Paul, in your recent post on "References", you mentioned home made Sourdough bread, can you share any advice?

The wife and I will be going down that rabbit hole of attempting a superb/great Sourdough Bread… I figure, if we use prime ingredients, what could go wrong.
I was going to purchase a Yeast Starter from a boutique source and start with that . I know many have attempted home made sourdough yeast starters, but I assume that will not get us great bread. We were also going to start w Sonoran wheat flour …
Any advice or hints before starting the quest is appreciated…

I have spent years trying to work with sourdoughs. Have had a few good experiences but mostly, ate a lot of decent (but not great) bread.

To capture the steam you will, of course, need a Lodge covered cast iron pan, but you probably already know that.

If you’re actually looking to make “great” sourdough, then spend the $20 or so and get the bible.

Good luck and let us see some pictures!


One of the best books I know when it comes to bread. Jeffrey Hamelman: books, biography, latest update

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Flour matters, I’ve had great luck with Central Millings Organic AP. My starter LOVES it.

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Wow Paul, when I see someone who is as focused as you tell you that his reference experience was never achieved it gives me pause to just not walk the path.
Thank you very much for your bible/book suggestion
I know you are a very busy man w many interests and have very full days, even a one word response for each query would be appreciated. Would you mind sharing your : 1) reference location/store or restaurant where you had your reference loaf? 2) Flour brand/type used in your best homemade bread. 3) Sourdough source of your mother yeast
P.S. (pun intended) I have lined up a purchase of your FR20’s w Taylor. Any bread related response you can give is valued and appreciated.
One note, on another post or video on Audio Equipment, you might want to elaborate on how you can have all the right ingredients, but unless you can assemble them in the “right” way, you may not get the optimum results possible…

Well, I am nuts/crazy and that’s part of the problem. I always stretch too far and am often disappointed. If I were to set my standards to a “normal” level or something a little less lofty, then I could be a happy baker.

Sourdough bread is a great example. From my very first loaf people liked the bread it was good. It wasn’t even close to what a great loaf is.

And what’s truly frustrating about sourdough is there are only three ingredients: flour, water, salt (and mother but that’s just fermented flour and water). The variations of what comes out are extraordinary.

And then there’s the 4th ingredient. Skill. :blush:

If you want to start at the top, go here: Buy a few loaves and have them delivered. They are beyond extraordinary.

Then, don’t set your sights on achieving what Chad (the baker) has spent his life doing and learning. It’s like someone new to HiFi wanting to have the same level of skill and experience as someone who has spent their life learning.

Not going to happen.

That said, if you’re ok with just making great loaves of homemade sourdough, then by all means go forward! It’s fun and it’s very rewarding.

I use Chad’s flour combination for his country loaf. Mostly white flour with some whole wheat mixed in. Get the book. The recipe is inside.

For your starter, I wouldn’t follow Chad’s recipe. It takes a week or so and is kind of frustrating. Any commercially available sourdough starter’s ok to start with. The last time I got back into it I went to my local bakery who makes good sourdough (and before that the bakery inside Whole Foods) and asked if I could buy a hunk of their mother (starter). They were happy to give me a small handful of dough. And that’s all you need (and that’s what I would do instead of buying it). You take home that small hunk of dough and every day you feed it. And it grows.

Have fun!


During my bread making phase (2011 - 2012), I had decent luck but I never chased the sourdough goal.


I second Paul’s advice, the Tartine bread book is excellent and it is very easy to follow. Some other books to check out would be Sourdough School by Vanessa Kimble, Living Bread by Daniel Leader, Flour Power by Tara Jensen and Pizza Camp by Joe Bedia.

Making your own starter is easier than one might think. I forgot what flour the Tartine book suggests but I use a 50/50 blend of whole wheat and organic dark rye. I find this blend works best for how I (ad)use my starter feeding it only 2 or 3 time a week. Also King Arthur Bread Flour is widely available and an excellent product, it is also clearly labeled with best by dates so you know how old it is. The fresher the better. It’s also super uniform and standardized with little to any batch variations. Most bakers and bakery’s swear by it and I think using it as a beginner will help keep another ‘what if?’ from your mind

Also and I wish someone told me this 7 years ago as a beginner you might want to start with a slightly lower hydration level for your first couple dozen loafs. The Tartine recipe is ~80% hydration which makes a very sticky dough at times hard to work with. starting with ~65% hydration will make the dough a little easier to work with.

