Stella Culinary School Podcast Episode 22| Let's Bake Some Sourdough

SCS 022| Let's Bake Some Sourdough

It is done. Our epic Stella Culinary bread series is now in the history books. What better way to finish than an awesome lesson on sourdough bread baking.

In the Stella Culinary School Podcast Episode 21, you learned how to create pre-ferments and sourdough starters. In this episode, we dive into the sourdough bread making process.

Discussion Segment

In this episode's discussion segment, we get super geeky and discuss how you can control the flavor of your starter based upon what you feed it, and the environment in which it's stored. For the uber geek who wants to take their knowledge even further, I would highly recommend the following article:

Technique Segment

In the technique segment, I take you through the process of making a basic loaf of sourdough bread.

You will learn:

  •     Various strategies for waking up and feeding your starter.
  •     How extended autolyse can give you a better finished product.
  •     My approach to feeding my starter and baking the daily bread served at Stella.
  •     How I control the sourness and flavor balance of my sourdough bread.

Pre-Requisites - Please Don't Skip

This episode covers many advanced level concepts which can only be fully comprehended with a firm foundation in bread baking. Fear not, because if you've just stumbled across this page, the following podcasts episodes will get you up to speed in no time.

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There are 45 Comments

jacob burton's picture


How'd you like the video. I know you had a lot of questions on how much starter to use and how to convert recipes over to sourdough. Do you feel like you have a grasp on it now?

@Silver Kat,

Yes, I love the wood burning oven. It's still one of my favorite toys in the kitchen.

Ed_f's picture

Hey Jacob,
The video was great! I was getting closer to putting the pieces together and that completed it for me.
Funny you ask what I thought, because knowing I had asked the question, during the video I felt like I was standing there with you talking to me. 
Today's bread actually was a changed based on using less starter and more time to compensate for the hot days. Worked out great.
Thanks for all the great information and inspiration!

jacob burton's picture

That's great to hear. Converting commercial yeast recipes to sourdough, or figuring out how much starter to use, really isn't that hard of a concept once grasped, but it's difficult to explain in an article or as a response to a forum question (for me at least).

When you combine the information covered in the other podcast with the ratios given in that video, you also have the tools to create your own sourdough bread recipes. Ad some flavors here (herbs, seeds, onions, bacon), some delayed fermentation there, and you have a great recipe to test. Doesn't mean it will come out perfect on the first try, but you'll at least be able to pinpoint what went wrong and fix it.

Looking forward to checking out some of your future loaves.

Ed_f's picture

Thanks again.  As for that oven... I know you said you are done with bread, but I would love to see a video of how you use it and the techniques involved. 
How you test temperature and keep things even. You made it pretty clear free time is limited, but if you ever find some, would be interesting to me and probably some other home bakers.

jacob burton's picture

I eventually will do a wood fire baking series, with possibly an audio podcast attached, but it's not my top priority right now. I'd like to move the audio podcast onto other, non-bread subjects for a little while, and finish this damn online boot camp I've been working on for what seems like forever now.

I'll probably look at shooting something like that when winter rolls around.

James_D's picture

Wow...I feel like I just received my doctorate in sourdough bread baking after listening to this episode. I started following you about 6 months ago when the sous chef I work for recommended Stella Culinary.

I was never into bread baking, but after listening to all your podcast episodes, I have to say, you have me hooked. I've been playing around with your basic baguette and sourdough round recipe and have had such good results, chef is talking about putting me in charge of bread production for the restaurant (we currently buy our baguettes).

Thank you so much for this amazing resource.

jacob burton's picture

Right on James. Glad you found Stella Culinary. Let me know how the bread program turns out, and if you need any help.

TIV's picture

My first time as official user of this website. As everyone have said many times - the site is great, the videos fantastic ......... but more importantly in my mind is the amazing generosity you display, Chef Jacob, in hosting this site. You are reaching out to untold number of people you do not know and you share your knowledge freely and with such passion and generosity. I am awed.!
Thank you ever so much.

I live in Northern Sweden - I mean way North... close to the arctic .. and a lot of ingredients are simply not available here, but we make do.

