How to Make Simple Sourdough Bread

  • Author: Alexandra Stafford
  • Prep Time: 18 hours
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • Total Time: 18 hours 45 minutes
  • Yield: 1 loaf


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:


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. 
  • straight-sided vessel makes monitoring the bulk fermentation especially easy because it allows you to see when your dough has truly doubled. 


  • 50100 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


  1. 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. 
  2. 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.
  3. 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.)
  4. 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.)
  5. 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.
  6. 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.)  
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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