sourdough bread, oh yes you can

Nov 14, 2011

sourdough bread, oh yes you can

I have wanted to learn to make sourdough bread for years. Literally, years. About five years ago, Blythe wanted to start a bread company, so she and I learned to bake bread. Our friends, the Kendell family, taught us how and we became a pretty good little bread-baking team. We sold bread to our neighbors and friends and had a great time doing it. When I became pregnant with Annesley, I cut out a lot of the extras, and baking 16 loaves of bread a week was one of the first things to go. The whole time we were making our delicious whole wheat bread, I yearned to make a whole wheat sourdough, but I had heard it was difficult and always turned out brick-like, so I allowed myself to be overwhelmed by the whole process.

Around that same time, I organized a nutrition class with Kim Simmerman and she came up to our area and wowed us with her amazing ideas about food. This only strengthened my resolve to learn to make sourdough bread. Then, about three years ago, I bought her Granola to Green cookbook and promptly devoured it. Not really, but I did make most of the recipes in the book…except the sourdough. I read and re-read the instructions over and over again and still allowed myself to be intimidated.

And I haven’t baked bread since.

I didn’t want to bake bread that wasn’t sourdough and I just knew I could never figure out how to make sourdough, so I didn’t make anything at all.

Each week I would buy Harper’s Homemade Whole Wheat bread for $2.16 and think to myself, I can make this for cheaper…but this, THIS, is SO convenient and I am not using up my food storage of wheat and olive oil and honey, so it is worth it. See how justification works?

Fast forward to now.

Carol Jensen taught a sourdough class at Make It For Maggie and she graciously gave me a start! Nervously Scared out of my mind, I determined to not let her gift go to waste and I read and re-read her instructions. Then I read and re-read Kim’s instructions. Then I called Kat. Then I called Carol. Then I called Kat again. Then I read everything again.

And then I got to work.

And you know what? It worked.

My bread turned out delicious. By some miracle, it actually was light and fluffy and had just a twang of sour. It was perfect.

I figured it was a miracle and would not be repeated.

But you know what? The next week I made more bread and it turned out pretty good.

And now it is Monday and my third batch of whole wheat sourdough is rising right this minute.

I think it is time to share the recipe with all of you so you can jump in and get to work without all the fear and trepidation that I have been through for the last ump-teen years!

The day before you want to bake bread, take your start out of the fridge (this recipe is using 4 C. of sourdough start) and mix in 5 C. whole wheat flour and 5 C. water. Mix well.

Cover bowl with a cloth and allow it to rest in a warm place (hard to find in my house!) for 12-24 hours.

In the morning, or when ready to make bread, mix the bowl of sourdough again as separation may have occurred.

Take out 1 C. of start and place in a clean glass bowl or jar. Feed this with 2 C. whole wheat flour and 2 C. cool water. This is your new start. Place your container, loosely covered, in a warm place for 8 – 12 hours and ignore it.

Pour your remaining sourdough into your mixing bowl and add 2 1/2 C. cold water, 2 TB. salt (opt.), 1/4 C. honey (opt.), and 5 C. whole wheat flour. Mix to blend.

Slowly add in more flour to a moderately stiff dough that is smooth and elastic. You should be able to stick your finger into the dough and pull it out without sticky residue on it.

Continue kneading for a total of 10 minutes, including the time it took to get your dough to the right consistency.

Place the dough on your counter and divide into fourths. Shape each quarter and place in oiled loaf pans. I use these and LOVE them.

Let loaves rest in a warm place until doubled in size. Rising time depends on temperature and humidity, plan about 4-7 hours.

Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.

Take out loaves and brush tops with butter, if desired. Place on cooling rack. Then eat them…and be amazed at yourself.

At the end of the day or after 8-12 hours from when you started this whole process, find the start you set aside and ignored, put a tight lid on your container and place it in the refrigerator for up to a week. When you are ready to make bread again, take your start out the day before you want to bake and start back up there at the beginning.

Now, I have to say, if I can do this, ANYONE can do this. I promise. I am NOT a baker and I swear I could win a gazillion bucks if I just kept a video camera in my kitchen at all times to catch the ridiculous things I do.

But this? It is SO not hard. It is easy. It has four measly ingredients…no yeast, no oil, no gluten-enhancer, no citric acid, no potato water, no nothing…and it turns out delicious!

Here is a picture of my first batch:

Last night I had three sunny-side up eggs and two pieces of sourdough toast and I thought to myself, “This is amazing. After all this time of being intimidated, I am now eating my very own scrumptious whole-wheat sourdough bread.”

And then I thought, “What else have I let intimidate me? What else could I be learning and doing and enjoying if only I wouldn’t let myself be intimidated by it?”

For more information, check out this sourdough page and of course, the folks over at The Fresh Loaf are full of knowledge about all things bread-y.

p.s. We are now feasting on our warm, fresh from the oven bread…and I think this third batch is the best yet!