I can't wait to further my reading and thus my skills from your website.

Thank you once again.

jacob burton's picture


Thanks so much for the nice comment. I'm glad to hear you're loving the Stella Culinary content. Looking forward to having you as part of our community.

mak445's picture

How you test temperature and keep things even. You made it pretty clear free time is limited, but if you ever find some, would be interesting to me and probably some other home bakers.

jacob burton's picture

@ Mak,

Most bread recipes are formulated with the assumption of standard room temperature of 70-75F. If your room is colder, fermentation and proofing will slow down, and if your room is hotter, it will speed up.

To deal with this, you can add less yeast (or starter) for a hotter environment, and more if in a colder environment.

But most important, pay attention to the visual cues described in this and other podcast episodes. For bulk fermentation, you're looking for a 1.5-2X increase in volume, and for proofing, about 1.5X increase in volume.

Let me know if you have any more questions.

windsorr's picture

HI Jacob. Your guidance is great. The books I have tried are awful at explaining this stuff in a way that it can be made useful. You have aced that so thanks very much. 
My starter (made with your guidance) makes a loaf that is:
A bit dense than with regular yeast
MUCH better crust
MUCH better flavour. 
MUCH better oven spring. 

Question: I have tried a range of flours and I find that they absorb hugely different quantities of water. The same recpie than yeilds different consistency of dough depending on what flour I use. How can I deal with this problem? should I adjust the hydration until I get equivalent consistency?

Question: A lot of the loaves I make which have a high hydration have a crumb that looks partially  translucent. (especially Ciabatta (85% hydration)  Taste is fine but the crumb is more chewy and less fluffy than I was expecting. What are the factors that affect the consistency of the crumb and what should I adjust to get a fluffy white crumb?.

Many thanks for your excellent guidance and v useful podcasts...

Ed_f's picture

Windsorr, your post really shows me how knowing what your trying to accomplish is really important if you are going to have success. 
Your disappointment in a translucent crumb is something that others work hard to achieve:

It sounds to me like you are trying to get closer to an american sandwich bread which would probably mean more kneading and check the protein in your flour.
You will definitely have to adjust your water based on the flour particularly if you are using whole wheat or rye.

windsorr's picture

Thanks for your comments. I am not necessarily disappointed, it was just different to what I had expected. When I buy artisanal bread at the bakery, it rarely has a crumb like that and I was wondering what factors make mine different from theirs. 
From your comments, I guess I should knead more (I typically knead by hand) or use flour with a lower protein content. I typically use flour with around 12.5%. 

jacob burton's picture

Question: I have tried a range of flours and I find that they absorb hugely different quantities of water. The same recpie than yeilds different consistency of dough depending on what flour I use. How can I deal with this problem? should I adjust the hydration until I get equivalent consistency?

The more gluten or overall protein a flour has, the more water it will absorb. So assuming your hydration rate stays the same, a 100% whole wheat dough will be stiffer than a dough using 100% bread flour, which in turn will be stiffer than a dough made with 100% All Purpose Flour.

If you have a dough and it seems a little bit too dry or sticky, I'm a big fan of adding additional water or flour by feel.

Question: A lot of the loaves I make which have a high hydration have a crumb that looks partially  translucent. (especially Ciabatta (85% hydration)  Taste is fine but the crumb is more chewy and less fluffy than I was expecting. What are the factors that affect the consistency of the crumb and what should I adjust to get a fluffy white crumb?

The chewy crumb is more typical of a high-hydration dough. I would recommend dropping the hydration to around 70% if you want a more fluffy crumb. If you're looking for a tender crumb as found in sandwich bread, you'll need to add some fat and need a little bit more (along with dropping hydration), as Ed_f suggested.

Let me know if you have any more questions.

windsorr's picture

Hi Jacob
Thank you for your answers. The strange thing I have noticed is that the water absorbtion is different for flours that should be the same. I have a 12.5% protein white lour milled in Qatar that produces a much wetter dough than a 10% protein white flour that is milled in UAE (where I live) when the same amount of water is added.  I have stuck with the Qatar flour as it produces a dough that is much more consistent with what other people describe and it is a known quantity to me. 

