The 13 Best Resources for Getting Started With Sourdough
One fateful day about ten years ago, my brother shared with me some of the sourdough starter he’d made on his kitchen windowsill. That moment launched our sibling rivalry into new and more delicious territory and turned me into an evangelist about the health and flavor benefits of sourdough breads. For a decade now, I’ve been that guy, annoying friends and strangers alike with my vigorous proselytizing about the evils of commercial yeasts and the miracles of wild fermentation.
So, for me, one small silver lining to pandemic lockdown has been that the world, it seems, has finally come around to see just how oh-so-right I was all those years!
Since March, there has been a huge surge in people interested in learning about sourdough, and friends all over the country have been reaching out to me for tips and tricks for getting started or making progress on their sourdough journeys. So, in the process of trying to help from a distance, I’ve come up with a standard set of articles and videos that I believe are the most helpful for sourdough newbies.
While with sourdough I don’t think there is any replacement for simply baking, baking, and baking again to learn subtle techniques like how to shape or how to gauge the nuances in proof time or gluten strength or hydration levels, the resources below might be helpful if, like for all of us right now, you can’t necessarily get elbow-to-elbow with an expert who can show you the subtleties of the art.
Making a Starter
The basics of making a starter from scratch won’t vary too much from recipe to recipe. (Although there are versions that add ways of kickstarting the wild yeast production, as in this one from Nancy Silverton.) These three recipes do a good job of, from the beginning, introducing the notion that sourdough is an art requiring attention to subtle variations in what will be your own unique starter.
Feeding a Starter
It ain’t rocket science, but here’s a good tutorial. I like this one because it doesn’t treat feeding a sourdough starter as if it’s a science project where every gram and degree Fahrenheit has to be perfectly calibrated. As I tell every newbie I talk to: If you want to be exact, go for it, but it’s not mandatory and, long run, it’s way more important for you to get an instinct for the right look and feel than it is to bust out your TI-85 every time you bake.
This post includes great visual references to help you learn to develop an instinct for the variations in the growth cycle of your starter.
Making (& Mastering) Your First Loaf
This is the first recipe that I always recommend to newbies and I always recommend it with one major caveat: Your first loaf IS GOING TO SUCK. It’s unavoidable. More than likely your dough is going to stick to your countertop and all over your hands when you shape, it’s not going to turn out of your proofing basket, and once you take your bread out of the oven, it’s going to look like an amber hockey puck. Congratulations! You’re human and you just learned a ton. Now, try to make the exact same recipe again. I promise you’ll do better. Then make it again and you’ll do better, then make it again and you’ll do even better….
Watch this vid as a companion to the recipe above. The basics are the same, but the video may help cement some of the concepts. Plus, it’s hilarious.
I like this vid for learning to shape your loaf. There are a ton of videos all over Instagram showing super-complex shaping techniques, but worry about that two or three years from now when you’re bored of your standard method of crushing loaves consistently. If you’re just getting started, just get the hang of the simple technique in this video and I promise you your loaves will be just as amazing as the ones on the ‘gram.
Going Beyond the Basic Loaf
Here are a few of my favorites:
Sourdough Croissants (Advanced) I’m getting carried away recommending this recipe, but I’ve been obsessed with it during the pandemic. Fair warning, this recipe is INTENSE—but if you do try it, my highly recommended little tweak: use goat butter!
Good luck on your sourdough journey! Holler at me if you have questions: firstname.lastname@example.org!