What 4 Experienced Sourdough Bakers Would Tell You

After you’ve been baking sourdough bread for a while, certain questions tend to come up. Should you deviate from recipes? When and how? Could you turn your sourdough hobby into a business? What’s involved? Where do you go from here? So consider the following Q + A as your chance to get answers. Here’s what four experienced sourdough bakers would tell you!

What 4 Experienced Sourdough Bakers Would Tell You / A Q + A at Go Eat Your Bread with Joy

All across America (and Canada!) there are home and professional bakers who have been measuring ingredients, slapping dough and testing sourdough bread recipes for years. Some of them are baking purely for pleasure, some teach classes, some develop recipes and some have dedicated followings online. Thanks to their experience, though, they offer a treasure trove of valuable information for the new or growing baker!

Below, in the following Q + A, you’ll see what four different women, based out of the American South, the northeast and Canada, reveal about what sourdough baking might look like for beginners three, six or even more years down the line. From how to scale up your baking quantity to how to start deviating from recipes with confidence, here’s what they have to say.

Special thanks to these generous, inspiring, seasoned sourdough bakers for sharing their feedback!


Amanda Waddell

Age: 36
Location: New Hampshire
Occupation: Nonfiction Book Editor

Length of time baking sourdough: 7 years

Instagram: @eat_and_edit
URL: eatandedit.com

“Sourdough is not all or nothing.” Amanda Waddell

Q: When and how did you get started baking sourdough?

I ordered my first sourdough starter from King Arthur Flour back in 2012, when sourdough was only just starting to come on the scene (I’m a cookbook editor, so I’m usually researching trends before they’re actually trends). 

pictured: Amanda’s freshly baked sweet potato loaves (recipe from Sourdough by Sarah Owens). photo used with permission from Amanda Waddell.

Q: Was it love at first bake, or did you have to grow into comfort with the process?

Love at first bake! I’ve always loved fermentation (kefir, sauerkraut, etc.), so this was natural fit and process for me.

Q: Do you still tend to mostly follow established recipes (if so, which ones)? Or, at what point did you start adapting or developing your own?

I sometimes adapt recipes that call for commercial yeast, or change up flour types and that sort of thing, but for the most part I follow established formulas. My favorites right now are this tin loaf (I double the recipe and make one in a loaf pan and one as a boule in the Dutch oven), and the Honeyed Spelt and Oat loaf from Sarah Owens’ cookbook Sourdough (I gift that loaf more than any other!). 

Q: If you do develop your own sourdough recipes, what advice would you give to newer bakers who haven’t ventured off existing formulas yet?

I think people get a little too anxious about messing with formulas. My guess is that hundreds of years ago, people just grabbed some flour, water, and starter, and mixed until it felt right, so if you want to play around or adjust, go for it! That’s the fun of it.

Q: What’s one of the most challenging sourdough projects you’ve taken on, and what happened when you did?

I tried making Hokkaido (Japanese Milk Bread) a few months back and it was a fun, and delicious, experiment. Not “challenging” so to speak, but completely different than what I’ve done before. 

It also took me awhile to master chapati (Indian whole wheat tortillas) and making a sourdough version of those. But they’ve now become a weekly staple! Practice makes perfect. 

Hokkaido, Japanese milk bread, baked by Amanda Waddell
pictured: a loaf of Amanda Waddell’s Hokkaido (Japanese milk bread), for which she used this recipe. photo used with permission from Amanda Waddell.

Q: Tell me about any professional experience you’ve had with sourdough bread.

Other than posting on Instagram and selling locally to a few friends, I don’t have much experience in that realm, but maybe someday 🙂 (Editor’s note: In case you missed it last summer, this interview about Amanda’s new-mom meals is an inspiration!)

Q: This one’s from a reader: do you have any advice for the baker who’s hearing she should sell her bread, but she just has a home kitchen? How do you scale your baking up for bake sales, giving away, parties, etc.? Do you freeze them? Any tips?

Sounds like a big project! I’d definitely make my freezer my best friend and slice and freeze ahead of time. 

pictured: Amanda’s Tartine sourdough loaves. photo used with permission from Amanda Waddell.

Q: Who are some sourdough bakers you currently admire, online or off?

