Baking Sourdough Bread: tips, photos, my recipe & more!

Well friends, I know I'm super late to the game, but I started making my own sourdough bread this year! I started the first week of January and baked every weekend since, trying to perfect the texture, taste, crust, color-- all of it! It's been such a life-giving hobby and I know a lot of you have been wanting to try it, so it's about time I put all the insight I can into a blog post for you. Obviously I am not an expert, I'm just someone who's spent a lot of time learning about the process and refining as I go! There is so much knowledge out there on YouTube and blogs going in depth on a lot of the things I'll talk about below, so if you're interested, dig in!! I have fallen asleep watching youtube videos on sourdough on more than one occasion and I've also dreamt about it, so you could say the obsession is real ;)

We started eating sourdough bread regularly last summer, after we saw a Functional Medicine Doctor that specializes in fertility. (If you're new here, we are struggling with infertility.) She suggested eating sourdough whenever possible, if I was going to eat bread, and your girl LOVES bread! We learned that all sourdough isn't created equal though-- in order to get the really good kind, you either need to make it yourself or go to a local bakery who makes it fresh every few days. Since I didn't know how to make it, I went to a local bakery and picked it up each week. It became a really fun part of my week actually, so I'm glad I did it.

Eventually I started thinking, maybe I could do this! A sweet interior design client of mine said she had starter and she gifted me some in November. I actually let it sit for 6 weeks before ever baking with it (I left it in the fridge and thankfully, I was able to bring it back to life!) After trying a no-knead recipe and it not turning out great (more on that below), a high school friend of mine reached out to help me. I now use solely her recipe because it's just SO good. I'm sharing it with you, with her permission of course, below and also created a downloadable version for you!

If you are just here for the recipe, CLICK HERE to download it! You can also watch a video of this process that I made for you on Instagram


Sourdough is leavened with wild yeasts and good bacterias, created from the slow fermentation process using a "starter", which is your live fermented culture. This starter is what naturally leavens (makes your bread rise). 

The long fermentation process is what makes it so good for you, compared to store bought and processed breads. It breaks down the gluten strands and makes it so much easier digest. The (good) bacteria and wild yeast strains make it really good for your gut!

If you've ever had it before, you can probably taste it right now. It's got a beautiful golden, crunchy crust and a sort of tangy/sour taste. It's simply delicious!


+ Bulk fermentation: the dough’s first resting period after Starter has been added, and before shaping.
Proofing: the dough’s final rise that happens after shaping and just before baking. The entire dough fermentation process is sometimes referred to as the proofing process (source).
+ Crumb: the texture inside of your bread. "Closed Crumb" refers to tighter consistency in the texture of the bread and less holes. It will appear more dense (in looks, not necessarily texture or weight). "Open Crumb" refers to more air pockets but appropriately sized and evenly dispersed. 
+ Starter: your live fermented culture that naturally leavens the bread
+ Sponge: this is a method in sourdough baking where you mix up some Starter, water and flour the night before you mix up your main dough. They call this "pre-fermentation" and it is really beneficial to the gut, as the longer it ferments, the more easily digestible the bread will be.
+ Folding: this is the process that strengthens the gluten structure and distributes yeast and sugars. Be gentle with this process so you don't pop air bubbles!
+ Banneton: a basket made specifically for bread dough to do it's final rise in.
+ Lame: scoring tool to create the patterns on the top of your loaf.


I baked my first loaf the first weekend of January and honestly, it wasn't great. I followed a no-knead recipe and the bread turned out really flat, had super large holes (unusable for sandwiches), and was a gummy texture. Even though it wasn't great, it still tasted okay on the first day (not so much after that!) and I was still so proud of myself for doing it. But I immediately wanted to try again, so I asked for help on my instagram and a high school and college friend reached out to me to help give me some pointers. 

My high school friend, Kayla, called me and gave me the recipe she's been using for the last two years or so. She gave me some pointers, which I'll share with you today, and it changed the game! My second loaf, which was my first loaf using her recipe, was WORLDS better than the first try. Each bake since then has gotten better and better, because I'm learning what I need to tweak to get it where I like it best. Everyone will have different preferences with their bake-- like the color of the crust, whether they like it soft or crunchy, whether they like it more or less sour, more whole wheat-tasting or not, etc. You'll be able to tweak those things after you do the first few bakes and get comfortable with the recipe!

My first bake with the no-knead recipe: didn't rise, big holes in the crumb (fancy word for the texture inside of your bread), gummy texture.

My second bake, but first bake with the recipe I'm sharing today: it had a good rise, better texture inside but still needed to fix the holes. 

This was another bake where I rushed the process and didn't let the dough proof (rise) long enough: the crumb had large holes and it was a much flatter loaf.

This was about 4 weeks into baking. This time I used whole wheat flour and I made sure to let it proof until it doubled in size (so important!). It produced this more tightly woven crumb, which is called a "closed crumb". This is pretty common of a whole wheat loaf. Typically we want to aim for a slightly more "open crumb", but this is still a great crumb as it's very usable for sandwiches and such. I was really proud of this loaf, because the gaping holes were gone! I attribute it to the longer proofing and a different folding method, which I'll tell you about below.

