Basic sourdough is anything but basic. Full of flavor, good bacteria, and gentle on the digestive system, true sourdough bread is a nutritious answer to regular store-bought whole wheat or white bread.
Basic sourdough uses only flour, water, salt and yeast (starter) and uses time to develop the flavor and structure of the dough.
Sourdough can have a mild or strong taste, depending on your starter and the length of time you allow the dough to ferment.
This recipe makes 1 loaf of basic, full-flavored sourdough bread. The dough is not kneaded, but stretched and folded to gently create a strong, light gluten structure.
3 c bread or all-purpose flour
1 1/2 c warm water
1/4-1/2 c active starter
1 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
300g (75% hydration)
50g (12.5% of flour weight)
8g (2% of flour weight)
This recipe uses a rest without salt for the first part of the mixing/rising process. Sourdough raises much more slowly than doughs with commercial yeast. Sourdough will rise better and faster if the room temperature is above 72-75 degrees Fahrenheit. Be patient! Good sourdough bread takes time and time creates flavor.
Part 1 - Mix by Hand (Water, Starter, & Flour)
Mix together the water and the starter until just combined. Add all flour and mix just until no dry flour is seen - no kneading - just a quick mix. The dough will look shaggy. Cover with either a towel or plastic wrap and let this initial dough rest for 30-40 minutes to allow the flour and water to soak without the salt and for the starter to begin activating the dough (salt can inhibit gluten structure at the beginning of the mix, so we add the salt in the next step).
Part 2 - Salt
Once the dough has rested, it should look more relaxed than it did in the beginning. Add in the salt until well combined. Squeeze and squish the dough with your fingers as the salt is added until you can no longer feel individual salt granules in the dough. The dough should be soft, but not sticky. At this point, add a bit more flour if too soft, or a bit more water if the dough is too stiff. *This is the last opportunity to add either flour or water.
Part 3 - Stretch and Fold - Rest the Dough
Let the dough rest for 2 hours to continue its gluten development. Every 30 minutes during this rest, stretch the dough 3-4 times. To stretch, start from the side of the dough and put your hand all the way to the bottom and pull the dough up until it starts to resist, then drape the dough over itself. Turn 1/4 turn and repeat 3 more times until you have stretched all the way around the dough. Notice as the dough progresses through each set of stretches over these 2-3 hours, it becomes more soft, extensible, and when stretched, how the gluten is strengthened each time.
Part 4 - Shaping the Dough
After the last stretch and fold, let the dough rest 30 minutes to allow the dough to relax one more time.
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured counter/board. *Make sure there's not too much flour, you do need the dough to stick to itself. Using both hands, start from one side and gently pull out to stretch the dough, then repeat on the other side. Fold the right side over the middle, then the left over middle. Be sure not to punch the dough down - we do not want to get rid of the air pockets.
From top, roll farthest end towards you, roll/press, roll/press. Seal toward bottom end.
Shape dough using hands or dough scraper (tighten/strengthen top of loaf (add tension) so the top of the loaf is smooth.
Place in floured banneton/bowl or bread pan for final rise. Cover the dough so that it doesn't dry out while proofing/rising.
Let rise in a 75+ degree Fahrenheit environment until dough springs back slowly (will be a few hours on the counter).
Or – place in fridge overnight until you have time to bake. Leaving the dough covered in the fridge will slow down the rise of the dough and as the dough continues to ferment, will create great flavor.
Part 5 - Bake
Dutch Oven or Clay Cloche – (generates steam, crispy crust)
Heat oven and container to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
Score/cut the loaf with a bread lame or a sharp knife (this creates a weak area to allow the bread to rise as it bakes).
Place loaf in baking pan or Dutch oven, bake for 25 minutes, remove lid, then bake an additional 6–7 minutes or until loaf reaches 200 degrees and is nicely browned.
Remove loaf from pan, cool for 1 – 2 hours.
Baking Stone/Steel – generate steam, crispy crust - (an empty pan placed below the baking stone will help create steam.)
Heat oven, baking stone/steel and empty pan to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
Score/cut the loaf (create weak area to allow bread to rise as it bakes).
Place loaf on the stone/steel, pour water into the empty pan underneath (creates steam) and close the oven door. Bake for 25 minutes, turn loaf around, bake an additional 6–7 minutes or until loaf reaches 200 degrees and is nicely browned.
Remove loaf from oven cool for 1 – 2 hours.
Bread Pan - (sandwich bread)
Heat oven to 350 - 400 degrees Fahrenheit (a higher temp will brown loaf quicker = crispy crust)
Bake for 25 minutes, rotate loaf, bake an additional 7–10 minutes or until loaf reaches 200 degrees Fahrenheit and is nicely browned.
Remove loaf from pan, cool for 1 – 2 hours.
*Cutting into a fresh from the oven sourdough loaf is tempting, but try to resist! The warmer the loaf is when you cut into it, the gummier the inside texture will be!