How to Make Sourdough Bread

Learn how to make sourdough bread, and cook up some hearty and delicious pioneer fare in your kitchen.

  • Artisan Sourdough Bread Loaf
    A sourdough loaf can turn a ho-hum sandwich into a culinary masterpiece.
    Karen Keb

  • Artisan Sourdough Bread Loaf

My love for sourdough and learning how to make sourdough bread began suddenly one day while out hunting in antique stores. A shop owner in Paxico, Kansas, said she had just gotten in a truckload of old cookbooks she’d scored at an estate sale, and she suggested I might want to have a look. Might I? She had no idea who she was dealing with!

Recipes for Making Sourdough Bread:
Sourdough Bread Recipe
Sourdough Blueberry Muffins Recipe
Sourdough Biscuits Recipe 
Sourdough Pancakes Recipe 
No-Knead Sourdough Bread Recipe

For the next couple of hours I pored through the stacks, and when I pulled out a smallish, red book from 1976 called Alaska Sourdough: The Real Stuff by A Real Alaskan by Ruth Allman (Alaska Northwest Publishing Co., Anchorage), I held it up in a “Eureka!” moment. This charming, handwritten book (literally handwritten by the author, and mass-produced by the publisher) spoke to me on many levels. My grandfather was an Alaska Native, and after spending time on “the last frontier,” I came to cherish both the Native culture and that rugged pioneer spirit. Also, being a fervent baker, I had wanted to investigate sourdough for some time. All of that, together with my love for “real food,” converged, and I started on my sourdough odyssey.  

How to Make Sourdough Bread

One of Webster’s definitions for a “sourdough” is “a prospector or settler in the Western United States or Canada, especially one living alone: so called because their staple was sourdough bread.” Sourdough, the food, is a fermented dough and traditional pioneer food of mining camps and chuck wagons, and for those living on the trail. It was known as the best food for energy because of its protein content – according to Ruth Allman, laboratory tests have shown sourdough contains the greatest amount of protein for its weight and size of any comparable food. 

Sourdough was common in pioneer days because yeast was extremely hard to come by, and when it was available, it was almost always “dead” from exposure to extreme conditions. Dead yeast resulted in baking failures that were a grievous waste of vital supplies. Sourdough became the standard because it could be controlled and kept alive, and it was always dependable.  

How to make a sourdough starter

The best way to get started with how to make sourdough bread is to acquire a small quantity from an active pot. My husband gave me a small jar of starter as a gift; he acquired it from a friend who acquired it from a pig farmer in the Italian province of Le Marche, where it has been used as the village starter for at least 100 years. (There will always be great lore surrounding any sourdough starter, for people love their sourdough!)

8/13/2015 9:36:55 AM

Hi ! I made my starter a few days ago I stored it in my oven to sit the first 3 days . I needed my oven on the third day so I sit the starter on the kitchen table for a few hours . Before putting it back in the cooled oven I fed it 1/4 cup white flour, 1/4 cup water and 1 tsp of sugar stirring witha wooden spoon until ( hopefully ) mixed well . The next day it had a layer of liquid on top and was not as aromatic as it had been . It did not smell bad not have any unusual color . Is it OK or do I need to start over ?? Thank You ! Lisa S PS I have it in a 1/2 gallon glass canning jar with cheesecloth on top held by a rubber band . Is this OK or do I need a "crock" vessel ?

5/19/2015 4:19:59 PM

Hi Sonia! Great question. You make potato water by cubing two to three medium size potatoes, place them in a pot, and just cover them with water. Boil for about 15 to 20 minutes. When the potatoes are soft, strain the water off and let it cool before using it. Hope this helps!

11/15/2013 5:25:10 PM

I am new to bread making and sourdough is my favorite! I find this article confusing because while it tells you how to make the potato water it does not tell you how many potatoes to use or if there is a better one over another to use. Any advice for the novice bread maker?

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