How to proof a sourdough starter

Written by g.k. bayne
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A great loaf of sourdough bread starts with a good sourdough starter. If the starter is not proofed correctly, the bread will not rise and you will be left with a loaf that may resemble a thick sheet of cardboard. The key to making good sourdough bread is using the starter to make a sponge. The sponge will rise, also known as proofing, showing that the yeast in the starter is active. Once the sponge is ready, you can make the bread.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Bread recipe
  • Sourdough starter
  • Milk, water or other liquid
  • 1 cup flour

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  1. 1

    Remove the amount of sourdough starter called for in your bread recipe. Be sure to feed the remaining starter after you have removed what you need.

  2. 2

    Allow the starter to come to room temperature.

  3. 3

    Stir the liquid ingredients in your recipe into the starter. Add 1 cup flour and stir to incorporate.

  4. 4

    Allow the starter to proof, or rise, until the mixture is full of bubbles. This can take between three and 24 hours.

  5. 5

    Add the remaining ingredients, knead and shape into a ball. Allow to rise until double. Punch the dough down and shape into loaves. Bake according to recipe directions.

Tips and warnings

  • If your sourdough starter has separated while in the refrigerator, stir the liquid back into the mixture before removing the amount of starter you need.
  • Sourdough starter can be used as the base of white, rye and many artesian types of bread.
  • Always feed your sourdough starter at least once a month. Remove a cup of starter and replace with an equal amount of flour and water. If you don't plan on making bread, share the cup of starter with a friend to keep the starter going. A well-fed and maintained sourdough starter will last for years.

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