Few things beat a fresh, crusty, fluffy loaf of homemade sourdough. Contrary to what many of you may think, it really isn’t all that difficult to make! Sure, there are a few steps you’ll need to follow and get comfortable with, but it is not beyond your capabilities. I have faith in you! Even though we make sourdough every weekend, I do not consider myself a “baker” in the slightest! We hardly bake at all, aside from bread.
If you follow the straightforward, step-by-step instructions outlined in this article, you’ll be whipping up your own nutritious, delicious, no-knead sourdough at home in no time! Once you get your feet wet (or, uhm… hands sticky) and get some practice with this basic recipe and process, the options are unlimited form there! You’ll be able to add your own twist with creative modifications: different flour ratios, the addition of dried or fresh herbs, nuts and seeds, fruit, and more!
Click here to jump straight to the recipe
There is also a tutorial video and printable recipe at the end of this article to go along with it!
Our Sourdough Recipe and Philosophy
When we first began our bread-making journey, we sifted through and learned the basic process from the amazing sourdough master, Maurizio. Our go-to recipe is loosely adapted from one of the beginner loafs on his blog, The Perfect Loaf. However, I don’t know about you… but perfection isn’t the goal here on this homestead. We just want to make no-fuss, tasty, organic, homemade bread. And that is exactly what I hope to share with you here! If it looks pretty, that’s a plus too.
That said, I am not going to go too far into the weeds on bakers terminology, hydration ratios, and other jargon. Sure, I will define things here and there just to help familiarize you with some of the common vocabulary, but I don’t plan to talk like a professional baker. Because I’m not one.
We aren’t exact in our baking. We’re busy and sometimes our timing gets off. Every loaf is different. Some are less fluffy or pretty than others. But they all taste good, and that’s what matters to us! But if perfection is your goal and you want to dive deep into the art of it all, totally go check out Maurizio! He is very talented, and is fully aware that I am giving him some shit here.
Why make sourdough at home?
There are so many great reasons to make your own sourdough at home ~ some obvious, and some maybe a little less so! Of course, the freshness factor. The ability to have control over your own ingredients is also wonderful, be it because you prefer whole wheat, all-organic, or whatever! As I already mentioned, the opportunity to get creative is real too – in flavors and design! Pulling that dutch oven (or combo cooker) out of the oven to finally reveal the loaf you’ve been fussing over is insanely exciting and rewarding.
Once you have all your supplies together, making sourdough at home is very cost effective compared to buying bread at the store, especially locally-made artisan sourdough. Around here, loaves of bread from speciality bakers can cost up to $12 a pop! We would splurge and buy one every once in a blue moon. And to think – now we can have something even better, every weekend, for a fraction of the cost, without having to leave the house. Winning!
Did you know?
Homemade sourdough isn’t actually sour?! Nope. I mean there are recipes you can follow to try to make it extra sour, but it isn’t anything like the classic bagged loaves of “sourdough” you’d buy at the store. It is simply called sourdough because of the way it’s made. It is slow-fermented using wild yeasts (in your sourdough starter) to give it rise, without the need for commercial yeast.
Naturally-fermented sourdough is often tolerated well by people with mild gluten sensitivities or IBS who otherwise avoid eating bread. I am in that category! The science behind it is this: wheat or rye in their raw state contain certain types of carbohydrates that are indigestible for some people. When they’re fermented, those particular carbs are vastly reduced, meaning the bloating, gas, and discomfort associated is also vastly reduced, if not totally eliminated. The fermentation process also helps you more easily absorb the nutrients from the food you’re consuming. Just one more reason to make sourdough at home!
SUPPLIES & INGREDIENTS
I wrote an entire post dedicated to the supplies we use in sourdough making, including what role each item plays! To check out that post, click here. Below are the cliff notes.
- Sourdough starter – approximately 100 grams will be used in the recipe. Learn how to make your own starter here!
- Flour – 455 grams total. A combo or organic white bread flour and whole wheat flour is used. A little rye flour is optional.
- Salt – 10 grams. Sea salt, kosher salt, or Himalayan salt is preferred over iodized table salt.
- Filtered water – 345 grams (about 1.5 cups)
- Liquid measuring cup
- A large mixing bowl and/or dough tub
- A kitchen scale
- A dutch oven or cast iron combo cooker – We love our Lodge combo cooker!
