15 Mistakes Most Beginner Sourdough Bakers Make

published on July 18, 2020

Personally I think baking sourdough bread from scratch is the most rewarding thing you can do in the kitchen there's really nothing better but with that reward comes direct correlation to a lot of pain and agony and failure and screw-ups it's just part of the game and

Over the years I've seen every type of screw-up when it comes to sourdough bread and really it's it's part of the journey so today I want to do a one dish breakdown or a one loaf breakdown in this case on sourdough bread baking to

Really give you the confidence on your sourdough journey and show you all the tips you need to make incredible sourdough at home so the first tip for making great sourdough bread at home and probably the most underrated thing to

The entire process is having a really healthy active sourdough starter this is the life force of your bread this is the yeast this is what gives it flavor this is what gives it its rise and without having a healthy starter that's super

Active you're just not going to get great results and I can't tell you how many people send in their bread and instantly I can just tell that their bread results weren't great because they don't have an active sourdough starter

At home they might feed it a few times they start off the process and it's not up to the level to make really good bread so you want to be feeding this thing once a day ideally twice a day once in the morning once at night and

Really all a sourdough starter is is a combination of flour and water and equal parts mixed together to create a culture for the wild yeast and the bacteria in your environment and this right here is the original way bread was made for

Thousands of years and the reason people are going back to sourdough more flavor longer fermentation healthier for you compared to just a dry active yeast which is going to be a quicker fermentation you're not going to get the

Flavor and you're not gonna get those health benefits from the long fermentation the breakdown of that the first thing you're gonna do in the sourdough process is refeed your sourdough starter you probably fed it

Some flour and water the day before and it's consumed all of the sugar from the starch the yeast needs more food to activate but what I like to do is rather than just pouring this out into the trash can is I chop up a little bit of

Chive action or some scallions I get a pan on medium heat and I pour in my sourdough starter to the pan and just fry that up because that is just good fermented dough right there fried dough delicious I add some of the chives add a

Little spice this time I'm adding some zatar I have a whole video on this you can click above if you want the details but the key is just don't throw out your sourdough starter when it's not activated you can use that it's

Delicious this thing right here is one of the best things you'll ever taste it's just fermented fried bread it's a little bit of spice a little bit of scallion you can dip it in some sauce it

Makes a great breakfast or really just a delicious snack so now that we've made some room in our jar we've got a little bit of starter at the bottom and we're going to refeed this and I'm gonna use equal parts flour and water so I'm gonna

Use 75 grams of flour and 75 grams of water and I use a chopstick to just mix this up I find it works really nicely until it's fully incorporated and ready to go you're totally fine to put the cap on your starter and just let that

Activate for around three to five hours at room temp tip number two is making sure you auto lease your bread which is a step that a lot of people skip over but it's so crucial for the gluten structure of your dough so you might be

Asking yourself what is gluten structure well it's pretty simple gluten is made up of two main proteins so these proteins are in your flour you've got gliadin and you've got gluten in and they're both different shapes and

When you add water to your flour basically these two proteins they bond together and when they bond together they form gluten and gluten is amazing because there's these little pockets in between these bonds where the co2 can be

Trapped and gluten is special because it stretches out so when that fermentation happens and the co2 is released it gets caught in here and stretches out the gluten structure and that's how your dough expands and by Auto leasing your

Dough you're going to be starting that whole process before we auto lease our bread we need to learn one more thing which is tip number three using Baker's percentages and Baker's percentages are great because you can easily calculate

The hydration level of your dough and also it's easy to expand your recipe and make multiple loaves that's why Baker's use Baker's percentages so to make it really easy we're gonna use a thousand grams of

Flour for this recipe every thing goes off the amount of flour so if you have 800 grams of water that's 80% hydration it's a really easy calculation if you want 75% hydration 750 grams of flour and then the other two ingredients

Are just your starter and that's 150 grams of starter which is 15% we're still going off the flour and then 2% salt would be 20 grams of salt so everything is really easy to calculate and to manipulate and to expand if

You're using bakers percentages so I'm gonna take out the scale and start weighing my flour and again we just have to get up to a thousand grams of flour so you can add whatever flowers you want and I'm just gonna add a mix I've got

Around 600 grams of white flour then I added around 300 grams of whole wheat flour and then the last 100 grams was just a little bit of spelt flour and some I corn flour that I had lying around in the pantry so tip number four

Is just lowering the hydration level of your sourdough bread so like we said before the hydration is just the percentage of water to the dough and when you're dealing with sourdough it's a very wet dough so it's really tricky

To deal with it's not like a pizza dough that you're used to where it's nice and firm and you've got no stickiness so most people will go off a recipe that will be like 80% hydration and they've never dealt with a wet dough and they

Run into some sticky situations later on which we will get to soon so what I suggest is going down to around 70% maybe 75% hydration level if you're a beginner and although your final bread might not be as airy as an 80% hydration

