What 5+ New Sourdough Bread Bakers Would Tell You

If you’re still on the fence about trying to bake sourdough, check out the following Q + A. Almost none of the five (update: make it six!) women featured in it were keeping a starter this time last year, and yet now they’re using words like “magical,” “miracle” and “fun.” Come read and see.

What 5+ New Sourdough Bread Bakers Would Tell You / Go Eat Your Bread with Joy
pictured: an example of a sourdough loaf baked by me, who started last May

What would new sourdough bread bakers across America have to tell you about entering the world of naturally leavened bread? This past week, thanks to six voluntary interview participants, I got to find out.

These newbies range in age from 25 to 64. Their locations span from the West Coast to the South. They’ve relied on various books, websites and tips; been motivated by different inspirations; and experienced the wonder of dough fermenting in their kitchens for anywhere from a few weeks to about a year. Yet despite their unique experiences, they’ve all come to the same conclusion: this is possible, you can do it and don’t be scared!

Here are their answers, complete with recipe and product recommendations, as well as Instagram/website links.


Courtney Spiegl, baker from Nashville,TN

Courtney Spiegl

Age: 27
Location: Nashville, TN
Occupation: Baker & Personal Chef

Instagram: @reddoornutrition
URL: reddoornutrition.com

Q: How long have you been baking sourdough?

Like one month!

Q: What inspired you to start?

My love for bread, but intolerance for normal bread. The fermentation process of sourdough fascinates me, and it doesn’t upset my stomach like most wheat products do. Plus, I’m a baker who didn’t bake bread – I felt like I needed to!

Q: Before baking sourdough, were you intimidated to try? Why or why not?

Not really, more intimidated to actually start & maintain a starter!

Q: What helped you give it a shot?

Honestly you (@goeatyourbreadwithjoy) and Laura from @abeautifulplate both inspired me just by posting your own loaves and process.

Q: What advice would you give to someone who’s interested in trying it?

Patience. Consistency with your starter at first. Get the right tools, but you don’t need fancy or expensive ones.

One of Courtney’s favorite sourdough loaves so far, cooling on the counter. Photo used with permission from Courtney Spiegl.

Q: What recipe(s) are you enjoying right now?

I have been starting with Tartine‘s basic country loaf as a base but then vary from there! I haven’t made the same recipe twice.

Q: Who’s someone you love following on Instagram for sourdough inspo?

You (@goeatyourbreadwithjoy), Laura (@abeautifulplate), Jenna Fischer @msjennafischer (yes, Pam from the Office! She’s hilarious when she makes her sourdough and she Stories the whole thing), Emilie Raffa (@theclevercarrot)

Q: What one tool/book/product would you highly recommend to any sourdough newbie?

Books: Tartine if you like to read! Also Flour Water Salt Yeast.

Tool: a bench knife

Q: Anything else you want to add?

It’s seriously my new favorite hobby. It’s affordable, it’s rewarding and almost all recipes make two loaves, so you can gift one to a friend! My husband and I now have a “sourdough station” on our counter – room-temp fancy butter, Maldon sea salt and always fresh bread 🙂


Holly Daws

Age: 31
Location: Oakland, CA
Occupation: Full-time mama to my two little boys!

Instagram: @holly.a.daws

Q: How long have you been baking sourdough?

Only a few weeks! I’m super new. I’ve only baked five loaves. My sixth is rising in my kitchen right now!

Q: What inspired you to start?

I’ve always found a lot satisfaction in rhythmic kitchen habits: baking up a double batch of granola at the start of a month, roasting a chicken every Sunday then turning the bones into stock for the week ahead, even the weekly grind of meal planning + shopping + prepping is something I enjoy. I love how these practices anchor me in work that feels restful. When my hands are busy doing something familiar, my mind feels free to think, process, pray. Anyway, sourdough felt like a natural step. It’s maybe the most rhythmic kitchen habit! 

Q: Before baking sourdough, were you intimidated to try? Why or why not?

