The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


boathook1's picture


Once I've made a starter how long should I keep it before trying to bake with it? Does it continue to get more sour with age? MY AIM IS TO BAKE A REALLY SOUR LOAF...

I could not be much newer at this... I'm seeking two things:

1. VERY SOUR tasting results.

2. The simplest recipes.

Could I be asking too much? Is there hope for me?! !... I'm willing to learn... My baking history consists of a cookie mix that came in a cardboard container from the freezer dept. of the local Piggly Wiggly [?]... Oh yeah.. I did a few potatoes once too but if I recall correctly I ended up burying them in my back yard.... {late at night too}... I guess it's also worth mentioning that in the divorce papers I was served, my kitchen antics were a key factor in chasing the little woman from my loving embrace... {Have you ever tried reading fine print when your glasses are all clouded with flour powder?... And you're up to your arm pits in dough that is heavier than you can lift?}... A nasty rumor has found it's way to me as well... According to a recent ruling by the courts I'm not allowed to bake within 500 feet of my former wife......

I remain, your humble and curious student..



Ambimom's picture

Get a starter from a reputable source.  You can start your own but if you don't know how it's supposed to act or what it looks like, you are only asking for trouble.  Sourdough is a living thing.  King Arthur Flour's website has an excellent 100 year old starter and lots of pictures and advice.

Sourness is in the tongue of the beholder.  The taste depends on the type of flour, your local environment, water, etc.  I'm crazy about the flavor and tang of my sourdough but you might prefer something else. My starter is strictly all-purpose flour and water...and nothing else.

I make 2 loaves a week and don't want the process too complicated.  I do weigh my ingredients on a digital scale that registers both ounces and grams.  I also bake in a pre-heated dutch oven.

Sourdough has to be fed regularly.  This is a good reference on how:

As for technique:  I swear by America's Test Kitchen "Almost No-Knead Sourdough" from Breadmaking Simplified.

I don't use their recipe, however because they use commercial yeast.  My bread is leavened with sourdough starter only.

My recipe is:  440 grams of bread flour

                    5 oz active starter

                     8 oz water

                     2-3 teaspoons salt

boathook1's picture

Gees, ..that looks delicious.... What a wonderful color !

boathook1's picture

Hi again...

I just bought a 7 quart "dutch oven"... This is a large cast iron pan covered in enamel... Is this what you bake in? What temperature do you use? Do you use stove top or oven to heat the dutch oven? I hope these questions don't appear to be too dumb...

Paddyscake's picture

There are many links to the No Knead technique. Here is one..if you scroll down a bit the recipe and instructions are posted. I have read that some proof their dough in a bowl lined with parchment paper and just lower the paper and dough into the pan. Your new dutch oven is just right. Let us know how you do.


summerbaker's picture

Hi, welcome to baking!  Here is a link to a recent post by a very good baker here at TFL who has documented her sourdough loaf from start to finish:

There are, of course, LOTS of sourdough tutorials on this site if you search around.  I would also highly recommend getting a copy of The Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart which has an excellent first few chapters on bread baking in general.  Good luck and enjoy the journey!


boathook1's picture

Hi Ambimom [and anyone else],

Well to date I've ruined two batches os sourdough bread... [it's becoming obvious why my former wife has a restraining order prohibiting me from baking within 500 feet of her]... These things come out of the oven like WEAPONS ! If an unrestrained person were to lash out with one in hand someone could be seriously injured. I'm talking emergency room type injury too ! ! They are so hard and heavy none of my knives will touch them... A hammer cannot break through the shell [normal bread has 'crusts'..... Mine have 'shells'...].... with the assistance of a  neighbor we were able to drag this thing to the woods were we buried it {in the bread grave yard.... Which is starting to fill up by th eway !} I'm beginning to feel like the Frankenstein of breads...

I've gotten a good starter .. Followed Ambimom's simple recipe... But I decided to set the dough in the fridge overnight to make it more sour... Cut it in two loaves and baked it for 10 minutes @ 450 degrees then reduced the temp to 375 and baked for 40 minutes... Trying to get the internal temp to 210... It refused to go over 200.

I think my problem is in not letting the dough rise just before baking.. { I baked it in the deflated state }. Although I did let it rise before it went in the fridge...

Can it be left cold in the fridge too long ?

How long should it be out of the fridge before baking?

