Sourdough Bread FAQ

Baking sourdough bread and need to troubleshoot your loaf? Questions about timing or how to store it? We’re here to help!

How to make sourdough bread

Baking sourdough bread and got questions? You’ve taken on a satisfying yet complex task of shaping and baking gluten. While we wish it was as straightforward as mac and cheese, sourdough bread has a lot of variability due to the science of the starter. It takes a bit of practice and troubleshooting to make great sourdough bread under the varying environmental conditions of your kitchen. Got questions? We’ve got answers. Head to our sourdough bread FAQ below.

Before we start: here are all of our sourdough bread resources:

Sourdough bread FAQ

How can I use excess sourdough starter?

We’re working on some new recipes! But for now, our best advice is giving it to a friend. There’s only so much sourdough you need in your life!! :)

Can I make the sourdough at different times or change the rise times?

We provided the framework that is easiest for us! We recommend trying our timing once, and learning how the dough behaves. After that you can adjust the timing to fit your lifestyle and rise times.

How do I get larger holes in my bread (a more open crumb)?

We created this recipe to have a medium-sized crumb. To get holes in the bread like you see in our picture, make sure you are very gently during the folding and shaping steps so that you don’t press out the air.

Why is my dough very wet and hard to shape?

If you are using a different brand of flour (we use King Arthur) then you may need to increase the bread flour a little bit! Otherwise, just keep practicing your folding technique so that the dough can build strength.

How do I know if my bread has risen too much or not enough?

We love this chart from Serious Eats on determining if your bread has over proofed or under proofed. Over proofed bread has a more dense crumb, while under proofed bread will have large holes around the edges.

How do I store the sourdough bread?

We keep the bread wrapped in a clean dish towel on the counter for up to 2 days. Otherwise, you can freeze until using it!

Can I bake the shaped bread instead of proofing in the refrigerator?

You can! However, the extra proofing allows time for the sourdough flavor to develop.

Can I use a round banneton or bowl instead of the oval banneton?

Yes! We prefer the oval shape for slicing, but any banneton will work!

Does sourdough have gluten?

Yes! The gluten is the magic that makes sourdough happen.

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About the Authors

Sonja Overhiser

Cookbook Author and writer

Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.

Alex Overhiser

Cookbook Author and photographer

Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.

21 Comments

  • Reply
    Suz
    September 13, 2019 at 12:25 am

    If we wanted to add different flavors, say garlic or some herbs/spices, at what point in the process should we add those ingredients?

    • Reply
      Alex Overhiser
      September 14, 2019 at 1:49 pm

      Hi! I would mix them in on step 6 so that you get a few rises in first.

  • Reply
    Annie
    October 20, 2019 at 6:02 am

    My loaf was looked perfect but was kind of wet and dense inside with small holes around the the edges and great big holes in the middle any ideas? Used your best sourdough recipe and video.

    • Reply
      Alex Overhiser
      October 21, 2019 at 11:20 am

      Hi! This sounds like the shaping didn’t quite work as well as it should. You might just need a few more practice rounds to get it perfect.

  • Reply
    Holly J
    December 21, 2019 at 3:58 pm

    Hi! I made this bread 2 times now and it worked great each time! Thank you very much! Question for you….my husband loves the flavor just like it is with the overnight fridge proofing, but I would like a more sour bread. To get more sour, I assume it needs more proofing time either in the fridge or on the counter. Have you’ve tried this, and how long would you recommend I leave this in the fridge (without over proofing) to get this bread to be significantly more sour? How about on the counter?
    Also, do you have any other tricks with this recipe to make it more sour?
    Cheers!

    • Reply
      Alex Overhiser
      December 21, 2019 at 4:22 pm

      Hi! You won’t be able to proof it much longer without it getting over proofed and floppy. If you’re looking for a more sour flavor, try mixing in a bit of rye flour into starter and/or replacing the whole wheat flour in the recipe with rye!

      Thanks for making!

