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New to sourdough bread? Here’s the easiest recipe for no-fail, Sourdough Bread with step-by-step instructions that thousands of readers have had great success with! Includes 3 videos.
Learn how to make your own homemade sourdough starter from scratch here!
Are we free enough to open to the flow, no matter what it may contain?Dorothy Hunt
Last week, I shared my recipe for Simple Sourdough Starter with you and by now your starter may be happy and bubbly and ready to bake your first loaf of sourdough bread!
This beginner’s guide to Sourdough Bread is almost fail-proof, it is so simple. Kids have mastered it! Learn the basics, then use it as a launching pad for your own creative sourdough journey.
Some of you too may even open up your own bakery (like some of our readers) be sure to read through the success stories in the comments!
My lovely friend Bee (from H is for Love) taught me how to make sourdough bread, now over 10 years ago and it hasn’t failed me yet all the while bringing me so much joy over the years.
This Sourdough Bread recipe is flexible and easy but most importantly it works with my schedule. It doesn’t require a lot of hands-on time- although there is a tiny bit, just enough to make it feel wonderfully gratifying.
Table of Contents
Sourdough Bread Video (start to finish)
This 16-minute video will show you how to make sourdough bread from start to finish, with me walking you through personally, step-by-step.
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***Scroll down to the recipe card for clear, detailed instructions.
Why I love this Sourdough Bread Recipe
The dough is made the night before and proofs overnight on the counter (10-12 hours) and bakes in the morning. (Alternately, the dough can be made in the morning and baked at night).
Because my schedule allows me to be home in the mornings, this bread schedule works well for me.
It’s very flexible too and can be placed in the fridge if plans change, and something comes up, and I can’t bake in the morning, slowing the process down.
Inversely, you could mix the dough early in the morning and bake it that night.
There are many ways to make Sourdough bread. Many of you are well beyond this recipe in terms of expertise, technique and knowledge and this may not the recipe for you, but if you are new, this may help clear up a few things. 😉 But first…
What is Sourdough Bread?
In the simplest terms, it is bread made without commercial yeast, but rather a “sourdough starter” instead. Think of this like “wild” yeast. The starter is what makes the bread rise.
You can make sourdough starter at home (takes 5-8 days) or purchase it here. To maintain it – you’ll store it in a jar, and feed it. Like a pet. 🙂 Yes, you can even name it.
Bread made with sourdough starter has so much more flavor and complexity than yeasted bread. It is also much easier to digest because it is fermented. Many people who are gluten-sensitive do much better with bread made from sourdough starter.
Ingredients in Sourdough Bread
- sourdough starter (either homemade sourdough starter, or store-bought sourdough starter)
- bread flour
- Optional extras: rye flour, fennel seeds, caraway seeds, chia seeds, rice flour
What equipment do you need?
After leaving all my favorite bread “gear” at home, it was a fun challenge to see if I could make bread with just the basics.
Here is what you absolutely need:
- 4.5 to 6-quart Dutch Oven with lid – I use and love this 5.5 Quart Staub Dutch Oven because of its metal knob and dark interior (it’s easy to keep clean). But something as simple and inexpensive as this cast iron dutch oven will work. Here are my top 3 Dutch Oven picks for Bread baking!
- High-Temp Parchment Paper- this “If You Care” Parchment Paper does not burn!
- large glass or ceramic mixing bowl
- measuring cup
- Kitchen towel
- sharp knife, razor blade or scissors
- kitchen scale
Here are some optional extras that make this more fun:
- Rice flour (for dusting)
- dough whisk
- Banneton (proofing basket) 9-10 round
- dough scraper
- Lame (scoring blade)
- Oven thermometer (to double check your oven is calibrated)
We offer this Sourdough Making Kit at our Bowl and Pitcher Shop if you are interested.
How to Schedule Sourdough Bread:
Keep in mind that rising time is affected by weather and seasons. In winter, cold kitchens will lengthen the rising time. In summer, or warm weather, hot kitchens will shorten the rising time. So this is a rough estimate, based on 70F weather
- 8 to 10 am: Feed the sourdough starter. 8-12 hours before you plan to mix up the dough, feed your starter. (Or feel free to use an unfed starter for a more “sour taste”, straight from the fridge at 8 pm)
- 8 pm: Mix the dough. Do two sets of stretch and folds, 15 mins apart (see 1st video)
- 8:30 pm: Proof Overnight. Cover, let proof (rise) overnight,8-14 hours at 65-70F on the kitchen counter.