I felt the most overwhelmed by all the tools I didn’t have. Digital scale! Proofing basket! Lame! Not to mention… starter! I actually told my husband that I wanted to master sourdough in my 30s so he bought me the Tartine Bread book for my 30th birthday… great start, but I still needed all these other things! Now that I’m typing it out, it sounds so silly because you can get everything you need on amazon for very minimal cost. Anyway, I finally started once I turned 31. Slightly behind, but I guess I still have nine years 😉

As for intimated by actual bread-baking: no. I’ve cooked for long enough to know with certainty that there will be failure, and I’m not afraid of it. Bad bread = croutons, french toast or ribollita!

Q: What helped you give it a shot?

A good friend of mine wrote a blog post with super simple steps and most importantly… Amazon links to all the tools I needed. There’s so much information out there on sourdough, it can feel overwhelming to know exactly what you need to start and exactly what to do. For me, this blog post helped me block out the noise and just get started.

[Editor’s note: this site has a roundup of sourdough tools you can check out here, too.]

Q: What advice would you give to someone who’s interested in trying it?

Ask someone to be your guide! It was truly invaluable to have a couple of sourdough-baking friends on speed dial to ask questions. Honestly, you know what sourdough is like? A baby. There are hundreds of ways to do things, so much information it’s overwhelming, everyone has an opinion on the best way… but what you really need is one trusted confidant to block out the noise and give you advice. 

A loaf of sourdough bread from Holly Daws
pictured: One of Holly’s freshly baked sourdough loaves, photo used with permission from Holly Daws

Q: What recipe(s) are you enjoying right now?

I started by baking my friend Jenna’s recipe (of Eat, Live, Run)! l honestly feel amazed by how well it turned out, even my very first loaf. I also just bought Artisan Sourdough Made Simple by Emilie Raffa, and I’m trying her Everyday Sourdough recipe (bread is currently mid-rise!). I can’t wait to try her cinnamon raisin walnut bread, and I’m also really interested in her recipes that make use of starter discard. Waffles! Cinnamon rolls! 

Q: Who’s someone you love following on Instagram for sourdough inspo?

I live in the sourdough mecca of San Francisco, and I really love following all the incredible bakers here like @themidwifeandthebaker and @joseybakerbread! But I would love to follow more home bakers. Send me your recs! 

[Editor’s note: here are 22 more ideas!]

Q: What one tool/book/product would you highly recommend to any sourdough newbie?

The one tool you can’t live without is a digital scale. Also, all the photos and info in Artisan Sourdough Made Simple have been so helpful in teaching me about sourdough, how wild fermentation works, what each step does in the process, etc. I haven’t baked much out of the book yet, but the information alone feels worth the purchase (or check-out from the library).

Q: Anything else you want to add?

It’s worth mentioning that I got my starter from a local bakery (Cheeseboard for anyone who happens to be local to the East Bay). They just give it away for free. If you’re in need of a starter and don’t want to make your own, hit up a bakery near you to ask!


Katie Archer

Age: 25
Location: Atlanta, GA
Occupation: Operations Manager in Nonprofit Sector / Founder & CEO of Katie Archer Kitchen 

Instagram: @katiearcherkitchen
URL: katiearcherkitchen.com 

Q: How long have you been baking sourdough?

Since you told me to 🙂 — around September 2018

Q: What inspired you to start?

You and your blog. But really, I’ve been following you for so long and I just LOVE your perspective, philosophy and love for food. So I kept watching you talk about this whole sourdough thing. I also wanted to eat bread that made me feel good and not spend $6 every week on high-quality bread. And before long I thought, if you loved doing it and could fit it into your daily life, then I should be able to as well! You broke it down and were there for me (through instagram messages!) since I started.

Q: Before baking sourdough, were you intimidated to try? Why or why not?

A little bit, but I just needed someone who felt like a friend to walk me through the steps – and you did just that! Also, I started with the bare bones of what I needed, and it worked! I have also made kombucha at home before, so the whole growing a culture and letting things start to smell like vinegar didn’t scare me at all, I think it’s awesome actually.

Q: What helped you give it a shot?

You. Your blog. Your Insta-Stories. The low cost to get going — Being able to buy a dried starter for $10 off Amazon. And then a SIMPLE recipe, that didn’t use all the fancy sourdough language.

