Are you yearning for fresh, crusty, chewy sourdough, made right in your own kitchen? But maybe you’ve also felt intimidated by the process, unsure where to start? Look no further! This article will cover all of the ingredients and tools you’ll need to make sourdough at home! Most of these items are pretty essential, along with some optional sourdough supplies that we find very helpful to have on hand.
I know, it may seem like quite a few things to get together all at once, especially if you aren’t even sure you’re going to be “good” at making sourdough. I felt exactly the same way when we first started this journey. But I will tell you this: you WILL be good at baking sourdough (I want to help make sure of that!), and once you start, you certainly will not want to stop (unless you’re straight bananas) – so it will prove to be a worthwhile investment. The other bit of good news is that all of these items are pretty affordable, or may be things you already have around the kitchen!
Let’s dive in, shall we?
13 SOURDOUGH SUPPLIES FOR BAKING AT HOME
1) Sourdough Starter
One of the most crucial sourdough supplies you’ll need to get your hands on is a sourdough starter culture! What exactly is sourdough starter? The starter culture is a colony of wild yeasts that are living in flour and water, and are nurtured by routine “feedings” to keep them happy. They are what will make your bread rise, without the need for commercial yeast!
Sourdough starters can seem elusive and difficult to procure because they are ALIVE! Their bubbling activity, need to be fed daily (if they are at room temperature or warmer), sensitivity to temperature swings, and tendency to grow make them tricky things to ship. There are options to purchase dehydrated starters online, but I have heard varying success stories from folks using those.
If you’re lucky enough to know a local friend or colleague who bakes sourdough, ask if you can get some from them! I’m sure they’ll be happy to share. If you don’t have such the hook-up, don’t worry! It is actually fairly simple to make your own sourdough starter at home, using just flour, water, and apple. Or, if you aren’t up for making a starter from scratch, feel free to pick up a dry (but alive!) organic sourdough starter the Homestead and Chill shop. All it needs a little water, flour, and few days to get active again.
The next ingredient you’ll need for baking sourdough seems pretty obvious: Flour. Duh, right? But there are SO many options for flour out there! Every baker has their own preference for type, brand, and so forth. There is white, whole wheat, rye, millet, spelt, rice, durum, kamut… Some artisan bakers even purchase whole grains and mill them (grind them into flour) themselves!
I recommend starting out with a basic white + whole-wheat dough, but once you get your groove down, play around with others to see what flours you may like to work with most. You can also get creative with additions like herbs, nuts, seeds, and other tasty goodies!
Personally, we have been enjoying this trio together: a white bread flour, a whole wheat flour, and a tad rye flour. We always choose organic flours, but spread the love between a variety of brands. Note that I said white bread flour, not just all purpose white flour. When we first began our baking journey, we attempted to use all-purpose flour and had so-so results. When we switched to bread flour, it seemed to make our loaves much more fluffy! I am not 100% sure if that was only the flour at work, or because we were gaining more experience in making sourdough in general? Either way, we were happy with the bread flour and have stuck with it.
What is the difference between bread flour and all-purpose flour?
According to King Arthur:
“Bread flour is milled from hard spring wheat, which has a higher protein content than the hard winter wheat used in all-purpose flour. Protein adds strength to dough and enables loaves of bread to rise high. Our bread flour checks in at 12.7% protein, while our all-purpose flour is at 11.7%”-King Arthur Flour blog
Higher protein content is also said to aid in gluten development, which can result in a more elastic dough and chewy crust. Some bakers claim just the opposite though, saying that more protein means a denser loaf! So which is it? I guess you’ll need to experiment to see for yourself. Report back if you do!
When we bake sourdough, we like to use about 60% white, 35% whole wheat and 5% rye flour by weight. Of course we often play around with different ratios, but that is sort of our go-to staple loaf combo. I would love to use even more whole wheat than that (especially being Type 1 Diabetic and trying to reduce the glycemic index and sugar spikes with whole grains as much as possible) BUT the higher the whole wheat – the more flat and dense the loaf can become. It still tastes great, so if appearance doesn’t matter to you… by all means! Whole-wheat that baby up!
