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The Science of Sourdough

The Science of Sourdough
via king Arthur bread
via king Arthur bread

Apparently, during this time of staying at home, a lot of people have been making baked goods, especially bread. Look on any neighborhood website and you’ll see loads of cookies and homemade bread for sale. My family decided that we would attempt some bread-making, too. We settled on homemade sourdough.

The Process

The trick to making this bread is concocting something called a “starter.” For those of you who don’t know, making a bread starter is like a science experiment. First, you start by mixing flour and water, and letting it rest for about 12 hours. Then you start “feeding” the starter. For 5 days, you take out about 1/2 a cup of the mixture, and feed it with 1 cup of flour, and 1/2 cup of water. This causes it to ferment. As this mixture begins to ferment, it cultivates microbes, or smaller organisms that can leaven bread. Basically, there are tiny bugs in the starter that allow it to grow. The enzymes created within the starter break the starches into sugars, which feed the microbes. This forms carbon dioxide, ethanol, and other acids. The acids are what gives sourdough its unique flavor and differentiates it from other breads. You can physically see these changes as well. The starter grows, and it forms gas bubbles both within, and on top of, the mixture.

In order to bake the bread after 5 days, you take 1 cup of the sourdough starter and mix it with 5 cups of flour, 1 1/2 cups of water, 2 1/2 teaspoons of salt, and 1-2 teaspoons of yeast. You mix it, let the dough rise, divide into loaves, let rise one more time, and then bake for 25-30 minutes. The result is a couple of large loaves of sourdough bread.


The recipe we used came from There, you can find many other things to make with the sourdough starter, such as pretzels, crackers, muffins, and even pancakes. You can even keep the leftover starter, continue to feed it, and use it for years. In fact, some starters are hundreds of years old. Pretty good for a small bowl of flour and water.