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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
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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.

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes and the joy of cooking! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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33 Comments

  1. AJ Mccormac says:

    Everything went great with the sourdough bread recipe until the last stage of baking. It looked gorgeous after the 17 minutes. I then returned it to the oven on the rack and reduced the temperature to 400. It proceeded to get very burnt (too burnt to eat) even with me opening the door a few times to let heat out.
    Any suggestion on modifying instructions?

    1. Alex Overhiser says:

      I’ve never had that issue! Maybe try on a lower oven rack? You could also reduce the heat even further.

  2. Erin says:

    Hi! I’ve used this recipe weekly for years now and we love it!! Question – I’m hoping to bake this on the same day (starter has already been fed night before) and have a question about proofing after the final shaping. Should I leave it at room temperature instead of putting in the fridge? And if so, for how long prior to baking it? Thanks!

    1. Alex Overhiser says:

      Hi! Yes, leave at room temperature until nicely puffed — I’m not sure the timing. The flavor won’t be as sour, but should still be tasty!

  3. Susan Backus says:

    Can I leave the sourdough dough in the banneton longer than what your recipe says?
    If yes, how much longer? For example, I want to make the dough on Thursday and bake it on Friday.

    1. Alex Overhiser says:

      It will rise too much and over proof if you do that! You’ll end up with a floppy bread.

  4. Marilyn Gilbert says:

    If you make levain, can you use that as the cup of starter in making your bread, and if so, do you also need to add 1 tsp of instant yeast?

    1. Alex Overhiser says:

      I’m not sure, sorry!

  5. Gina Prisbrey says:

    When I need to triple your recipe for sourdough bread, do I treat it as one recipe in one bowl, until it’s time to divide into individual boules, or do I use separate bowls for each recipe?

    1. Alex Overhiser says:

      I would use separate bowls.

  6. Linda says:

    I am make a double loaf, not sure how long to bake? Up from 17/23 @500/23???

    1. Alex Overhiser says:

      Hi! It should still be about 17 for the first bake. Not sure for the second bake — maybe 26-28 minutes.

  7. Terry says:

    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?

    1. Alex Overhiser says:

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

  8. Michael Demers says:

    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?

    1. Alex Overhiser says:

      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.

  9. Amy Reader says:

    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 ??

    1. Alex Overhiser says:

      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!)

  10. Nance says:

    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.

  11. Mary West says:

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

    1. Alex Overhiser says:

      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.

  12. Teaette Price says:

    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?

    1. Alex Overhiser says:

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

      1. Loretta Jones says:

        Can I double the recipe to make two loaves ?

        1. Alex Overhiser says:

          Yes! But divide before the preshaping.

  13. Holly says:

    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!

    1. Alex Overhiser says:

      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.

  14. Holly J says:

    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!

    1. Alex Overhiser says:

      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!

  15. Annie says:

    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.

    1. Alex Overhiser says:

      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.

  16. Suz says:

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

    1. Alex Overhiser says:

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

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