Q: What advice would you give to someone who’s interested in trying it?

Be okay with failing. Be okay with being a beginner at a new thing. Both of these things are hard for me, but sourdough making has become somewhat of a place of freedom and lack of control for me, which I desperately need in my life. Each loaf has a little journey of its own, and so many factors are at play that I don’t even know about, much less control and somehow, by God’s grace in the process, each loaf, whether perfect or far from it, is still a miracle to me. Flour + water = bread. I’ll never get over that!

pictured: one of Katie’s sourdough loaves. photo used with permission from Katie Archer.

Q: What recipe(s) are you enjoying right now?

Min’s Kitchen recipe! Again, thanks to Shanna, its now the only one I use.  [Editor’s note: find it here!]

Q: Who’s someone you love following on Instagram for sourdough inspo?

@goeatyourbreadwithjoy & @hannahs_homemade

Q: What one tool/book/product would you highly recommend to any sourdough newbie?

DUTCH OVEN. After that having a brotform is nice.

Q: Anything else you want to add?

I love the process. It isn’t an instant gratification thing. I love how delicious the bread is and how it is [impacting] my once-held view that bread should be eaten sparingly and it has to be 100% whole wheat. I love that it is a scientific process but at the same time that it is simple at its core. Thank you, Shanna! Wouldn’t have started this adventure if it weren’t for you!


Kellie Lutito

Age: 36
Location: East Nashville, TN
Occupation: Currently at home with my two girls : )

Instagram: @kellielutito

Q: How long have you been baking sourdough?

Only about a month!

Q: What inspired you to start?

I love the long, slow process of growing food and baking bread. Good things take time! Also, it seriously makes me want to cry when I check labels at grocery stores and see there are a million ingredients in bread that I can’t even pronounce, much less want to eat or feed my kids!

Q: Before baking sourdough, were you intimidated to try? Why or why not?

Absolutely! I have always read sourdough recipes and been like…Autolyse?! Bulk fermentation?! What.Are.These.Things?! I think the language around sourdough baking can be intimidating if you haven’t had someone walk you through the process and demystify it. I guess I’m a visual learner!

Q: What helped you give it a shot?

I hosted a Sourdough 101 class at my house taught by Julie Saunders of @crumbnashville. She taught me and a few of my girlfriends all of the basics to get started! It was so helpful to have someone explain the fundamentals of sourdough and show us some of the basic techniques for handling dough. She even gave us a starter, some basic tools, flour and a recipe with a sample baking schedule. It was so fun!

Q: What advice would you give to someone who’s interested in trying it?

Just jump in! Ask a friend who bakes sourdough if you can go to their house and have them show you the steps next time they do a bake. Nothing better than baking with friends right?! 

pictured: one of Kellie’s recent sourdough loaves. photo used with permission from Kellie Lutito.

Q: What recipe(s) are you enjoying right now?

I’m loving Ken Forkish’s book Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast. He has a recipe in that book for Pain de Campagne that I’ve already made several times and my family can’t get enough of. It’s got a softer crust and keeps well throughout the week. It’s magic. 

Q: Who’s someone you love following on Instagram for sourdough inspo?

I love @natabits_food. Natalie’s bread is insanely beautiful! I love how she packs her bread with all sorts of nutrients too.  Also very obsessed with @brooklynsourdough‘s scoring techniques and @alchemybread for all of the gorgeous loaves she bakes and sells out of her house.

Q: What one tool/book/product would you highly recommend to any sourdough newbie?

I already said it, but I love Ken Forkish’s book Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast. And of course the holy grail of sourdough cookbooks, Tartine Bread by Chad Robertson. Actually Natalie of @natabits_food recommended both of these as a good starting point to learn the basic principles and I’m loving them both! 

Q: Anything else you want to add?

Don’t stop with bread! There is so much fun stuff to make with your starter discard! So far I’ve made sourdough pancakes, banana bread and pizza dough. My family is happily eating their way through my new baking obsession 😉 [Editor’s note: here’s a roundup of great beginner recipes to try!]