My other question is when is the best time to use the sour dough starter. I presume when it has risen to the max before it collapses but would like to check. Thank you very much...

jacob burton's picture


Different flours will have different moisture contents depending on how they were milled, stored, shipped from, etc. I think the best thing to do is find one type of flour that works for you and stick with it for a while.

The best time to use a sourdough starter is when it has risen completely, and starts to fall back in on itself. The float test is my favorite method for testing the viability of a starter, as demonstrated in my sourdough videos found on our bread baking page:

Sheila Ouda's picture

Hey Jacob. Your Podcasts are amazing and very informative. I loved this one specifically because i've been trying to make my own starter in order to make sour dough bread but i keep failing. I know its because of the temperature. Around here its about 35 Celsius and sometimes reaches 38 to 40 Celsius. 

Now i'm wondering why last time i attempted to do a starter, after the 2nd day, it formed large bubbles and had this orange hue to it and it smelt awful, sorry and excuse me, but it smelt like puke that it made my whole kitchen stink. So i resorted to throwing it out and will wait till the temperature drops and then try again. But what happened to my last starter. Does anyone have any idea?  

Thank you so much for this wonderful podcast Jacob and your wonderful efforts. I really appreciate it and you've been of great help with my baking.

Ed_f's picture

It sounds like you got some mold growing causing the orange. If I had to guess the pH did not get low enough fast enough to create an environment hostile to the the orange guys.
You might consider the pineapple approach, that would get your pH down fast, then the temperature shouldn't be as much of a factor.  OBO (one bakers opinion)

Sheila Ouda's picture

Thanks Ed_f for your reply and suggestion. That's what I thought too, that its mold growing but I wasn't sure, that's why I thought of asking. I think I'll try the pineapple juice approach. Hopefully it'll work this time. Thanks again Ed_f.

Ed_f's picture

Please come back and give an update after you have tried. Would be nice to know if it worked for you!

jacob burton's picture

@Shella Ouda,

Ed_F hit the nail on the head. I think you would have better luck with the pineapple approach.

With that said, the "vomit" smell is usually a transitional phase in certain environments. There is a whole string of microbes that inhabit your starter in the first seven days, with each one making the environment a little more acidic, until the LAB take over and thrive, kicking the rest of the bad microbes out.

One of the inherent smells of vomit is stomach acid. What that's telling me is your dough is acidifying, but it hasn't selected for the right microbes yet.

A lot of the time, you can simply pour out most of the starter, feed it fresh, and continue feeding for the next few days. In most cases, the LAB will take over, and you'll have a healthy starter. Its just getting through the stinky phase (which usually occurs in the first three days).

Sheila Ouda's picture

Hey Jacob,

Thank you so much for your input. This makes complete sense. I'll give it another shot with the pineapple approach which Ed_f has suggested and will see how it turns out.

@Ed_f I'll definitely come back and update you. Thank you again guys so much.

I was so happy to find your podcasts and forum pages.. Its so helpful and filled with info that's easy to understand. Thank you guys.

I'll be back to update you about the pineapple approach.

THigson's picture

Though I have lingered around your site for a little while, I still consider myself new to Stella Culinary. I am simply an individual (single dad of two great teenagers - the dinner table patrons!) that really enjoys cooking. My learning is by book and resources available online. I would like to say that I greatly appreciate the professionalism of you, your videos and the web site as a whole. Thank you for what you graciously offer to those of us such as myself. I would also like to pass along that reading, watching and listening to you leaves me asking, "Is there anything this guy doesn't know about cooking?"

Great info and again, thank you!!

jacob burton's picture

Hey THigson, glad you're enjoying the Stella Culinary content. As to your question:

Is there anything this guy doesn't know about cooking?

Obviously yes, there's lots of things about cooking I don't know. The secrete to my growth as a chef has been this website. I truly believe the best way to master something is to teach it. So I research a subject that interests me, develop and test recipes in my kitchen, and then teach it here.

