I’m a sourdough bread newbie. I haven’t been making it for years like some people have, but I actually think that gives me an advantage when explaining it to you. Sometimes I think people who have been making sourdough bread for years make it really nuanced and intimidating. But I want you to know, you don’t have to be intimidated about making it. It is actually a fairly simple process with a few basic things you can do to ensure your loaf turns out beautiful and delicious.
First, this is a recipe that’s made using sourdough starter. You can find my simple sourdough starter process and tips here. It will sound like it’s a lot of work to take care of it, but it’s not. I promise. 🙂 Eventually – if you use it a lot – it just becomes part of your day like brushing your teeth or washing your face.
I followed a process detailed by Patrick Ryan on YouTube my first time around. However, he’s in Ireland and a baker (like owns a bread bakery, not a home baker like me). That means two things:
- The measurements are a bit wonky.
- He has some supplies I don’t. More than likely, you won’t have some of these things either so I’ll share my sourdough bread hacks with you.
The best flour for the sourdough bread
It is recommend that you use a “strong flour” for making sourdough bread. Strong flour is higher in protein, which results in a larger amount of gluten. The gluten traps and holds the air bubbles from sourdough (and other breads) as you mix and kneed the dough.
A lot of recipes (and sourdough bread purists) will suggest using Whole Wheat Flour for your sourdough, which has a protein content of about 15 percent.
However, I started making this just as the pandemic started and all the flour was scare. I had bread flour in my pantry and decided to start with that. Bread flour’s protein content is usually between 11-13 percent protein. I use King Arthur Bread Flour, which has a protein content of 12.7 percent. I use this for my sourdough starter too, and based on how delicious my bread turns out, I see no reason to switch.
Truth be told, you can really use any flour to make sourdough bread. You can even use all-purpose flour, which has a protein content that’s usually between 9-11 percent. Just know you might not see as many of those typical sourdough bubbles within the final product.
Measuring for the sourdough bread
A lot of sourdough bread recipes are measured in grams. I’ve converted parts of my recipe over for you, but in all honesty, it’s best to measure out your additional flour in grams. To do that in the United States, you will need a scale. I bought this Taylor Stainless Steel Analog Kitchen Scale and I’ve been loving it. Plus it looks beautiful and decorative on my counter.
Other than that, I would suggest using a measuring cup. We have this measuring cup set from Pyrex that works well because it includes milliliters too.
Ingredients for sourdough bread
This might be one of the most basic recipes you will ever make, especially if you love to bake and bake a lot. All you need to make the recipe is:
- Your flour of choice. Again, I use bread flour and love how our sourdough bread tastes.
- Salt. Plain old table salt is one of the best and most simple ingredients you can use.
- Water. It can’t get much simpler than this.
- Sourdough starter. Again, you can find my recipe and process for this with pictures (!) here.
Embellishments: Once you get used to making sourdough bread you can add ingredients like garlic and rosemary, raisins and cinnamon, jalapeno and cheddar or mix flours and use a rye flour to produce a sourdough rye. For this recipe, we will be making the basic sourdough bread, but these are all fun things to experiment with once you get going!
Other things you will need (and substitutes)
There’s a lot of fancy tools you can buy for bread making. Specifically for sourdough, it looks like there are some things you need to make it – like a proofing bowl, a bread scorer or a dough scraper. Well, I didn’t have any of those things once I started. I made due and so can you.
This is a bowl that’s recommended for sourdough to help give it it’s shape and give it a place to rise. I don’t have one of these. I tried to buy one and it got lost in transit. I keep trying to buy one but now none of them are available or are months away from arriving. That said, I did finally order this one from Amazon which comes in a set. We will see how long it takes to arrive.
However, if you don’t have proofing bowl, you can use a Pyrex bowl and a clean dish towel. This is what I’m doing right now. I have this set of Pyrex bowls and use these all the time. For the dish towel, just make sure the dish towel you are using is a linen, tea towel or flour sack. You want to use a dish towel that doesn’t have a lot of fibers that will get stuck in your dough. I use flour sack towels like these ones from the Magnolia line at Target. You can also find a whole set of flour sack towels here.
Scoring bread is the process of using a razor blade to cut the surface of the dough and it allows the bread to expand during baking. The purpose is to control the direction it expands, but nowadays, people like to do it so it looks pretty too. However, when I started I didn’t have a scorer. I tried a knife. It didn’t work so well. I completely skipped it for my first few loaves too. My bread still turned out incredibly delicious, soft and with plenty of bubbles.
I finally got this scoring tool after a similar experience to my proofing bowel troubles. I’ll probably end up with a few of these now because I ordered a couple to see which one would come first.
