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Are you looking for an easy sourdough bread recipe for beginners? Then you've come to the right place! In this blog post, I will explain you exactly how to bake sourdough bread step by step in the easiest way possible. Follow the instructions in this blog post and you can be sure that your bread will be a success!
Making sourdough bread requires a little patience and a little knowledge. If you are making sourdough bread for the first time, I recommend reading this blog post at least 2-3 times before jumping into the kitchen to bake it. It's important that you understand the process from the ground up.
In this blog post, I'll explain each step of the recipe to you in detail. Whenever you need to use a specific technique, you'll find a link to a YouTube video that shows you in detail how to use it. I recommend you watch these videos carefully.
You will see that once you are familiar with the process of making sourdough bread, it will be a breeze.
- Classic white sourdough bread
- How to make a starter
- Which flour should I use for my starter?
- Feeding and storing your starter
- Room and water temperature
- Quick step by step explanation
- Detailed step by step explanation
- Day 1, Step 1: Refresh the starter
- Day 1, Step 2: Make the levain
- Day 2, Step 2: Make the dough
- Day 2, Step 3: Strengthen the gluten network
- Day 2, Step 4: Bulk fermentation
- Day 2, Step 5: Pre shaping
- Day 2, Step 6: Final shaping
- Day 2, Step 7: Cold proof
- Day 3, Step 8: Preheat oven & cast iron pot
- Day 3, Step 9: Score the dough
- Day 3, Step 10: Baking bread
- Replace ingredients
- How to store sourdough
- Cooking equipment
- Top Tip
- More recipes you might like
- Leave a comment
- Pin this recipe
- 📖 Recipe/Rezept
Classic white sourdough bread
This recipe is perfect for people who are at the beginning of their sourdough journey. There are two reasons for this: the flours used are easily accessible and provide a dough that is elastic and easy to work with.
For this recipe, we use 80% organic white bread flour and 20% organic whole wheat flour. The white bread flour makes the dough elastic, while the whole wheat flour promotes fermentation and flavor of the bread.
In addition, The water content of this bread is low, that is, for 1000 g of flour we need 700 g of water. This means that this bread has a hydration of 70% which is considered low and ensures that the dough won't be too sticky. This is great for beginners who do not have much practice with baking bread.
To prepare this sourdough bread, we need only a handful of ingredients:
- Organic white bread flour (min. 13% protein)
- Organic whole wheat flour
- Starter (I assume you have a starter, if not, follow these instructions to make one).
- Sea salt
It's extremely important that the flours used are organic. Otherwise, they run the risk of containing pesticide residues that will kill the microorganisms of the starter.
If you use tap water, make sure it doesn't contain chlorine. Sourdough consists of microorganisms and chlorine kills them.
If your tap water contains chlorine you can boil it for 20 minutes and then let it cool completely. This will neutralize the chlorine and the water can be used for baking.
How to make a starter
To bake sourdough bread, we need a starter. A starter is a natural yeast made from organic flour and water.
I recommend using a starter made from white flour, whole wheat flour or rye flour that is at least 2 weeks old. Starters younger than 2 weeks are usually too weak to bake bread.
If you have an active and healthy starter in your refrigerator, you can skip this part and move on to the next step.
If you don't have a starter, I recommend reading this blog post and making one.
Which flour should I use for my starter?
A starter is made from flour and water. You can use different types of organic flour for the starter. I recommend the following: White flour, whole wheat flour or rye flour.
I advise you to choose the flour you make your starter with based on the climate you live in. If you live in a very hot place, I recommend using white flour because it ferments not as quickly.
On the other hand, if you live in a place with a mild climate, I recommend using either whole wheat or rye flours. These flours are less processed than white flour and contain more microorganisms, which makes starter fermentation easier.
Your choice of starter will also depend on the type of bread you want to bake, or your schedule and needs. If you want a faster starter with a strong earthy flavor, use rye or whole wheat flour. In case you want a slower starter, with a neutral flavor use white bread flour.
Once you have a starter, you can always switch it up by feeding it a different type of flour. If you have a white flour starter and need a whole wheat starter for a recipe, feed it 2-3 times with whole wheat flour and your starter will be ready to go. To learn more about switching your starter check out this article.
Feeding and storing your starter
I personally store my starter in the refrigerator and feed it once per week. In my experience, after 3-4 weeks without feeding it starts to mold. Starter + mold = trash. Of course we don't want that!
So try to refresh your starter once a week. To do this, take it out of the fridge, put 50 g starter, 50 g water and 50 g flour in a bowl and mix until combined. Allow the starter stand for 1 hour and then put it back in the refrigerator.
Room and water temperature
Before I start explaining how to bake sourdough bread, I must give a hint.
When making sourdough bread, the room and water temperature is extremely important because it directly affects the fermentation time of the bread. The warmer the room and water temperature, the faster the bread will ferment.
Therefore, I strongly advise against following recipes that specify fermentation times, as they can vary drastically.
So forget about the clock. When you make sourdough bread, you need to watch how the dough rises and changes.
