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Delicious and simple sourdough bread: Yes. You. Can. Truly, there is nothing tricky about making sourdough bread: if you can make yeasted bread, you can make sourdough bread. There is video guidance for every step of the way. Let’s do this 🍞🍞🍞
When I met Emilie Raffa, author of The Clever Cookbook, several years ago, she told me her next book would be about sourdough baking. About a year prior, she had written a blog entry about sourdough bread that had become very popular, her simple method showing many people how easy sourdough baking can be.
That post had connected her to people all over the world, who, like her, loved sharing their sourdough experiences. In her book, she would compile everything she had learned on her sourdough journey with the hopes of inspiring others to begin a journey of their own.
Sourdough Made Simple
When I told Emilie I had never had luck with sourdough baking, she insisted I could do it. Shortly thereafter she sent me some of her starter, offspring from a 10-year-old Australian starter named Priscilla, a gift from her blogging friend, Celia. The starter came with activation, feeding, storage, and maintenance instructions. Incredibly, I managed to keep it alive, and so began my sourdough journey.
This past summer, I had the chance to preview Emilie’s book, Artisan Sourdough Made Simple, which hits stores today. Here’s what I’ve learned:
- how to “wake up” my starter a few days prior to baking
- how to test my starter to see if it’s ready for use
- when to mix my dough if I want a loaf of sourdough bread on a certain day
- how to store my starter for future use
Highlights in the book for me include:
• Recipes for using leftover sourdough starter. The book includes recipes for waffles, cookies, crackers, popovers, flatbreads, etc., all of which call for using what would be discarded starter.
• Baker’s Schedule: The book includes timing tips for when to activate your starter, if you want to bake a loaf of bread three days later.
• Beautiful photos that illustrate how to handle the dough at various phases. Beautiful photos to help with scoring the dough. Beautiful photos throughout — Emilie is an incredible photographer.
• An extensive FAQ and answer section.
New to Sourdough? Start Here
- Since posting this recipe, I’ve fully embraced sourdough bread baking. Here’s my favorite recipe: Favorite Sourdough Bred (Lots of video guidance and notes in this post)
- If you are just getting started with sourdough, you might want to start here: sourdough focaccia, a simple recipe which requires no tricky shaping or scoring, no preheated Dutch ovens, etc.
- If you’re ready to dive in, you may want to pick up some equipment: Essential Equipment For Sourdough Bread Baking
- And here are some more tips: How to Activate, Feed, and Maintain A Sourdough Starter
OK, first things first, to make sourdough bread, you need a starter. Find sourdough starter sources here: Essential Equipment For Sourdough Bread Baking
After you “feed” your starter by stirring in some flour and water, place a rubber band around the jar to mark the level of your starter. See this post for tips on How to Maintain A Sourdough Starter. In a few hours, it will start to creep above the band:
In a few more hours, it will creep higher …
and higher …
and at some point, if you drop a spoonful of it in a glass of water, it will float, and you’ll be in business!
You need 50 to 100 g of starter for this recipe.
Dissolve the starter into water; measure the flour and salt:
Mix everything together…
…till you get a sticky dough ball:
After an hour of rest, shape the dough into a ball; then cover with a towel or bowl cover (Dot and Army bowl covers are my favorite). If you’re up for it, perform 4 sets of stretches and folds every thirty minutes for the first two hours of the bulk fermentation.
After 8 to 10 hours at room temperature, your dough will look like this:
Turn it out onto a floured surface …
Then perform a series of folds: fold the top down to the center, turn the dough, turn the top down to the center, turn the dough, etc. — repeat until you’ve come full circle.
Then flip the dough over so the seam side is down (bottom right photo above). After a brief rest (30 minutes), repeat the shaping process. See video for reference.
Scoop dough into a proofing bowl (or an 8-inch bowl lined with a flour-dusted tea towel or bowl cover) so the seam side is up:
Refrigerate for 6 to 48 hours.
then preheat the oven to 550ºF. Turn out the dough onto a sheet of parchment paper…
then slash the dough with a razor blade.
Use the parchment paper to transfer the dough into a Dutch oven, cover the pot, then transfer to the oven to bake.
Ta da! After 30 minutes covered and 10 minutes uncovered, you will have a masterpiece in your kitchen, which you will want to photograph…
Mostly, however, you will want to eat it, which you can, after you let it cool for one hour.
It will be worth the wait. I promise.
Adapted from Emilie Raffa’s Artisan Sourdough Made Simple
** UPDATE: Video Guidance is here!**
I have made a number of changes to the original recipe, which I think improve both the flavor and texture of the finished loaf. These include:
- Using 11 g salt as opposed to 9 g
- Performing 4 stretch and folds during the first 2 hours of the bulk fermentation, which build strength in the dough.
- I like doing a cold proof for at least 24 hours before baking, which produces a lighter airier crumb. In the video, you can see the difference between the crumb of a loaf that has proofed for only 6 hours vs a loaf that has proofed for 24 hours.
- Finally, I like preheating my Dutch oven, which makes a crisper crust.
If you are new to sourdough bread baking, here are two similarly easy recipes, both of which include lots of video guidance:
- You need an active sourdough starter. I have had success activating starters from:
- This post offers guidance on How to Maintain a Sourdough Starter
- As always, I highly recommend investing in a digital scale before beginning any bread baking adventure.