Ambimom's picture

boathook, I have a couple of questions because what you describe sounds very much like my first 5 or 6 attempts at sourdough bread:

1.  Are you sure that your starter is ALIVE?  (My first few attempts were rock pancakes because I was inadvertently trying to bake bread with a starter that was dead.)

2.  Are you measuring?  I know it's a pain, but investing $20 in a scale that measured by both grams and ounces made all the difference.

Here's what I do....what finally worked consistently for me.... I've even begun doubling the recipe with consistent success beyond my wildest dreams.

The night before (typically around 6 pm).  I remove my starter from the refrigerator, stir it, and feed it by removing 5 ounces (measured by weight on a scale) from the starter jar. (This starter I set aside in a bowl to use for my bread.)

Then I replace 5 ounces (measured by weight on a scale) of all purpose flour, and 5 ounces of water (measured by weight on a scale) back into my starter jar.  Mix and set aside on the counter.  I leave this on the counter for 4 hours or so (with the jar lid slightly askew or loosely covered with plastic wrap) to let the yeast come alive.  When it is full of bubbles and has risen in the jar, I put my starter back in the refrigerator until I'm ready to use it again. It has the most lovely smell too.  NOTE: If the just fed starter does not rise visibly after 4 hours, your bread won't rise either.

Back to the bread..... 

Into the bowl in which I have just put my 5 ounces of starter, I add the bread flour (440 grams measured by weight on a scale) (but all purpose would work too), salt, and 8 ounces of water, also measured by weight. Note: You could add up to another ounce of water, but I find that 8 ounce measure works best for me.

I mix this by hand until all the liquid is absorbed. It is a shaggy lump of dough.  I leave the dough in the mixing bowl, cover with a dish towel and place on the counter overnight, typically for 14 to 16 hours.  I never refrigerate at this stage.  Just leave it there.

The next morning the dough has more than doubled in size and looks and smells fantastic. I scrape it onto a surface that I have lightly dusted with flour (and lately have also dusted flax seed and wheat bran).  The dough is light and airy, but very easy to handle.  I knead this for 15 or 20 times by turning and folding it. I then shape into one round loaf.

Now  I grease some parchment paper and place into a round skillet. I place my dough onto that parchment in that skillet.  I then lightly oil the shaped dough with olive oil (but you can use what you like), cover with a dishtowel and leave it on the counter again to rise.

90 minutes later, I turn on my oven to 425F (that is the temperature that works for me, but every oven is different).  I remove the bottom oven rack and place the remaining oven rack(covered with aluminum foil) approximately in the middle of the oven.  A 3.5 quart covered dutch oven goes on that rack to pre-heat.

30 minutes later, while the oven is pre-heating, I take the dishtowel off my bread which has doubled in size.  I take a paring knife or scissors and slash the top about 6 inches across and maybe 1/4 inch deep.

Next, I carefully [it's screaming hot] remove the dutch oven from the oven to remove its lid.

I grab the parchment paper on either end like a sling and place the dough into the hot dutch oven.

I replace the lid on the dutch oven and return it to the pre-heated oven for 30 minutes.

30 minutes after that, I take the dutch oven lid off the pot, and put the bread back into the oven, uncovered, for the remaining 30 minutes.

That's exactly what I've been doing and so far, it's worked for me every single time.

Good luck and I hope it works for you.



boathook1's picture

Thank you so much for your time...

1. My starter is good and healthy. I have THREE of them and they're ALL doing fine... Very lively and aromatic...

2.I do have the gram and ounce scale as well....

I measure and weigh... I mix by hand at first then by elec. mixer on low... I allow the first rise at room temp.. Beat it down and then in the fridge it goes lightly covered over night [I've read this is a good way to strengthen the sourness]... Out of the frige the next day and allow it to come to room temp and rise again...


This is where I went wrong... I BAKED IT IN THE DEFLATED STATE... Dumb huh? I missed the directions where it says "Place loaf in oven while it's in it's doubled [risen] state"...


Your help is terrific... I follow your measurements to the letter...


All th best..... Joe Wood [boathook1]

Ford's picture

Hello boathook1 --

You wrote, "Trying to get the internal temp to 210... It refused to go over 200." 

At sea level water boils at 212°F.  Your trying to get the internal temperature of the loaf to 210°F may be asking too much.  Settle for 195 - 200°F.  My loaves are always done at that temperature range.

Don't try to cut the loaves until they have cooled.  Forget the saying that, "hot bread fresh from the oven is great."