- Proofing Basket, aka banneton. Choose between a round “boule” shape or an oval “batard” shape.
- A lint-free tea towel
- High-heat oven mitts
- Thermometer – Either a food probe thermometer or an ambient room thermometer
- Dough scraper
- A warm location
Before we get into the step-by-step, here is a quick summary. Sourdough baking is generally a two-day process. Don’t worry, most of the time the dough is just sitting there, hanging out in various stages of fermentation. I will describe everything in detail below, but I thought it would be helpful to go into it with this in mind.
Example timing: Say we want to bake a loaf on Saturday morning. We store our sourdough starter in the fridge, so we’ll need take it out on Thursday evening to let it sit and warm up overnight. Then we’ll feed it a couple times on Friday, and make dough with the active sourdough starter on Friday evening. The dough proofs in the fridge overnight, and is baked on Saturday morning. This schedule is what works for us. It’s not as complicated as it sounds, I promise! You’ll get your own groove down in no time.
Note that many sourdough recipes you’ll find online will result in two loaves. They start with double the ingredients and then divide the dough into two when it’s time for proofing. We have no need for two loaves of bread at a time, so we cut it down and our recipe is for just one loaf. Feel free to double it if you wish!
STEP 1: FEED SOURDOUGH STARTER
Bakers often call the process of feeding and readying your starter for baking “building your levian”. Levian is pretty much just another word for sourdough starter – a leavening agent, which causes fermentation and rise in dough. If you aren’t sure what I am talking about in regards to “feeding”, it sounds like you may need to go back and read this post on making and maintaining a sourdough starter first.
When it comes time to add your starter into your dough, it should be at its peak activity level. Peak activity is when it is bubbling in its container, has more than doubled in size, is no longer expanding, but hasn’t yet started to fall back down and deflate.
The time it takes for a starter to reach peak activity is going to vary from home to home, depending on your yeast strains and strength, temperature conditions, and the flour it’s fed. The ideal temperature to activate a sourdough starter is around 75°F. We will talk more about maintaining temperature in the sections to follow.
It is generally recommended to feed a starter at least twice before baking, to get it to peak. If you keep your starter in the refrigerator like we do, you’ll need to plan at little in advance. We take the starter out the night before we want to make our dough, letting it sit out on the counter to gradually warm up overnight. Then we discard and feed it in the morning as soon as we get up, and again midday to early afternoon. Most times, the starter will begin to peak by about 4 pm for us (which is when we’ll start Step 2) and be fully peaked around 5 pm – the time we need to use it.
If you keep your starter out at room temperature at all times, just make sure it’s fed and happy the day you want to make dough and follow the same instructions.
STEP 2: MAKE AUTOLYSE
An “autolyse” is the term for a combination of flour and water, allowed to sit and get happy together for about an hour before the salt and sourdough starter are added. This means that when you think your starter is close to peak, go ahead and get your autolyse made. It will take a little experience to judge this, but don’t stress about it too much. I’m sure there have been plenty of times we have used the starter when it wasn’t exactly peaking. As long as it’s obviously active and bubbling, you’re good.
In a large mixing bowl, add 455 grams of flour total. While we play with different ratios of flour from time to time, our go-to basic loaf is about 65% white bread flour, 30% whole wheat, and 5% rye. For this example, that would mean using about 295 grams of bread flour, 137 grams of whole wheat, and 23 grams of rye flour, totaling 455. You can totally change up the ratios, as long as you get about 455 grams total! It doesn’t need to be to-the-gram precise.
To weigh the flour, use a digital kitchen scale. Put an empty bowl on it, hit “tare”, and then add your flour until you have your desired weight. Or if you don’t tare the scale, make sure to add the weight of your bowl into the total.
Why by weight, and not by cups?
It is sort of just the way baking in the sourdough world is. Unfortunately I can’t provide a recipe equivalent in cups. Different types and brands of flours weigh different amounts, so it may not be accurate if I tried.
Note that bread flour is different than all-purpose flour. People use either type to bake sourdough, though the slightly higher protein content in bread flour is know to help give a nicer rise. Whole wheat is an excellent addition to create a more nutritious loaf, though too much can make the bread more dense and less fluffy. The same applies to rye, but even moreso.