After weeks of tweaking things, this loaf below is when I finally hit my groove. I decided to use less whole wheat flour, a little more starter in the recipe, and finally perfected the proofing time AND learned an important technique in shaping (spoiler alert: shape it twice!) THIS is what you call an "open crumb" and from what I've read and seen, it's the ideal crumb ;) 

Okay, let's get started!


+ Starter (you can make it yourself or grab some from a friend! Here's a good starting place.)
+ Organic Bread Flour (I use King Arthur brand for all my flour)
+ Organic Whole Wheat Flour
+ Filtered water, always lukewarm to warm
+ Salt
+ A kitchen scale for measuring (sourdough is measured in weight/grams)
+ A couple mixing bowls (I've heard not to use metal bowls)
+ Spatula
+ Whisk
+ Parchment paper (I've tried a couple brands and this one doesn't burn and I love the pre-cut sheets)
+ Dutch Oven
+ Kitchen towels (I prefer flour sack cloths)
+ Bread lame (or sharp knife for scoring)
+ Non stick spray (I use coconut oil spray from Trader Joe's)
+ Dough scraper
+ Banneton Baskets (comes with a dough scraper!)
+ Bread bags for delivery if you're gifting a loaf
+ PATIENCE: truly, it's the main ingredient!! Don't rush the process.

TIME SCHEDULE: it's a process! This is not a one day recipe. But that is why this particular recipe yields such great results! 

+ DAY ONE: feed your starter twice to make sure it's healthy and active! Feed it, make sure it doubles in size and is bubbly. Feed it again, make sure it doubles and gets bubbly again. Do the "float test" (put a teaspoon amount of starter into a glass of water and if it floats, it's ready to use) to check if it's ready to use and if it is, you'll make your Sponge. 

+ DAY TWO: you'll mix up your main dough and do your kneading (which is really just simple folds). You'll let it rest and proof for many hours, then shape the dough at the end. This is where the bulk of the time commitment happens. It's not hard, it's just time consuming! Once you start this process, you need to make sure you can do it from start to finish following the time schedule given in the recipe. The whole process takes about 7 hours-- but the vast majority of that is waiting around ;)

(If you have time on Day Two, you can bake after an hour and a half of resting the dough in the fridge after it's been shaped. Otherwise, put it in the fridge overnight and then...)

+ DAY THREE: Score your loaf and bake! 

RECIPE: you can also download the recipe for easy saving and sharing HERE! As mentioned, this is my friend Kayla's recipe, but I have adapted it just slightly as I've practiced. Watch the video of this sourdough baking process HERE!

1. FEED your starter TWICE before baking, making sure it’s healthy and bubbling, has doubled in size since feeding. Do the “float test” to be sure it’s ready to use! Fill a glass of water and drop 1 tsp of starter in the stop. If it floats, it’s ready to use. If it sinks, it needs more time. 

This is how your starter will look right after feeding. The rubber band is placed at the level of the starter, so we can tell when it has doubled in size.

This is what your starter will look like in a healthy, bubbly and active (ready to use!) state:

2. Make your “SPONGE”. In the evening, after feeding it for the second time and making sure it's healthy and bubbling, mix the following together with a rubber spatula:

90g starter
120g whole wheat flour
120 g filtered, lukewarm water
*Cover with plastic wrap and set on counter overnight

This is what it will look like when you first mix it up:

3. DOUGH. The next day (I start in the afternoon, but just pick a time where once you start this process, you can finish it all at once, following the timing with each step) we’ll mix up our bread dough and do a lot of folding (kneading). 

-Add 750g filtered, lukewarm water to the overnight sponge. Mix with a whisk until completely dissolved.
- Add 20g of salt and stir in with whisk (yes, it’s a lot, but you need all of it!)
- Add 800g bread flour & 200g whole wheat flour (if you’re only using white bread flour, use 1000g of it-- this is what I've been doing lately and it's been incredibly tasty!) and mix all of this together with your hands, removing jewelry. This will be VERY sticky-- that’s expected!

*Once mixed set aside with towel covering bowl for 50 minutes.

This is what your sponge will look like the next day (it will have more than doubled and have some bubbles like this-- that's what you want!)

This is what your dough will look like once it's initially all mixed up: very shaggy and sticky!

4. FOLDING. After 50 min of resting, add another 50g of lukewarm water to the top and fold it in using the “stretch and fold to the middle” method, described below. This will feel like a lot of water, but it’s what makes the bread so moist.

To fold, gently start on top like a clock. Using wet hands, stretch the dough up and then fold the top to the center. Turn the bowl ¼ turn and repeat until you've done 4 folds (this is how you’ll fold in the following steps as well). 
You will do 4 folds/rotations of the bowl in total, each time you fold. 

*Let sit 30 minutes.

5. After 30 min, fold again. The actual folding only takes about 30 seconds. 
Wait 30
Fold again
Wait 30
Fold again
Wait 30
Fold again

*You will do 5 folds with 30 minutes in between each fold. (I have found that doing it just 3 times works as well, too, if my timing doesn’t allow the extra hour.)

