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The Sourdough Timeline

One of the biggest questions I get is about the timeline of making sourdough bread. Although it can seem like a rigorous process, the timeline for making sourdough is actually very flexible.

Sliced bread on a cutting board

When I first started making sourdough, I followed a recipe that had you feed your starter at a specific time, mix the dough, stretch and fold, and so on at a very specific time.

That was all well and good if I was going to be home all day to devote my time to that rigorous schedule.

However, I quickly found that I didn’t have a lot of days where this fit into my schedule.

Downtrodden by the process, I took a break from sourdough. The sourdough timeline was more stressful than I could have imagined.

Fast forward a couple of months later. I got to thinking, I highly double the pioneers had this kind of schedule with baking their daily bread. I doubt they set timers to work with their dough or feed their starter to be ready to bake.

Sourdough artisan bread on cooling rack

Eureeka! I purposed in my mind to make sourdough work for me and no the other way around!

During this epiphany, I realized that the timing is really up to me.

I decided to start keeping my starter in the fridge and using it when I needed it. That took care of one of the issues I had with sourdough. I really didn’t like having to feed my starter every day even if I wasn’t going to be baking.

Next, I realized the fridge could be a wonderful companion on my sourdough journey.

The fridge slows down the fermentation process and gives you great flexibility with your sourdough bread making routine.

2 bagels on a cutting board

What is Sourdough?

In simple terms, sourdough is yeast. Unlike conventional yeast, sourdough is wild yeast and lactic acid that is captured during a fermentation process. The wild yeast is found on the flour, in the air, and on the utensils you use.

The lactic acid is the bacteria that builds up during the process and gives sourdough it’s signature tang.

The process of making a sourdough starter is simple. It is flour and water that ferments over several days which captures the yeast and builds up the bacteria. https://therosehomestead.com/how-to-make-a-sourdough-starter/

Once a sourdough starter is active, it will rise the dough. The process of rising dough with sourdough starter is called fermentation.

During this fermentation process, the sourdough starter feeds on the flour of the bread recipe and builds up carbon dioxide which in turn builds up the air bubbles that makes the bread light and airy.

When we understand the process, we can take control of the timing.

Because of this flexibility, I can mix up my dough any time I decide to and work it around my schedule.

Risen dough in a bowl

Here is an example of a timeline that can be used and adapted to your schedule:

10am: Feed starter

3pm: Mix dough (If you knead the dough, put in a bowl and cover to rise. If you are performing stretch and folds, do them every 15-30 minutes for a couple of hours or so.)

8pm: Shape dough and put in proofing basket. This can be a banneton basket or it can be a medium sized colander lined with a towel that has been generously dusted with flour.

8pm: After putting the dough in the proofing basket, you can transfer the dough to the fridge and leave it for up to a week before baking!

Because of this transfer to the fridge, the timeline is completely adaptable to your schedule.

The beauty of the sourdough process is that you can make your own schedule.

With yeasted breads, although they rise much faster than sourdough, you have to keep close because they will over proof quickly. Even if you put a yeasted dough in the fridge, it will rise quite fast.

Knowing this, sourdough is actually much more flexible than yeasted breads.

I hope this information is helpful for you. I’ve included a few faq’s on this topic below.

Happy sourdough baking!

Will my dough still rise in the fridge?

Yes! The fridge only slows down the fermentation process. Your dough will continue to rise at a much slower pace.

Does this cold rise in the fridge change the flavor of my sourdough bread?

Yes. The longer and colder the fermentation, the sourer your bread will be.

Do I have to let the dough come to room temperature before baking?

No. You can bake straight from the fridge.

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2 Comments

  1. Hi Mary Rose, I am recently new to making my sourdough starter. I’m on day five and it’s looking good once I put it in the refrigerator. How often do I feed it and how much thank you so much!!

    Ali

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