The great thing about cooking is you could devote three lifetimes to it, and still not master everything!

EinWindir's picture

well i finally did first homemade sourdough bread.  i did not get a nice oven spring. and the crumb is no where near as airy as what is seen on your video.  oh but the taste!!  i've never before eaten bread where i've said to myself it's a shame to put vegepate peanut butter or whatever because it hides the taste of the bread.  it looked beautiful in an old school fashion.  the crumb was extremely spongy.  i could squish hard numerous times and it would always find its original form.  it has a pronounced sourdough taste. loved it.  the next day i enjoyed it with tomatoes and cucumbers, no mayo.  what a delight.  thank you so much for your help and all the time and effort you put into this site.  i know i still have to improve.  this is but a beginning.       how do i post pictures ?

EinWindir's picture

and thank you all to the other people who post comments and questions which are also very pertinent and informative.  you are one reason i love this site so much.

revan02's picture

Good Day Everyone i am Revan im 19 years old a filipino and a student, im already in love with this site ever since i read those tips and ideas it helps me gather more useful information and my only dream is to become a famous baker and reach my goals in life.

revan02's picture

Hello Jacob,
           I never expected your fast response to my message, and by the way thanks for the heart warming welcome i really appreciate it , and by the way i would like to request something if its ok with you?
   Thanks a lot God Bless. cheeky

Jennifer's picture


Thank you for your podcast, site and wealth of knowledge you are so generous to share. You are a fantastic teacher. I am learning so very much and truly enjoying improving my culinary skills. Thank you!

My questions relates to einkorn sourdough. I've had my starter going for close to a year. I was able to start it on my own from the natural yeast in the air. I need to make 100% einkorn sourdough (due to some of my family's health concerns). It seams my starter is most active and passes the float test around the 3 hour mark (as well as doubling within that time period) which seems really quick to me. I notice that I produce the best loaves when I sift the einkorn flour to remove the bran. Certainly time consuming, but it helps yield a better loaf. Einkorn has a much higher protein content compared to wheat flour; about 18%. What recommendations would you have for working with a flour with a much higher protein content? How should I be adjusting times and process? Thank you so much for your help and suggestions to you or anyone else who might be kind enough to share their expertise and experience working with einkorn sourdough. 

jacob burton's picture

Hi Jennifer,

Glad you're finding the site and podcasts helpful.

High protein flours like whole wheat and einkorn can absorb more water than their lower protein counterparts, so you'll need to up hydration. Also, the bran from the einkorn will cut and shorten the gluten strands, making the bread a little more dense. Here's my approach:

Sift einkorn flour through a medium grit sieve that allows most of the flour to fall through but traps the larger pieces of bran. Set the bran aside for later.

Take the sifted flour, and sift again, this time through a finer strainer (like a chinoise). All the stuff that falls through, you want to reserve.

Now weigh the stuff that doesn't fall through the fine strainer, and add an equal weight of water, a spike of sourdough starter, and let sit overnight. This will be your preferment, and will also soften the larger portions of the einkorn flour that would normally cut through the gluten strands, yielding a denser loaf.

The next day, add in the finest sifted flour to your preferment, and enough water to bring your total hydration rate to 75%. This is also the time you add your salt.

From here, basically follow my standard sourdough boule process, but instead of kneading, just do 4-5 stretch and folds at 20 minute intervals. After you form the loaf, brush the top with water, and roll in the large pieces of einkorn bran that you reserved form the first sifting. This will incorporate the healthy bran, but since it's on the outside of the loaf, it will give an awesome texture, and not effect the interior density of the loaf.