Bread it's gonna be so much easier to deal with and you're gonna save yourself a lot of trouble by just lowering the hydration a little bit so I'm gonna add my water to my flour and I'm going with around 77% hydration because I know what

I'm doing I've been doing this for a while and then I'm just going to stir those together and this is your auto lease process you're not kneading it you're just bringing these two ingredients together until they form

This little ass right here as long as the flour and the water are incorporated you're good to go you can just let that sit so now we got to check back in on our starter it's been a few hours at room temp and

It's activated but the question is when do you use your starter when you add it to the dough and that is tip number five knowing the proper point to use your starter so you really want to use your sourdough starter when it's at peak

Activation and to know that point there's a few things you can look out for one it's going to at least double in size you can see this is almost tripled in size maybe even quadrupled in size this thing is super active and also you

Can see it's still slightly rounded at the top of the starter and that's a really good sign that it hasn't started to deflate yet so it's still feeding off the flours it hasn't completely run out of food and it also has a really nice

Tangy smell I guess nice you know depending on if you like that that sourness but the smell should be a bit tangy at this point another technique you can use to check if your sourdough starters ready

Is the float test where you just take a scoop of starter you put it in some water and if it floats you know you at least have something that's gonna make bread so now that our sourdough starter is ready and activated

We are going to add that to our auto lease dough so we're gonna pour 150 grams of the starter over the dough and then we're gonna add our 2% of salt which is just 20 grams to that and just start folding that in together start

Mixing that in until it's incorporated and it's not going to be smooth at all because we have all that salt and we have different textures between the starter and the dough but don't worry as that sits and as you work on the dough

It's going to completely change I want to take a quick break from sourdough to thank the sponsor of this video which is audible and I've been using audible and crushing audiobooks for years now I love getting in the kitchen and doing some

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Cooks or Tex Pro home cooks to 500 500 for your discount now back to some sourdough so we are officially fermenting once the starter hits the dough fermentation has begun and now we we move into developing that gluten

Structure really working on the dough through a stretch and fold process which is gonna be about two hours long so every 30 minutes you're gonna be repeating this stretch and fold process and you're gonna see each stretch and

Fold your dough is gonna be completely changing textures and that's a great sign that your gluten is continuing to develop you're creating a stronger dough and that brings us in to tip number seven which is knowing when your stretch

And fold process is done and you'll see once we get to that fourth stretching fold the the dough has completely changed it's smooth its supple it's starting to pull away from the sides a little bit and you can see the rounded

Edge on the side of your dough that's a good sign that the structure is beginning to form whereas beforehand the dough would have just sunk completely into the sides and made a flat surface so you're looking for all of these

Little key elements to know that you have developed the structure of your dough so now that we're done the stretch and fold process we're moving on to the bulk rise which is where you really develop the volume in your dough some of

That gas through the fermentation and the best part about this which is tip number eight is that you can do it around you on schedule a lot of people think sourdough bread is something they can't

Obtain because it's a long process and yes it is long but you can fit it into your schedule because of the slow fermentation process you can work with the fermentation so when I was finished my stretching full process it was later

On in the day and I didn't have time to let this sit out at room temperature and rise would take about 4 to 6 hours so what I did was I threw it in the fridge and let it ferment overnight because it's colder in the fridge it's gonna

Slow down the fermentation process and I can just get back to it in the morning now if you do have time you can let them bulk rise at room temperature then you can form your loaves and put them in the fridge it all depends on your schedule

You're working the sourdough in your schedule which is why I created these checklist sourdough guides above which will help you no matter what schedule you have I've got a guide for a 9 to 5 schedule someone who's freelance someone

Who likes to stay up late at night click the link if you want the perfect guide for your schedule so my dough is fermented overnight and I take it out in the morning and you can see some of those fermentation bubbles it's gained a

Little bit of volume it's looking really nice it smells good it smells like fermented dough we are ready to shape our lows which brings us in to tip number 9 which is finding that perfect balance between the stickiness and the

Dryness of your dough how much flour do you use I see a lot of people at this point they get super overwhelmed by the the wetness the stickiness of their dough and I start adding all of this flour but you need some stickiness in

Your dough to actually form your loaves to shape them correctly but you can't have it too sticky or it's just gonna stick everywhere so this will definitely take time to develop it's one of the trickier parts of making sourdough bread

At home but you'll get that feel over time and remember this bench scraper right here this thing is your friend think of it as like a nonstick hand because the the dough the sticky dough won't stick to the bench scraper but it

Will certainly stick to your hand so take advantage so I divided my dough into two pieces and I'm giving them a rough shaping right here and this shaping doesn't matter so much it's just giving them

That that loose form before we really refine it and give it a final shaping and just let those sit on a little bit of flour on the board and cover those and we're gonna let those bench rest for 30 minutes before we move on to the

