Kombucha makes the best and easiest sourdough starter ever.
I don’t know about you, but I am a sourdough baking failure. I have tried many times to make a traditional sourdough starter, and have even been given beautiful healthy sourdough starters from kind friends.
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I can bake a loaf or two of fresh sourdough bread, and then I neglect my sourdough starter, or I overfeed it or underfeed it or I get busy doing something else and then discover my poor moldy sourdough starter on the bench, where I had left it the week before!
But then I discovered how to use kombucha as a liquid sourdough starter. I can have sourdough bread without a traditional sourdough starter.
I don’t know about you, but being able to make sourdough bread without a starter sounds like heaven to me.
Related Article: Use kombucha to make yogurt
As a kombucha brewer, I have a never-ending supply of kombucha on hand.
By using kombucha as my starter, I also now have a never-ending supply of ready-to-use sourdough starter on hand.
Kombucha sourdough uses just two ingredients; Kombucha and flour.
You can even make kombucha sourdough with bought kombucha – you just need to make sure that it’s ‘alive’ – so that the natural yeasts and acid bacteria in the kombucha can ferment your dough and give it that natural artisan sourdough taste. Check out an ideal bought kombucha here.
In this article:
- What you will need to make kombucha sourdough
- Why there’s no ‘one size fits all’ sourdough recipe
- How to develop your own kombucha sourdough recipe
- Helpful equipment
- Simple Kombucha Sourdough
What you will need for easy kombucha sourdough
- Kombucha (Price it here). This recipe is awesome if you brew your own kombucha, because you will have near unlimited access to the brew. But it will work with bought stuff too (although remember about it being alive). (Read this article about kombucha’s health benefits)
- Flour (Price it here). We use white flour, because we mostly use this recipe for pizza bases, and that’s what we prefer. But this is your show – you can choose whatever flour you like. Do stick with the same flour consistently until you get the recipe just right, because every flour is a bit different.
There is no ‘one best sourdough recipe’
You may have already been overwhelmed by the huge amount of information on the internet about sourdough bread.
I remember back when I first started reading about sourdough baking.
“All I want is a recipe!” I hissed at the screen as I came across yet another complex discussion about moisture ratios, leaven versus levain versus starter versus mother, and the gluten content of different flours.
It was a bit much, really. I didn’t want to open a French bakery! I just wanted to bake the occasional loaf of bread.
And of course it is completely possible to make great sourdough bread without knowing much about that stuff – you just need to know your own ingredients and what works for you.
That’s how our great-grandparents did it, after all.
But the reason that sourdough books and websites are full of these discussions is because everyone’s ingredients are slightly different – and when you want to talk to other people about your bread, you need to start talking about those differences.
But here are my main short-cut rules of thumb so that you don’t need to get too technical (unless you really want to).
- Weigh your ingredients, don’t measure them with a cup
- Don’t be scared of the dough being a bit too wet (dough usually is more forgiving of being too wet than too dry)
- Try again next time if it’s not quite right.
Weigh your ingredients
One of the big problems with written recipes for bread making is that everyone’s flour is different.
I’m not just talking about the difference between standard flour and baker’s flour. Or between different grinds of wholemeal flour.
Every country has got different standards and traditions about how they classify flour. Some will classify it according to how finely it is milled. Some according to the amount of gluten in it. Some by a combination of the two. And then there’s the different moisture contents in each flour.
That’s a whole lot of variation.
But the easiest way to eliminate LOTS of variation is by using a recipe that specifies weights rather than volume measures.
Choose a basic bread recipe that lists the ingredients in grams or pounds and ounces, not cups and tablespoons.
You will know yourself that a densely packed cup of flour contains more flour than a sifted or loosely-packed cup of flour. Weighing your ingredients means that you’re actually using the same *amount* of flour each time. It’s a difference that a quick muffin recipe is very forgiving of, for example, but it can make or break your loaf of bread.
Don’t worry about it being too wet
This is where a lot of beginner bakers get caught out.
My biggest problem here was that I grew up in a kitchen where scones were the go-to quick bread option.
If you’ve ever made a scone dough, (similar to what Americans call a ‘biscuit’ dough), you’ll know that they are at their best when lightly handled, and the dough is not too wet. A really wet dough leads to a heavy and slightly soggy scone.
So my idea of what made a ‘good dough’ was too dry to make good bread. I ended up with loaf after loaf of dense, heavy bricks.