Also keep good notes.

Good luck! Nothing like a grilled cheese on your own sourdough bread.


I’ve used this method in the past. Works quite well.

I AM impressed, looks like we have some true Renaissance men in this hobby. Thanks Paul for bringing the topic up.
So, Gents, how important is the starter/mother origin ? is a homemade one as good as one from a local bakery ? Does it matter? OR, is this a/the key ingredient?

I haven’t walked into this until now, only because honestly I’m not a sourdough man. I’m more of a classic rustic boule and French baguette man. But yes, a good starter is important. Here are some of my bread books. :smile:

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This is a difficult to answer question - If your goal is to get baking in the next 3 or 4 days. Maybe getting some donor starter from a local baker is a good idea (assuming they have one). You’ll prob have to feed it for a few days to get the 250-300 grams you’ll need to bake and have enough left over to then refeed ect ect…. But if you’re in no rush ‘growing’ your own starter could be a satisfying journey. If you follow the instruction in the Tartine book and are feeding it regularly and using a good flour or blend of flours (I like 50/50 whole wheat and dark rye) you could have as strong and flavorful starter as anything you could get from a bakery. My starter was sorta born by accident, and we have been through a couple trips to the fridge together but have always bounced back. These things are pretty forgiving.

As for the most important ingredient I guess I would say flour is by default. Considering that water and salt are the only other two. I would use only filtered water and at first Morton’s Kosher salt (a nice salty, but not too salty salt). And some kinda cast iron Dutch oven is pretty crucial too.

Good luck

The starter is dependent mainly upon the yeasts used in creating it, as well as the quality of the flour. Regional strains of wild yeasts play a big part in the flavor profile. Alaskan sourdough is different from San Francisco and so on. The differences are not profound, but are nonetheless evident. Beer companies patent and keep under lock and key their strains of yeasts. It’s what differentiates them from one another.

This PDF is an easily accessible read and will explain in layman’s terms how wild yeasts vs other types affect flavor and fermentation.

If you would like to delve into the world of fermented foods, I highly recommend this author who is an expert on the subject. You will find that all cultures have some form of fermented bread product besides the many other foods that are traditionally fermented.


Wild Fermentation is an excellent book. Easy to understand and does a great job of giving a good overview of fermentation. His book The Art of Fermentation is even better and more encyclopedic, I highly recommend it.

While I do believe that there can be some regional differences in sourdough, it’s prob more an effect of process rather than terroir. Considering that lactobacillus is the dominant ‘wild yeast’ (it’s a bacteria that lives on almost everything, well every living thing) that does the bulk of the fermentation. It’s the lactobacillus thats actually on the wheat/flour, from the field, from the processor, from the packaging facility that ends up fermenting the starter, and ambient yeast play a small roll. So it’s really the lactobacillus from the farm or mill that is whats doing the fermentation and part of what you’re tasting. Hence even if you bought a starter from say Alaska, after feeding it a few dozen times whatever lactobacillus that’s present in your flour or your house is going to become the dominant strain in your starter. That’s why I think it’s of the most importance to pick really high quality flour, and organic if possible (a lot of non organic flour is sprayed with fungicide or glyphosate, which kill lactobacillus) to feed your starter.

As for beer yeast, most brewery’s don’t actually own their own yeast strains and buy yeast from yeast producers and those that might ‘bank’ their yeast with the same yeast producers who keep references of strains and grow identical generations of yeast. Those yeast producers then often makes those strains commercially available to other brewery’s. The cool thing about it is, if you are a home brewer and want to make a beer like for example Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, you can buy the exact same strain of yeast that Sierra uses. And to be honest the yeast that Sierra uses is one of the most widely used yeast in the brewing industry.