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Demystifying Sourdough – Everything You’ve Ever Wanted To Know About Sourdough Starter – Why It’s Better for You and How To Start One

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Tools of the Trade — What You Should Have on Hand Before Beginning Your Sourdough Journey

1. Access to freshly milled organic flour. This will make all the difference in the quality of your baked goods. There are many types of wheat flour, ancient grains, and non-wheat flours that can be used for sourdough. I will list my top five kinds of wheat flour below.

  • Organic All-Purpose: This is a perfect flour for feeding your starter and baking pies, cakes, muffins, and tortillas.
  • Organic Bread Flour: Bread flour is slightly higher in protein than all-purpose flour, which creates more gluten and traps more gasses thus giving bread more structure and loft. Bread flour is great for baking soft and lofty loaves of bread with a nice open crumb.
A perfect loaf of sourdough bread!

An open crumb sourdough loaf made with 100% bread flour. Copyright Butter For All

  • Organic Whole Wheat: Whole wheat flour has the bran and husk of the flour kernel milled in. It has a sweet and earthy flavor with more natural fiber. I like to add up to 50% whole wheat flour in many recipes. The bran of the flour kernel will interfere with gluten production, which is why 100% whole wheat bread is much more dense with a tighter crumb structure. Whole wheat flour is great for adding to any recipe to give it more flavor and texture.
  • Organic Triple 200 Wheat Flours: Triple 200 flours are still whole wheat but they have been passed through a 200 gauge sieve three times, making the flour extra soft and light. They are fabulous for adding whole wheat flavor with a very delicate texture. Triple 200 is perfect for adding whole wheat flavor to delicate cakes, doughnuts, bread, and cookies.
An artisan style sourdough loaf made with whole wheat flour.

An artisan style boule made with 50% Triple 200 Whole Wheat Flour and 50% Bread Flour
Copyright Butter For All

  • Organic Heirloom and Ancient Grains: Heirloom and ancient grains are making a huge comeback as people start to reinvest in the traditional food-ways of our ancestors. Einkorn, Emmer, Spelt, and Kamut are just a few of the choices on the market. They all have varying levels of gluten, typically lower than industrialized hybridized wheat. Heirloom grains can have lots of different flavor profiles as well, from sweet to smoky to nutty. Once you are feeling confident with your baking skills it is fun to add these ancient grains into any of your baking projects!
Camas County Organic Flours

Some locally milled flours I use in my sourdough baking projects.

If you don’t have access to freshly milled local flour there are several brands that I have personally had great success with.


2. Fresh unchlorinated water. Chlorine can really harm the growth of wild yeast and bacteria, not to mention it’s gross. Chlorinated water can be left to off-gas for 24 to 48 hours in an open glass container if needed. But the best thing you can invest in is a high powered portable water filter. I would recommend The Berkey Water Filter to anyone. It’s portable, has a great capacity, and the filters last years with proper care. It is also so reassuring to have the Berkey in case of emergency situations. Please do not use bottled water. Plastic water bottles are one of the most unsustainable choices that people make.

3. A baking scaleThis is such a crucial tool for baking exceptional sourdough. Can you bake good bread without one? Sure. I did it for years, but my bread was elevated to the next level when I started paying close attention to the hydration and weights of my recipes.

4. A glass storage container. The proper storage container for your starter is really important. The starter needs to breathe but shouldn’t be left open to the elements. Fruit flies can be a bothersome pest to sourdough and can contaminate a starter with unwanted bacteria. I choose to use a locking lid jar with the rubber seal removed. This allows the starter to breathe without it drying out or becoming infested with intruders.

5. A set of ceramic or glass mixing bowls. Sometimes the metal alloys found in aluminum or even stainless steel mixing bowls can have a negative effect on fermentation. I suggest a sturdy set of ceramic or glass mixing bowls to keep your starter in prime condition for baking.

6. A proofing basket (Banneton). Traditional proofing baskets made from willow are beautiful and functional. They give sourdough loaves an artisanal shape and texture. The lightweight willow is breathable and the shape of the basket supports the dough and gives the bread optimal conditions to rise to full potential.

7. A Dutch ovenI can’t stress enough how much baking in a Dutch oven improved my bread game. The Dutch oven traps steam inside while baking, keeping the crust soft and stretchy and allowing the bread to rise as high as possible. The lid of the Dutch oven is removed halfway through baking to allow the crust to brown nicely.

