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In this post we’re going to discuss some frequently asked sourdough questions. If at the end of reading this, a question comes to mind, I would absolutely love it if you would ask in the comments.

I am not going to give you any story like a lot of blog posts start with. This is a meat and potatoes post

Lets dive into this Q & A!

PS you can click on the table of contents to jump to a question.

Disclosure: Some of the links shared are affiliate links. This means that, at zero cost to you, I will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and finalize a purchase.

How do you start a sourdough starter?

You start a sourdough starter by combing flour and water and mixing well. Each day you remove a portion of what you started and add to it. Essentially what you are doing is fermenting flour.

If you do not want to spend the time fermenting flour, buy an established starter. In fact, I have my very own starter for sale. Head to The Flouring Home Shop to purchase yours and start your sourdough journey today.

Why do you stretch and fold your dough?

There is a method to the madness:

Stretch and folds will gently develop and strengthen your dough while aerating it leaving your crumb more open and airy.

Kneading develops gluten and structure differently and will create a tighter crumb, like that of sandwich bread.

So it really depends upon the overall outcome of your dough and what you want to accomplish.

Is there a right or wrong answer? No.

Do what works for you!

Do I need to discard my sourdough starter?

NO! I really recommend discarding when you are initially building a starter from scratch. If you are rehydrating a sourdough starter, like what I sell in my shop, then you do not need to discard after the initial hydration phase. You can learn more in my no discard sourdough post

Where is the best place to buy flour?

You obviously cannot make sourdough without flour. My two favorite places for flour, that are affordable, are costco (buy the green and white packaged all purpose organic flour) or Azure Standard.

How long can my starter be stored in the fridge?

For months and months and months! Sourdough is incredible hardy! Yes, it can dry out. And yes it can have hooch on top (should look gray or black). Just feed it and if it needs some nourishment, then feed it potato water.

Use POTATO WATER to refresh your sourdough starter:

  • begin by discarding all but 2 tablespoons of the starter
  • Grab a potato (I prefer idaho Russets), peel it, wash it and slice it.
  • To a pot add your potato top with filtered water and bring to a boil
  • Boil your potatoes until they are fork tender and remove from the stove.
  • Allow your potatoes and water to cool because the very last thing you want to do is pour the hot boiling liquid on top of your starter.
  • Once your water is at room temperature pour off a 1/3 cup of water and add that into your 2 tablespoons of starter.
  • mix well and add a half a cup of organic all purpose flour
  • Mix and incorporate your flour top with a lid, beeswax wrap or a wet dish towel and set aside to rise
  • if you can place in a warm environment, but not the microwave or the oven and give it time to feed itself and rise like normal.
  • Remember sourdough takes time and you can’t rush the process but you should see that your starter has doubled in about 12 hours
  • if your house is cold like mine is (it is routinely around 62°)
  • Try this and let me know if it works for you but this method is what my great grandpa swore by and it’s allowed us to have a sourdough starter that’s at least 80+ years old

How do you bake in the summer?

I have implemented a year round baking strategy where in the summer I do my very best NOT to bake and heat the house. Instead I use the summer to make sourdough products that can be frozen and used later. During the winter is where I do the bulk of my baking with loaves and rolls. You can read more on this post.

Do I need to follow strict baking schedules?

NO! Sourdough is flexible. If you are a microbaker or larger, then yes, stick to a strict timeline. But if you are a homebaker, like myself, sourdough is meant to fit into your life, not your life revolving around sourdough. If you accidentally miss a stretch and fold by 15 minutes (or 45), your loaves will be fine! Sourdough is truly meant to be stress free.

What is the best storage container for my starter?

I LOVE my Weck Jars. I use these.

What is the best bucket for storing flour?

I use 5 gallon buckets wit gamma lids from either Wallaby Goods (code SOW5) or from Azure Standard (lid).

What is the best container for my dough?

I love using the THATSA Bowls. I also like ceramic or glass bowls. Stainless steel is also great, but try to minimize the use of metal with my ferments. Now, It used to be that metal bowls were aluminum which reacts with ferments, but I treat ALL of my ferments the same and no metal is allowed.

And by ferments, I mean Kombucha, Kefir and sourdough is what I make in this house. I use Cultures for Health for my Kombucha and Kefir making. You can use code SHARI15X if you’re interested in making fermented foods at home.