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  1. Anne

    Well, oh, my good heck!!!! This is a small miracle. And we all believe in miracles. I’m glad this one came to you and your family! [Seriously, change this comment area. It’s making me blind!]

    • tracy

      What is making you blind?

      This bread is so yummy! Maybe I will get up my courage to add something else to it…like garlic or Asiago or something.

  2. She’s right: it’s hard to see the comment area.

    Regardless, if you ever want to part with some of the starter, I’d take some! Sounds like a wonderful thing you guys have done!


    • tracy

      Sara and Anne,

      Can you tell me exactly what is hard to read in the comment area? I can see the comments clearly and don’t understand what you are or are not seeing, but I would love to fix whatever it is!


      Let me read up on sharing starter and what I need to do to part with some. I don’t think it is a big deal at all, but I’m not sure, so let me look it up!

      • jessica

        Sara & Anne, do you mean the typing in the comment box? It’s light gray, Trace, we can make it darker… if they mean something else though a screenshot would be helpful!

        • tracy

          I think that must be what they mean. Let’s make it black or darker gray or whatever you think would look good.

          • Anne

            It should be hot pink to match your words right here. Also the submit button should be hot pink :] or turquoise to match the bird :]

  3. Rhaelene

    If I don’t have someone to give me starter, how do I start my own? I love sourdough bread and would love to give this a try.

    • tracy

      Hello Rhaelene! Is this my lovely 1st cousin once removed Rhaelene?

      I have step-by-step directions in my book that I can type up and send you, but here is a website that has some directions:

      I would love to hear if it works for you!

      • Rhaelene

        Why, yes, this is your first cousin once removed Rhaelene :) Thanks for the link. I may give this a try over the Christmas holidays. I have even considered making bread for neighbor gifts and whole wheat sourdough might be just the thing!

        • Rhaelene

          This link actually doesn’t work for me…

          • tracy

            Hmmmm, it is not working for me either. When I get home tonight I will try to find a good one and email it to you.

            I’m so excited you found me on the web! How is your family doing?

  4. Becky

    I soooo want to do this! Awesome!!!

  5. nicole

    This sounds delish! I am not a baker by any means, but LOVE the smell of fresh baked bread in the oven! I will have to try this. Thank you so much for sharing!!! :)

    • tracy


      It is great to see you on here! Try it and then let me know your results! I just had a slice of it this morning with butter and jam and it was delish!

      How is Miss Emma? Her Packer picture is adorable!

      • nicole

        Your blog is wonderful! You do such an amazing job and I love keeping up with the family! I will definitely let you know how it turns out… I probably won’t get a chance to try it until closer to Christmas (maybe, haha, who has the time these days?!).

        Emma is just the cutest! My sister and bro-in-law went to the game on Monday, so my mom and Emma came over to Wausau. So it was nice to spend the evening with both of them. Emma is growing so fast, it amazes me every time I see her! I can’t wait to see what they’ll pick out for her Christmas pictures! :0

        Hope all is well with all of you! Tell everyone HI! :)

  6. Tasha

    You have inspired me! It has also been one of my goals to make sourdough bread, and that goal has gotten put aside over and over. I always thought it would be difficult for quite a while. I am going to try this soon! Thanks for the motivation to accomplish a goal!

    • tracy


      Come on over and try some! You will love it, you will see, you will love it, just like me!

  7. Janice

    Thanks for the great recipe! I have been enjoying your blog since Robyn directed me here. I went to the sourdough class too and have been having a lot of fun experimenting with it. We keep our house pretty cold in the winter too (55-65). When it is cold, I rise my bread in a warmed oven. I turn the oven on to the lowest temp for a few minutes just to get it warmed up a little (make sure it’s not too hot). Then turn it off and let the bread rise there.

    • tracy


      Welcome! I hope you enjoy your time here at my online home. It is wonderful to hear from you!

      Yes, I have been doing the oven approach and it seems to be working well, but my lowest temp is 200 and it gets there really quick so I have to remember to just turn it on for about 60 seconds or it will get too hot.

      What have you made with your sourdough start? All I have done so far is plain whole-wheat bread. I would like to try bagels, pretzels, and pancakes. I would also like to try to jazz my bread up a little with some garlic and cheese.

      • Janice

        I have made some free form loafs both with wheat and white flour, french bread, bagels (they were really good) and english muffins. I have also made waffles and pancakes and I really like it a lot. The whole wheat loaf I made turned out dry and dense. I think I just needed to give it more time.

        • tracy

          Awesome!! I need to watch some videos or something on pretzels & bagels!

      • Janice

        I really want to try making no-knead bread (artisan bread in 5 min a day) using only sour dough but I haven’t yet done it. I might try doing rolls too but I haven’t found a recipe I like.

        • tracy

          Artisan bread would be fabulous!