guide was amazing! I had to order your book, and am now trying the High-hydration sourdough. I don’t see a reference in this recipe about doing the stretch and fold technique during the bulk fermentation time. Is that because it takes place in the refrigerator overnight? Should I do a few stretch and folds before bed? (Sounds like a new yoga routine!)

  36. Tyk says

    Hi Emilie,
    I just bought Artisan Sourdough made Simple and made my first successful sourdough. Thank you. I would like to try to make some sandwich loaves but my tin is big. If I double the portion, how long do I need to bake it for?

  37. Lyndsey says

    Your guide and recipe has been so helpful. I’m so excited to continue baking better loaves the more I practice. One question.. do you have any tips for the best way to store this bread or reheat it for the crust to crisp up again? It’s rare that we have leftovers to store but every now and then we do.

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