This may be another no-brainer here… but I wanted to point out that it is usually suggested to avoid chlorinated water. This is pretty important when it comes to any fermentation process, including making sourdough. Chlorine can inhibit the growth of the good bacteria we want to THRIVE. We use filtered water from our fridge dispenser. A basic carbon filter (like a Brita) is enough to remove most of the chlorine from city tap water. In addition to water, the sourdough starter culture, and flour, the only other ingredient you need to make sourdough is salt! Sorry salt, you weren’t special enough for your own number. We use sea salt or pink himalayan salt.
4) Kitchen scale
A kitchen scale is needed because damn near every sourdough recipe out there calls amounts of flour, water, starter, and salt by weight, rather than by measuring cups. Unfortunately, no, it is not easy to just sub out the amount in weight for cups – because different flours are more or less dense than one another, and therefore weigh differently. We use this awesome little digital scale. We put it to great use when we are making ferments or weighing our harvests too!
5) A large bowl or dough tub
A lot of professional bakers use large dough tubs like this during their bulk fermentation process. Hold on. Back up. Bulk fermentation? That’s the period of time after the dough has been mixed, and is now sitting out at room temperature to ferment and rise, before being shaped into a loaf.
We already had a really large wide porcelain mixing bowl, so we use that instead. A large glass bowl would work too. It makes it easy to mix the dough in the bowl, then let it sit in place for its bulk ferment too. You could totally get a tub though! Maybe we will one day, to see if it makes much of a difference.
Here she goes with weird new words again… Sorry. A “banneton” is just a fancy term for a basket used in bread making. So, you know how I said the dough will bulk ferment (usually at room temp) and then be formed into a loaf? This is where the proofing basket, aka banneton, comes in. When the time is right, the dough is given a final fold and form, and then can be tucked into one of these baskets for its proofing – the final rise period.
We proof our dough overnight in the fridge, for a nice long, slow, cold ferment before baking it the next morning. So I like to think of the banneton as the sourdoughs bassinet: It’s where she gets tucked in to go ni-night.
The purpose of using a banneton is three-fold:
- One, it helps the loaf form its shape. As it proofs, the gluten relaxes and the dough spreads out. The banneton helps keep it in shape and form nicely while rising. Speaking of shapes, bannetons come in many! Round, oval, long… Round loaves of bread are referred to as a “boule”, while longer oval shaped ones are called a “batard”.
- The baskets are made of breathable cane and wood fiber, often lined with a cloth material. Both help the dough continue to breathe and wick moisture away, and contributes to a great crust.
- Lastly, it is super easy to get the dough out of the basket when it’s time to bake. You simply place a piece of parchment paper and cutting board over the top of the basket, and flip it all upside down. I have read this can also be accomplished by using a bowl lined with a flour-dusted tea towel.
7) Dough scraper
Another nifty little sourdough supplies tool you’ll want around is a dough or bench scraper. These are really useful throughout several stages of bread making. For example, when you are first mixing the flour and water, it helps to scrape up leftover bits from the edges of the bowl (and your hands), or when you’re working with the dough on a countertop during slap and fold or bench rest.
The round banneton that we use (linked above) actually comes with a dough scraper! Or you can get a two-pack of basic dough scrapers for only $6. They also make some nice stainless steel bench scrapers, but because we use a round bowl for our mixing and bulk ferment, we prefer using ones that are a bit more flexible.
8) Tea Towels
You’ll want some sort of lint and fuzz-free towels to cover the dough while it’s in the bowl or tub during bulk ferment, like flour-sack tea towels. You can also use a lid here, if you get a tub that has one. Tea towels are also used to cover the dough in its banneton while it is proofing, such as overnight in the fridge. The towels help keep the dough from drying out. It also keeps junk (Ahem, floating cat hair… anyone? Just me?) from falling into your dough.
9) Dutch oven, or cast iron combo cooker
This is one of the sourdough supplies that you can maybe do with out, but I highly highly suggest using one! Here is why: If you choose to bake sourdough on a flat oven sheet, pizza stone, or other non-enclosed surface, you are missing out on one mighty component: Steam! Unless you plan to add water into your oven to create steam, which some bakers do, your loaf will be a little less happy without it.