- 6-8 am: Shape. Check your dough when you awake, and when it has almost doubled in size, stretch, fold, and shape. Place in a parchment-lined bowl seam side down. Place this in the fridge for 1 hour while you preheat the oven (heating up your dutch oven or bread baker too, for 50-60 minutes at 475-500F)
- 8-9 am: Place & Score. Pull your heated dutch oven out of the oven. Lift your shaped dough, lifting out by the parchment, and carefully place into the hot dutch oven. Score the bread using a sharp knife (lightly oiled) or razor blade or bread lame, cutting a single slash, a crescent-shaped slit into the dough at a 30-45 degree angle, one inch deep, or smaller tiny cuts.
- 9:00 am Bake with the lid on for 20-25 minutes. Remove lid, lower heat to 45oF and bake 15 more minutes, until very deeply golden and internal temp reaches 208F. You will want it darker than you might think. Let it cool on a rack before cutting. If you like a softer crust bake covered for 25 minutes, uncovered 10 minutes.
- 9:45 Cool and enjoy!
How to make Sourdough Bread (Step-by-step)
***Scroll down to the recipe card for concise instructions.
STEP ONE: Feed your sourdough starter in the morning 8-12 hours before making your bread dough -leaving it out on the counter-using it slightly after it peaks. Always use a slightly “hungry” starter. TIP: You know your starter is active and healthy if it doubles within 6 hours of feeding.
STEP TWO: In a large bowl, weigh bread flour (520 grams ) using a kitchen scale- being careful not to include the bowl’s weight. Here I’m using roughly 4 cups of flour, spooned and leveled. (3 1/2 cups of organic white bread flour and a 1/2 cup rye flour.)
THEN Add 2 teaspoons salt and seeds if you like- here I’ve added 1 tsp fennel seeds, 1/2 teaspoon caraway and 1 tablespoon chia seeds.- I love this combination. Yes, you can add other spices and seeds. Get creative, but for the first loaf, I suggest going easy.
STEP THREE: Stir down the starter, then mix 1/3 cup of sourdough starter (90 grams) with water (385 grams) using a fork.
It will look like cloudy water.
STEP FOUR: Pour the starter/water mixture into the flour mixture and stir, using a fork, into a thick, sticky ball. Switch to a wood spoon. Mix the dough for one minute to incorporate all the bread flour, using the wooden spoon. Just try your best to incorporate all the flour.
It will be thick, shaggy and hard to mix. If the flour absolutely won’t mix in, then add a tablespoon of water at a time to incorporate it. Sometimes whole grain flours are “thirstier” than white flour so you may need a little more water, a tablespoon at a time.
Dough will be heavy, thick and sticky (see photo below) to begin with, but will loosen up as it rests and proofs. Cover with a damp kitchen towel, for 15 minutes.
STEP 5: Do 2 sets of “stretch and folds” to help build the gluten. Do this twice, 15 minutes apart. Watch the first video here below. With wet hands, stretch and fold. Let rest 15 minutes covered, then repeat.
Stretch & fold Video-Technique #1
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STEP 6: PROOF Cover the bowl with a damp kitchen towel (wet it thoroughly, then wring it out) and let the dough rise on the kitchen counter overnight 8-12 hours. This is the tricky part that gets easier as you practice. Every environment is different. And seasons will affect proofing time. Warmer homes proof much faster, colder homes, much slower. In midwinter in the Northwest, I’ve even proofed for as long as 18 hours on the counter. Here in Santa Barbara, in summer, the dough was ready in 8 hours.
TIP You can’t always look at the clock, you MUST look at the dough. It should be slightly domed, springy, slightly jiggly like a happy, full belly, almost doubled. Shake the bowl, look for a little jiggle.
Do the poke test: Carefully poke the dough with a floured finger, 1/2 inch deep. If it is easy to indent, and the dough springs back, this is a good sign it has risen enough. If the dough feels very firm and hard to indent, it probably needs to proof longer. If the dough doesn’t spring back, holding the indentation, or feels overly soft, liquidy or loose- it is probably over-proofed. Don’t toss it. You can still bake it but will not rise as much in the oven and will be harder to handle. Put it in the fridge to firm it up a bit before doing the stretch and fold. You may still get an OK loaf. Hard to tell.
PREPARE the SHAPING BOWl: Place a piece of parchment in a bowl. I like using a high-sided medium-sized bowl versus a flat or shallow bowl, to help shore up the sides.
NOTE on Parchment: I use this parchment brand. It doesn’t stick or burn. If unsure about yours, spray your parchment with a little oil to prevent sticking.
As you progress in your baking journey, you may want to use a Banneton (bread-proofing basket below). If using a Banneton, flour it well (rice flour works best here) and place any seeds on the bottom, placing dough seam-side up.
I will say- if starting out, it can be a bit tricky to flip the Banneton into the hot dutch oven, and have it land centered. I prefer to flip it onto parchment, score, then place the parchment and dough into the hot dutch oven. Up to you.
