🌟 if your dough is soft and sticky BEFORE the overnight prove, you probably need less water in your standard dough, or it’s due to the flour/s you’re using (more below);
🌟 if your dough is soft and sticky and impossible to handle AFTER the overnight prove, it’s probably over proved and you need less starter in the dough from the start next time….🌟
Some flours will produce stickier doughs as a standard, for example, an inclusion of a portion of rye flour, malted flour or einkorn flour in your dough will make it stickier, and that’s normal, just go with it and use a bowl scraper to work with the dough if necessary. I have lots of info and tips about these flours, and more, and how they feel and handle in doughs coming in my book. The key in this instance, is not to be concerned.
The time to worry about your dough is when it’s impossible to work with, but that’s all fixable, check out the FAQ page on my site for more help. In the end, all that matters is how the dough bakes; if your loaves are fab, don’t worry about how the dough looks/feels/behaves, just keep doing what you’re doing!
Note: if your dough has over proved it may look bubbly and exuberant like the one in the photo and/or may be impossible to handle and shape, in this case, use it to make focaccia 🌟🌟🌟 method in the recipe index on my site…ps this dough was fine, it’s just a flour that likes to bubble 🤩🤩
I thought that I would share again some information about starters that I’ve shared before in case you missed it, are new to sourdough, or to me, or in case there’s some useful reminders…apologies for the repeated info if you’ve seen it before, but I think they’re points worth repeating…
Starters do NOT need to look a certain way. Not all starters will be bubbly and vivacious, because not all flours produce that. And it doesn’t matter. Focus on growth and how they bounce back after stirring them. Look for life and activity, not appearance.
Your starter does NOT need to look like mine, and there’s no reason it should. You’re using different flour, different water, and you live in a different place, it all makes a difference to your starter. So don’t compare; if your starter looks and behaves totally different from mine but it WORKS and makes bread that you love, it’s a happy working starter!
Here’s a rule of thumb for you: if your dough grows, your starter is fine, it’s working perfectly. (If your dough is struggling in the cold, that’s another story, but it’s not about your starter.)
If yours is a new starter, new starters do not need to be a certain age before being used, they just need to be ready. That might be 5 days or 5 weeks, there is no fixed single answer here. They are all individual, just like their makers. For everyone who’s ever asked me when theirs will be ready to use, the simple answer is: it will be ready when it’s ready, its all part of the joy of sourdough. That time, that waiting and nurturing, and it’s all so worth it. And as your start to use it and work with it, it will gain strength with every use. It’s a win:win! The more sourdough you make, the more strength you build in your starter.
So please, don’t focus on how your starter looks, focus on how it behaves.
Check out my newly updated shop page! I am now working with Eco Baker UK to be able to provide more of a one stop shop for all of your foodbod Sourdough needs; you’ll find my dried starter and bowl scrapers there, signed copies of my book, pans, jars and lots more. Have fun looking around the site 🤩
I will also be continuing to have The Garlic Tun handmade lames available, and grains and seeds from Spice Kitchen UK.
As you read this review, I invite you to imagine Cherie’s wonderful Northern Irish accent as you read her words…she makes everything sound wonderful as she speaks…
“I tried making a sourdough starter seven times and seven times I threw it out.
The more I tried to get it right, the more frustrated I became when it went badly wrong. I tried the “organic apple skin in the starter to bring in the wild yeasts” method; I tried the “organic grapes in the starter” method; and I tried the “very expensive spring water” method. Every single one was a disaster but then, THEN I “insta met” Elaine on Instagram (@elaine_foodbod) and my sourdough life took a wonderful turn.
I promise you it was an epiphany! The mystery, the fear, the nonsense was taken out of sourdough making for me by Elaine and it was just FANNNNTASTIC!!!!
My starter – Esther, named after my Mummy, lives in my fridge until I need her. I take her out, she warms up, gets fed, bubbles and rises and I swear she calls to me to say she’s ready. At this point I’ve made a dough with her and I’ve dried some of her on sheets so that I’ll always have her.
I love Elaine’s tip of “pour tap water, let the chlorine evaporate off overnight and use as normal”. I mean every other recipe was basically saying “use water blessed by 25 Saints at £20 a bottle”. It was a huge thing to me as I had bought so much expensive spring water in the quest for an edible loaf, beautiful looking, beautiful tasting and ready for an instagram debut.
Elaine talked me through a few hiccups along the way…basically because I could not believe things were actually working and effortlessly so.
I never tire of lifting the lid off my pot to see what’s happened in the oven…and the “baking starting in a cold oven!!!!!!” Flip me….. a revelation! I now bake sourdough bread for anyone I can!
Due to Elaine’s informative, easy to follow and great photos in her book I now mix nuts, prunes, raisins, oats, seeds, bacon & cheese into my doughs (but not all at the same time).
I make cinnamon buns with Elaine’s enriched starter recipe and they are beautiful. Through Elaine I “insta met” Ahren @thegarlictun…his lames are fabulous and my bread took on another new, more grownup look.
Elaine and her book have taught me so much about grains, what can go into a dough, stretching and folding and MOST IMPORTANTLY relaxing into sourdough making life.
I cannot thank Elaine enough for fixing my sourdough problems she’s so calm gentle and kind. I’ve conquered sourdough, made lots of lovely different breads and made a friend. How lucky I say!
THANK YOU ELAINE XX”
Find Cherie on Instagram @cheriedenhamcooks and enjoy more of her lovely creations!
“I am a professional Chef/Instructor and have been baking sourdough bread for years.
Today I put all my “old habits” aside and followed, word for word, Elaine’s Master Recipe from her new book, “Whole Grain Sourdough at Home”.
In one weekend I created three of the loveliest loaves of sourdough I have ever baked in my life. Not only were they beautiful on the outside – golden brown and sky high with beautiful little “ears”, blisters, and banneton swirls, but they tasted out of this world. Crunchy, flakey crusts with chewy and airy pockets of soft bread inside.