By using a Dutch oven or combo cooker (more on what the heck that is in a moment) you are creating a lovely little steamy cocoon for the bread. An oven inside the oven, if you will! This prevents moisture from being lost to the greater surroundings. Instead, the dough steams itself with its own moisture, giving way to an awesome rise and more moist loaf.
In the baking method we follow, the oven is preheated with the cast iron combo cooker inside the oven for an hour before the loaf even goes in. This gets the cast iron piping-hot! The dough then goes in cold, straight from the fridge, and begins to cook immediately in its cocoon. By doing this, it doesn’t give the bread a chance to start to flatten out at room temp, so this also helps to get great rise.
Why we love using a combo cooker:
One big thing. Ease of use, and reduced chances for burning yourself. If you already have a traditional Dutch oven on hand, totally use it! We didn’t have one, so based on my research, getting this Lodge cast iron combo cooker was the way to go for us.
A combo cooker is essentially a dutch oven, but one that can be used upside down. Its flat “lid” becomes the bottom, and the dome body sits on top. This makes it incredibly easy to guide a loaf in and out of it without burning yourself or having to get down inside a hot Dutch oven. An added perk of the combo cooker is that it’s multi-purpose. You could use just the skillet side, the pot portion only, or both.
10) High-heat oven mitts
As I already eluded to, sourdough is baked in an incredibly hot oven – usually set to between 475 to 500°F! That dutch oven or combo cooker is going to be crazy HOT when you’re pulling it in and out of the oven. You do not want to get burned on that intensity of heat! We are now talking fried-nerves, second-degree kinda burn, not your average oven burn. Ask me how I know…
Standard oven mitts are generally not thick enough to block that type of heat. Some may even melt. Therefore, be sure to protect yourself with high-heat rated mits! Get ones rated for at least 500°F. We love these ones. They have great silicone grip and come fairly high up your arms.
It is important to keep an eye on your starter and dough temperature during various stages while working with the dough. The ideal fermentation temperature is around 75°F. If you want to be precise, this can be accomplished with a food probe thermometer. We have this one, but to be honest, do not use it all that much.
In addition to the probe thermometer, we also have an inexpensive indoor/outdoor thermometer unit that sits on our countertop, and that is what we use most. We primarily got this to keep an eye on the temperature outside and in the greenhouse with its ability to have multiple sensors, but it also tells us the current temperature inside. We have found it most convenient to keep this thermometer right next to our starter or dough bowl, instead of probing it all the time. It’s not quite as accurate in determining the actual dough temp, but it gets us in the ballpark.
Note that our house is fairly temperate year-round, so maintaining an ideal temperature isn’t really a struggle for us. If your house is cool, especially in winter months, there are a few tricks you can use to keep your dough warmer. This includes: keeping it on top of a warm, tall appliance like the refrigerator; inside the oven with just the oven light on for warmth; near your fireplace; or possibly on a seedling heat mat. If you’re struggling with temps, the probe thermometer may be the way to go.
12) Bread Lame
A bread lame is basically a razor blade, attached to a handle for ease of use and safety. This is not just for creating pretty patterns, though that is one fun use for it! If you don’t give your dough a nice deep slash (also called “scoring”) somewhere across the top or side before baking, its crust will sort of haphazardly split open somewhere (or everywhere!) during the rapid oven rise.
This is not a huge deal and won’t “ruin” your loaf, but most bakers prefer more controlled splitting. Where you score the loaf will be the place that it splits open most. Deeper scores are used for directing that rapid expansion, while smaller, shallower scoring can be used to create beautiful designs. Speaking of beautiful, we love this gorgeous walnut-handle bread lame, and it’s handmade in the US!
13) Bread knife
Speaking of cutting… It may sound a little obvious, but if you don’t have a decent bread knife, I suggest investing in one! Large, non-serrated chefs knives will smush and tear your beautiful fluffy loaf. We had an older serrated bread knife that also didn’t get the job done very well. We upgraded to this bad boy and it cuts the bread like butter, in one take.
Now that you have your supply list, you can get on to the fun part: Baking sourdough! Check out our go-to, simple no-knead sourdough bread recipe here.
I hope you found this helpful! Feel free to share this post, and as always, to ask questions!