With using the parchment in a regular bowl, there is no flipping, just lifting by the parchment and placing it in the dutch oven. MUCH EASIER FOR BEGINNERS.
STEP 7: STRETCH and SHAPE
Watch the 2nd video below for a different “stretch and shape” technique to use AFTER the dough has been proofed. Loosen the dough from the edges of a bowl with a wet spatula or wet plastic dough scraper, sliding it down the sides of the bowl.
With wet hands, carefully pull the dough up on each side, lift it up about 1-2 feet high, and place it back down, folding it on top of itself gently.
Wet your hands again and give the bowl a quarter turn and do this again. (You could repeat this 20 minutes later) Then the 3rd time you lift and stretch, you will either lift it all the way up into your parchment-lined bowl seam side down. (EASIEST) or into the floured proofing basket, seam side up (pinching it closed).
Stretch and Shape Video- Technique #2
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AS you see above, the dough after proofing will become much looser. The starter has metabolized the flour overnight. This can be tricky to handle. BUT, using wet hands and learning the 2nd stretch and shape technique in the second video above, will make the wet dough much easier to handle. Trust me here. 🙂
After the second set, lift the dough into the parchment-lined bowl.
Sprinkle with seeds if you like.
Sprinkle with a little flour or rice flour (makes it easier to score) especially if using the banneton, get those sides sprinkled well- so it flips out without catching!
STEP 8: FINAL RISE and PREHEAT OVEN:
Place the dough in the fridge for one hour (or up to 3) while you heat up the oven to 500F with your dutch oven inside (PLEASE SEE NOTES ) for 50-60 minutes. Chilling the dough will make it easier to score and give it a little more “oven spring”. It is not intended to rise here.
STEP 9: SCORE & BAKE.
Score: Grease your blade or lame, and score the dough swiftly and deeply, at a 45-degree angle, 3/4 inch deep. Score where you want the dough to puff up. You can do one simple slash, a crescent, or a crisscross, or feel free to add other designs. (Just google sourdough scoring designs and be mesmerized for hours!) Oiling the knife helps. The lame really does make this 100 times easier!
Carefully take out the dutch oven from the oven and close the oven door. Remove the lid. Gently lift your dough holding onto the parchment corners, and lift it into the dutch oven, and quickly cover.
Bake: Place in the middle of the oven for 18-22 mins. Remove the lid; it should be nicely puffed, lightly golden, and around 200F. This is your goal. Continue baking 10- 15 minutes until deeply golden and internal temp reaches 208F.
Pull it out, place it on a rack and let it cool before cutting. The HARDEST part! 😂
Please try to get your loaves crusty and deeply golden. Let them go a bit longer than you might think. 🙂
It will smell heavenly and you will feel proud. Bask in it! It truly is an accomplishment!!
SOURDOUGH BREAD TIPS:
- SOURDOUGH STARTER: Using your starter slightly after its peak will ensure your bread rises sufficiently. Make sure your starter is healthy, strong and “hungry”, and doubles in size 6 hours after feeding. If you like a more “sour” taste, use an un-fed starter that has been stored in the fridge 5-6 days- and use without feeding it first.
- FLOUR: For your very first loaf, I highly suggest just using Organic White Bread Flour and be sure to weigh it. ***Please “zero out” the weight of the bowl. Weigh the flour without salt, seeds, or other additions. Try substituting a 1/2 cup of flour for another kind. For example, 3 1/2 cups white bread flour, plus 1/2 cup rye or whole wheat. If you add more whole grain than that, your loaf will be quite heavy and dense. I really don’t want this for your first loaf and neither do you. You want it to be amazing so you feel inspired to make it again and again. So be patient. After several practice loaves- yes, fiddle with other flours as much as you like!
- WATER: (Hydration) 385 grams A wet dough will produce a lot of beautiful air pockets but it is much harder to work with, in the beginning. A dryer dough will yield a slightly denser, less airy loaf but will be easier to work with, in the beginning. This one falls towards the later – at 75% hydration- but you can easily adjust this down the road, as you practice, by adding a little more water or less flour in the initial mixing stage. To calculate the hydration level, you divide the water grams by the flour grams. In this case 385 divided by 520 = .75 or 75% hydration. As you get more comfortable, try for 80%-85% hydration, adding in a few extra folds at both stages.
- ADDITIONS: If you want to start adding things to your bread- nuts, olives, cheese, dried fruit, roasted garlic, etc., I recommend folding these in after it rises overnight. Use this recipe for Rosemary Olive Sourdough Bread as a guide.
- BAKING: 500F. Always preheat. If you have convection, use it! Use a 4-6 quart dutch oven: Make sure your dutch oven can handle a 500F oven. Plastic handles will melt. If not, 475F or 450F will suffice, but you’ll need to bake it longer (25-ish minutes) before removing the lid, then bake for 10-15 more minutes uncovered. Always check bread with a thermometer.