On the other hand, feeding your sourdough starter with some whole wheat or rye flour can make it noticeably more active!
The recipe calls for a total of 345 grams of water, but we aren’t going to add all of it quite yet! Try to use filtered water, and avoid chlorinated tap water. Running it through a basic carbon filter like a Brita will remove the chlorine.
To weigh your water, repeat the same steps as you did with flour, but with a liquid measuring cup. A nifty trick I learned is that 345 grams of water is almost exactly 1.5 cups, in our measuring cup at least. So I weighed this just one time, noted that amount, and now I don’t need to weigh the water when we bake. For ease, I suggest you try the same.
It is best to add warm water. If you add cold water, it can make the dough too cool and slow down the fermentation process. Around 90 degrees is perfect. You can either let it sit out to warm up, or as we do, quickly microwave it for 30 seconds. (Our water is always really cold to start because we use the filtered spigot from our refrigerator). If you have a probe thermometer handy, great! See what the temp is. If not, go by feel. It should feel lukewarm to the touch, but not hot.
Now, add most of the of lukewarm water to your 455 grams of flour, but keep back about 25 grams of water to add later. Just like before, I suggest you see what 25 grams looks like in your measuring cup for future reference so you won’t always need to weigh it later. Honestly though? I just add most of it in, save a little splash, and call it good.
Mix and Sit
It’s time to get your hands dirty! So first, wash up really well. I also suggest removing rings, but that’s just me. Now get your hands in there and thoroughly mix the 455 grams of flour with the 320 grams of water you added. Yup, it will most likely be a sticky hot mess.
While mixing, I use a dough scraper to help get bits off the sides of the bowl and my hands, helping to combine it all.
Congrats my friend! You just made the autolyse. Now let this mixture sit for an hour at about 75°F. We cover our bowl with a cloth tea towel. If you are using a dough tub, set the lid loosely on top. During this time, the flour becomes hydrated, which activates enzymes that jump start the fermentation process and gluten development.
Temperature Troubleshooting Tips
Getting your sourdough starter, autolyse, and final dough (next step) in the target fermentation range of 70-80°F is pretty crucial. Some of the biggest frustrations people struggle with – their starter not getting active, or their dough not rising – is often caused by less-than-ideal temperatures. Try not to get crazy and overheat it either. Too much heat can make it proof too fast, which also isn’t ideal.
Here are a few ideas for keeping your sourdough warm and content:
- If your house is cool, for example during winter, try keeping it in the warmest location in your house. Maybe in a room with a fireplace or heater in use, or on your counter near the stove.
- Keep it near or on top of a warm appliance, like a refrigerator – if yours gives off heat. Remember, heat rises too!
- Wrap your bowl or container with classic holiday string lights. We use this trick for our kombucha crocks in the winter time! I say classic lights because newer LED ones don’t give off heat.
- Use a seedling heat mat, if you have one handy.
- Keep it inside the oven (off) but with the oven light on.
To help assess the temperature, you can either use a food probe thermometer to check the dough itself, or use an ambient thermometer like this and set it next to the bowl, which will give you a good general idea of the conditions in that spot.
In addition to getting the temperature right, another tip for making a sluggish sourdough starter more active is to feed it differently. A starter will perk up quickly when whole wheat or rye flour is used in feeding! We often times feed half bread flour and half whole wheat or rye.
STEP 3: IT’S DOUGH TIME
Once the autolyse (flour/water combo) has sat mixed for about an hour, and your starter is now at its peak activity, it’s time to combine them! Stick a bowl on the scale again, and measure out about 100 grams of active starter into it. We aren’t too precise here either, and add anywhere from 95-105 grams. But never add all your starter! Make sure you always leave at least half a cup behind to continue to use. If you store your starter in the fridge, you can put the rest back in there. No need to feed it again right now.
Add 100 grams of sourdough starter, plus 10 grams salt, and the 25 grams of remaining water into your autolyse. Hand mix again. You can sort of pinch and fold the dough over and over to get it nice and mixed. It will likely feel much more wet and sloppy than it did during the previous mix!
To help the dough tighten up a bit, I highly suggest you take a stab at Step 4! It helps, a lot. If you’re not up for it, no worries. Just mix it as well as you can and leave it in the bottom of the bowl, and jump to Step 5.
