Sourdough is a crusty, tangy bread that can be intimidating to make at home. The loaf begins with a starter, often called a "mother," which is a mixture of wild yeast and Lactobacillus bacteria that feeds on flour and water. A sought-after starter may be passed from friend to friend or down through the generations of a family. And caring for a starter is a long-term commitment, requiring you to occasionally feed it to keep the microorganisms alive. According to Floyd Mann, who runs the baking site The Fresh Loaf, "It's not a sentient being, but people do treat it almost as a pet. If you neglect it and it dies, you feel very bad. I've had to remind myself, 'It doesn't feel any pain!'" Once you have the starter formed, you can mix the dough and finally bake your loaf. F&W's guide holds your hand through all the steps of making this labor-intensive bread and spotlights our favorite recipes.