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. (NOTE: the recipe multiplier is not working correctly for doubling or tripling – so please calculate this for yourself !!! Sorry.) Stretch and fold techniques from Breadtopia
- 4 cups organic white bread flour, spooned and leveled (520 grams total flour) -please don’t include the weight of the bowl! I Highly Recommend weighing for the first few loaves. (See notes for adding other types of flour.)
- 2 teaspoons fine sea salt (12 grams)
- 1 7/8 cups filtered water (385 grams)
- 1/3 cup sourdough starter (90 grams) fed 8-10 hours earlier, using it slightly after peaking (or use an unfed starter, 3–6 days after feeding if refrigerated- for a more “sour” taste- see notes.)
- rice flour (my favorite) or extra flour for dusting.
- seeds for flavoring: fennel seeds, anise seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds, caraway seeds, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, dill seeds, celery seeds, nigella seeds, etc. (optional, but tasty)
Other optional additions:
- Substitute 1/2 cup rye flour, spelt 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 seeds and/or whole spices (fennel, caraway, onion seeds, dill seeds, chia, hemp, flax ) My favorite is 1 teaspoon fennel, 1/2 teaspoon caraway and 1 tablespoon chia– or add herbs ( rosemary, thyme, sage, etc).
- Once you get the hang of the dough, try adding roasted garlic, nuts, dried fruit, cheeses, or olives.
- 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 6-8 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 (***zeroing 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, or razor blade, 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”). Oiling the knife helps as well as using a lame. You want to score where you want the dough to puff out from. You can also cut with 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.
FLOUR: For your very first loaf, I highly suggest weighing (please do not include the weight of the bowl or any salt, seeds or spices- only flour!) and using mostly white bread flour . I know it’s boring, but you can add whole spices and seeds. 🙂 If you absolutely must fiddle, try only substituting a 1/2 cup of the flour for another kind. For example, 3 1/2 cups white bread flour, plus 1/2 cup rye flour or whole wheat flour. If you add more than that your loaf may be too heavy and dense. I really don’t want this for your first loaf. Neither do you! You want it to be amazing so you feel inspired to make it again and again. After a few practice loaves- yes, fiddle as much as you like!
Hydration: A wet dough will produce a lot of beautiful air pockets but it is much harder to work with, especially in the beginning. A dry 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 385 water grams by the 520 flour grams. In this case 385 divided by 520 = .75 or 75% hydration.
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 -make sure bread is baked to 200F- before baking uncovered. My bread baker (clay) cracked at 500F, so just be careful. Always check the manufacturer’s guide. Plastic handles typically melt or crack at 500F
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.
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.
- OVER-PROOFED: If your dough feels overly runny, has noticeable bubbles at the top, feels 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” it into croutons, bread crumbs, etc.
- Under-proofed: Gummy 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 or active” enough. Test your starter, by seeing if doubles in size after feeding within 6-8 hours. 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 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? 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 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 it in a 2-quart clear measuring container with clear sides the first few times to get an idea of rise level and timing. It should rise by 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: Feed the starter 8-10 hours before baking for less sour loaves.
- Not sour enough: Use an un-fed 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/ Doughy BREAD: This can occur if the internal temp of bread is not 204- 208F. Make sure when you take the lid off your bread is at 200F. You may need to adjust time-based on your oven. Bread can be gummy if under-proofed. Bread can be gummy if the oven is not preheated enough. (Buy an oven thermometer and double-check, it is getting hot enough.) Lastly, bread can be gummy if your starter is lethargic, so make sure it is active and thriving, doubling in 6 hours after being fed.
- Weird sweet flavor/scent: Your starter may have unwanted 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 slightly longer bake. Also, try placing a sheet pan under the dutch oven (but don’t preheat the sheet pan). Place a layer of cornmeal under loaf. This seems 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).
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