These photos illustrate the progression of what the dough will look like after folding:

Left is right after mixing the dough. Right is after the first fold.

Left is the dough after all 5 folds. Right is the dough after it's final proofing (resting period).

6. After the last fold, let it sit to proof, covered with plastic wrap and a towel, then left somewhere that is evenly warm. I have found between 75-80 degrees is best. Do not set it in front of a fireplace where it will heat unevenly. Sitting it in a room with a space heater or while laundry is in the dryer, or a warm storage room is a great idea! At this temp, it has usually doubled in size, which is what we want, by 2.5-3ish hours of resting. This will vary based on temp and humidity levels. The most important thing is that your dough has doubled in size and is pulling away from the edges of the bowl. It should also be quite bouncy. When you poke it, the dough should spring back and not leave a dent. This could take anywhere from 2-5 hours, so be sure to check it!

7. SHAPING & PROOFING. Our last step of the process is to grab two bowls or flour-dusted proofing bannetons. Place parchment paper in bowls if not using proofing baskets and spray them with a non-stick spray to help the dough not stick.

Dust your clean countertop with flour (most use rice flour for this)
Dump your dough out and split the dough in half using flour-dusted hands or a dough cutter.

Working with one half of the dough, begin to shape your bread into the form you want it to bake in. I recommend this shaping tutorial and then this one, where he teaches to shape twice! Once done, place it in the proofing bowl with parchment for 15-30 minutes. Repeat bread shaping technique one more time, then place it back in the bowl.

Place in fridge, covered with a towel, plastic wrap or a shower cap overnight.

8. PREPARE TO BAKE. Baking is the easy part! Preheat to 475. While the oven is preheating, place your Dutch Oven inside the oven to also heat up. Once it’s preheated, remove the Dutch Oven carefully!

This is what your dough should look like right out of the fridge:

9. SCORE. This refers to using an oiled, sharp knife, or bread lame, to cut a design or slit in the top of the bread. This allows the bread to open and rise in intentional places and it’s also quite beautiful! (Google scoring patterns if you want to get creative, otherwise one simple line down the middle or an X shape will do!)

Dust the dough with flour before scoring. I use a flour sifter to do this. 

Score the dough using a Bread Lame or a knife. If you're using a knife, it's suggested to oil it and make sure it's going in at a 45 degree angle.

10.  Move your newly scored dough to the (hot) Dutch Oven by lifting the parchment paper and transferring it. Right before placing the Dutch Oven with your dough into the oven, put 2 ice cubes on the outside of the parchment paper, but inside the Dutch Oven, to help aid with increased steam.

11. BAKE!

* 27 minutes with lid on at 475 degrees.
* Lower oven temp to 450 and remove lid and bake 15 minutes with lid off, until browned. This is the perfect amount of time for an easily chewable crust. If you want a crunchier crust, bake for 5-8 minutes longer without the lid.

12. LET IT COOL. I know, this is really hard at this point in the process. But apparently the steam inside the bread is still doing its thing, so leave it to cool for at least 1.5 hours, then enjoy :)

TO STORE: we like to keep the crunch of the crust, so we store it wrapped in a dish towel, sitting out on our counter, with the cut side face down on the counter. You can store it in a ziplock bag as well, but it will get softer and lose the crunch. Your call based on preference!

TO FREEZE: sourdough freezes really well! Just wrap it in foil first, then put it in an airtight bag and freeze. To thaw, set it out on the counter about 2 hours before you want to serve it (out of the foil and bag). 


+ Is your bread not rising? You probably need to let it proof longer (the most important thing is to make sure it's doubled in size and is pulling away from the edges of your bowl!) in a warm setting and make sure the starter is active and bubbly when you use it. Be sure you're using lukewarm, filtered or bottled water in the recipe and any time you feed the starter. Make sure your dough is covered well when proofing so it doesn't develop an outer layer of crust. Finally, increased steam helps your loaf rise, so adding a couple ice cubes in your Dutch Oven is super helpful!

+ Is your bread dense and gummy? This is one of the most common problems and it happened to me in my first few bakes. It comes down to not letting it proof as long as it needs to and having an inactive starter. Fix those two things and you'll be on your way!

+ Does your bread not have enough flavor for you? Be sure you added the salt ;) and you can play around with the amount of starter that is in your recipe. This recipe originally called for 40 grams, but I upped it to 90g in order to increase the sour flavor (more starter also decreases the amount of time it'll take to proof, as it accelerates the process). Finally, the longer you go without feeding your starter, the more sour it will taste, so if you like the sour taste, stick it in your fridge while you're not using it and only pull it out to bake with. This is what I do!

+ The bottom of my loaf is burnt, how do I prevent that? Some recipes tell you to preheat the Dutch Oven for an hour before baking and when I did this, it burned the bottom of the loaf, so now I only preheat the Dutch Oven while the oven is preheating. 

I hope this is a helpful resource for you if you're beginning your sourdough journey! It's been such a joy for me!

Happy Baking

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