@rushyama@sarah_c_owens@kingarthurflour (great tutorials and huge range of recipes)

Q: What’s on your agenda to try next? What are you sourdough-dreaming about?

Maybe a good loaf of rye sourdough–I’ve yet to find a formula I really love.

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

Sourdough is not all or nothing. Find one or two formulas you like and make it work for your schedule (I keep mine in the fridge and bake with it every two weeks or so). That way you’re more likely to turn it into a lifelong habit.


Hannah Scroggins

Age: 27
Location: Birmingham, AL
Occupation: Mama, nurse, health and wellness coach with The Juice Plus+ Company

Length of time baking sourdough: 3.5 years

Instagram: @_hannahs_homemade_
URL: Patreon.com/HannahsHomeade

“I told them it is easier to show them than tell them, so I started inviting friends over for classes! Three classes later and about 60 students later, we were onto something!” Hannah Scroggins

Q: When and how did you get started baking sourdough?

About four years ago, my husband was listening to a health podcast all about the benefits of sourdough bread. He came home and told me I had to learn! I was always up for a challenge. We later watched a documentary on Netflix called “Cooked: Air.” After learning about the art of bread making, I was bound and determined to begin my journey! Not to mention, my brother was making sourdough in Michigan, my dad was brewing kombucha and I thought it would be fun to all ferment together in some way, shape or form! To cap it off and commit, my husband and I make vision boards every year— our dreams, desires, and goals. I put sourdough bread and fermentation on my vision board and was ready to learn!

Q: Was it love at first bake, or did you have to grow into comfort with the process?

I definitely had to grow into loving it. To be completely honest, for about a year and a half, my bread was dense and and flat as a pancake. I was determined to continue learning and troubleshooting. I had been needing dough with my dough hook on my KitchenAid. One morning I woke up and thought I am going to try kneading with my hands. That is when the magic happened!! My dough was rising better, the bread was cooking better and I had “crumb,” aka holes in my bread. It was so tasty and airy and chewy!! I was HOOKED.

Hannah Scroggins's sourdough bread
pictured: Hannah’s freshly baked sourdough bread. photo used with permission from Hannah Scroggins.

Q: Do you still tend to mostly follow established recipes (if so, which ones)? Or, at what point did you start adapting or developing your own?

Yes! I have one recipe. I developed it about a year ago. My friends began to ask me how to make bread. I told them it is easier to show them than tell them, so I started inviting friends over for classes! Three classes later and about 60 students later, we were onto something! I was excited and discovered my passion was teaching others how to excel with bread making!

My husband, who is a financial advisor, told me it was time to start a business! I was not charging for my classes, I was giving endless time to each student helping them succeed, so that is when Hannah’s Homemade was born!

I teach classes here in our community, it is $45 a ticket and each student leaves with a recipe, a starter, and tools to get started! I have video tutorials and everything you need on a blog subscription called Patreon. It is $2 a month to subscribe. Currently I have about 140 Patrons and my goal is 1000. That is when I will start a cookbook! It [will be] filled with all kinds of healthy recipes, not just bread!

[Editor’s note: If you’re interested in learning more, the link to Hannah’s Patreon page is listed above, next to her photo.]

Q: If you do develop your own sourdough recipes, what advice would you give to newer bakers who haven’t ventured off existing formulas yet?

Go for it! It’s all about having fun, taking risk to try new ways, new ingredients and learn new skills! My favorite bread to make is focaccia!

Q: What’s one of the most challenging sourdough projects you’ve taken on, and what happened when you did?

Nothing specific, yet the most challenging is the “waiting game” that comes with bread-making! It takes great patience, but oh so worth it!

Q: Tell me about any professional experience you’ve had with sourdough bread.

I do not have professional experience. I teach classes, [but] it is just a hobby!

Hannah Scroggins, sourdough baker / Go Eat Your Bread with Joy
pictured: Hannah slicing some of her freshly baked sourdough. Photo used with permission from Hannah Scroggins.

Q: This one’s from a reader: do you have any advice for the baker who’s hearing she should sell her bread, but she just has a home kitchen? How do you scale your baking up for bake sales, giving away, parties, etc.? Do you freeze them? Any tips?