Final shaping so these right here are your bana tins or your proofing baskets where your dough sits in to hold its form and to proof but tip number 10 is just remembering to generously flour these bana tins because remember you're

Dealing with a really wet dough and if you don't generously flour these things then you could have dough sticking to the side and when you've gone through the whole process you're ready to bake and your dough sticks to the proofing

Basket not fun and you can always just brush off your excess flour later sore dough has been dressed for 30 minutes and we are ready to shape our lows get our final shaping in there and tip number 11 is there's no perfect way to

Shape your dough there's so many different techniques out there and you really just got to get in there and and try you can find a million techniques on Instagram I've been in bakeries I've seen so many different styles of shaping

Your dough but you're really trying to just accomplish a few key things what I like to do is just add a little bit of flour to the surface of the dough into the board and then I'll flatten out the dough just a little bit stretch it out

So you've got some surface area to work with then I grab the two closest corners and just start folding them over and this is why you don't want too much flour because if there's too much flour these

Corners won't stick together now once it's folded together you're gonna start folding it in on itself and really you're trying to build some surface tension here by folding the dough in on itself but you don't want to deflate the

Dough at this point you've worked so hard to build all of that nice air in your dough and just keep doing that and make sure you fold in the seams and let that sit on your board for just a few seconds so that seam on the bottom

Completely seals and then what I like to do is just roll that in some sesame seeds sesame sourdough it's just unbeatable and once it's in the sesame seeds you can just pop that right into your

Benetton you also want to make sure that once it's in the Benetton that you go around the sides and flour the sides because your dough is gonna be proofing in there and if it proofs to the sides and they're not flour that's an easy way

For the dough to stick to the sides now our dough has to proof in the baskets and if you didn't put it in the fridge already for the bulk rise you could pop it in the fridge now if it's late at night and let them proof overnight or

You can just do it at room temperature for around two to three hours and that brings us in to tip 12 how do you know when your dough is ready to go in the oven well you're gonna use something called a poke test and it's really

Simple you give your dough a little poke and if it springs completely back to the surface and doesn't leave a dent well you got to let it proof for a little longer if you poke it and it just leaves a big dent and it doesn't spring back at

All it's probably over proof the perfect place you're looking for is when you poke it and it springs back just a little bit and still leaves a slight dent that's when you know your dough is perfectly proofed and ready to go in the

Oven so ideally you have one of these Dutch oven type things that you can throw in your oven that's gonna imitate an actual steam oven because when the dough Rises it gives off steam and it gets trapped in that Dutch oven which

Will help the rise it will help the color so get your Dutch oven preheated at 500 or 550 degrees for at least 30 minutes ideally an hour and we're ready to bake our lows

the ovens spring the most exciting part about making sourdough you never know how it's gonna turn out until you can see we've got a nice ear right here but the crust is super light that's why we

Take the lid off and now we slide this baby back to caramelize the crust and finish it off and one more tip take a tray like this top this on here a lot of people have issues with their crusts burning on the bottom that's a great tip

You slide that under that will help the burning of the crust so I lower the temperature of the oven we've got a nice caramelized darkish brown color crust it's beautiful and a lot of people they don't cook their bread long enough and I

Think this is where you can develop a lot of flavor so rather than going off the actual time everyone's oven is different go off the color this looks beautiful so it's ready to go but I've got a bonus tip for you we're

Just gonna go and turn off the oven this is a step I learned in a bakery where if you put it back in with the oven off and just crack the lid this is a curing process so the bread continues to dry out and you get a seriously intense

Crust on your bread it's going to be so crackly and so delicious and let that sit in there for 20 minutes but make sure this is cracked right here so I've taken you through the process of

Baking sourdough at home and tip number 15 is don't be ashamed to screw up or fail it really is part of the sourdough journey because there are so many variables when it comes to baking bread at home when you're dealing with a

Natural fermentation you really never know and this is a loaf I baked today and you know to be honest it's good but it didn't come out perfect even me I've been baking for years and I screw up although that that crumb does look

Pretty nice I I highly suggest not cutting into your bread when it's super warm because it will affect the texture but sometimes it's just irresistible so I'm just gonna give this a taste just look at that fifty percent whole wheat

Sesame crusted sourdough it's a beautiful thing right there there is nothing better this is so sustaining this bread sometimes I bake a loaf of sourdough and it's just it's just my lunch or my dinner you don't need too

Much more or other than maybe some olive oil or some butter it's hard to explain how good this is and how much better this is then the loaves you get in bakeries never in a million years that I think you can make artisanal style

Sourdough bread at home but it is possible and you can do it as well it's just you know a road to success so stay patient stay in the game and you'll be having delicious bread and remember you can download those free guides to making

Sourdough right above just click that link that will help you get in sourdough to your own schedule and make sure you follow me at life by Mike G on Instagram to get all the behind the scenes action in this studio and all of the

Fermentation projects I'm working on so until next time and get cooking

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