TROUBLE-SHOOTING Sourdough Bread
- OVER-PROOFED: If your dough feels overly runny, loose, or breaks, after proofing, you have probably over-proofed it or possibly incorrectly measured the flour/water. Note the rising time and temperature in your home, and shorten this next time. It’s easy to overproof in very warm climates. You can tell if it is over-proofed if the dough is flat and runny with lots of air bubbles at the top (meaning it probably peaked already and now is going down) or doesn’t spring back when you do the poke test, or breaks when stretched. Even still you could try to bake it (might as well at this point, right? ) Do the 2nd video stretch and folds-it will be runny, so manage as best you can and put it in the fridge to firm it up a bit before baking.) Turn “imperfect loaves” into croutons, bread crumbs, etc.
- UNDER-PROOFED: Gummy dense bread with big holes. This usually means your bread didn’t proof (rise) long enough in the initial overnight rise or the sourdough starter wasn’t “strong/active” enough. Double-check that your starter is doubling in size within 6 hours of being fed. Note the time and temp in your house, and it let rise longer next time. This can happen if you are used to baking in summer and now shifting into winter. The kitchen is colder so the dough will require longer proofing. You will be able to tell when you do your second set of stretch and folds. If it is not stretching like the video it probably has not proofed long enough. Just let it go longer -or leave it out to rise in the bowl after shaping (instead of putting it in the fridge) for an hour or two. Gummy bread can be turned into croutons. Or try toasting the bread before consuming it, it may help the texture.
- Not Rising: It could be the starter. Is it healthy and active? Did you use “hungry” starter, using it after it has peaked? Double-check your starter is doubling in size within 6 hours of being fed. Also, I’ve found this type of dough will not rise and puff up as much as other bread doughs. It may only rise by 1 1/2 or 1 3/4 (not actually doubling in size). Just look for that slight dome and jiggly belly feel, and do the “poke test”. It will flatten out overnight, with a subtle swell (like a full belly) or slight dome and a bouncy spring to the touch. Check the temp with a thermometer. If it is under 70F it might just take a little longer. If you want to be very precise about the rise, and the rise time, you can measure the overnight rise in a 2-quart measuring container with clear sides the first few times to get an idea rise level and timing. It should rise by 1.5 or 1.75, so not quite double. I found this practice to be very helpful.
- Flavorless: Did you forget the salt? Salt is imperative here.
- Too Sour: The “hungrier” the starter, the sourer the bread. Feed the starter 8-10 hours before baking for less sour loaves.
- Not sour enough: Use an unfed starter. The longer it’s unfed ( within the 7 days) the sourer it will be.
- Many people accidentally mismeasure the flour because they forget to “zero out” the weight of the bowl or measuring cup on the scale! Check your weight (without seeds, salt or any additions) only flour.
- GUMMY BREAD: If you are sure you are not under-proofing your dough, and that your starter is strong ( doubles within 6 hours of feeding) check that your oven temp is accurate. Buy an oven thermometer and double-check that it is indeed getting hot enough. Confirm bread is 200F when you remove the lid, and 208F after baking uncovered. Adjust timing if need be. Lastly, test letting your bread sit longer before cutting- like 4 hours.
- Weird sweet flavor/scent: Your starter may have been contaminated with unpleasant bacteria. Bread should taste/smell heavenly, earthy and “bready” after coming out of the oven. Like the best smell ever. 🙂
- Burned Bottoms: Perhaps lower heat to 475F with a slightly longer bake. Also, try placing a sheet pan under the dutch oven (but don’t preheat the sheet pan). Or add a layer of cornmeal below the parchment. Burnt bottoms seem to happen mostly in electric ovens.
- Flat loaves with lots of holes: Over-proofed. Make croutons. 🙂
- Starter: If your starter floated, but no longer floats, but still doubles in size after feeding within 6-8 hours, it is probably fine to use in baking (this is what you have been telling me).
WAys to use Sourdough Starter
- Soft Sourdough Rolls
- Rosemary Olive Sourdough Bread
- Sourdough English Muffins
- Sourdough Baguettes
- Sourdough Crackers
- Vegan Banana Bread
- Overnight Sourdough Waffles
- Sourdough Pancakes
- Sourdough Scones
- Sourdough Biscuits
- Sourdough Buns
- Sourdough croutons
The Sourdough Making Kit is available at our Bowl and Pitcher Shop if you are interested.
Most likely, the dough is under proofed, which can cause sourdough bread to be gummy and dense inside. Remember, the cooler the kitchen ( like in winter vs. summer) the longer it will take to proof the sourdough.
