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 3 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.
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 small 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.
While you’re getting started, this post with 5 Essential Sourdough Starter Tips for Beginners that I wrote may be helpful. It should answer many of your questions!
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.
But you don’t need experience. 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 indents and doesn’t bounce back at, it still needs time to rise. If your fingerprint jumps right back up to flat, your dough has been overproofed. (And that is okay! It will still taste delicious, it will just not rise as well while baking.)
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.