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Tips & Tricks

A Not-So-Overwhelming Guide to Sourdough Techniques

By: Lodge Cast Iron / May 22, 2024

“Proud parent of a sourdough starter.” There’s some truth to this bumper sticker slogan: in so many ways, it’s easy to get really wrapped up in sourdough baking. We love a recipe that you can make your own, so we created our Combo Cooker Sourdough Loaf to be easy, fun, and rewarding from the jump—no big investment required. It’s a loaf you can keep in your routine for years as is—or one you can just as easily mix it up when you’re ready. Read on to go deeper on our June 2024 Recipe of the Month—from making starter to leveling up your loaves.

Sourdough Bread

Let’s get this party started

Creating a sourdough starter

Starter is the first and most important ingredient in sourdough bread because it’s what makes the whole loaf rise (plus, it’s full of flavor). Starter is what makes sourdough bread different from bread that’s raised with yeast and it imparts a wonderful sour flavor to bread. You can make your own starter at home using the simple recipe below, you’ll just need a kitchen scale, plastic quart container, and a rubber band. If you’ve been gifted a starter already or have one in a corner of the fridge, skip ahead to our maintenance routine.

Week 1

Measure out 113 grams organic whole wheat flour, 85 grams cold, filtered water, and 30 grams of acidic fruit juice (lemon or lime). Mix well. Your total weight should be right around 228 grams. Cover the mixture with a lid, mark the starter's height on the container with a rubber band, and then let it sit on the counter for a week. During this time, it should double in size.

Week 2

Once you see liquid collecting on the top of your starter, it’s time to feed. Stir everything down and discard half of the mixture, about 114 grams. To the remainder, add 113 grams cold, filtered water and 113 grams of organic white flour. Mix well, scrape down, and cover for a day or two. 

Repeat the Week 2 process four more times, every other day, to get your starter ready for use—at this point, your starter will be about 16 days old. If it is doubling in size every 24 hours, it’s ready to use (and ready to be named—the Lodge starters are named Gus, Kris Jr., and Yeastie Boys!). If it is not doubling in size every 24 hours, no problem: simply keep feeding and dividing on the above schedule.

Living your best starter life

Maintaining a sourdough starter

You’ve made your starter—now to keep it going! There’s a lot of lore around caring for the natural leaveners in a sourdough starter, but the great news is, a good starter works around your schedule—not the other way around. Let’s get started with a simple question: how often will you bake? 

If you’re using sourdough starter three or more times a week, you've got a Countertop Starter

First up: bravo. Secondly, if you plan to use your starter daily or at least three times a week, it can live on the countertop at room temperature. To maintain, feed it every other day by combining half the starter (114 grams) with 113 grams of cold, filtered water and 113 grams of organic white flour. 

If you’re using sourdough starter twice a week or less, you've got a Fridge Starter

If you are using your sourdough starter less frequently—twice a week, every weekend, or even once a month—take it to the fridge! This will slow down the natural fermentation in the starter, meaning you’ll only need to feed it when you plan to use it, or a minimum of once a month. For Fridge Starter, feed in the morning using the combination of 114 grams of starter, 113 grams of cold, filtered water, and 113 grams of organic white flour; then, let it sit out through lunchtime. Discard half the starter for use in a recipe, then feed the remaining starter once more, letting it rise at room temperature for a few hours before returning it to the fridge for up to a month.

A final note on starter

Don’t discard your discard!

After you feed your sourdough, you’ll be left with a magical liquid called sourdough discard. It can be gifted to a friend who wants to get their own sourdough routine going, used to make a sourdough loaf, or added to all kinds of recipes like pancakes, pizza dough, or muffins. 


1. Weigh the amount of discard you’d like to add to a recipe, then divide this number in half. For example, for 120 grams of discard, you’ll end up with the magic number of 60.

2. Subtract this number from both the flour and liquid weights in the recipe you’ll be adding starter to. For example, in a pancake recipe calling for 185 grams of flour and 300 grams of milk, you’ll use 125 grams of flour and 240 grams of milk instead.