I have been told a lot that I should sell my bread – yet my passion is gear more towards teaching others how to make! I would get burnt out if I made dozens upon dozens of loaves!

Q: Who are some sourdough bakers you currently admire, online or off?

Emilie Raffa – she’s amazing!

Q: What’s on your agenda to try next? What are you sourdough-dreaming about?

I am excited to try sourdough pizza crust! We love pizza and I cannot imagine how yummy it would be to eat with homemade crust! I’m also really excited to learn how to make bagels! 


Shannon Peckford sourdough baker

Shannon Peckford

Age: 41
Location: Kelowna, BC, Canada
Occupation: Used to be a banker — dropped the “N” and became a home baker after having kids

Length of time baking sourdough: 7 years

Instagram: @sourdoughschoolhouse
URL: SourdoughSchoolhouse.com

“Baker’s percentage tables are the best for recipe creation and I always encourage my students to venture outside of the recipes.” Shannon Peckford

Q: When and how did you get started baking sourdough?

I got into sourdough after following a paleo diet for five years. I grew up in a family with a lot of stomach issues, and no one had any idea why. One day I became interested in fixing that problem and through a paleo diet, I was able to heal my gut. In this time, I learned about the health benefits of sourdough. I literally had NO IDEA that bread could be an option in my life.

Q: Was it love at first bake, or did you have to grow into comfort with the process?

My mother made homemade bread every week of my life, and so I always enjoyed the process. After trying many grain-free options on my paleo diet, I was so sick of hearing people say “that was really good for almond bread or coconut bread or whatever.” It’s like getting the compliment, “you look great for 40.” Sometimes, you just want to hear “that was great bread” PERIOD!!!  I became addicted to sourdough baking almost immediately. The feel of working with the dough, shaping and scoring bread is mesmerizing and the smell, the immediate satisfaction in the bake, the flavor —WOW!

Q: Do you still tend to mostly follow established recipes (if so, which ones)? Or, at what point did you start adapting or developing your own?

I love creating recipes, always have. Cooking was my first love, and following a recipe has never been easy for me. I change recipes all the time. I have a basic recipe I follow and adjust flours and hydrations based on the outcome I am looking for. Baker’s percentage tables are the best for recipe creation and I always encourage my students to venture outside of the recipes.

[Editor’s note: For more information on baker’s percentage tables, check out this post from WeekendBakery.com and this one from King Arthur Flour.]

Q: If you do develop your own sourdough recipes, what advice would you give to newer bakers who haven’t ventured off existing formulas yet?

Use a baker’s percentage spreadsheet. We include the baker’s percentage spreadsheet in all of our classes, and I encourage students to play with hydration levels, think about the ingredients they would like to use and any inclusions. Generally, even if the bread doesn’t turn out perfect, it is still better than most breads in the store. There is no loss in trying. Plus, it only costs about $0.82 a loaf in general. A very inexpensive experiment.

Q: What’s one of the most challenging sourdough projects you’ve taken on, and what happened when you did?

Croissants. I was determined to get really good at sourdough pastries. I have made hundreds of batches of sourdough croissants and it took about two years of weekly baking them before I was happy with the result. I still experiment with my tried-and-true recipe all the time to see if I can improve it, even just a bit every time.

Sourdough bread by Shannon Peckford / Go Eat Your Bread with Joy
pictured: one of Shannon’s sourdough loaves. photo used with permission from Shannon Peckford.

Q: Tell me about any professional experience you’ve had with sourdough bread.

I have no formal bakery experience, my husband did give me a week at the San Francisco Baking Institute for my 40th Birthday … BEST GIFT EVER!!! I had a blast. I teach home bakers how to bake sourdough now, that is my main job outside of being a wife to my husband, Scott for the last 21 years and mother to my kids, Aliyana (13), Carson (12) and Jiah (10). I taught in person for two years out of my home studio, now I primarily teach online sourdough baking classes. [Editor’s note: learn more about classes here!]

Q: This one’s from a reader: do you have any advice for the baker who’s hearing she should sell her bread, but she just has a home kitchen? How do you scale your baking up for bake sales, giving away, parties, etc.? Do you freeze them? Any tips?