The second reason sourdough bread is gummy is that using a starter that is too young or insufficient active can cause sourdough bread to be gummy inside.
Underproofing the dough can cause bread to be dense- by not allowing enough time for the carbon dioxide to develop and create the bubbles in the dough that create the airy texture. An inactive starter can also be the culprit.
Most likely, the sourdough has over-proofed and has collapsed creating a flat hard loaf.
Besides the reasons above (under proofing the dough and an inactive starter) sourdough can be overly dense if you use too much whole-grain flour, or not enough water.
Most likely, the salt was left out or mismeasured.
Your sourdough starter is the secret to perfect sourdough bread! Care and proper feeding of your starter, which doubles in size within 6 hours of feeding will ensure your sourdough loaves are beautiful, flavorful, light and airy.
For the love of Sourdough
Sourdough baking is such a satisfying hobby. Making your first “good” loaf is the BEST feeling EVER! Know that every time you bake, your bread will get better and better as long as your starter is healthy and active.
I suggest that you make the same exact loaf, repeatedly, a few times to get it down before changing any variables. Consider this first month of baking as “practicing”. The most challenging thing is getting to know your environment, temperature and timing, and getting your starter healthy.
So just be patient, keep trying and don’t give up. I promise, you will get it! Sometimes it just takes time.
Enjoy the process,
More Sourdough Recipes
Easy Sourdough Bread (Step-by-Step Guide)
- Prep Time: 13 hours
- Cook Time: 35 mins
- Total Time: 13 hours 35 minutes
- Yield: 1 loaf 1x
- Category: baked
- Method: bread
- Cuisine: northwest
- Diet: Vegan
An easy Sourdough Bread recipe that rises overnight and bakes in the morning. A simple flexible recipe, made with sourdough starter, that can be adapted to your needs. View the 3 instructional videos above for more details. If you don’t see the videos, make sure your ad blocker is off.
- 4 cups organic white bread flour, spooned and leveled (520 grams total flour) -please don’t include the bowl’s weight. I highly recommend weighing the flour for the first few loaves. (See notes for adding other types of flour.)
- 2 teaspoons fine sea salt (12 grams)
- 1 7/8 cups water (385 grams)
- 90 grams homemade sourdough starter or store-bought starter (1/3 cup) fed 8-12 hours earlier, using it slightly after peaking (For a more “sour” taste, use an unfed starter, 4–6 days after feeding if refrigerated- see notes.)
- rice flour (my favorite for dusting a banneton).
- Seeds for flavoring: fennel seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds, caraway seeds, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, dill seeds, celery seeds, nigella seeds, etc. (optional, but tasty) My favorite is 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, 1/2 teaspoon caraway and 1 tablespoon chia seeds
- Substitute 1/2 cup rye flour, spelt flour or whole wheat flour or other whole-grain flour for 1/2 cup of the white bread flour if you like- resisting the temptation to add more for your first few loaves. (62 grams max).
- Add herbs (fresh or dried- rosemary, thyme, sage, etc).
- Add nuts, olives, garlic, dried fruit or cheese (please see this Rosemary Olive Sourdough Bread Post, for more “how-to” instructions).
- 8 am. Twelve hours before mixing your dough, feed your sourdough starter, leaving it out on the counter making sure it doubles in size within 6 hours. (See notes for extra sour). OR, if you keep your starter in the fridge and fed it in the last 7 days- it is OK to use it straight from the jar, cold, without feeding. Best to use starter after it peaks, when it is “hungry”.
- 8:00 pm PLEASE use a kitchen scale if this is your first loaf. Weigh the flour in a medium bowl (***zero-ing out the weight of the bowl). Then add salt, spices, seeds. Mix starter and water in a small bowl until cloudy and well mixed. Pour the starter-water into flour incorporating all the flour using a fork or wood spoon. It should be a thick, shaggy, heavy, sticky dough. See video. Mix for about 1-2 minutes using the wood spoon– it will be hard to mix. Don’t worry about tidy dough here, just get the flour all mixed in and cover with a wet kitchen towel and let rest 15 minutes. It will loosen up as it rests. (Alternatively, mix starter and water in the bowl first, then add the salt and flour-like in my 3rd video- either way works.)
- 8:20 pm: Do the first set of stretches and folds. (See the 1st video in post) With one wet hand (put a bowl of water next to you) pull the dough from one side and stretch it upward, then fold it up and over to the center of the dough. Quarter turn the bowl and repeat, stretching up and folding it over the middle, repeat for about 30 seconds or until the dough gets firm and resists. This helps strengthen the gluten. Cover, rest, and repeat the process 15 minutes later. With wet fingers, stretch up and fold over, turning, repeating, for 30 seconds until the dough gets firm and resists. Then turn the dough over in the bowl. Yes, you could do this a couple more times if you would like to build the gluten, but not imperative. 🙂
- 8:35 pm Proof overnight, at room temp. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, wax wrap, or a damp kitchen towel (to keep the moisture in) and place it on your kitchen counter for 8-12 hours. (see notes on temperature) 68-70F is the ideal temp. (If it is warmer, check at 6-8 hours. If it is very cold, it may take up to 18 hours in winter.)
