Learn how to make incredible sourdough bread with just all-purpose flour and your starter! The rise is that of any loaf made with bread flour, and the crumb is super fluffy, the crust crisp and flaky.
If you want to start your own sourdough journey, you can BUY MY SOURDOUGH STARTER HERE! – and I will ship it you in the mail, with instructions for feeding and maintaining it so you can bake all the amazing bread you dream of. Cost is $12.
We’re all trying to bake sourdough right now, but finding bread flour right now is almost impossible! Unless you have access to a local mill.
Many of you told me that you’ve had to use all-purpose flour for sourdough recipes, because that’s all you can find, but the results have not been great. Which makes sense, because all-purpose flour and bread flour are not interchangeable.
All-purpose flour has a lower protein percentage than bread flour (AP usually around 11.8% and bread flour around 13.2%), simply meaning it’s NOT as strong. So your loaves have fallen flatter than you’d like, and don’t have the oven spring you’re used to.
This led me to testing different methods, hydration levels, and brands of flours over the last few weeks, to develop a simple sourdough bread recipe for you, that uses 100% all-purpose flour.
And she’s here.
The rise of this all-purpose flour sourdough bread is superb.
The crumb is so light and airy. Like pull apart, fluffy.
And the crust is crackly thin.
There’s just a bit of tangy flavor at the end, which I appreciate.
How to Make Sourdough Bread with All-Purpose Flour
First let’s look at technique:
The method for this all-purpose flour loaf is slightly different from my Everyday Sourdough Bread recipe.
- The autolyse, the rest period right after mixing is 1 hour long, rather than 30 minutes. This allows for the AP flour to be properly hydrated, as it slower to absorb water compared to bread flour.
- After the autolyse, you’ll knead the bread for about 1 minute 15 seconds, to effectively develop the gluten, leading to a stronger dough. I kind of squish the dough in between my hands, and push it against the bowl. You’ll notice it start to relax and be easier to work with around the 1 minute work.
- This stands in for your first stretch and fold, which you’ll then complete 3 normal rounds of stretch and folds from that point.
- The other thing that differs is executing a pre-shape before fully shaping. I like to use my bench knife to pull the dough up over itself a few time, into an imperfect circle. After a 15 minute rest her, you’ll proceed with normal shaping.
What about hydration level?
With a lower protein percentage in the flour, using the right amount of water is critical for success. If you use the same amount of water that a recipe for bread flour calls for, the dough will be extremely wet and sticky, because it cannot absorb water the same way.
I played with different amounts of water, and really found the sweet spot to be between 275 and 290 grams water to 400 grams flour, depending on the brand of flour you’re using.
Brands of All-Purpose Flour tested:
If you look at the nutrition label of the unbleached all-purpose flour you have on hand, you’ll notice that the ingredient list is either:
Hard Wheat Flour (Bob’s Red Mill organic all-purpose flour)
Hard Wheat Flour PLUS, Malted Barley Flour. And if enriched, will have Niacin (vitamin B3), Reduced Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate (vitamin B1), Riboflavin (vitamin B2), Folic Acid) added. King Arthur unbleached all-purpose flour, Trader Joe’s unbleached all-purpose flour, Gold Medal unbleached all-purpose are hard wheat flour + malted barley flour types.
The vitamins/minerals are added to “enrich” the flour with nutrients. They do not affect the bread’s outcome. The really important ingredient that just change the outcome is Malted Barley Flour.
Malted barley flour aids in a more golden brown end result, and because of its lower gluten, it causes the dough to be softer, more relaxed and gives a softer crumb texture.
Final Results of Different All-Purpose Brands
When I tested the two types of all-purpose flour over several loaves, what I noticed were these two differences:
- The loaves made with King Arthur and Trader Joe’s all-purpose flour were more relaxed and supple, because of the malted barley flour added. The dough felt smoother and elastic in my hands, as I kneaded it. When using Bob’s Red Mill all-purpose flour, which is solely hard winter wheat, the results were also excellent, but in my hands it didn’t feel as elastic. Which is okay too! It certainly make it easy to shape.