Jennifer's picture

Oh this is most helpful. Thank you! I will let you know how is goes. One quick question regarding the hydration, should I keep my starter at 100% hydration or up the hydration there too? Thanks again!

westgate6000's picture

Jacob, i am speechless at the quality and the quantity of all the content here.... 

my 100% whole wheat starter is on its 2nd day so far, and i am finishing up the learning (it's still too dense, but you mentioned yesterday that it will relax soon). 
could you please help me to figure out the following. 

i got into sourdough bread making due to health reasons. commercial yeast is simply bad. but i also want to make 100% whole grains, for the same health reasons. i don't understand the subject fully, but based on what i've heard any flour  which is not 100% whole (for example, bread flour) has beneficial things removed from it, and removed in a bad way (with solvents or whatever, i have no clue, just having vague idea from a few shady sources, was too busy to investigate and verify the information). 

hence the first question. could you please give me some reference to health-related info on the flours; it could be that i am misunderstanding the detrimental impact of non-100%-whole grains on health, maybe it depends on the way how stuff is removed from the grain and not on whole or not whole per se? 

the second question is about 100% whole wheat starters and breads. you mention it in a few places in podcasts and in the videos, but you mostly focus on up to 20% whole content - for optimum results. 100% whole - related tips are scattered and i don't have clear picture. could you please point out if you have 100% whole grains bread focused info somewhere (video or text or foru thread) where you would put together the whole picture on how to handle 100% whole breads. or maybe you could put it up if it's not there yet - i assume it could be beneficial for many people; many guys our days have this idea that only 100% whole grains are 100% best for health :) 

thank you very much!!! 


westgate6000's picture

i hope you don't mind - one more question (i feel guilty asking for highly professional answers for free, especially for the information that cannot be found anywhere else...)

i used to bake 100% whole wheat bread for a while. it wasn't bad at all, relatively, but i want to take it to next level, and finally understand what i was doing too. 

here is what i used to do (translating from tablespoons and cups): 

begin with taking {10g flour + 15g water} - as a starter (i developed the starter by adding daily the same amount of flour and just enough water to make it as sour cream, never really measured) 
adding {33g + 67g water} - leaving for 6 hours
adding {33g + 67g water} - leaving for another 6 hours
adding {520g + 200g water} - mixing, kneading, shaping and putting in forms to rise for 6 hours
baking 20 minutes at 400 degrees, and another for 25 minutes at 375 degrees
seems that altogether i had {596g flour + 349g water}, which makes it 59% hydration.

i am curious: where in the whole picture this technique falls in? is it valid somewhat or it's totally faulty? i mean this 6 hours plus 6 hours plus another 6 hours, i did it like magic, without having slightest clue. now i see it may be considered as sort of preferment, but why not to do it simply by mixing in 66g flour and 134g water and leaving for 12 hours? what's this 6+6? 

also, the the amount seems to be too low too for preferment - 66 is only 11% of 596, and it would make more sense to use like a third or at least a quarter for preferment? 

i am asking this question because i think it might be a very good example on how to take a "magical" formula and correct it to what it should be. i got it from some "professional" baker - well, it could be it makes sense, i am just analyzing it based on what i heard from you so far, and it could be i haven't heard enough from you yet :) 

yeah, sometimes it comes out pretty good, sometimes too dense, even though i follow exact formula - i don't know what it depends on, but could be my starter was not too strong either, i was not aware of any test for the starter till i heard you, and i also fed it with too little flour (ever time adding a few tablespoons only, regardless the quantity of the starter). 

thank you!


westgate6000's picture

i observed some people baking cookies and pies on a dough which i would call "underdeveloped starter" - either using sort of starter after 1-2-3 days (not waiting till full maturity as we do for bread), or having fully mature starter but adding some flour and water and letting it rise like for an hour or two (i.e. not waiting for it to rise fully as we do for bread). 

what's your take on the matter? is there some simple and clear framework for this kind of use available? similar to the framework you demonstrated for bread? i would assume this would be simpler than for bread, but still would love to get away from specific recipes and to be able to design the recipes based on a few simple principles. 
thank you! 


p.s. many use soda and baking powder too - is there anything with soda and baking powder you wouldn't be able to achieve with partially or fully fermented flour and water? 

jacob burton's picture

Hey Westgate,

Sorry for the delayed response. Your question had quite a few variables to it so I decided to give you an audio response. Click on the play button below:

Randy658's picture

Hey Chef,

I am starting from scratch and will catch up with you at the ten day mark of the starter.

I think I have figured out what went wrong.