You don’t need a fancy bread mixing tool. You really just need a wooden spoon to lightly mix together your ingredients before turning your loose dough out onto a work surface. I’ve read that using a metal spoon that’s aluminum will kill the yeast. I don’t know if that’s actually true but I don’t like to chance it.
A lot of bread kits will include a scrapper for your counter, either stainless steel (which is apparently fine) or plastic. I don’t have one of these. I just use my hands and my counter when I kneed my bread.
Dutch oven or cookie sheet
You will need one of these to cook your bread. I have both and like to use the Dutch oven to help create steam, which helps the bread to rise. I do recommend that you use a Dutch oven. I have a large large one like this one (just in a different color) that I make everything in. However, cookie sheets can work just as well.
This is really a must for me when baking and should be for anyone that likes to bake. It helps with excessive browning, overcooking and sticking.
How to make sourdough bread from starter: Tips
- Your arms and hands will be your biggest tool here, and the amount of time you kneed your dough will depend on your strength. It takes me about 15 – 20 minutes to kneed the bread.
- Your dough will be sticky. DON’T add more flour as you kneed. The dough will gladly soak up all that flour but that will change your bread. Just keep kneading. The dough will become less sticky as you go.
- Place a pan of water under your sourdough in the oven. This does a couple things. 1. It will help to create steam in the oven before you even put the bread in. 2. It will keep the bottom of your bread from getting overcooked. 3. It creates steam to help your crust and rise.
Get the full printable recipe for my Sourdough Bread from sourdough starter below. You can find the full recipe and process I used for creating my starter here and check out this recipe for making delicious Butter Parmesan Crackers from the sourdough starter discard!
Thank you so much for visiting today friends! I hope you’ll come back again soon.
How to make Sourdough Bread
- Dutch oven
- 800 grams strong flour 3.2 cups
- 460 ml of water 1.84 cups
- 320 grams sourdough starter 1.28 cups
- 2.5 tsp. salt Ground sea salt is best but table salt will work fine.
- Add the 800 grams of flour to a glass or plastic bowl and then add in the 460 grams water. Then add in your salt.
- Last add in the 320 grams of sourdough starter
- Mix lightly in the bowl under the dough starts to come together. Once it roughly begins to come together, dump it on your work surface.
- Begin kneading the dough to work up the gluten. The dough will be sticky, but DO NOT ADD flour. It makes the dough heavier.
- Knead the dough with the palm of your hands. You want to have an elastic consistency. The time you need to kneed the dough will vary from person to person based on your strength. For me it takes 15 -20 minutes. You can tell its done by holding it up. If it stretches without breaking, it's done. If it breaks and tears, keep kneading. It will no longer look or feel rough either and will have more of a smooth consistency when you work it into a ball.
- Place the round ball of dough into a bowl and let it proof (sit and rise) for 3 hours.
- After three hours the dough will have risen. You want to knock it back somewhat and form it into a round ball. To do this, take each side and fold it back in on itself.
- Split the dough into two loaves. You can do this with a bread scraper or I often use a wooden spatula.
- Put each ball of bread dough into a proofing basket or a glass bowl. If you're using the glass bowl, place a tea towel or flour sack towel into the bowl first and then flour the bottom and sides well so the dough is less likely to stick. Then flour the top of your dough and fold the towel over it. If you're using a proofing basket, use the liner it comes with and flour the surface. If you don't have a liner flour the surface well.
- Let the dough sit for another 3.5 hours. At this point, I put one in the fridge for the next day. The cold air will slow down the rising process. You can actually put both loaves in if you like to make this ahead of time.
- About 10 minutes before time is up, preheat your oven to 450 degree and place a pan with water on the bottom rack. This will help to create steam in your oven. This will stop the crust from forming too quickly and allows the dough to open.
- Once the time is up, place some parchment paper on the counter and turn the dough upside down onto the paper. Place that piece of parchment paper on a cookie sheet or in your Dutch oven.
- You can now score your bread with a bread scorer or a really, really shape knife. You aren't cutting it. You're scoring it.
- If you're using a Dutch oven, cover the bread with the lid and put it in the oven directly above the pan with water. If you're using a cookie sheet, make sure your loaf is directly above the pan with water. Don't let the oven hang open. Put your bread in and then quickly close the oven.
- Bake for 25 minutes.
- When the 25 minutes are up, open the oven and remove the lid from the Dutch oven.
- Close the oven again and let the bread bake for another 25 minutes.
- Once done, remove the bread from the oven and lift it up on the parchment paper to place it on a cooler surface to cool.
- Let bread cool to room temperature before slicing it.