This straightforward sourdough bread recipe is a staple in our house. Made with sourdough starter, this naturally fermented bread has a fluffy, airy interior and crackly crisp crust. All the steps of making the bread are detailed out, as well as sourdough tips for beginners.
You know those recipes you know by heart and never have to look up? For me that’s this basic sourdough bread recipe with starter, the one I make every week, that’s completely achievable for beginners too. If you’ve been dreaming of fluffy, bouncy, true sourdough bread, you can make that happen in your own kitchen! I promise you.
Sourdough is all about learning by doing, and every time you get your hands in the dough, each step will make more sense.
I made my first sourdough loaf over 4 years ago, and I haven’t stopped baking. In this post, I’ll coach you through the basic steps and leave you with my favorite recipe. Then you can make your way to whole grain recipes, like my delicious rye sourdough.
This basic sourdough recipe is made from mostly bread flour, with just a small amount of whole wheat or whole grain flour to give it some additional flavor and color. This amount is super versatile depending on what flours you have in your pantry. I like to use einkhorn, spelt, red fife, or khorasan.
First things first: You’re going to need an active sourdough starter. I suggest asking a friend who has lovingly fed and maintained their starter, to give you some of theirs. And you’ll find it helpful to watch this Sourdough Starter video with my top 5 tips for beginners.
It’s essential for your starter to be healthy and active, so that is has the ability to make your dough rise. If your sourdough has been in the refrigerator, take it out 2 days before you plan to bake and begin feeding it again.
How do I know when my sourdough starter is ready to bake with?
The answer to this question comes from both experience and observing the starter behave, to understand how it reacts to feeding/not feeding, and temperature.
You can just look for these hints that the starter will give you!
a. It will have at least doubled in size. This will take place over 4-6 hours if the temperature in your house is around 70 degrees. If it’s cooler in your house, it will take a bit longer. I put a rubberband around the jar, to mark the spot it’s at right after feeding. Then, as time passes, you’ll be able to keep track of how much it’s rising.
b. You will see bubbles throughout the sides of the jar, and on top. The top will be a bit poofy and domed.
c. The float test is very helpful! When you think your starter is at it’s peak, take a jar and fill with water. Then take a teaspoon of starter – you don’t need a lot – and place it on top of the water. It it floats, you’re ready to bake! If not, you’ll need to wait or go through another feeding.
With the final rise, how do I know when my dough has risen properly and can be scored and into the oven for baking?
There’s an easy test for this stage too, using a fingerprint. Gently press a floured thumb into your risen dough. You don’t need to press down further than 3/4 inch.
If it indents and gradually releases, but still holds a finger shape, you’re ready. If your fingerprint jumps right back up to flat, it needs more time to rise. If your fingerprint indents and doesn’t bounce back at, it is overproofed. That’s okay, just get it in the oven! It will still taste delicious, it will just not rise as well while baking
Once your sourdough starter is ready to bake with, here are the essential steps for baking. You can watch this step-by step tutorial of me making this sourdough bread recipe to help you as well.
Mix the dough, until shaggy.
Let dough sit, covered with a cloth, for a half-hour to an hour. This is referred to as the autolyse, which allows the flour to absorb the water, and the gluten strands to develop.
You will now perform 4 sets of stretch and folds, 30 minutes apart, to strengthen the dough and help it holds it shape in the future. Think of this as sourdough kneading. THIS VIDEO will show you how to do a stretch and fold.
Now 2 hours have passed, and you will let your dough sit until it is doubled in size and puffy on the top. This is called the bulk ferment, and takes about 6ish hours if the temperature in your house is 70 degrees.
You can also complete the bulk ferment overnight in the refrigerator. The fermentation will not stop, but the cold temperature will effectively slow it down. This is also a way to get more of a sour flavor. If you do your bulk ferment this way, leave it on the counter for one hour before putting in the fridge so some activity can get started. Then cover bowl with a damp cloth. If you have a plastic bag of any kind, like shopping bag, covering the bowl and cloth with this will help ensure moisture stays in better, but not completely necessary.
After the bulk ferment, the next step is to shape your dough. In THIS VIDEO, I will show you how to know if your bread is ready for shaping, and how to shape it into a round boule.