- The King Arthur and Trader Joe’s all-purpose flour could handle a little more water (10 grams, which doesn’t seem like a lot, but is in this type of loaf), resulting in a slightly more open crumb.
Both types of all-purpose flour had the same beautiful rise and crunchy, golden crust with signs of blisters.
Helpful Tips for Baking An All-Purpose Sourdough Loaf
- To ensure your dough doesn’t stick to the linen you’re using for proofing, dust the linen heavily with any non-gluten flour. Using all-purpose flour to dust the linen increases the chance that your dough will stick because gluten against gluten bonds together. White rice flour is inexpensive and works incredibly well.
- To make scoring easier, perform the final rise overnight in the refrigerator. Cold dough makes it easier to cut swiftly and sharply, without the blade dragging.
- Get yourself a pair of protective silicone oven mitts for the extremely hot temperatures used in baking. Burns from a dutch oven are so painful!
- 45 grams active sourdough starter, at its peak
- room temp water: 275 grams if you are using an all-purpose flour that has one ingredient on the package, hard wheat (Bob's Red Mill AP flour is an example). OR 290 grams if you are using an all-purpose flour with malted barley flour added (King Arthur and Trader Joe's AP flour are examples).*
- 400 grams unbleached all-purpose flour
- 7 grams fine sea salt
- Add starter and water to a bowl. Whisk thoroughly until combined, with a fork. Add flour, and mix together first with the fork to start to incorporate, then with your hands until a shaggy dough is formed, and the bits of flour left just disappear. Sprinkle the salt on top and do not mix in, just leave it on top. Cover with a damp cloth.
- Autolyse: let dough sit for one hour, covered and undisturbed.
- Bulk ferment: Now you will knead the salt that is sitting on top, into the dough for about 1 min 15 seconds. There is no precise way to do this, just think of working the dough through your hands and up against the bowl, push and pull. You will start to feel the dough relax a bit around 1 minute. Continue for about 15 or 30 seconds more. Then leave the dough alone, covered, for 30 minutes. This counts as what would be your first set of stretch and folds.
- After those 30 minutes pass, perform a stretch and fold. Repeat 2 more times.
- Now you will let sit, undisturbed and covered with a damp cloth, for about 8 hours at 70 degrees F. If the temperature in your home is above 70, this will take less time, vice versa. You will know it is finished with its bulk ferment when the dough has risen about double, is smooth and puffy on top, with a few bubbles. It will not be as jiggly as some breads that use more water.
- At this point, lightly dust your work surface with flour. Put dough onto the work surface, and pre-shape. This video will show you what that means. Let sit for 15 minutes on your work surface.
- Then shape your dough, using this method as a guide.
- Place dough into your flour dusted banneton, (or flour dusted linen lined banneton) seam side up. (Optional, you can wait 15 minutes after placing it in banneton, and pinch the perimeters of the dough into the center to hold the shape even more, called stitching.) The dough will now go through its final rise. You can do this on the counter, which will take about 2 hours at 70 degrees F for the dough to puff up and be jiggly. It will not double. OR you can do the final rise overnight in the refrigerator, with the banneton covered in a plastic bag or with a very damp cloth. You need this for holding moisture in.
- Time to bake. Preheat your oven to 475 degrees F, with your dutch oven (without cover), preheating inside the oven. When the oven is preheated, flip your dough out gently onto parchment paper and score your dough. If you did the final rise in the refrigerator, take it straight from fridge to score to dutch oven, cold.
- Then put dough into the dutch oven on the parchment, and cover. Turn oven down to 450 degrees F and slide dutch oven in. Bake for 20 minutes, then remove cover.
- Turn heat down to 430 degrees F, and bake for 25 more minutes, until crust is golden brown and crackly. Remove from oven, and remove bread from dutch oven and place onto a cooling rack.
- Wait AT LEAST one hour to cool otherwise, the interior will be gummy.
*Look at the ingredient list on the back of your bag of all-purpose flour to see if yours is just one ingredient, hard wheat, or if it has malted barley flour added.