  • Reply
    Holly
    December 25, 2019 at 10:46 pm

    Thanks Alex. This was very helpful. After your suggestions and some reading, I made 3 changes…I fed the starter 40g AP white and 10 g whole grain rye., I reduced the starter hydration to 50% instead of 100% (someone said the acetic acid producing bacteria prefer a lower hydration environment), and I used 50g rye in the main loaf instead of the 50g of whole wheat. It handled beautifully through the whole process and it was in the fridge for maybe 16 hours and still baked beautifully! It was a little more tangy but not really as tangy as I’d like it. What would you suggest next? Do you think I should increase the rye amount in the starter or in the main loaf? Or maybe use a larger amount of starter or even a levain? Finally, the bottom crust has been quite tough thick and even slightly burned on all my loafs done in the dutch oven…do you know of a way to fix that? Thanks again for your help!

    • Reply
      Alex Overhiser
      December 27, 2019 at 11:24 am

      Hi!

      I’d try making the starter a bit more rye as a next step. For the bottom crust, try removing a bread a bit earlier for the dutch oven and extending the 2nd bake a bit.

  • Reply
    Teaette Price
    January 4, 2020 at 5:22 am

    I am gluten sensitive and want to ferment the bread as long as possible to reduce the gluten proteins that are a problem. Any suggestions for me?

    • Reply
      Alex Overhiser
      January 4, 2020 at 11:50 am

      I’d do the last proof in the fridge rather than on the counter and try a few more hours on the refrigerator proof,

      • Reply
        Loretta Jones
        June 2, 2020 at 7:52 pm

        Can I double the recipe to make two loaves ?

        • Reply
          Alex Overhiser
          June 2, 2020 at 8:34 pm

          Yes! But divide before the preshaping.

  • Reply
    Mary West
    March 26, 2020 at 12:13 pm

    If I split the recipe into two loaves do I need to change the baking time? If so, any suggestions?
    Thank you.

    • Reply
      Alex Overhiser
      March 26, 2020 at 1:05 pm

      Yes! I’d probably do a minute or two less in the dutch oven, and then start checking the bread a few minutes earlier on the 2nd part of the bake.

  • Reply
    Nance
    April 21, 2020 at 9:35 pm

    I don’t have a banneton but I have a ceramic, round dish with ridges around the side. Should I try that? I am not sure if the flour will stick to the sides of it though. Thanks for your help. It also may be too large. It is 9 inches across.

  • Reply
    Amy Reader
    May 1, 2020 at 4:06 pm

    My oven only goes as low as 100. We keep our house cool 67 68 degrees. Sometimes to get other types of dough to rise , I will turn my oven on and put the bowl of dough in front of the oven vent on top of the stovetop. Is that to uneven of a place to proof my sourdough ??

    • Reply
      Alex Overhiser
      May 1, 2020 at 8:04 pm

      You can just turn your oven to preheat for 2 minutes and then turn it off an place the bowl inside. I’ve found that to be the best method (just don’t forget it’s in there!)

  • Reply
    Michael Demers
    May 8, 2020 at 4:28 pm

    The dough remains very wet and sticky through the folding process Steps 4-6. Two bubbles appeared at the end of Step 6, but it was so wet and sticky I couldn’t get any surface tension when trying to shape into a ball in Step 7. What can I do to save this dough?

    • Reply
      Alex Overhiser
      May 8, 2020 at 7:23 pm

      Hi! Are you using bread flour for this recipe? If so, it sounds like it is pretty underproofed. Try returning to step 5 and giving it more time.

  • Reply
    Terry
    July 7, 2020 at 11:06 am

    The dough is VERY sticky coming out of the banner on and often flops out and deflates a bit. There is then sticky dough left in the banner on. I wondered if when i refrigerate overnight, I should not be using the cloth cover that comes with the banner on before I put it in the zip lock bag. Does this keep too much moisture in?

    • Reply
      Alex Overhiser
      July 7, 2020 at 11:35 am

      Hi! Yes, we discard the cloth and only use the rice flour mixture.

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