Banneton Recommendations

I absolutely love my cotton banneton!

Do you have a dutch oven recommendation?

I have an investment/heirloom dutch oven in a le creuset. If I were to get another dutch, I would choose a lodge for the budget friendly option.

For my artisan loaves, whats your suggested baking time and temp?

Every oven is different. The sweet spot for my oven is 450 the whole time. I bake for 30 minutes with the lid on and 25 with the lid off and I place a baking sheet under my dutch oven halfway to help keep the bottom of my loaves from getting to thick. I also rotate my dutch 180 degrees at the 30 minute mark. My dutch oven is placed in the middle racks of my oven. Convection ovens will bake differently. You may need to play around with baking times and temps for your specific oven.

Should I worry about what flour I use?

We’re about to uncomplicate sourdough 
What flour is the best for feeding your sourdough?

There’s so many options at the store. 

All purpose 
Bread
Pastry 
Whole Wheat
Rye
Spelt
Kamut
Einkorn

Uhhhhhhhhh

Here’s what I look for:
Unbleached
Organic
All Purpose

I keep it simple. Because simple means I don’t have to think about which container I’m grabbing.

In my pantry, I primarily use one type of flour (Central Milling all purpose from Costco) that I keep in BULK.

One flour for all my needs.

But what if you can’t afford an organic flour?

Ultimately, buy the flour you can afford!
Try to opt for the unbleached if you can. As your budget allows, try to buy an organic flour.

Why organic? Because it means no pesticides were used on your flour and it’s less likely to be gmo.

Gmo means that the flour (wheat) today is not the same as 40+ years ago because of glyphosate. That’s a whole different topic but trust me when I say go for organic when you can.

Do the best you can and don’t stress!

What do I do with overproofed loaves?

When life gives you a lemon loaf…
AKA overproofed, flat or stale bread…
MAKE: Bread Cubes!

HERES HOW:
Cut your loaf into slices
Then cut into 1” cubes
Place into a prepared (parchment or silicone mat) baking sheet. 

To a 300F oven, bake for 60-75 minutes (this is crispy preference and also how hydrated your dough is). Every 15 minutes stir to prevent burning. 

How to use:
If left unbaked, you can use bread cubes in French toast bake, bread pudding and quiches. (But I much prefer toasted)

Toasted• the sky is your limit!
Panzanella Salad: tomatoes, olive oil, herbs, toasty bread!
Blitz: bread crumbs! Top homemade Mac and cheese, chicken and rice casserole, bread chicken for homemade nuggies!
Again, French toast bake, quiche, STUFFING!! 

Just because your loaf isn’t picture perfect doesn’t mean you still can’t enjoy the fruits of your labor!

It just means you need to get creative

How often should I feed my sourdough?

As often or as little as you want. But this is how I do it and how I teach others:

I only feed my sourdough starter when I’m baking. So that could be one day a week or it could be multiple days in a row

If I’m not baking, my sourdough starter LIVES in the fridge

Which means, how do I deal with discard?
I don’t. 

Hear me out: if your actively trying to grow and establish your starter, then discarding is your friend. 

If you have an established starter, you do not need to practice the discard method (unless you love it). 

The way I approach sourdough is to teach you about caring for the mother which is the portion you always reserve after feeding and your starter becomes active. 

It’s the no discard method of sourdough.

You only have a small amount (1/4 cup) stored in a jar.

When you want to bake, you remove the mother from the fridge, feed it according to your recipe and allow it to become active. 

Once active you reserve 1/4 cup and what’s remaining is what you’ll use for your baking.

You can either 1) feed it again for another bake or 2) return it to the fridge for a later date in baking.

With this method you’re not discarding your starter. You don’t have the copious amounts of discard being stored up or you don’t have a lot of flour being tied up in discard. 

My biggest tip: plan for baking or if you want something right this second, have batches staged in your freezer. 

This is how my great grandfather taught us and it’s the way I practice sourdough.

Can I store or make other ferments with sourdough being in the same room?

I have heard horror stories of ferments being in the same room, but have never experienced it myself. I routinely have sourdough plus kombucha or kefir (or all three) going at once.

For creating other fermentations, I really like the fermentation kits from Cultures for Health. You can use my discount code SHARI15X for 15% off at this website.

