Frequently Asked Questions
Is it really worth all the effort? Sourdough making seems too complicated.
Yes. Sourdough is not as hard as it seems. It literally takes me a couple minutes to feed my starter. If I want waffles, it takes like five minutes to mix it the night before. Bread.... yes there are a few steps, but they are not time intensive. This is a type of cooking that will bring you so much pleasure. Everything tastes so much better, and it is better for you.
Just begin with a starter and make the other items, scones, waffles, pancakes... Those alone make it all worth it.
What is the best brand?
I use Bob's Red Mill or King Arthur because it is convenient, and I like the flavors I get from it. But, there are many to choose from. Make sure it is unbleached. And, as you get more comfortable with making bread, you can start to experiment with different grains. There are many varieties including red berries, rye, spelt, white wheat, kamut, and Einkorn, ... I like to add more whole grains when possible.
I accidentally fed my starter with a flour other than all-purpose.
It will be fine. Remove most of it and feed as usual with all-purpose.
I found a gnat or fly in my starter.
Toss it. Hopefully you have some dried back up. If not, email me and we can get some new for you.
I have a dark liquid on the top of my refrigerated starter.
Just pour it off. As long as its not mold, its fine.
How do I know when it is ready to add it to the dough?
You will see it double in size and then start to fall a little. You can mark the starting point on your jar with a sharpie or tape and can see how much it has risen. I don't do float tests. I just make sure it has at least six hours to do its thing.
I accidentally used all-purpose instead of wheat or bread flour.
I would use it anyhow. The loaf won't be as good, but will still be edible and enjoyed.
I don't have as much time today. Does it really have to be an hour to two hours for this period?
I have often used it after half hour and there are times where I had to add the levain and salt all within about twenty minutes. It happens, we get busy. Go with it. Your loaf won't be as high, but it will still be good.
How warm should the water be?
I use mostly lukewarm and then add hot to it. It should not be hot to the touch, just warm.
Can this be doubled?
Absolutely. I almost always double it. But, when starting, its good just to do a single loaf. Get the practice in first.
I don't have a proofing basket. Is it really necessary?
You can use a wood bowl in the meanwhile. Put a cloth down and flour it with rice flour generously as it will try to stick. But, I highly recommend getting one. Your loaf will turn out much better.
My loaf is a soupy mess.
If you forget the salt, it will get really gross and soupy and taste horrible!!!! I usually measure out the salt the same time as I do the flour and keep it in a little bowl right next to my flour bowl so there will not be a question of if I added it or not.
Or, maybe it proofed too long. If that is the case, do some spins to tighten it up and try cooking it anyhow. It won't be as good, but, you have come this far. Might as well finish it.
In a warm kitchen it will proof faster.
Do I really have to wait until the next day to bake it?
If it has been in the refrigerator for a few hours and you really can't wait, go ahead and cook it. It won't develop the same flavors and the texture will be a little off. But, you will still have a decent loaf. Next time... wait.
I cannot get a nice score line. Seems like my razor isn't sharp enough.
The trick is to do it quick with confidence and determination. Hesitation makes it stick. Nice and quick straight across.
I am not getting an ear on my loaf. Just a fat opening.
Make sure to do it at a 45 degree angle. Cutting at 90 degrees makes a wide slit. Doing it more parallel to the loaf will make a pretty ear.
I forgot to score.
Its okay, It will crack open on its own. Just remember next time.
INTO THE POT
Every time I put it in the pot, it ends up hitting the side and misshaping the loaf.
Well it should still taste good. It takes practice. Try folding up a towel and practice putting it into a cool pan. I also recommend flipping the dough out of the banneton onto parchment paper. Then you can place the dough on the paper in your dutch oven. It is safer. You can cut off part of it leaving handles to place in the pot. That way it won't misshape your loaf.
My bread stuck to the bottom of the pan.
Yup. I have done that. Miserable. The pan was not hot enough. It needs to preheat 45 minutes to an hour. All you can do at this point is once it cools, but the pan into ice cold water. That will sometimes help the bread to pop off. Otherwise, scrape, scrape, scrape. Sorry.
I am afraid to put it into the pot. I am afraid of getting burned.
Again, practice with a towel in a cool pot. You could use parchment paper, cut handles and set it in the hot pot. But, It will affect the shape of the loaf some. Try it. This step does get easier with practice.