STEP 4: SLAP & FOLD (Optional)
This step is pretty much what it sounds like. Don’t worry, I will show you in a video below. On a clean counter top, flop the dough down, fold it over itself, pick it up, flop it down again, fold, and repeat. The dough will start to tighten up almost immediately! Continue until it’s formed, but stop once the dough starts to get extra sticky on the counter. If needed, use a dough scraper to ease it back into your bowl or dough tub.
Here is a video of me slapping and folding. You’ll get the hang of it! I am NO pro.
STEP 5: BULK FERMENT
With your formed dough ball tucked down inside its bowl or tub, it is time to start the bulk fermentation process. During this time, the starter is interacting with the flour from the autolyse, starting to ferment it. You may start to see air bubbles in the dough during bulk ferment.
Cover the bowl with a tea towel or a loose fitting lid for your container, and tuck it somewhere warm again. It is going to sit in bulk ferment for about four hours. We sometimes go over by an hour or two. No big deal.
You know how I said most recipes are for more than one loaf? That is why this step is called “bulk ferment”. Because if you were making several loaves, the dough for all of those loaves sits and ferments together as one at this time – in bulk. It is divided into individual loaf portions in step 7. If you doubled our recipe, you’re still good! Just keep following along as-is.
STEP 6: STRETCH & FOLD
During the first half of the bulk fermentation process, you are going to perform a few sets of what is called “stretch and fold”. Yep, I will show you that below too. The purpose of stretch and fold is to increase elasticity in the dough, help it form a solid loaf, and also introduce air. About 3 to 4 sets of stretch and fold is good. You want to do them about a half hour apart – that is how this ends up being “during the first half of bulk ferment”.
One “set” of stretch and fold consists of the following:
Using clean wet hands, lift and grab one side of your dough ball. (Tip: It’s always easiest to handle sticky dough with wet hands!) The dough is probably a bit more relaxed than when you put it in the bowl a half an hour ago. Get your hands under there, and pull up on the dough from one side until you meet resistance. This is the stretch. Now lay it back down over itself, essentially folding it in half. The fold. Don’t push down on the dough after folding – air may be trapped between the folds, which is a good thing! Turn your bowl 90’ or by one quarter, and repeat the process. Stretch, and fold! (Bend, and snap! Anyone…?)
Once you’ve gone all the way around the bowl back to where you started, stretching and folding your little heart out, you’ve completed one set! Some bakers go around the bowl more than once. Do as many as you can without ripping the dough. See, you’ll notice the dough gets much more taught as you go. I do not go by number of folds and turns, but by feel instead. If it begins to be difficult to stretch, and looks like the dough is tearing, I call that set quits then.
If you pull it past the point of resistance, it will tear (and maybe ruin) some of the developed gluten strands. Those strands are what helps give the bread good rise and structure. Now repeat this process 2 or 3 more times, about half an hour apart. Then let the dough rest the remainder of bulk ferment.
Optional: Add goodies
In the video above, you see that we were adding fresh herbs during stretch and fold. That was delicious and aromatic freshly chopped rosemary, thyme, basil, and sage from the garden! When adding goodies like herbs, nuts, seeds, or dried fruit, we often do that during the first set of stretch and fold. The additions have plenty of time and opportunity to get thoroughly mixed during the subsequent stretch and folds.
Alternately, this could also be done earlier, at the time you add your sourdough starter, salt, and last bit of water to the autolyse. We’ve done it both ways. Both work! If you’re adding something that may be harder to fully mix and incorporate evenly, for example grated carrot, that is probably best added early with the starter.
STEP 7: FORM THE LOAF
After the dough has been sitting in bulk ferment for about 4 hours, it is time to get it all shaped up! It is probably pretty relaxed in the bowl again, so give the dough one final stretch and fold to help it tighten up a bit. Then, place the dough ball onto a lightly floured surface. If you doubled the recipe, here is where you would separate the bulk dough into two even balls, and then proceed to form each individually.
To prepare the dough to go into a boule (round) shape, grab the sides of the dough from opposite ends, pull and pinch them together in the center as shown below. Repeat this process on the alternate sides. Flip the dough ball over so it’s sitting on top of its pinchy side.