- This is the Dutch oven I use for sourdough breads.
- Flour sack towels are a great investment because they ensure your dough will not stick while it is proofing.
- I love using rice flour for dusting (as opposed to ap or bread flour) because it doesn’t burn.
- Find all of my sourdough essentials here: Essential Equipment For Sourdough Bread Baking
How much Sourdough Starter to Use?
- Because my kitchen is cold for much of the year, I like using 100 g (1/2 cup) of starter as opposed to 50 g (1/4 cup). When determining how much starter to use, consider a few things: If you live in a warm, humid environment, 50 g should suffice. If you plan on doing an overnight rise, 50 g also should suffice. If you want to speed things up or if you live in a cold environment, consider using 100 g starter. Note: If you use 100 g of starter, your dough may rise more quickly, so keep an eye on it. As always, rely on the visual cues (doubling in volume) when determining when the bulk fermentation is done.
- A straight-sided vessel makes monitoring the bulk fermentation especially easy because it allows you to see when your dough has truly doubled.
- 50 – 100 g (1⁄4 – 1/2 cup) bubbly, active starter, see notes above
- 375 g (1 1/2 cups plus 1 tbsp) warm water
- 500 g (4 cups plus 2 tbsp) bread flour
- 9 to 11 g (1.5 – 2 teaspoons) fine sea salt, see notes above
- Make the dough: In the evening, whisk the starter and water together in a large bowl with a fork or spatula. Add the flour and salt. Mix to combine, finishing by hand if necessary to form a rough dough. Cover with a damp towel and let rest for 30 minutes.
- Stretch and fold. After 30 minutes, grab a corner of the dough and pull it up and into the center. Repeat until you’ve performed this series of folds 4 to 5 times with the dough. Let dough rest for another 30 minutes and repeat the stretching and folding action. If you have the time: do this twice more for a total of 4 times in 2 hours. [Video guidance here.] Note: Even if you can only perform one series of stretches and folds, your dough will benefit. So don’t worry if you have to run off shortly after you mix the dough.
- Bulk Fermentation (first rise): Cover the bowl with a towel and let rise overnight at room temperature, about 8 to 10 hours at 70°F (21°C) or even less if you live in a warm environment. The dough is ready when it has doubled in size, has a few bubbles on the surface, and jiggles when you move the bowl from side to side. (Note: If you are using 100 g of starter, this may take less than 8 to 10 hours. If you live in a warm, humid environment, too, this may take even less time (4 to 5 hours… in the late spring/early summer my kitchen is 78ºF and the bulk fermentation takes 6 hours). It is best to rely on visual cues (doubling in volume) as opposed to time to determine when the bulk fermentation is done. A straight-sided vessel makes monitoring the bulk fermentation especially easy because it allows you to see when your dough has truly doubled.)
- Shape: In the morning, coax the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Gently shape it into a round: VIDEO GUIDANCE HERE: fold the top down to the center, turn the dough, fold the top down to the center, turn the dough; repeat until you’ve come full circle. If you have a bench scraper, use it to push and pull the dough to create tension (again, see video for guidance.)
- Let the dough rest seam side up rest for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, line an 8-inch (20-cm) bowl or proofing basket with a towel (flour sack towels are ideal) and dust with flour (preferably rice flour, which doesn’t burn the way all-purpose flour does). Using a bench scraper or your hands, shape it again as described in step 4. Place the round into your lined bowl, seam side up.
- Proof (second rise): Cover the dough and refrigerate for 1 hour or for as long as 48 hours. (Note: I prefer to let this dough proof for at least 24 hours prior to baking. See video for the difference in the crumb of a loaf that has proofed for 6 hours vs one that has proofed for 24 hours. The original recipe calls for a 1-hour rise, and if you have had success doing that, by all means, keep doing it.)
- Place a Dutch oven in your oven, and preheat your oven to 550°F (290°C). Cut a piece of parchment to fit the size of your baking pot.
- Score: Place the parchment over the dough and invert the bowl to release. Using the tip of a small knife or a razor blade, score the dough however you wish — a simple “X” is nice. Use the parchment to carefully transfer the dough into the preheated baking pot.
- Bake: Carefully cover the pot, close the oven, and reduce the heat to 450°F (230°C). Bake the dough for 30 minutes, covered. Remove the lid, lower the temperature to 400ºF (200ºC) and continue to bake for 10 – 15 minutes more. If necessary, lift the loaf out of the pot, and bake directly on the oven rack for the last 5 to 10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 1 hour before slicing.
- This loaf will stay fresh up to 3 days stored at room temperature in an airtight plastic bag or container. It freezes beautifully, too.
- NOTE: In baker’s terms, hydration is the total amount of water (or liquid) divided by the total amount of flour. This dough is considered high hydration at 75% and is a wet dough. Low hydration doughs, which are drier and have smaller holes, fall in the 50% to 68% range.
- Thursday-Saturday: Feed your starter until bubbly and active.
- Saturday Evening: Make the dough and let rise overnight.
- Sunday Morning: Shape the dough, let rise again, score, and bake.
- Category: Bread
- Method: Oven
- Cuisine: American
Keywords: sourdough starter, bread flour, Dutch oven, sourdough, bread
This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.