To be able to keep an eye on the dough fermentation, I recommend using a clear glass baking dish (like the one in the photo below) so you can mark the height of the dough before it starts to rise. This way you'll always know exactly how far the dough has risen during bulk fermentation.
Quick step by step explanation
Before we get into a visual explanation of the process of making sourdough bread, I would like to explain roughly how the process works.
The preparation usually takes three days. It may sound like a lot of time but the active working time for the whole thing is only about 1 hour and 40 minutes.
On the first day the starter is strengthened, on the second day the dough is made, and on the third day it is baked.
Below I will explain roughly what needs to be done during these three days. Then follows a more detailed explanation with photos for each process.
Day 1: Refresh the starter & make the levain (active working time: 20 minutes)
On the first day we need to strengthen the starter. At 10:00 in the morning, we take the starter out of the refrigerator and start to refresh it.
In a bowl we mix 50 g of water, 50 g of starter and 50 g of flour. We put the starter in a jar and let it ferment for 4-6 hours. After 4-6 hours it should have doubled its volume (if not, it's too weak to bake, read this article to know how to strengthen it).
When it has risen nicely, we can refresh it again. We take 50 g of the starter and mix it with 50 g of water and 50 g of flour, put it in a jar and wait for it to double in volume (4-6 hours).
After 2 refreshings the starter is super active and we can make the levain. To do this, before we go to bed (around 22:00), we mix 75 g of starter, 75 g of water and 75 g of flour, stir it all together and put the levain in a large jar. We leave the levain to rise all night.
Day 2: Make the dough, strengthen it, let it rise and shape it (active working time: 1 hour)
Once the levain has doubled in size (plus minus between 6:00- 10:00 am) we can make the dough.
To do this, we mix flour, water and levain until everything is combined and no dry crumbs are left. Then we allow the dough to rest for 30 minutes. During this time, the flour will absorb the moisture, making the dough less sticky and more elastic. This process is called autolysis.
Once autolysis is complete, we add the salt and a little more water and knead the dough until everything is well mixed. The salt will make the dough more compact and less sticky.
Once the dough is formed, we start to strengthen it. Using the technique of stretching and folding and laminating, we strengthen the gluten network of the dough. I know this may sound complicated but don't worry, watch the linked videos and you'll see it's not difficult at all!
When the dough is strong enough, we put it in a moistened glass baking dish and allow it to rise until its volume has increased by 40%-50%. Depending on the room temperature, the bulk fermentation time can last from 3 to 8 hours.
Next, we place the bread loaves in proofing baskets and cover them with plastic wrap.
Then we put the bread in the refrigerator, in the lower and cooler part, and let it cold proof overnight.
Day 3: Score the dough and bake it (active working time: 20 minutes)
The next day we preheat the oven and a cast iron pot at 250 °C (500 °F) for 40 minutes. Once hot, we put a loaf in the pot, score it, and bake it for 40 minutes until the bread is golden and crispy.
We repeat the process with the second loaf and then let the bread cool completely before cutting and serving it.
Detailed step by step explanation
Now that we have read a rough explanation of how to make sourdough bread, I would like to go into the details of each step by explaining them more precisely and presenting them with photos. Let's start with day 1.
Day 1, Step 1: Refresh the starter
If we want to bake sourdough bread, we must first strengthen the starter.
The starter must be extremely active when we start baking. Therefore, we take it out of the refrigerator first thing in the morning and we refresh it three times. I usually do the first feeding at 10:00 am, the second at 4:00 pm, and the third at 10:00 pm.
Refreshing the starter means feeding it. To do this, we take 50 grams of flour, 50 grams of water and 50 grams of starter, mix them well and let them ferment for 4-6 hours until the mass of the starter has doubled.
Then we discard ⅔ of the starter and repeat the process, i.e. we mix it with 50 grams of flour and 50 grams of water and let it ferment until it doubles.
Day 1, Step 2: Make the levain
We feed the starter for the last time before going to bed, around 21:00-22:00 pm. In this case we take 75 grams of starter, 75 grams of water and 75 grams of flour and mix everything until combined.
We allow the mixture to ferment at room temperature until the next morning. This third dough is also called levain or poolish and is the first form of our sourdough bread.
The next morning, when the volume of the levain has doubled, we can start making the bread.
Important: This is how I get the best results. If you know your starter and think that 3 feedings are too much, you can do less.
Day 2, Step 2: Make the dough
On day 2, once the levain has doubled in volume (between 6:00 and 10:00 am), we can start making the dough.
To do this, in a large bowl we combine organic white bread flour, orgaic whole wheat flour, water and levain until no dry crumbs are left.
We mix everything until all the flour is incorporated into the dough (as shown in the photo above). Don't worry if the dough looks like a mess, it's totally normal.
Next, we cover the dough and allow it to rest for 30 minutes (autolysis).
After 30 minutes, you'll see that the dough will be elastic and easier to work with.
At this point we add the salt and a little water. We knead the dough until incorporated. The dough will go from sticky to compact due to the addition of salt.