For oval “batard” loaves, you will do this similar process but doing most of the pulling, pinching, and tucking from just two sides instead of all four. This encourages a longer loaf shape.
I didn’t show this step in my tutorial video, but most bakers allow the dough to rest on “the bench” (counter) for about 10 minutes after the initial forming. After a 10 minute rest, repeat the forming process from above one last time before adding it to your proofing basket.
A proofing basket, aka banneton, is a tool used in baking to help form the loaf, keeping its shape while it rises. The baskets are made from breathable materials and wick moisture away from the dough, which contributes to a good rise and really nice crust on the bread!
After forming the dough for the last time, ease your dough ball into a lightly floured proofing basket. Keep the pinched side of the dough down – that also helps keep the shape you formed. We use this banneton for a round boule shape, and this one for an oval batard shape.
We usually keep the cloth lining in, dusting it lightly with flour using a small stainless steel strainer, though the cloth can be removed and you could flour the wooden part directly instead. In place of a banneton, a small mixing bowl lined with a flour-dusted tea towel could work.
STEP 8: PROOF
The formed dough, all cozy in its banneton, will now get tucked away into the fridge to proof overnight. Cover the banneton and dough with a tea towel. Proofing is a term for the final fermentation and rise.
Why in the fridge? Let me tell ya why! There are many benefits to allowing the dough to go through a long, slow fermentation process:
- The extended time fermenting allows the beneficial bacteria to work longer, further break down and transform carbohydrates into probiotics, and make it that much healthier and easier to digest.
- That extra time and work done by the bacteria also contributes to a more tangy, developed, complex flavor profile.
- Loaves that are proofed for an extended period of time in the fridge generally hold their shape better.
- This process gives you extra flexibility in your baking schedule, because the duration for overnight proofing itself is pretty flexible! I would aim for at least 6 hours in cold proof. Our dough generally stays in the fridge for about 10 to 12 hours. Some bakers cold proof for up to 18 hours! You can experiment here. Play with times based on what works for your schedule, and see what varying results you get!
STEP 9: PREP TO BAKE
It is the next morning, your dough has proofed overnight, and you’re hungry. It’s finally time to bake! Well, almost…
Preheat the oven
First, preheat the oven to 475-500°F an hour before baking. (I list a range here because our oven is a convection oven, and I think it runs a little hot. We usually bake our loaf on 475°F but most sourdough recipes say 500°F.)
The reason you do this an hour before the sourdough actually goes in is to: a) fully heat the oven, and b) to heat up your dutch oven or cast iron combo cooker too. Stick it in the oven for the entire hour! This gets the cast iron piping hot. The dough will soon be added cold, straight from the fridge, and begin to cook immediately. By doing this, the dough doesn’t get an opportunity to warm up and flatten out. This also helps to get great rise.
Why bake in a dutch oven or combo cooker?
You may choose to bake sourdough on a flat oven sheet, pizza stone, or other non-enclosed surface instead, but you’ll be missing out on one mighty component: steam! Unless you plan to add water into your oven to create steam, which some bakers do, your loaf will be a little less happy without it.
By using a Dutch oven or combo cooker, you are creating a lovely little steamy cocoon for the bread. An oven inside the oven if you will – where the doughs moisture can not be lost to the larger surrounding. Instead, it steams itself with its own moisture, giving way to an awesome rise and more moist loaf.
We use this cast iron combo cooker. It is basically a dutch oven that can be used upside down! Its flat “lid” becomes the bottom, and the dome body sits on top. This makes it incredibly easy to guide a loaf in and out of it without burning yourself. An added perk of the combo cooker is that it’s multi-purpose! You could use just the skillet side, the pot portion only, or both.
Grab your dough
Once the oven (and combo cooker or dutch oven) has been heating for an hour, grab your dough out of the fridge. We wait until the last second, pull it out, go through the steps below, and get it into the oven as quickly as possible.
The easiest way to get your dough out of its proofing basket or bowl is as follows: cut a piece of parchment paper to just larger than the basket size, set it on top of the basket, place a cutting board on top of that, and then flip it all upside down. Gently lift the basket away. The sourdough should now be on the cutting board and parchment paper. Yes, you can totally reuse the parchment paper!