- 6-8 AM Check the dough in the morning. The dough should have expanded, with a slight springy dome to the top. It won’t necessarily double in size ( maybe 1.5 -1.75 times bigger) but will have expanded. Do the POKE TEST: With a floured finger, poke into the dough. If it indents easily and mostly springs back to its original shape, it has probably risen enough. If it feels firm or very hard to indent, let it rise longer. If it feels loose, runny, or indents too easily or doesn’t spring back, it is most likely over-proofed (bake it anyways).
- Line a high-sided bowl with parchment. This brand of parchment does not stick to the bread- but if you are unsure about yours, spray oil your parchment lightly before putting the dough in it. (If you are a seasoned bread baker, you do not actually need parchment -this is only for easier transport only, bread will not stick to the inside of a dutch oven.) I like using a high-sided medium-sized bowl versus a flat or shallow bowl to help shore up the sides. You can also use a rice-floured Banneton (bread proofing basket) if you have one.
- 2nd Set of STRETCH and SHAPE : (Watch 2nd video -Stretch and Shape video). Loosen the dough from the all edges of a bowl with using your wet fingers, a wet spatula or wet plastic dough scraper, sliding down the sides of the bowl. With both wet hands, carefully pull the dough straight up, in the middle and lift it, stretching straight up in the air- about 1-2 feet (see photo) and place it back down, gently folding it on top of itself. In this first stretch, the dough may feel quite loose and runny. This is OK. It should firm up as it stretches and folds. (Note: If your dough breaks here, it is probably over-proofed, bake it anyways. If your dough won’t stretch like the photo and feels too tight or firm, it needs to proof longer). After the first stretch, give the bowl a quarter turn, wait 30-60 seconds, wet your hands again and stretch it up high again, folding over itself in the bowl. Wait 30-60 seconds. (You could repeat this one more time, 15 minutes later). Then, the third time you lift and stretch, you will lift it all the way into your parchment-lined bowl, folding over itself like you’ve been doing. (Alternatively, lift it into your floured proofing basket seam side up. ( If seam up, pinch the seam closed). Sprinkle top with seeds and flour (get the sides too) gently rubbing it to even coat –and add seeds if you like. If using a banneton, sprinkle the seeds in the banneton before adding the dough.
- FINAL RISE and PREHEAT OVEN: Place the bowl in the refrigerator for one hour uncovered which will firm up the bread, and make scoring easier and help boost “oven spring”. It won’t rise in the fridge. (You could also keep it in the fridge for 3-4 hours if you want to bake later.) Preheat the oven (for 1 FULL hour) to 500F with your dutch oven inside and lid on (see notes). If you have convection- use it. You can also bake the bread at 45oF or 475F. You want your oven as hot so don’t skimp on the preheat. I usually preheat for 1 full hour.
- SCORE & BAKE When ready to bake, place dough by the stove. Pull out the dutch oven, close the oven, remove lid. Score the bread in the bowl, using a very sharp knife, lame, razor blade, (or try scissors dipped in cold water), score the dough swiftly and deeply, at a 45-degree angle, 3/4- 1-inch deep. One deep slash is just fine. Or criss-cross, or crescent shape. (Or feel free to add other designs, for ideas -google “scoring bread”). You want to score where you want the dough to puff out from. You can also cut with wet kitchen scissors. Carefully lift the parchment by the corners and place both bread and parchment directly into the dutch oven. Cover quickly. It is OK if parchment peaks out. You want to score and transfer as quickly as possible. (Alternately, if using a proofing basket, cover the basket with parchment, carefully flip the dough into the parchment in the palm of your hand and then center the parchment and dough into your dutch oven, then score).
- BAKE. Place dutch oven in the middle of the 500F oven for 20 mins with convection on, 25 minutes w/no convection (or 28 minutes at 450F). Remove lid. It should be puffed and just lightly golden and internal temp close to 200F (if not, put lid back on for a few more minutes). Lower heat to 450 F, continue baking 10-15 minutes until deeply golden and internal temp reaches 204- 208F. No pale loaves please, let them get golden! (For a less “crusty” loaf, increase covered baking time, lower uncovered baking time. You can play with this for desired results.)
