Becoming a True Sourdough Walker

Well this is actually hiking. But for one of our Alaska Adventures, my wife and I hiked the Chilkoot Trail, over the historic pass and down into Canada. At some point I will write up the details of that trip. But for now it’s enough to know when you get down to the Visitor’s Center in Canada, they present you a certificate as an “Honorary Sourdough”. As you might guess that’s how the original gold rushers survived the long and cold trip. (Eating it not getting certificates!)

A few years ago, I started baking with my own Sourdough Starter…and yes it’s based on Alaskian Yeast but I added some Italian, thrown in for good measure.


For those interested in my successes and failures at bread making below are a few things I’ve experienced or links I’ve found useful.

  1. Once you make your starter, it’s almost indestructible. Just leave it in the refrigerator, and if it gets old and grey, be sure to pour the liquid off before feeding it. Maybe add a bit more water when feeding it to keep the 100% hydration.
  2. And feeding it, I finally learned that one should feed it equal parts of Starter, Flour and Water (by weight, get a scale, just do it, I held off for year, this one is cheap and works). Feed it three times (if it’s still relatively active tow times is ok), letting it double in volume hopefully, each time you feed it. These take 8-12 hours each feeding. So if you want bread or pizza Friday night, start at least by Wednesday morning with your feeding. I’ve had mine in the frig for months.
  3. You do get lots of starter this way…so use it in the early stages for pancakes, or give it away. With each feeding take 1/2 cup to 1 cup of starter, weigh it 50-100gm and mix with water, then add the flour equal weights.
  4. If you need to start from scratch or want a great bread recipe check out:  Sourdough-Bread
  5. Once it’s ready, then my best projects have been th Sourdough Bread loaf, Sourdough Baguettes, Neopolitian Pizza and Calzone’s.
  6. There is a Pizza dough receipt on the web at: Sourdough Pizza Crust
  7. I also created an Excel Sheet to help convert standard measure cup recipes to grams. There is some debate over how much Starter to use instead of yeast. Some say just a couple of Tablespoons will give a long dough proof and rich sour taste. Most use maybe a cup of Starter. You must however, adjust your recipe to reflect the water and flour already in the Starter….since mine is 100% hydration, equal parts water and flour I take 1/2 of my Starter by weight and reduce both the flour and the water in the receipe by that amount. Just a little math.
  8. Some good advice on process. Mix the water with the starter, mix in the salt and EVO if you are using oil. Then add the flour maybe just 1/2 to 2/3rds and mix. Work the rest of the flour in as you kneed the dough. For a great Pizza dough you need to kneed it for 15-20 minutes. See recipe below.

If you are into techniques for Bread also try. Autolyse. (Some breads begin mixing with an autolyse. This refers to a period of rest after the initial mixing of flour and water, a rest period that occurs sequentially before the addition of yeast, salt and other ingredients. This rest period allows for better absorption of water and helps the gluten and starches to align. The autolyse is credited to Raymond Calvel, who recommended it as a way to reduce kneading time and thereby improve the flavor and color of bread.) Wikipedia   BTW I don’t use this for Pizza.

The Sourdough-Bread recipe above is converted to grams here:

Sourdough Bread Starter Flour Water Salt
Recipe cups 0.5 6 3 2tsp
120g/cup 720
237g/cup 711
6g/tsp 12
Starter wt/cup or 225-240g 200
Recipe wt. 100  -50  -50
Hydration 100%
Net Grams 100 670 661 24

The Pizza dough I’m using is actually this one.

The 1/2 batch makes plenty, six doughs of 230g each. Be sure to follow these steps. Mix Water and Starter, then Salt and EVO. Add 400gm of the flour (00 flour is best) and mix. Then kneed in the balance of the flour, kneed 15-20 minutes. That’s important! Don’t skimp on time to kneed.. Let it rest for an hour covered with a cloth. Make into six balls of ~230g, put on a floured cookie sheet (I now have dough boxes) and flour top and cover with plastic wrap really good, cover with damp towel and let proof 6-8 hours. Carefully take the doughs off using a floured scraper and put on floured counter top and begin working from inside of dough outward, stretching and avoiding flattening the edges. I have not learned to spin mine yet, but this dough is very elastic.

(I have had success with rolling the dough, perhaps turning if over on itself one or two times and rolling out very thin. Then taking the edge and twist/braid it for the outside crust. I also like to prebake the crust before topping it. Coat the edges with EVO, carefully lift using floured pizza peel and set on your heated (500+deg) stone for 2-3 minutes. Just enough for the dough to bubble and rise and stiffen a bit. This helps to make it easier to put back into the oven once you load it up.)

Mine take about 6-10 minutes to do the final cook, less if you have a hotter oven. Let cool a bit, slice and enjoy. BTW I modified this from Chef Vito’s Recipe to use sourdough.


Neo Pizza Starter Flour Water Salt EVO
Recipe 2.0 14.2 4.2 9.2
120g/cup 1700.0
237g/cup 1000.0
6g/tsp 55.0
Starter wt/cup or 225-240 200
Recipe Wt.  400  -200  -200
Hydration 100%
Net Grams 400.0 1500.0 800.0 55.0 20
1/2 Batch 200 750 400 27.5 10


My Sourdough Thoughts