3. Add the sourdough discard to the newly calculated recipe, then make according to instructions.


Sourdough baking 101

Making your first sourdough loaf

Ready to make a wonderful, crusty loaf of sourdough? Our Combo Cooker Sourdough Loaf recipe is a great place to start. No matter what recipe you use, here are some techniques for making a perfect loaf, every time.

Yes, it’s ok to use the stand mixer

A well-mixed dough is key to a good loaf and a successful proof. Kneading by hand is a great way to get to know your dough, but we also love to use a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment to make things easier and get a great knead in about 10 minutes. A well-mixed dough will be smooth and slightly sticky, but should not stick to the side of the bowl.

Sourdough Loaf
Kneading Sourdough
How to tell if you’re done kneading

If your dough is still very sticky, it probably hasn’t been kneaded enough. Let it rest for one minute, then continue to knead—you may notice that a simple resting of the dough has helped it smooth out. Your dough is fully kneaded if:

  1. It doesn’t stick to the countertop or bowl;
  2. The surface appears smooth, not shaggy;
  3. If you cut a wedge of dough, it holds its shape;
  4. If you stretch the dough thinly enough to see light pass through it, and it does not tear.
Fool-proof proofing

Proofing a yeasted bread requires a lot of loaf watching—thankfully, sourdough proofing is a lot easier and more forgiving. We proof in two parts: first, we proof the bulk dough in a bowl, overnight in the fridge; second, we proof the shaped loaf in a basket on the counter for an hour or two. If you’d like to bake your loaves later, you can always place the shaped loaves in the fridge for a few hours until you’re ready.

proofing sourdough
Sourdough Shaping
Use a scraper for shaping

A good bench scraper will serve you well! We use a metal bench scraper to help shape sourdough loaves, using the edge to push the dough underneath itself and create tension across the top of the loaf. This will help create a beautiful loaf but also encourage a higher rise.

A case for covered cookware

We recommend baking your loaf in a covered vessel for the first half of your bake time. Our Combo Cooker is beloved in the bread baking community (ditto our Double Dutch) because you can easily place a loaf on the shallow skillet side, then top it with the larger domed piece, essentially creating a miniature bread oven that locks in moisture and heat. Any kind of covered dutch oven will work great for this as well.

Sourdough Loaf
Resist the urge to slice!

This may be the hardest part of making bread at home! Bread continues to bake after it’s been removed from the oven, and the key to a delightfully chewy loaf is to let it cool completely before slicing into it—at least two hours. It may be difficult, but this ensures your loaf won’t dry out.

Next-level sourdough 

Upping your sourdough skills

You’ve made your first sourdough loaf, you’re dropping words like “open crumb” in everyday conversation, and you’re hungry for new techniques! Here are some tips for upping your game on the next loaf—mix, match, and make them your own!

Premix your water and flour.

Before you pull salt or starter into your recipe, consider letting your water and flour get acquainted in the bowl for anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour. This is called creating an autolyse, but the shorter story is: it’s a way to add flavor and texture to your finished loaf.

Add flavors to the mix.

Mixing dried fruits, nuts, or flavorful savories to your dough can help you create a truly unique and special sourdough loaf. Simply chop your mix-ins fine and add them to the dough after you’ve completely kneaded together the starter, salt, flour, and water, but before you begin proofing. We love to add dried cranberries and walnuts; chopped olives; hunks of roasted garlic; or cheddar and jalapeño.

Add some stretches to your first proof.

If you’d like to increase those trademark air bubbles in your sourdough loaf, consider adding a stretch-and-fold to your recipe. While your loaf is in its first proof, get in the bowl every hour for the first 3 to 6 hours and gently pull up on the sides of the dough to stretch it, then fold it down on the opposite edge. Turn the bowl clockwise and repeat on all sides, then let the loaf continue to proof.

Make it a sandwich loaf.

This loaf can be easily adapted for use in the Large Loaf Pan. After the first proof, shape your dough into an oval instead of a round ball, then proof it in the loaf pan overnight in the fridge. Note: it’s really important with this method to bring the pan and dough to room temperature before baking to avoid thermal shock.

Every bread baker's favorite cookware

Cast iron is beloved by bakers for a reason: it retains heat, can take a very hot oven, and lasts a lifetime. Try out these sourdough baking favorites.

Contributed By: Lodge Cast Iron

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