- COOL: It will smell heavenly. Remove from the dutch oven, let it cool 1 hour on a rack or tilted up on its side, before slicing so you don’t let the steam out and don’t smash it- be patient. This is the hardest part. 😉. Take a picture! Feel proud. You did it!
- SERVE: This type of bread is always BEST, served toasted! Then lather it with butter, ghee or olive oil. Add mashed avocado and salted tomatoes, almond butter, honey or jam. A piece of toast can turn into a great meal. See this Mushroom Toast!
- STORE: Store the bread wrapped in a kitchen towel for the first day or two to keep the crust nice and crispy, then move it to a zip lock bag to keep it moist for longer. Bread can also be sliced and frozen. Make sourdough croutons with leftover bread- great in salads and soups!
Sourdough starter : Using your starter after its peak will ensure your bread rises sufficiently. Make sure your starter is healthy, hungry, and strong, able to double in size 4-8 hours after feeding. If you store your starter in the fridge and last fed it over a week ago, make sure to feed the morning before making bread. If it has only been 3-7 days since last feeding (and you keep it in the fridge), it is OK to make bread without feeding. Use a 1/3 cup starter for your bread dough and place the remaining back in the fridge and feed a week after the last feeding. BUT if it has been a week after your last feeding, pull it out of the fridge, discard (or save for pancakes, waffles, or give away) all but 1/2 cup. Feed it. Let it metabolize the flour 4-8 hours before mixing up the bread dough. Use a 1/3 cup of starter (90 grams) for the bread, place the remaining back in the fridge, and feed in a week. For a more “sour” flavor, use starter that has been in the fridge 4-6 days. Do not feed before using it. The sourdough starter is the sourest the longer it goes without feeding.
Dutch Oven or Bread Baker: Make sure your dutch oven or bread baker can handle a 500F oven. If not, 450F will suffice, and bake 25 minutes before removing the lid. Aim for an internal bread temp of 200F when removing lid- before baking it uncovered. Take notes and adjust the next time!
NO DUTCH OVEN? If you don’t have a dutch oven, you can try baking your bread on a sheet pan, covered with a large metal bowl or pyrex bowl to keep the steam in. It will yield a flatter loaf but it does work. Bake 25-30 minutes covered, remove the bowl, bake until golden 10-15 more minutes until golden, and be sure to check internal temp with a thermometer. It may take a few practices tries to perfect this.
Smaller Loaves: If you would like to create two smaller loaves bake each at 450F for 18 minutes (or until internal temp is 200F) uncover, lower heat to 425F and bake until golden and internal temp is 204-208F. You may have to fiddle with this timing.
LOAF PAN: Yes you can bake this in a loaf pan. Shape and place it in an oiled loaf pan ( or line with parchment) for the last hour in the fridge, while oven preheats. Bake uncovered at 450 for 15 minutes, lower heat to 425 and bake another 25-ish minutes or until internal temp reaches 204-208F. You may need to play with this according to your oven. Place on middle or lower rack.
PRACTICE: As you practice making your loaves (yes, it is a fun practice) you’ll get a feel for the dough and you’ll begin to notices how changes in seasons (changes in temperature) affect the loaves and their proofing time. I suggest making the exact same loaf repeatedly several times. Warmer temps will call for shorter proofing, cooler temps, longer proofing. You can also change the proofing time by adjusting the sourdough starter amount. For a faster rise, you can add a little more starter, for example, a 1/2 or 2/3 cup. For a longer cooler rise, say in the fridge for 36-48 hours, you can reduce the starter amount to 1/4 cup or even 3 tablespoons. You can play with ratios to get the proofing time just how you want it. Take notes! You can also adjust the hydration for an airier loaf, either reducing flour or increasing water. So many variables!!! *Remember your starter and your dough are actual living “creatures” that are affected by your particular environment. The most important advice I can give you is to pay close attention to your particular “creature”, observe it carefully, and look for signs- it is communicating with you. Pay attention. 🙂 Work with it, not against it. Be patient, respond thoughtfully.
Perfecting bread is a lifelong process, and I’m still learning too. 😉
- Serving Size: 1 slice
- Calories: 132
- Sugar: 0.2 g
- Sodium: 499.1 mg
- Fat: 1 g
- Saturated Fat: 0.2 g
- Carbohydrates: 28 g
- Fiber: 4.2 g
- Protein: 5.1 g
- Cholesterol: 0 mg
Keywords: sourdough bread recipe, no knead sourdough bread, how to make sourdough bread, overnight sourdough bread
Hi!! Can I divide the ingredients in half?
Hi! Can I split the recipe in half?
Yes you can!
Excellent guide on the sourdough bread making process.
Thanks so much Tim- glad it helped!
Love this recipe! Has anyone tried making two small loaves from one batch?