Then the dough will sit in a banneton (fancy name for a bread basket) for another 2ish hours for it’s final rise.
Then you’ll flip the dough out of the basket, and score the bread – that means using a sharp razor or bread lame to make cuts into the bread so that the steam can escape. You can watch a video of me scoring the dough, HERE. If you don’t score the bread, it will not rise. So make sure you do this fun step.
Then, BAKE in a dutch oven, and await your golden loaf of sourdough!
This recipe is an adaptation from many recipes and techniques I’ve tried, starting first with Artisan Sourdough Made Simple, The Perfect Loaf, then Tartine, Bake With Jack, and the list goes on. You’ll find what works best for you over time, as well.
And the beauty of sourdough is that no bake with ever be exactly the same as the last, because you’re working with an amazing living culture!
Feel free to ask me any questions you might have, or reference some of my other sourdough resources:
A naturally fermented sourdough bread that has a fluffy interior and golden brown crust. This is a great recipe for sourdough beginners, and walks you through the entire process of making a basic sourdough bread.
In a large bowl, mix starter and water with a fork, until starter is dispersed. Add flours, mixing with a spatula first. Then with your hand until a shaggy dough is formed, just enough so that flour is not visible.
Cover with a damp cloth and let sit for 30 minutes.
Once rested, add salt to top of dough and liberally knead the dough for two minute. Then perform your 1st of stretch and folds. Let rest for 30 minutes.
Then perform your 2nd set. Let rest for 30 minutes. Then perform your 3rd set. Let rest for 30 minutes. Then perform your 4th and final set. 4 sets of stretch and folds, 30 minutes apart. Here is a video of how to do a stretch and fold. It is easy!
After those stretch and folds are completed, you will let the dough finish its bulk ferment. This means letting the dough rise on the counter for around 5-6 hours total (from 1st set of stretch and folds) if your house is around 72 degrees. It will take more time if it is cooler, or less time if it warmer. Your dough is finished proofing when: it has risen about 75% (not quite doubled in size), has a glossy top and is puffy, with a bubble or two around the edges of the bowl/bucket. It should jiggle a bit as well when you shake it. These are the signs to look for, rather than going off of time. Time is a general notation because the temperature of water you used and air temperature will be different for everyone.
Now you'll gently move the dough out of the bowl onto a floured work surface. Let the dough rest there for 10-15 minutes.
Then, shape the dough. You can watch the video below to learn how to shape it into a round boule.
Once shaped, use a bench scraper to put the dough into a banneton (proofing basket) that has been liberally dusted with rice flour, seam side of the dough facing up (so the top of the dough is what is touching the bottom of banneton) when it is placed in banneton.
Cover with a damp cloth, and let rise for a final time, on the counter. This will take about 2 hours, if your house is around 70 degrees. OR you can put the banneton with dough, in a plastic bag or covered with a shower cap (this ensures the dough will not dry out) in the refrigerator and let the final rise happen overnight. The dough can be in the refrigerator for 10-12 hours at this stage.
Once your dough has gone through its final rise and has risen slightly and is puffy on top, preheat your oven with dutch oven in it to 450 degrees F. You can test to see if your dough is ready by doing gently pressing a floured thumb into the dough. If it indents and gradually releases, but still holds a finger shape, you're ready! If you press your finger in and the indent doesn't move or release, that means it is overproofed (but still bake it!). If your fingerprint jumps right back up to flat, your dough is underproofed (but still bake it!). Let it ferment in half hour more increments, until ready.
Wait until oven is preheated, then place parchment over the top of your dough and flip over, so that the seam side is now on the parchment paper and you are able to score the top of the dough.
Score the dough with a bread lame, making sure to go at least 1/2 inch deep in a few spots so that dough can release gases. Otherwise your bread will not rise.
Place dough on parchment paper into a dutch oven, and put cover on it. Bake for 20 minutes, covered at 450 degrees F. Then remove cover, and bake for 25 more minutes, until bread is golden brown and crackly.
Remove from oven and place load on a cooling rack. Let cool for AT LEAST ONE HOUR before slicing. Otherwise the crumb will be squished and the texture will be gummy.