The bread needs enough water in order to stretch and rise.
I don’t know all the chemistry behind it, but I can certainly say that I’ve had much more success with dough that has been a bit too wet than with dough that has been too dry.
Try again next time!
To reduce the “riskiness” of getting the moisture levels wrong, I recommend starting on your sourdough journey by focusing on pizza bases as your starting point.
Pizza bases are the most forgiving of breads!
They are always popular, people always want to eat your efforts, and there’s a good incentive to give it another go next week.
Once you’ve made a few pizza bases, you’ll get a better feel for your dough and how to adjust the moisture levels in it to make loaves and rolls.
Develop your own kombucha sourdough recipe
What I did when I developed my Simple Kombucha Sourdough recipe was to take a normal ‘quick yeast’ bread recipe, that I already liked and knew worked well for me with my flour.
Then I replaced the liquid measure in the recipe with kombucha, and left out any added yeast and sugar.
For example, this is the ingredient list for my most basic bread recipe that I know works well with the type of flour that I have:
Basic quick-yeast recipe
- 700mL warm water
- 1tsp sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp dried yeast granules
- 900g plain flour
- 2 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp oil
To convert it to a kombucha sourdough recipe I did this:
Conversion to basic sourdough recipe using kombucha
- 700mL kombucha
- 900g plain flour
I mixed them together, kneaded them, and put them in a covered bowl to rise. I left out the oil because I didn’t know how it would behave in a long rise. The dough seems to be just fine without it.
Then all that was needed was to wait to see how long it would take to rise.
This will be different for everybody as not only is everybody’s kombucha different, with different types of microbes, and amounts of yeast and sugar in them, but also the different flours, and room temperatures will impact the rise time.
Just keep an eye on it in the morning and the evening each day as you get to know how it’s doing – give it a poke or a quick knead, with a sprinkling of flour if you think it needs it.
For us, with our kombucha, it can take between 2 days and 4 days to be ready to bake.
This method gave me a really good starting recipe. It’s been tweaked a bit since then (and I’m still tweaking it!), but that starting point was 90% of the way there. I’m considering adding a bit of salt the next time I make it to see how that goes.
As a point of reference, that amount of flour will make about 6 pizza bases, depending how big you like them.
But what if you don’t have a bread recipe that you already like?
The first step is to find a couple of basic from-scratch recipe books from your own country (this ensures they are using a flour that is commonly available for you).
Then search for a bread recipe that uses weights, rather than volume measures. (e.g. the flour and water amounts are given in grams, or pounds and ounces – not in cups)
Bake the recipe using the exact instructions a few times to get a handle on it. Does this recipe work for you?
If it’s a recipe that suits you, and gives you the type of bread you want, then convert it to a kombucha sourdough recipe, as above.
Remember that this step may take a little bit of tweaking. Your kombucha might be more or less yeasty than mine, so may take more or less time to rise.
If you want yours to rise faster, you can save up the brown slimy yeast strands from brewing kombucha in a cup in the fridge and add them to your bread dough when you’re mixing it, just to give it a boost.
Another thing to consider is that a long rise will make the dough wetter than a short rise, so be prepared to add a sprinkling of flour at each kneading. You may also wish to increase the amount of flour the next time you make it if you’re getting consistently very wet dough.
Helpful equipment for sourdough baking
- Kitchen scales. (Check this one out) Digital scales like this one are the best for accuracy, (but I prefer these ones because they look more awesome in my kitchen)
- Large mixing bowl. (Check this one out). I like stainless steel for this as the dough seems to rise faster in our stainless steel bowl than in our ceramic one.
- Bowl covers. (We use something similar to this). These are so much better than plastic wrap because they can be reused again and again, and don’t let your dough dry out like an ordinary cloth can during a long rise.
Want to skip most of that experimenting?
Grab my book Simple Kombucha Sourdough! It’s available as a paperback, and as an ebook, in all the major online outlets, and costs far less than your average handcrafted artisan pizza.
You may still need to do a bit of tweaking of moisture levels, but I walk step by step through the whole Simple Kombucha Sourdough process, from gathering your ingredients to baking your first pizzas.
Not ready to commit to the book, but still want to make easy sourdough?
Everyone who signs up for my monthly newsletter gets a copy of the basic Kombucha Sourdough recipe with their first ‘welcome’ email.
Sign up for the Kombucha Research mailing list here (you can, of course, unsubscribe any time you want).