How to Use Sourdough


Sourdough can be used to replace yeast in bread, waffles and other yeast-leavened baked goods. It can also be used as the acid that activates the leavening properties of baking soda in pancakes and quick breads. For pancakes or quick breads, you can use the amount of starter your recipe requires straight from the refrigerator, as the leavening is not done by the starter but by the interaction of the acid in the sourdough with the baking soda. When using sourdough as the leavening agent for bread, however, you will need to begin by feeding the starter.

  • Remove the sourdough starter from the refrigerator between 4 and 12 hours before you plan on beginning the bread recipe so that you can feed it. Feeding will activate the starter, encouraging the yeast to begin producing the carbon dioxide needed to help your bread rise.

  • Discard 1 cup of starter, and pour the rest into a bowl. The starter you discard can be thrown away, used in a quick-bread recipe that doesn't require a fed starter, or given to a friend who needs a sourdough starter.

  • Add 1 cup of flour and 1/2 cup of lukewarm water to the starter. If your tap water is treated with chlorine, you'll need to either use bottled water or let your tap water sit uncovered for 24 hours before using it, so that the chlorine evaporates. Chlorine can stop the yeast from fermenting, which means your bread won't rise.

  • Cover the bowl and let it sit at room temperature for 4 to 12 hours. The starter will bubble as the yeast begins to work.

  • Combine the amount of fed sourdough your recipe requires with the other ingredients, and follow the recipe to make the bread.

    If you are adapting a conventional yeast-leavened recipe, replace 1 tbsp. of yeast with 1 cup of sourdough, and reduce the flour and water in the recipe by 3/4 and 1/2 cup, respectively.

  • Replace the sourdough removed from the starter with 1 cup of flour and 1/2 cup of lukewarm water. Stir to combine, and let sit, covered, at room temperature for 2 to 4 hours hours. Replace the starter in its container and refrigerate until ready to use again.

Tips & Warnings

  • Wash and dry the sourdough container while your starter is being fed.
  • Grey liquid, called hooch, that accumulates on the top of the stored starter is normal. Just stir it back in to the starter.
  • Whole wheat or rye flour can be used instead of white flour, if desired.
  • A pink or orange growth on the starter means it's spoiled and should be discarded.

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