Sourdough Baking for Dummies

I had just hiked to the top of a ten thousand-foot mountain pass powered with nothing but a Ginger Turmeric Immunity Shot. I gripped a chunk of homemade Sourdough bread full of multigrain goodness in my fist and also a chunk of my favorite aged cheddar Cheese from Whole Foods. My adventure pup sat at my heels, fervently praying for mhomemade sourdough breade to drop a piece of aged chorizo into the freshly packed snow in her direction. Not happening puppy dog, when I just snowshoed five miles up a mountain peak and I’m hungry.

Sweat and tears and sourdough bread

As much as I love man’s best friend, she has no idea how much time effort, sweat and tears and yes hard hard-earned cash went into this accomplishment. No, not summiting another ten thousand foot mountain peak, but constructing my first successful loaf of homemade sourdough bread. I may not have children but I gave birth to a loaf of sourdough last week. It feels like it was almost a nine-month love affair of preparing my kitchen and my world for this new sourdough lifestyle.

Even the day my sourdough starter was finally perfected and I was ready to start building my autolyze as I mixed the bread flour and room temperature water, I had no idea I could not even put my beautiful loaf in the oven for forty-eight more hours. First I had to stretch and fold and no Im not talking about pretzel-like yoga moves here. After so many sets of stretch and folds, bulk formation, cold proofing and good Lord can I actually, finally preheat my oven to five hundred damn degrees now?

homemade sourdough bread
Climbing up mountains for sourdough bread.

A sourdough adventure

I fell in love with sourdough in Talkeetna Alaska. It was the summer of 2003  and I was in the last frontier dressed like a flatlander and trying to cram everything sourdough at my face and maybe also some moose breakfast sausage.

I hail from the once great state of California and sure our state was formed around a culture of gold mining back in the day. I mean San Francisco and any place where gold mining was in our past is well known for all things sourdough. I hail from a ski town that had a very pathetic gold rush boom in the late 1800’s. I’m sure those early Big Bear pioneers were known to bake a loaf or two, between fervently praying for nuggets of gold.

Here we are in the year 2024 and San Fran, you know the home of Nancy Pelosi, is more well-known for crack-whores smoking meth in front of Fisherman’s Wharf than sourdough bread creations. Does our dumb-dumb Govenor Hair Gell care? As long as his family wineries keep him driving the latest and greatest in electric SUVs, who cares that working-class Americans consider fresh-baked bread a privilege? I’ll tell you something, after you purchase every accessory known to man to create your homemade sourdough bread, sourdough is actually very cheap to keep making! Your starter is simple to maintain. You just need to purchase bread flour and bing bang boom, delicious home baked bread without Whole Foods prices.

  • Check out local thrift stores when looking to purchase a dutch oven or digital scale.
  • Always purchase unbleached flour to feed your sourdough starter.

How I learned to bake a three hundred dollar loaf of bread.

I don’t think those first Big Bear gold rush pioneers had a digital scale or a three-hundred-dollar proofer from Amazon. Sure, you can buy every sourdough accessory from a bowl scrapper to a banneton (That is a fancy hippy mixing bowl made from organic materials like hemp and Bernie Sanders tears.)

sourdough starter
I am talking to my dog about the TikTok.

Yes, you can invest in a Dutch oven but you don’t have to. A cookie sheet works just fine to bake your bread. Of course, if you are an Instagram influencer, I’m sure you want to buy a five-hundred-dollar bread cloche and then make a story for your 10,000 followers.

But if you are not currently creating a TikTok reel about your mother ( I mean your sourdough starter of course) you might be looking for a few easy hints about how to create your first loaf of sourdough bread. Even for someone like myself, who has been baking since I was twelve years old, creating homemade sourdough bread is not as easy as baking a batch of Tollhouse chocolate chip cookies. There is so much science that goes into creating a perfect sourdough loaf from mixing your autolyze with the perfect amount of grams measured between water, starter, salt and bread flour.

It’s easy to make simple mistakes when trying to create a loaf of sourdough bread.

homemade sourdough bread
Feeling gassy just like my sourdough starter.

Are you using regular bleached flour to feed your twenty-year-old inherited starter? God Lord, don’t do that! Did you buy bread flour to bake your actual loaves? Are you storing your mother in a glass mason jar with a lid? Be careful, as the gasses are created, can crack the glass! It might not sound fancy but the best way to keep your starter on the kitchen counter is in an old deli meat container. This way when the gases are built your starter can burp freely.

Oh Momma

Sourdough at-home bread baking seems to be crazy trendy. Even friends of mine who seem like they would never bake a loaf of bread in their lives are currently obsessed with their mothers. By that, I do not mean their Mommy’s but I mean that yeast-less culture we bread lovers are always feeding every morning.

Shaping a sourdough creation is a commitment. You take your starter on vacation with you. You buy so many ridiculous bread-making tools from Amazon. You try not to make Dutch oven jokes. You wonder every single time you do one of those six stretch-and-fold tactics how many random cat hairs ended up in the dough.

Things you do need for sure for a sourdough success story

Ice cubes to steam your bread (Tuck them in the parchment paper when baking.)

sourdough starter
A good place for a sourdough snack.

A Dutch oven

A digital scale


Unbleached flour to feed your starter

Rice flour to line your bowl for final proofing.

Sourdough vs gluten

homemade sourdough bread
Perfect trail snack!

So why has sourdough bread become so trendy? Store-bought bread is so commercially processed and chock full of GMOs, artificial flavors and Lord knows what else. Fermenting your loaves to give them that amazing sour flavor also makes this fermented favorite so much easier on those with a sensitive stomach. How does my homemade sourdough get all full of that gluten? As I stretch and fold all that dough every fifteen minutes for two hours straight I’m organically adding gluten into it. Is it magic or is it science? All that natural bacteria that sourdough is chock full of is not wizardry, it’s the true art of baking.

The trick to a sourdough bread that won’t upset those with gluten sensitivities is to ferment the dough for up to seven hours. Using a well-aged mother helps with this process. The wild yeast and bacteria in a sourdough starter break down some of the carbohydrates and proteins found in flour, and bing bang boom, even you can enjoy bread again!

Just how can you create the best homemade sourdough bread at home?

  • Cold fermenting your final loaf before baking is no joke. You must cold ferment that loaf 5-12 hours to create that final sour flavor.
  • Preheating your oven to the proper very hot temperature is crucial. Preheat your oven to 500 degrees with your closed Dutch Oven inside the oven.
  • Place ice cubes on the outside of the parchment paper in between the walls of the Dutch oven.
  • Steam your loaf in the oven during the first parts of baking. This allows t
    homemade sourdough bread
    Finally, homemade sourdough bread!

    he bread to expand.

  • Place a cookie sheet underneath your Dutch Oven when ready to cook. This will keep your bread from burning on the bottom.

If you are ready to start down the road to baking your own sourdough, get ready to watch a lot of YouTube videos. Think you know how to knead bread? You have no idea how to stretch and fold. It sounds easy but once you watch a video, you realize you had no idea how to do it. Is your sourdough starter suddenly as orange as Donald Trump’s hair? You either forgot to feed it or your house is too warm.

There are so many tips and tricks to creating a tasty at-home sourdough bread but as soon as you take that first crusty loaf out of the oven, it’s all worth it. How can you go back to super market purchased sourdough ever again?



  1. Gail

    I love sourdough because it’s low carb as you say, and goes well with my poached eggs! I don’t make my own but I admire those that do. So time consuming, a real act of devotion! Thanks for sharing at Is This Mutton.

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