It has officially been one year since I started growing little June—my sourdough starter—and have I learned a lot of sourdough lessons along the way. I mean, who knew that my little sourdough project would be so ahead of the curve with such a massive interest in it at the start of the pandemic I’m not sure what really piqued my interest in terms of sourdough, but I sure am thankful that I decided to give it a try.
I admit, the first six months of using my sourdough was a huge challenge. Trying to bake bread was an absolute nightmare, and I only really saw success with it when I tried making sourdough discard recipes. It wasn’t until this fall when my sourdough really started to take off after months and months of trial and error. I have this book to thank for my recent success. It’s currently teaching me everything—including all of the mistakes I originally made.
In celebration of my one year with my little sourdough starter, I decided to write up 12 lessons that I learned after one year of sourdough. 12 lessons for 12 months—corny? Probably.
- Feed the sourdough starter a few times before using it for bread. If you’re taking it out of the fridge, don’t use it after that first feeding. Give it some time to wake up. I usually wait two days before using it for bread.
- Once you use the starter for a project, store it right away. You’ll discard the rest when you take it out to feed it in a few days, so don’t feed it again. You’ll only discard it and it will be a waste. Use it while it is fed, then put the rest directly in the fridge. Unless you plan on using it again soon, of course.
- Dry out some starter as a backup. Think of it as sourdough “insurance” because you never know if your jar will explode…or if it will get confiscated when you fly with it. Don’t worry, no one has stolen little June from me yet!
- Feed the sourdough at a 1:1 ratio—meaning you should use the same amount of water and flour for each feeding. I prefer 60 grams of water and 60 grams of flour. Yes, get yourself a kitchen scale. It changes everything.
- Use unbleached all-purpose flour for feeding. But if you’re growing your starter like I did, a little whole-wheat flour diet is great for getting your starter to a mature state. But transfer back to unbleached all-purpose after those first few months.
- Don’t cover the sourdough bread dough with a damp towel overnight. Even if a recipe says to do it, it still will likely get a weird crust. A friend taught me to use plastic wrap over your bowl—works like magic.
- Save the unfed discard in another container and use it for one of these amazing sourdough discard recipes from King Arthur. The crumpet recipe is my favorite. Or make my sourdough discard chocolate chip muffins!
- Keep the sourdough in a large plastic container (like this one), giving it enough room to grow when you feed it.
- If you’re traveling with your sourdough, store it unfed in a small glass container (like this one). And feed it ASAP when you arrive at your destination.
- My most successful bread ratio by far is 50 grams of sourdough starter, 330 grams of water, 500 grams of flour, and 9 grams of salt. I’ll be updating my bread recipe soon to reflect my new findings!
- Your dutch oven does not need to be preheated with the oven before you use it…it will work perfectly fine without, and won’t cause you to burn your arms!
- Just…buy this book.
Who else attempted sourdough this past year? Share what you’ve learned in the comments below—I’d love to hear from you!
And if you’re just starting out, here’s my list of bread baking essentials.
My sourdough recipes from this year!
- Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls with Orange Glaze
- Sourdough Discard Crepes
- Sourdough Bread
- Sourdough Discard Chocolate Chip Muffins
- Sourdough Strawberry Shortcake
- Sourdough Focaccia Bread
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