8. A dough whiskThis handy little tool is perfect for mixing doughs of all kinds. You can even use it to stretch and fold your dough.

9. Parchment paperParchment paper is a baking luxury that I highly recommend. It can be used to line cookie sheets when making crackers, in between balls of dough, or as a sling for transporting your delicate loaves to the oven. Make sure to look for an eco-friendly brand and reuse parchment whenever possible!

10. A bread lameA bread lame is the tool used by bakers to easily hold a sharp razor blade for scoring bread. The lame gives you a nice handle and provides comfort and accuracy during the important scoring process.

And finally here are some fun optional additions to the sourdough baker’s tool chest.

A grain mill for grinding fresh flours from wheat, oats, and more, cast iron loaf pans; a baking stone for pizza and rolls; a stand mixer; baguette forms; and measuring cups, scoops and wooden spoons.

Fresh and active sourdough starter just waiting for a baking project!

 

Page Guide

Page 1. Intro
Page 2. What Is Sourdough?
Page 3. Bread Terminology
Page 4. Why Eat Sourdough?
Page 5. Tools
Page 6. Starter Recipe
Page 7. Fresh Starter vs. Discard
Page 8. Starter Hydration & Feeding
Page 9. Favorite Recipes
Page 10. Troubleshooting Sourdough
Page 11.  Starter Insurance Policy
Page 12. Using Stale Bread
Page 13. Recipes You Don’t Want To Miss
 

Ila Kaiser

Sunday 5th of December 2021

I am diabetic and wondering how to calculate the carbs and fiber for the sourdough breads. Can you help?

Butter For All

Sunday 12th of December 2021

Hi Ila,

So, unfortunately there is no definite way to calculate carbs for sourdough. The longer the bread ferments, the less carbs it has. As the yeast and bacteria eat up sugars the bread gets more sour. So a really sour sourdough, that has been fermented for 24+ hours will be the best for you. I would personally eat a small amount and then test blood sugar to see how the long-fermented bread affects you.

I hope this is a little help! Take good care!

Courtney

Donna

Monday 15th of November 2021

I’m on day 5 of my rye starter. Day 2 it almost doubled in size! Day 3 almost no activity. Day 4 it hasn’t risen but I can see a few bubbles! Is this normal? Should I continue to do the daily feedings or is this batch a lost cause? Thanks

Butter For All

Monday 22nd of November 2021

Hi Donna!

Don't toss it! This is totally normal. At first the yeast go crazy, then they mellow out as the bacteria get going, over the next few weeks they will balance out and harmonize into a lovely starter! Hope I caught this comment in time!

Best,

Courtney

Jill

Monday 21st of June 2021

Hi, I’ve made your Soft and Sweet Sourdough Milk Bread and can never seem to get a good rise out of it. I’m thinking it’s my proofing length but also how I fold my dough. Could you tell me your method of folding before the first rise? So far I’ve attempted a coil fold, but don’t think it’s working…

Thanks!!

Jill

Butter For All

Thursday 24th of June 2021

Hey Jill,

I typically do stretch and fold in the bowl. I just find that to be my preferred way to develop gluten. You can see me demo it in this video. https://youtu.be/aqYctt7W_N4 It is a different recipe but pretty much the same technique.

Hope this helps!

Courtney

Mia

Friday 26th of March 2021

I’m on day 3 and I started with wheat flour. Can I change to All Purpose Flour starting day 4?

Butter For All

Monday 29th of March 2021

Hi Mia,

Yes, you should be fine, the yeast should already be present from the outside husk of the WW flour. Just keep feeding it!

Rashmi Ingle

Wednesday 24th of March 2021

I live in Switzerland and want to start sourdough. Since the temperatures here are colder, do I need to take extra care to make sure the starter grows well?

Butter For All

Wednesday 24th of March 2021

Hi Rashmi,

That's a great question. I would probably try to keep the starter in a warm area of your kitchen, but you shouldn't need to do a lot of extra babying. Yeast can be trained to perform at cooler temperatures just by feeding the starter and keeping it in the climate you are in, and you want your starter to rise in your cooler temps anyway. I would just use (at least part) a local organic flour to try to capture some of your local yeast strains, they will already be suited for your climate. Once the starter is established in your climate is should work well no matter the flour.

Hope that helps!

Courtney

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