Kenna Davis

Age: 64
Location: Ozark, MO
Occupation: Homemaker, mom of 8, homeschooled 29 years, grandma of 18 currently

Instagram: @Daviskennasue

Q: How long have you been baking sourdough? 

Currently about a year.  I’ve tried off and on for years with no success.  Much better this time around!

Q: What inspired you to start? 

The artisan aspect, the health aspect and I love bread and especially sourdough bread.

Q: Before baking sourdough, were you intimidated to try? Why or why not?

No.  I’ve baked yeast bread for most of my life, and I figured this was just another method.  But when my bread always was dense, heavy and sour and no one would eat them, I quit.

Q: What helped you give it a shot? 

This time a friend gave me a strong, healthy, non-sour starter, which was a game changer.

Q: What advice would you give to someone who’s interested in trying it? 

Get a good healthy starter, a good basic, easy recipe/method and people to ask questions of.  

Pictured: twin sourdough loaves baked by Kenna. Photo used with permission from Kenna Davis.

Q: What recipe(s) are you enjoying right now? 

I’m mostly just making basic boules of plain sourdough bread.  I’ve made a chocolate one which is good, but the classic, plain ones get eaten a lot quicker.  And I have a cinnamon raisin proofing now.

Q: Who’s someone you love following on Instagram for sourdough inspo?

YOU!  And I just started following @sourdoughschoolhouse 

Q: What one tool/book/product would you highly recommend to any sourdough newbie? 

LameArtisan Sourdough Bread Made Simple (only book I have), Zelite bread knife

Q: Anything else you want to add? 

I also like my Dutch oven.  I really like to make longer ferment breads–they’re so flexible with my schedule.


Bailey Rae

Age: 29
Location: Nashville, TN
Occupation: Chef & Dinner Party Curator 

Instagram: @Baileyraeskitchen
URL: baileyraeskitchen.com

Q: How long have you been baking sourdough?

Just one month!

Q: What inspired you to start?

You did! I had two failed attempts at making my own starter last year and after seeing all your yummy loaves, decided to give it another try.

Q: Before baking sourdough, were you intimidated to try? Why or why not?

Yes, very intimidated. I didn’t fully understand how the “starter” would make the bread rise and how to know when to use the starter, etc. When you are use to using bakers yeast, the world of sourdough is so unknown and intimidating.

Q: What helped you give it a shot?

I read an article on TheKitchn about making your own starter and decided to give their method a try and thankfully had success.

Q: What advice would you give to someone who’s interested in trying it?

Simply go for it and don’t give up! I wish I would have started this journey back when I first bought Emilie Raffa’s book Artisan Sourdough Made Simple. Instead I gave up and didn’t try again for over a year. The bread is SO good, you will become a bread snob.

pictured: Bailey Rae’s sourdough baguettes. photo used with permission from Bailey Rae.

Q: What recipe(s) are you enjoying right now?

I am loving a breakfast bread where I fold in bacon, cheddar cheese, and some jalapeños. It makes the best avocado toast in the mornings! Also, loving French Baguettes, I could easily eat an entire one in a day! Oh, and waffles! They are unbelievably light and crispy!

Q: Who’s someone you love following on Instagram for sourdough inspo?

You & Ceri Hoover (she’s always playing around with different grains)

Q: What one tool/book/product would you highly recommend to any sourdough newbie?

Emilie Raffa’s book Artisan Sourdough Made Simple and a good-sized Dutch oven!

Q: Anything else you want to add?

Since starting, I’ve had a few girlfriends ask for some of my starter, which is an awesome way to get right into it! If you have a friend, don’t be afraid to ask, I think we would all love to give some away rather than put it down the sink each morning during the feeding!


In Conclusion

If there’s one thing all the above respondents have in common, it’s an enjoyment and affection for the wonder of naturally leavened bread. Some learned online, some learned in classes, but everyone was willing to give it a chance–maybe you want to join them? Start with this post about where to find a starter, and then gather tools listed in this post of must-haves. After that, pick a recipe and give it a shot! I’d love to hear about it if you do.

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.

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