I have tons of students that have started selling bread on the side. It is all about knowing your capacity on a daily basis and remember, “the fridge is your friend” in sourdough baking. I teach a live class at a local cooking school every month and need to prepare sixteen baked loaves and enough dough for eighteen raw loaves to be shaped. It is all about preparing in advance, keeping track of timing and being flexible. Sourdough bread freezes very, very well.

I generally bake my loaves a little on the lighter side and freeze as soon as they cool. I then allow them to defrost a bit and “rebake” at 425-450°F for about 15 minutes to refresh before the class – the bread is just like it was fresh baked. No degradation in quality at all.

sourdough pastry by Shannon Peckford
pictured: Shannon’s sourdough pastry (!!). photo used with permission from Shannon Peckford.

Q: Who are some sourdough bakers you currently admire, online or off?

Oh my goodness, there are so many. For crumb technique – I think Kristen @fullproofbaking is incredible and Trevor @trevorjaywilson. For bread art – Zoe @Zoe.zhuhui and Mialotta @vilda_surdegen. For inclusions, Hannah @blondieandrye and, I have got to say as so many others would, Chad Robertson from Tartine Bakery for bringing sourdough bread to the home baker is always tops!

Q: What’s on your agenda to try next? What are you sourdough-dreaming about?

I’m just going to keep teaching home bakers to try baking sourdough. It is such a great hobby that also feeds your family. It is inexpensive, much better for you, so addictive in a healthy, therapeutic way and very satisfying every time you bake. Using time-honored baking techniques is the best. I always say, “if you prepare your food in the way it was meant to be prepared, your food with nourish your body in the way it needs to be nourished.”

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

Sourdough is a great choice for those with stomach issues … that was me. Through fermentation, sourdough is much easier to digest, works very well for those with gluten sensitivities, as long as it is fermented properly and has so much more flavor and texture, too.

For anyone that thinks sourdough baking is too difficult or too fussy or too much work … I would say “just try it.” It is easier than you think, even when it doesn’t turn out perfect … it still tastes great. It is so satisfying to make something so basic and beautiful. And no matter what the trend is … People LOVE Bread! Every culture has a type of bread, so many find comfort in it and bread isn’t bad … when you make it the right way.


Melissa Johnson

Age: 44
Location: New Jersey
Occupation: Recipe developer/editor

Length of time baking sourdough: 2.5 years

Instagram: @breadwriter
URL: Breadtopia.com and BreadandWords.com

“Make something as close to the original recipe as possible, observe all the stages and results, and then make it again, changing one variable at a time.” Melissa Johnson

Q: When and how did you get started baking sourdough?

I tried sourdough baking for the first time in 2016 after watching Michael Pollan’s Cooked series on Netflix. I was amazed and inspired to see people from around the world bake gorgeous bread with very basic tools in some cases.

I kept baking, though, because I wanted more of that delicious bread and because I find sourdough baking to be a wonderful blend of art, science and physical activity.

pictured: a photo of one of Melissa’s sourdough loaves. photo used with permission from Melissa Johnson.

Q: Was it love at first bake, or did you have to grow into comfort with the process?

Funny thing — I tossed my first starter after my first bake, and not because the bread was bad. I just thought it was all a bit too complicated. A few weeks later, I craved that bread again so much that I made another starter and began trying to understand the process rather than simply follow steps.

Over the next few months, I started experimenting with additions to the dough (olives, berries, quinoa etc.), converting recipes from yeast to sourdough, finding ways to fit baking into a busy schedule, trying different wheat varieties, and baking all sorts of bread from ciabatta to naan.

Q: Do you still tend to mostly follow established recipes (if so, which ones)? Or, at what point did you start adapting or developing your own?

Early in my sourdough baking, I found some easy-to-follow sourdough recipes and videos on the website that I now work for, Bread­topia. I began making these recipes and changing small things to suit my inventory, schedule and flavor preferences.

My approach with cooking in general is to substitute and modify, take notes and do experiments. The more I understood about the variables in fermentation, the more I could behave this way with baking, too.

