Learning to Cook, Step by Step

When I wrote Make Your Own Sourdough Starter at Home, I also started a discussion on the Facebook fan page to walk readers through it.

Here’s what Aleeza had to say:

Guess what I don’t get is why recipes can’t be simple. I need directions with numbers like step 1, 2, 3, 4. And it can’t include things like put starter in warm water, but not too hot and leave there for 8 hours and if….blah blah blah! I need SIMPLE things like substitute 1 cup of starter for every 1 tsp of yeast, Or whatever the % is. got any tips like that. I would like to use it for my challah recipe. I would like to just sub starter for yeast and add extra flour to compensate for the extra h2o.

First of all, Aleeza’s comment is a good reminder for all of us who write about cooking and food.  While a large part of your audience may be experienced enough to manage with an outline, there are always beginners out there, who get frustrated when writers make assumptions.

I’m on the other side of this equation when it comes to other subjects, like website coding. People who like to talk about certain topics develop a shorthand, which can be off-putting to beginners.

The problem is that when making sourdough, or anything involving fermentation, temperature and humidity matter. Like with all cooking, it takes practice. You can’t learn everything from cookbooks and websites. Sometimes you just have to jump in and take a risk. (I think that might work for coding too.)

I don’t have enough experience to convert conventional yeast recipes into sourdough recipes. Can any readers help Aleeza convert her challah recipe?

And if you ever have questions about my recipes or instructions, be sure and let me know.

If you enjoyed this post you may also like:

Sourdough Muffins

Creative Pie Crusts

Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kowitz/ / CC BY 2.0


  1. Laurie Ashton Farook says

    I bake bread exclusively with wild yeast (sourdough), and have converted a few recipes over. Yep, there’s some amount of trial and error at first until you develop a feel for it. I’ve got some posts with recipes that I converted from commercial yeast bread recipes to sourdough (wild yeast) bread recipes on my blog at http://food.laurieashton.com.

    Because I had much the same question about how much sourdough, and because I had a failed recipe, I researched and found that the answer is about 20% of the flour weight in fermented flour.

    Since I know that’s going to be confusing, let me use an example with easy math.

    If your recipe includes 1000 grams flour and 650 grams water, and your sourdough starter is 100% hydration (that is, a 1:1 ratio of flour to water by weight), then I would use this:

    800 grams flour (1000-200)
    450 grams water (650-200 because the starter is equal amounts of water and flour)
    400 grams sourdough starter (200 grams flour + 200 grams water)

    You can use less sourdough starter for sure. It’ll take longer to rise, which is a benefit to some people. But in most cases, I wouldn’t use more. I say most because I do have a recipe or two that I use where I do exceed the 20% by quite a bit, but those are the exception, not the rule.

    I hope this isn’t too confusing. If it is, please ask and I’ll clarify. 🙂