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Sourdough Bread for Beginners

Sourdough Bread for Beginners

Sourdough Bread

This sourdough recipe is great for beginners, with easy-to-follow steps and detailed descriptions of the methods you’ll use to create some delicious bread. This recipe will make two loaves and the process is spread out over the course of two days – perfect for a weekend. You’ll need a large dutch oven and/or bread pans to bake with.

I’m not a professional baker or a seasoned breadmaster, but I was able to get the hang of this method of baking sourdough pretty easily. See note below if you aren’t familiar with maintaining sourdough starter.

Course Bread
Keyword baking, bread, oven
Prep Time 4 hours 10 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 4 hours 45 minutes
Servings 2 loaves

Ingredients

  • 200 g sourdough starter
  • 525 g warm water (about 85 degrees)
  • 500 g bread flour (see note below)
  • 100 g white whole wheat flour
  • 100 g rye flour
  • 20 g Morton kosher salt

Instructions

THE DAY BEFORE

Prep the Dough

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the sourdough starter and warm water until you get a cloudy liquid.

  2. Add your bread flour, whole wheat flour, and rye flour to the bowl and mix well with your hands or with a spatula/scraper. The dough will turn into a shaggy, scraggly dough ball.

Autolyze & Add Salt

  1. Cover bowl with a towel and let rest on the counter for 1 – 4 hours.

  2. Uncover the bowl and add your salt. The best way is to sprinkle the salt a little bit at a time and pinch it into the dough as you stretch and turn it.

Stretch & Fold

  1. Wet your hands. Reach your hands under the dough ball on the side of the bowl closest to you, and pull the dough from the bottom over the top to the opposite side of the bowl.

  2. Turning the bowl a quarter turn at a time, repeat the process until you’ve stretched and folded each “corner” once. 

  3. Cover the bowl with a towel and let rest for 30 minutes, then repeat the process. Repeat this process five more times over the course of the next 2.5 – 3 hours. The dough will become firmer and less gloopy.

  4. Check to see if the dough passes the “window pane test.” Using both hands, pinch a thin piece of dough and stretch gently. If you can almost see through the thinnest part of the dough, you can move onto the next step. If the dough rips as you’re stretching it, stretch and fold again and test it in another 30 minutes. Repeat until it passes the test.

Bulk Rise

  1. Once the dough passes the window pane test, let sit and rise at room temperature for about an hour. Then cover bowl with a plate or plastic bag (or something to seal in the moisture – a dish towel may dry out the dough a bit) and let rise in the fridge overnight or for 12 – 15 hours.

BAKING DAY

Bench Rest

  1. Take the dough out of the fridge and let sit at room temperature for about two hours.

  2. Once the dough reaches room temperature (or just about), pour the dough out onto an unfloured counter or a large cutting board. Then lightly flour the top of the dough.

  3. Using a dough scraper, carefully but firmly divide the dough into two even pieces and then form into balls. The unfloured surface will help hold the dough in place as you shape it. Try not to overwork the dough too much.

  4. Let the two dough balls rest for about 30 minutes. They will spread out slightly so make sure you have some room on all sides.

    Sourdough - final rest 2

Shape & Rise

  1. Prepare two bannetons or large pots each with a cloth dusted with rice or semolina flour (this will prevent it from sticking). Or, if using loaf pans, spray with nonstick cooking spray.

  2. One at a time, use your dough scraper to gently flip each dough ball over onto its floured side.

  3. Stretch and fold from the bottom of the dough ball about 1/3 of the way up to the top. Repeat this on all four sides, and with the final side “stitch” the dough together to make a rough seam, pinching together if necessary.

  4. Place the dough balls seam side up in your cloth-lined pot or banneton. If using a loaf pan, place it in seam side down.

  5. Let rise in the fridge for about two hours.

Bake It!

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees, and place a large dutch oven with its lid into the oven. If you have two dutch ovens, you can preheat them both at the same time. Let the dutch oven(s) heat for at least 15 minutes.

  2. Remove your first loaf from the fridge. Carefully remove the hot dutch oven and set the lid aside.

  3. Optional: Sprinkle a light dusting of coarsely ground cornmeal on the bottom of the dutch oven.

  4. Gently flip the dough ball over into the dutch oven so that it is seam side down.

  5. Using a “lame” knife — or any other very sharp kitchen knife — score the top of the loaf about 1/2 inch deep. This helps the bread expand nicely as it rises in the oven.

  6. Replace the lid on the dutch oven and bake for 15 minutes. If using one or two bread pans, spritz the top lightly with water to keep it moist while it bakes before placing into the oven (without a lid). 

  7. Remove the lid, then bake for another 5-10 minutes, checking periodically for doneness. The loaf should have a golden crust with crispy edges and the areas you scored should have risen and become somewhat shiny. Another way to test for doneness is remove the loaf (carefully!) from the dutch oven and give a gentle knock on the bottom. If it sounds hollow, it’s done. The bread will likely be done a few minutes faster if using bread pans.

    Sourdough - in oven
  8. Remove the loaves from the dutch oven or bread pan and let cool for an hour on the stovetop. 

  9. (If you’re doing one loaf at at time in your dutch oven, start the process again by removing the second loaf from the fridge and repeat the following steps.)

  10. Slice and serve! Delicious with butter and flaky sea salt, to sop up sauces, as sandwich bread, or a million other ways.

    Sourdough - done

Recipe Notes

To store, place in a dutch oven on the countertop with the lid slightly cocked. After you’ve sliced it, store the loaf with the cut side down to prevent it from getting stale.

 

If you don’t eat it all right away, this bread will keep better in the freezer than in the fridge. After a couple days, slice it first and then store in a plastic zipper bag in the freezer.

 

Sourdough Starter

You can follow this recipe from King Arthur Flour to develop your own sourdough starter.  Or if you already have sourdough starter (good friends share their starter), you can follow these tips to make sure you are “feeding” and maintaining it appropriately. You’ll know your starter is ready when a teaspoon of starter floats in a cup of water.



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