Using a bread lame, you may choose to score your loaf before baking. This means to make cuts in the top of the dough. Before doing so, I usually lightly dust the top of the dough with flour, using a small stainless steel strainer/sifter. Gently rub the flour around to evenly cover the dough before scoring with the lame. A bread lame is basically a razor blade, attached to a handle for ease of use and safety. This is not just for creating pretty patterns, though that is one fun use for it!
If you don’t give your dough a nice deep slash somewhere across the top or side before baking, its crust will sort of haphazardly split open somewhere (or, everywhere) during the rapid oven rise. It’s not a huge deal and won’t “ruin” your loaf, but most bakers prefer more controlled splitting.
Where you score the loaf will be the place that it splits open most. Deeper scores are used for directing that rapid expansion. It may create a nice little lip on your loaf. Bakers call this the “ear”. Smaller, shallow scoring can be used to create beautiful designs. Doing all of this while the loaf is still cold makes it much easier! It reduces the “drag” through the dough as you score.
STEP 10: BAKE
After flipping the cold dough onto the cutting board (and possibly scoring it), get that baby into the oven as soon as possible! Gently ease the loaf and parchment paper into the dutch oven or combo cooker. This is where the combo cooker is extra handy. We poise the cutting board near the edge of the (very hot!) bottom pan portion, grab the sides of the parchment paper, and carefully slide the whole thing off the board and into the combo cooker. Place the lid on top, and put it all in the oven.
You’re likely going to need to invest in some high-heat rated oven mitts. Most standard oven mitts are not made to handle temperatures up to 500°F. They can even melt! Protect yourself, please. A second-degree burn from a 500 degree oven or tool is no joke.
Bake covered for 35 minutes on 475-500°F. Hellooooo steam! Next, pull it all out and take the lid off. This is the best part – the big reveal! Don’t oogle over it too long! Quickly put it back in the oven to finish baking – this time uncovered, for a final 7-10 minutes. Once it’s finished, quickly get the loaf out of the hot pan and on to a cooling rack.
Edit: Tip to Prevent a Burned Bottom
An awesome blog follower, Bobbi, clued me to this recently. Sometimes, the bottom of the loaf comes out a bit more crispy than some folks prefer their bread. To prevent a burned bottom, try this tip: While baking, put a cookie sheet on the empty oven rack just below the one your baking vessel (e.g. combo cooker or dutch oven) is resting on! It absorbs and blocks the extra heat from getting to your precious loaf instead.
Note: In my video tutorial that I previously made for this recipe, I said 30 minutes covered and 15 uncovered. We started to find that the top of our loaf was browning too much on top with that long of an uncovered bake, so we have since adjusted the timing. As I mentioned, our oven runs hot though, so the 30/15 combo may not work for you. Play around! As long as you get about 45 minutes of baking time, the bread should be done.
STEP 11: EAT!
Let the loaf cool down for a few hours before cutting into it. I know, I know… It is extremely difficult to resist cutting into it right away! But the steam is still doing its magic inside and you don’t want to let it out too early. After that…. Cut into it! If the knife you have is mashing and tearing your bread, you may want to invest in a decent bread knife. We love this really affordable one!
Check out the inside! How does it look? Are you totally stoked? Take a “crumb shot” and show off to your friends! What is that, you ask? A crumb shot is those photos you see when a loaf is cut in half, splayed out to reveal the inside as shown below. The “crumb” is what bakers call the pattern, structure, and holes inside the loaf of bread.
Even if your loaf doesn’t have hugely impressive air pockets, I say that is A-okay! Personally, I don’t think that bigger holes means better bread. Sure, some bakers pride themselves on a super tall loaf and very airy, open crumb – but I think a slice of bread chock full of holes makes it a hell of a lot harder to load it up with goodies like avocado or hummus!
And it’s as simple as that!
I realize it may not sound all that simple the first time you read this. It may actually sound downright overwhelming! I get it. That is exactly how I felt when we first started this hobby. Just get in there and give it your best shot! Remember, perfection is not the goal. Have fun with it! You’ll get it down.
To make it a little less overwhelming, check out this video tutorial that shows you everything we just went over!
I hope you found this helpful! If so, please share it! And as always, feel free to ask questions.
The next step in your sourdough journey is to try our cast iron whole wheat sourdough pizza crust recipe! Or, try this zucchini walnut sourdough loaf. It is very similar to what you just learned here, with a twist! We love adding goodies from the garden to our bread whenever we can.