Some specific recipes I do sorta-follow are Peter Reinhart’s Challah (converted to sourdough) from the book, The Bread Baker’s Apprentice; Trevor J. Wilson’s baguette formula; Stella Park’s Cinnamon Rolls (converted to sourdough) from the cookbook BraveTart; and Breadtopia’s Sicilian No Knead Bread and Whole Spelt. I say “sorta-follow” because even in these recipes, I might sub in some whole grain flour or change the wheat variety.

Q: If you do develop your own sourdough recipes, what advice would you give to newer bakers who haven’t ventured off existing formulas yet?

Make something as close to the original recipe as possible, observe all the stages and results, and then make it again, changing one variable at a time. Use all your senses, even your hearing. A well-bulked dough has a sound to it!

Also have fun and don’t be afraid of failure. Bakers (myself included) are often extremely critical of their product. I try to remind myself that I can’t control everything.

Plus, messed-up looking bread usually tastes amazing anyway, and hopefully I’ve learned something, even if it is just that chaos and mystery sometimes prevail.

Q: What’s one of the most challenging sourdough projects you’ve taken on, and what happened when you did?

Last spring I embarked on an open crumb whole grain sourdough project. I tested different wheats, milling and gluten development techniques over nine bakes and sixteen loaves. I struggled to keep all but one variable constant in the tests and to interpret the results accurately.

At one point my husband half-jokingly suggested I find software to analyze the negative space in my bread photos, because I was obsessing so hard over which of three test loaves had a more open crumb structure (less dense).

Q: Tell me about any professional experience you’ve had with sourdough bread.

A couple of years ago, I was recruited off the Breadtopia message board to develop, write and photograph recipes for them. I had been sharing photos and recipes that I created. My professional background is in writing and editing, and I’ve worked at the photography element of recipe development by studying images I find compelling, and also thinking about what I’m dying to see when I follow a recipe (e.g. before and after photos of the final proof).

This past fall, I also developed a [commercial] yeast artisan bread recipe for the Challenger Breadpan. That was a cool project because I was using a prototype of a unique cast iron pan, learning to work with yeast and putting myself back in the mindset of a total beginner.

Q: This one’s from a reader: do you have any advice for the baker who’s hearing she should sell her bread, but she just has a home kitchen? How do you scale your baking up for bake sales, giving away, parties, etc.? Do you freeze them? Any tips?

New Jersey is the only state left in the U.S. that doesn’t have a cottage food law allowing people to get licensed to sell food they’ve prepared in their home kitchens, so I haven’t gone that route with my baking.

The most I’ve ever baked in a day is six boules, and sixteen twelve-inch pizzas. I was happy to have a second refrigerator in my basement, and large food-grade buckets.

Q: Who are some sourdough bakers you currently admire, online or off?

Way too many to list them all, but here are a few, identified by Instagram handle. I’ve been enjoying the experiments and research of @sourdoughexplorer. @theangelinyourkitchen works with different wheats and makes lovely crust decorations with herbs. @mark_omerso has beautiful bread and his fermentation skills run deep, and I get neat ideas from seeing the array of ingredients @nmuvu puts in her Mockmill.

If that weren’t enough, I live near two amazing sourdough-focused bakeries Liv Breads and The Bread Stand.

Q: What’s on your agenda to try next? What are you sourdough-dreaming about?

I’m working on a whole grain einkorn sourdough pan loaf recipe, and I want to try @artisanbryan ‘s pan de coco. One of the first recipes I put on my own blog was a coconut rice sourdough with chocolate. It was a bit wet and ridiculously delicious, so I know I will love the more fluffy-textured pan de coco.

In Conclusion

While all the women interviewed in this post have at least two years of experience baking sourdough bread, their diverse responses showcase the best part of the process: making it unique to you. They’re proof that as you continue experimenting and testing, there are so many avenues available to you! You may dig into formulas and percentages, or you may get the pastry itch and jump into croissants. You may also find a niche that works for you and stick to it. The artisanal nature of bread baking means the way you grow is all your own.

Special thanks to each of the interview participants for providing their helpful feedback on this post! All answers are published as provided, except for a few small edits or the addition of links.

If You Enjoyed This Post…

Don’t miss the roundup of feedback from six newbie bakers! You might also enjoy scrolling through the Sourdough category of this site–or come follow along on Instagram to chat!

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