I’d love to know more about fresh milling grain and sourdough. Where should I start?

Start on my post: The Beginners Guide to Home Milling. My mill is a wondermill.

If you don’t discard, can I still use discard recipes? If so, how?

You absolutely can. I substitute active starter for discard in the same amount written in the recipe. I DO let it ferment for 24 hours and not bake right away like discard recipes say to do.

Do I still need to use leavening agents when using sourdough?

NO! BUT…

By and large, I don’t use leavening agents (baking soda, baking powder, cream of tarter, yeast) UNLESS I have a highly acidic recipe, then I would use baking soda to help reduce the acid but it’s not my intention to use it for its leavening abilities.

sourdough can act on its own as a leavening agent because of fermentation. I believe all sourdough should be mixed and left to ferment. Does it take longer? yes. but it’s worth it to have a fermented product.

Baking powder, when making baking powder biscuits. OR cream of tarter for sourdough snickerdoodles.

How can I speed up my sourdough?

There is nothing I am more passionate about than sourdough. Do not adopt the habit of trying to speed up your sourdough. Let it do its thing. Cold temperatures slow fermentation but it does not stop it. Patience is your friend and one you need to adopt with sourdough.

Can I leave my sourdough starter in the oven or microwave?

Please DO NOT ADOPT THIS HABIT! I have seen too many people actually kill and bake their starters.

Cold temperatures slow fermentation but it does not stop it. Patience is your friend.

What’s the best knife for cutting bread?

My absolute favorite knife is this Victorinox Offset knife. A good knife for bread is essential. You want it to slide and glide through and not tear about your crumb. This knife does it! it cuts the most beautiful slices, seemlessly.

While I don’t have it yet, my dream cutting board is made of wood and USA made.

How do I store my bread?

Unless you are able to eat your loaf in 24 hours, then beeswax wrap is where its at! Beeswax helps keep your bread moist without it having an environment to breed mold. Beeswax is also has antimicrobial properties. I buy my wrap from Azure Standard.

Can I freeze bread?

YES! I prefer to freeze as whole loaves and then when I am ready to eat, remove and let thaw for 12 hours. I have recommendations laid out in my year round baking strategy post. Read it HERE.

What do I use for scoring my bread?

You can use a paring knife or a bread lame. Don’t hesitate when scoring. Make quick and fast slashes. Don’t think, just do.

How do I prevent a thick crust on the bottom of my bread?

I place a baking sheet under my dutch oven halfway to help keep the bottom of my loaves from getting to thick. Scroll up to read more on my baking times and temps.

What is levan?

Levan is just a small amount of starter mixed with flour and water. Some recipes call for you making a levan because you will use your ENTIRE levan for a recipe and not reserve any like you do for active starter. Do you need to make a special levan? no. just use active starter.

Do you hold back salt when making loaves?

NOPE! Ok salt can hinder sourdough if mixed inappropriately. Think salt straight into starter. But just mix it in with your flour and you’re good. I have not seen enough of a difference in my loaves to not just add everything at once (unless you’re freshly milling but that’s another topic). I prefer to just keep it as simple as possible and mix my sourdough recipe all at once. Keep it Simple, Sweetheart!

Salt can actually HELP fermentation, like in sauerkraut. Dont skip the salt. Just use the right kind.

The one thing I can say is when baking, ONLY use the best salt. I prefer Redmond Real Salt because it helps enhance the flavor of sourdough. You can shop Redmond HERE and use code FLOURING to save.

How do I know if my starter is happy?

Great question! I have it all saved for you HERE.

About Me

So maybe you’re wondering, what makes this girl qualified to answer sourdough questions?

I have been using sourdough my whole life. When I was little, my great grandfather gave my dad part of his starter because it was all he could afford as a Christmas gift. My dad kept it going and I began using it too. I have developed and honed my skills over the course of my life. While sourdough became popular in 2020, I have over 30 years of experience with cooking and baking with it. I was sourdough, before sourdough was cool.

Sourdough is a part of me. Sourdough is in my blood. Sourdough is my culture.

Thank you for being here! Thank you for reading and learning more about sourdough.

Happy Baking!

Love, Boots!

PS: I welcome all questions! Please feel free to ask me in the comments

PPS: Disclosure: Some of the links shared are affiliate links. This means that, at zero cost to you, I will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and finalize a purchase.

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