Happy baking, and happy bellies!
Simple No-Knead Sourdough Bread Recipe
- Large mixing bowl
- Lined banneton bread basket, for shaping and proofing dough
- Kitchen scale
- Cast iron combo cooker or dutch oven
- Bread lame for scoring (optional)
- 100 grams active sourdough starter
- 455 grams total flour – we use 295 grams of white bread flour, 137 grams of whole wheat, and 23 grams of rye flour
- 345 grams filtered water (about 1.5 cups)
- 10 grams salt – sea salt, kosher salt, or Himalayan salt is preferred over iodized table salt
- Before making the dough, be sure to feed your sourdough starter at least twice, allowing it to reach peak activity level.
- Make an autolyse by combining the flour and almost all of the water in a bowl until thoroughly mixed. Let it sit covered at room temperature (70-75 degrees is optimal) for about an hour.
- After the autolyse has rested, mix in the called-for active sourdough starter, salt, and remaining water until thoroughly combined. Mixing with your hands is normal and acceptable.
- Optional: Lift the dough ball (which may be quite loose) out of bowl and on a clean counter use the “slap and fold” technique to tighten the dough.
- Once finished, put the dough back in the bowl and allow to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes. Cover the bowl with a tea towel or similar. This begins the "bulk fermentation" time.
- After 30 minutes, start the first round of “stretch and fold” – gently lifting up on one side of the dough and folding it back over itself. Give the bowl a quarter turn and continue to stretch and fold the dough until it is taught and resists pulling. Avoid tearing the dough. Use wet hands to prevent sticking. Cover the bowl again, and let sit.
- Repeat the stretch and fold process every 30 minutes for a total of 3 or 4 rounds.
- After about 4 hours of bulk fermentation at room temperature, stretch and fold the dough one final time to help it tighten up.
- Next, set the dough on a lightly floured surface and shape the loaf into a similar shape as your banneton (proofing basket – e.g. a round loaf, or long oval loaf). Let the dough “bench rest” for a final 10 minutes.
- After the final bench rest, place the dough in a flour-dusted (and potentially cloth-lined) banneton proofing basket of choice. Cover with a breathable towel, and place in the refrigerator to proof for 8 to 16 hours. We usually do this overnight.
- After cold-proofing in the refrigerator, preheat the oven to 475 to 500 degrees F. (Experiment to see what temperature works best for your oven). If you’re using a dutch oven or combo cooker, place it in the oven to preheat for one hour.
- After an hour of preheating, quickly and carefully transfer the cold dough (straight from the fridge) out of the banneton and into the hot combo cooker or dutch oven. Line the combo cooker or dutch oven with parchment paper first. Score the top of the loaf with a bread lame if desired. (See Note 1 below)
- Bake the loaf covered for 35 minutes, and then remove the lid and bake for an additional 7 to 10 minutes uncovered. (See Note 2 and Note 3 below)
- Once done, immediately remove the finished sourdough loaf from the oven and combo cooker and place the loaf on a wire rack to cool.
- Let the sourdough bread loaf sit at room temperature for several hours before cutting. The steam trapped inside is important moisture to retain!
- To transfer the dough from the banneton to the hot combo cooker or dutch oven, try this trick: Place a piece of parchment paper (cut to just larger than the banneton and loaf) on top of the banneton and exposed dough. Then place a cutting board on top. Holding both the cutting board and banneton, flip the whole thing over. Lift the banneton away, leaving the dough ball sitting on the parchment paper and cutting board. Carefully slide the parchment paper into the combo cooker or dutch oven.
- Baking times may vary slightly depending on your oven. Lately we’ve been doing 37 minutes covered and 5 minutes uncovered.
- If the bottom of your loaf seems to brown more than you’d like, try adding an empty baking or cookie sheet to the empty oven rack directly below your combo cooker or dutch oven. It deflects some of the heat away from the bottom of the loaf, reducing burning or browning.
- To double this recipe, double all ingredients and follow the same steps until it is time to form the loaf and bench rest. At that time, split the larger dough into two equal balls. Form each loaf and allow each to bench rest, and then proceed with the instructions using two proofing baskets. Keep the spare loaf refrigerated while the other is baking, unless you have the ability to bake them at the same time.