Thanks Nik- Yes, you can divide into two after the first overnight proof. Scroll down to the recipe notes. 🙂
Love your instructions & recipe!
Could you please let me know, if I use the starter right from the fridge, does it need to ‘pass’ the float test? My starter has been in the fridge without being fed for a week.
Not if it is healthy and active.
Great recipe!! Made 2 beautiful loaves as gifts and they turned out amazing!
Great to hear Sam! good for all!
This recipe gave me two great loaves but ever since it’s gone down hill and I don’t know why! I’m doing everything the same as I first did but the dough comes out extremely wet now to the point that when I score the top, it immediately opens up completely and and envelopes itself to the point it’s back to smooth on top. It just totally spreads out. One loaf did still puff up in the oven, another stayed very flat and spread out. I have my most recent one doing a slow proof in the fridge but I’m not sure how it’ll go from here.
Hi Megan, I would double-check that your starter is healthy and active. Maybe leave it out of the fridge for a few days, and feed daily as needed. Or it could be over-proofed. My two guesses!
I have the same problem with very wet dough that spreads out when placed in the dutch oven after an overnight proof. My starter is active and has no issues. The final loaf comes out slightly deformed and flat…
Ok Brian, then my guess is it may be over-proofed. Try shortening the overnight by 1-2 hours and see if that helps.
This recipe is simply excellent. I have made it several times now with variations – I like to add currents, apricots and walnuts. I am wondering if there is a point where you can freeze the dough to keep for baking at a later date. Can you freeze at the point where it goes in the fridge? And if so, how would you unfreeze and how would timing look? Please to advise. Thank you for all the amazing recipes. This site is a favourite of mine.
Thanks Candice- really appreciate this! I have never tried freezing the sourdough, has anyone else?
Silvia, thank you for this wonderful recipe – it’s been a delicious, steady success for me, my family, and friends for over 2 years! I have a question: I’m using an oval banneton but my dough never holds its shape when I take it out of the fridge. It doesn’t stick to the banneton, and it bakes well, but it always flops over when I move it to parchment paper for scoring. Any thoughts on why that could be?
My first guess is it may be slightly over-proofed. Why don’t you try to shorten the overnight time by an hour and see what happens?
Hi Sylvia, your recipe is my go-to for perfect sourdough bread. My challenge is the timing. Proofing overnight, starting at 8:30pm in a 71F kitchen means my dough is ready for 2nd set of stretches at 4am. What can I do to delay this to 8am or later?
Hi Dianne, what if you started the process in the morning, then bake at night? Or store in the fridge overnight, then let it long-proof during the day, bake at night.
Thanks for your reply. Sylvia. I’ll give both a try. Can’t live without this bread!!!
Hi Silvia, I’ve been using your recipe for a few months and it’s working out really well for my schedule. I wanted to try making two loves at once but I can’t see at what step I would divide the dough into two loaves. After the proofing? Thanks for your help!
Thanks Stephanie, yes,I would divide after the overnight proof. 🙂
First bread, I put the bread in the oven overnight with the light on to proof. It got way too warm and dough is runny. What should I do r is it a fail?
I would just bake it. Shape it as best you can, throw it in the fridge for an hour and bake. 🙂
I am not able to find either of the stretching videos mention. If these are no longer available, adding pictures of this process would be helpful.
Hi Elizabeth, they are available, you may have your adblocker turned on. Try a different browser?
I’ve removed my ad blockers and still cannot see videos.
Hummm….. shoot! What browser are you using? Can you try a different one?
Can I have some advice about cold proofing in the fridge. I think that my dough over proofs because its getting too warm in my kitchen in Texas. I put the dough in the fridge over night. It increased in size the next day. I sat it out at room temperature to increase more, then did the stretches. It wasn’t as loose. Floured my baton and its now sitting at room temp covered so it can rise a little more before baking. Some advice on timing and technique would be awesome if you have any tips.
Hi Wendy, you have done what I would do. 🙂 For the next time, I would invest in a clear-sided two-quart container that has measurement lines on the sides. See our sourdough pizza dough recipe. Put the dough in there and leave it covered in your fridge until it almost doubles (1.75). Note the time. All fridge temps are different and it is really hard to gauge in a bowl. 🙂 Then you will have a clearer timeline. 🙂 You can order on Amazon, or they have these at restaurant supply places.
Definitely a must if you want the best bread ever!!!
Thanks Bernice- Glad you were happy with this!
Would you modify the recipe for high altitud?
I would try it “as is” at first. When you remove the lid, the goal is bread to be 200F. If it is under, then modify it the second time around. 🙂
I wish I could send pictures. I made two loaves one with an unfed starter and one with fed starter. Both came out BEAUTIFUL. Following the recipe just as you said. Thanks again!
Awesome and great to hear!