All About Sourdough: From Starter To Artisan Loaves

Ready to get in on the sourdough craze? It's not as difficult as you might think. Here's how to create a starter and bake your own bread.

by Heidi Strawn
PHOTO: cromaconceptovisual/Pixabay

The world’s gone crazy for sourdough, and we get it. Capturing and nurturing your own yeast is a challenge, sure. But as many people have learned recently, creating a living, bubbly mother is just a matter of time and patience (and finding flour). The satisfaction of baking a crispy loaf of artisan bread runs deep, and let’s not forget the pleasure of eating a slice!

If you’ve wanted to get in on the sourdough action but are unsure where to start, look no further. Below you’ll find recipes both for starting your very own sourdough mother and baking your first loaf.

Let’s get baking!

How to Make a Sourdough Starter


  • 1 package (2¼ tsp.) active-dry yeast
  • 2 cups warm water (105 to 115 degrees F)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour


Create Starter

In medium bowl, dissolve yeast in 1⁄4 cup of warm water. Add remaining water and flour, and mix well. Place bowl, uncovered, in warm place or cupboard overnight. In morning, put 1⁄2 cup of starter in sterilized pint jar, cover, and store in refrigerator or cool place for future use. Leave lots of room for expansion in container, or set lid without tightening it. Remaining 3½ cups of starter can be used immediately.

Set Sponge

In medium bowl, place the 1⁄2 cup of starter. Add 2 cups of warm water and 2 cups of flour. Beat well, and set in warm, draft-free place to develop overnight. In morning, sponge will have risen and will be covered with air bubbles and smell yeasty. At this point, it’s ready to use.

Store Starter

Sourdough starter will keep almost indefinitely if covered in clean, glass container in refrigerator. Never use metal container or leave metal spoon in starter or sponge. If unused for several weeks, starter might need to sit out one extra night before you add the flour and water.

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How to Bake Sourdough Bread

(This recipe uses both starter and packaged yeast to guarantee success, but you can omit the yeast if supplies are scarce.)

  • 1 cup sourdough starter
  • 1½ cups warm water (105 to 115 degrees F)
  • 1 package (2¼ tsp.) yeast
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1½ tsp. salt
  • 4½ to 5 cups flour


In large mixing bowl (or in work bowl of electric stand mixer), combine sourdough starter, water, yeast, sugar and salt. Add 1 cup flour, and mix well. Continue to beat mixture for one to two minutes until smooth and creamy. Add additional flour in 1⁄2-cup increments, stirring well after each addition until the dough holds together and starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl.

Turn out dough onto generously floured work surface, or switch from paddle attachment to dough-hook attachment in your stand mixer. Knead in remaining flour, adding two to three tablespoons at a time, until dough is smooth, firm and just slightly sticky. If kneading by hand, process will take about 5 minutes. If using stand mixer and dough-hook attachment, it will take about 3 to 4 minutes.

Lightly grease large mixing bowl or other container with small amount of oil. Place dough in bowl, and turn over dough to coat surface with oil. Cover bowl lightly with layer of plastic wrap. Let dough rise at room temperature until doubled—about 1½ to 2 hours.

Turn dough out onto work surface, and divide dough in half. To form loaves, gently roll each portion into round ball or oval shape, keeping surface of loaf taut. Place loaves on a baking sheet, and lightly cover with plastic wrap.

Allow the loaves to rise at room temperature until doubled again—about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F while loaves rise. Just before baking, use sharp, serrated knife to make two or three diagonal slashes 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 inch deep in top of each loaf. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until loaves appear deep golden-brown and sound hollow when tapped. Allow loaves to cool completely before slicing.

Makes two loaves.

This article originally ran as two pieces in the 2011 publication Popular Kitchen: Homemade Bread. Starter information was provided by the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service.



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