Sourdough Love Letter and Sourdough Bread Recipe

As many of us embarked on pandemic baking bread adventures, one writer shares her tribute to her starter and her sourdough bread recipe.
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Sourdough bread baked by Jamie Samons in March 2020. Photo by Jamie Samons.

Dear friend:

I feel a little bad that I’ve never given you a name, but perhaps ours is the type of relationship that transcends names and labels. We’ve accomplished so much together! Nourished and pleased so many people!

I remember the day I brought you home. Chef Ben Sukle sent me a message, “Do you want some sourdough starter?” Giddy, I bounded to my car and retrieved you from the now-closed birch restaurant. You looked so fetching in your quart deli container, gloriously bubbly and teeming with life. Ben sent you with a feeding schedule and a recipe for multigrain bread. I felt some trepidation at the responsibility of nurturing a living being. My history with houseplants had been less than stellar, but Ben assured me you were resilient.

And, oh, was he right! You’re nearly eight now and you’ve survived some treacherous experiences. Remember that time I went away for two weeks and the person who was supposed to take care of you neglected item #14 on the fourteen-item checklist of how to feed you? He fed you and then left you on top of the fridge for ten days. You had nearly fermented into alcohol by the time I returned. Yikes. But together we painstakingly restored you with regular feedings and time on a heating pad. You went on to produce gorgeous loaves that we shared with friends and neighbors. Even your discard has value — crackers, pancakes, waffles, biscuits: so much carb-y goodness.

Through your generosity, you’ve enabled bakers in Texas, California and Hawaii. There are bits of you growing in kitchens all across the country. How does it feel to have such a legacy?

Friend, I want — no, I knead — to let you know how much I appreciate you and look forward to more baking adventures together.


Jamie Samons


My Standard Sourdough Recipe

Make 2 hefty loaves 



900 g bread flour (I sometimes sub up to 25% with whole wheat, rye, or spelt) 

640 g water at about 90 F 



20 g salt 

185 g mature, fed sourdough starter 

50 g water at about 90 F 



1 cup mix-ins (toasted chopped walnuts, pitted olives, dried cranberries…anything your heart desires!) 

In a large bowl, mix the autolyse ingredients together. Let ferment, covered, at room temperature for 1 hour. 

Add the starter, the salt, and 40 g of the additional water to the autolyse and combine by squishing everything together with your hands. Add additional 10 g of water if the dough seems dry. Eventually, the dough will move from a slimy blob into a smooth, yet still wet, mass. Let rest at room temperature, covered for 30 minutes. Stretch and fold the dough by lifting up the bit of dough at 12 o’clock and pulling it toward the center of the bowl. Rotate the bowl 90 degrees and repeat. Repeat two more times for a total of four folds. Let rest at room temperature, covered for 30 minutes. Repeat two more times for a total of three stretch-and-fold sessions. If adding mix-ins, fold them in with the third stretch-and-fold. Then let the dough rest at room temperature, covered for 2-½ hours. 

Turn the dough out onto a clean counter or board (try not to flour) and divide in half. Shape each half into a taut round with a bench scraper or your hands (there are great YouTube videos on how to do this). Lightly flour the inside of two proofing baskets or other proofing vessels and place one round in each, bottom side up. Cover loosely with plastic wrap or a plastic bag. Refrigerate overnight or up to two days. 

Place a covered 4-quart Dutch oven in the oven and preheat the oven to 500 F for one hour. Retrieve one loaf from the fridge and invert it onto a large sheet of parchment paper (this paper will act as a sling to get the loaf into the ripping hot pan, so be generous). Slash the top of the loaf with a baker’s lame or very sharp knife. Carefully remove the Dutch oven from the oven and remove the lid. With the greatest care possible, using the parchment as sling, place the loaf in the pan and replace the lid. Return the pan to the oven, reduce the heat to 450 F and bake for 20 minutes. Then, carefully remove the lid of the Dutch oven, reduce the heat to 425 F and bake an additional 30 minutes. The interior temperature of the loaf should be between 210–212 degrees F. 

Use a pair of spatulas (fish spatulas are great for this) to remove the loaf to a cooling rack. Replace the Dutch oven in the oven, crank the heat back up to 500 F and repeat the process with the second loaf. Dislocate your own shoulder patting yourself on the back for a job well done. 



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