Baking sourdough is a technical process, and sometimes in that process, we overlook a small step that may have resulted in better sourdough and a nicer finished loaf. Here are five quick recommendations from things I’ve learned personally in my sourdough journey. Leave me a comment below and let me know: what change did you make that resulted in better sourdough? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences!
#1: Which type of flour to choose
The type of flour you use will make a big difference in your end result. For years, I’ve used a mix of all-purpose flour and whole wheat flour because, habit.
Recently, I switched out my all-purpose flour for bread flour, and I discovered I had a more open crumb as a result. Taste and texture were overwhelmingly similar, but the appearance was much improved.
If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also play with incorporating different flours like einkorn, spelt, and emmer. These all lend very different tastes, textures, and will require a bit of adaptability in terms of your technique – but once you master the country loaf, I highly suggest playing with different flours!
#2: Monitor dough temperature
Of all the variables in sourdough baking, the one that affects fermentation the most is the temperature of the dough.
You must have a digital thermometer when making sourdough. Temperature is your biggest variable, and being able to check and adjust it is crucial. Ideally, your dough should be around 80°F.
You can’t always set your kitchen to your ideal temperature, but there are ways to keep your dough at that temperature.
If your kitchen is warmer than 80°F, use cooler water when mixing your dough, and you can even surround your bowl with ice packs and keep checking the temperature with a digital thermometer.
If your kitchen is below 80°F, like mine, use warmer (not hot) water when mixing your dough. If your dough is still well below 80°F once mixed, you can turn on your oven for 30-45 seconds, then shut it off and place your dough in the slightly warm oven. If you do this, monitor the dough temperature closely.
#3: Flour the parchment
After you pull your dough from the fridge, you’ll invert the basket over the parchment paper.
It makes a big difference in your oven spring – the height your loaf achieves while baking in the oven – if you sprinkle the parchment with rice flour or cornmeal before you put your dough on it.
This is because the flour or cornmeal will prevent the dough from sticking to the parchment, allowing it to rise to its full potential once in the oven.
#4: Use a vessel with a lid
It’s possible to make good sourdough without a dutch oven, but there are many more variables that can ultimately affect how your bread turns out.
A good quality dutch oven will be your best friend. This is because, instead of messing around with trays of soaking wet towels or throwing ice cubes in your oven, you only have to put the lid on, and you get the same result. So easy!
The lid traps the escaping steam and surrounds the dough as it bakes for those first 15 minutes, and steam is essential for a crispy, golden crust. The Lodge cast-iron combo cooker is my personal favorite.
#5: Take notes
This way, when you pull a loaf from the oven that looks amazing and much better than anything you’ve ever made before, you can go back and replicate it. You can see what you did differently and continue doing that.
If you have any suggestions for other tips, or want to share your experiences, send me a note or leave a comment below!
At no extra cost to you, I will receive a small commission if you buy the items above. I would never recommend products if I didn’t really believe in it or use it myself. If you have any questions about any products, please let me know!