Next we form the dough into a ball, cover it and allow it rest for another 30 minutes.
After a 30 minutes rest, the dough should look smooth, shiny and elastic (like the photo above).
Day 2, Step 3: Strengthen the gluten network
At this point we begin to strengthen the glow network of the dough.
To do this, we perform two series of stretch and folds, separated by a 30-minute break.
If you don't know how to do stretch and folds, I recommend watching this video.
To further strengthen our dough, we laminate it. If you prefer an audio-visual explanation, I recommend watching this video on lamination.
Laminating a dough is quite simple.
We carefully pull the dough apart on a moistened work surface until the dough is very thin and almost tears (as you can see in the photo above).
Then we fold one side towards the center.
After that, we also fold the other side towards the center.
Then we fold the dough into a small "dough package".
At the end of lamination, the dough should look like this.
Day 2, Step 4: Bulk fermentation
After laminating, we seal the edges of the dough and set it in a moistened glass baking dish.
We press the dough on the bottom of the baking pan so that we can mark the height of the dough on the side of the pan (with a piece of tape or a glass marker). This will allow us to clearly see the rise of the dough.
When the dough has increased in volume by 40%-50%, we can proceed to the next step. Do not allow the dough to overproof or your bread will come out flat as a pancake!
Day 2, Step 5: Pre shaping
When the dough has risen about 50%, we transfer it to a lightly floured working surface.
Both work techniques work fine.
Once we have pre-shaped the dough, we can cover it with a cloth and let it rest for 15 minutes.
Day 2, Step 6: Final shaping
Giving the dough its final shape is very important, because it is the last chance to strengthen the dough and thus prevent it from losing its shape during baking.
I leave here a video that explains the process in detail (2:45-5:00).
We start by flipping the dough over on a lightly floured surface. Then With our hands we flatten the dough slightly and form a rectangle.
Then we pull the dough from the long side and fold it towards the center.
We do the same with the other side, but this time we pull the dough so that it covers the already folded side.
Then we roll the dough into a ball.
With our fingers, we seal the edges of the dough.
We take 2 proofing baskets and dust them with rice flour, tapioca flour, or even cornstarch (I recommend using only cornstarch if you don't have either of the other flours).
We put the dough in the proofing basket so that the top is in direct contact with the bottom of the basket and press the dough lightly so that it fills the mold.
Day 2, Step 7: Cold proof
Once the dough is in the proofing basket, we have two options.
The first one, which I prefer, is to cover the dough with plastic wrap and let it rest in the bottom part of the refrigerator for a night.
At cool temperatures, the yeast produces carbon dioxide more slowly so that the microorganisms have more time to develop a more complex combination of flavors.
Don't put it in higher areas of the refrigerator, because it's usually too warm there and you'd risk overfermenting the dough.
The second option we have is to preheat the oven (as described below) and bake the bread the same day. However, I do not recommend this because the taste of the bread will be rather bland/boring.
Day 3, Step 8: Preheat oven & cast iron pot
The next morning, between 8:00-14:00, we heat the oven and the cast iron pot at 250 °C for 40 minutes. The pot must be extremely hot for the bread to bake properly.
I recommend using a cast iron pot like this one because it mimics a baker's oven well and it doesn't cost too much. A cast iron pot allows to keep the moisture of the dough in the first baking phase. This allows the bread to increase in volume before it forms a crust that is too hard.
Day 3, Step 9: Score the dough
Once the pot is hot, we take it out of the oven, open it and put a sheet of baking paper inside. Next, flip a loaf onto it.
Then score it using a razor blade or sharp knife. The cut should be made at a 45° angle. If you want to see how to do this, you can watch this video (13:20-13:30).
Using a knife to score the dough is not really recommended because a knife is never sharp enough for this, but if you don't have a razor blade, it's better than nothing.
Day 3, Step 10: Baking bread
Once we have scored the bread, we cover the pot with the lid and bake the bread for 20 minutes at 250 °C (500 °F).
After 20 minutes, remove the lid, lower the oven temperature to 220 °C (440 °C) and bake the bread for another 20 minutes.
After the first 20 minutes, the bread should look similar to the picture above. The bread has risen nicely but is still very pale.
After baking, the bread should be golden and crispy, as in the picture above.
Once the bread has cooled completely, we can slice it.
The crumb should be light and soft, as in the photo above.
This recipe is intended for for beginners. Before you start changing the ingredients, I strongly recommend you to try this recipe several times with the exact same ingredients until your bread is perfect.
Once you are comfortable with the process and your sourdough bread turns out well several times in a row, you can experiment with different flours, different amounts of water, etc.
Before that happens I don't recommend changing anything.
I don't recommend changing any ingredients as this easy sourdough bread recipe is for beginners. The only variation you can experiment with is the length of the cold proof.
The longer the dough rests, the more sour and less fluffy it will be. This is because as the dough ferments, the microorganisms destroy the gluten network. The gluten network makes the dough elastic and airy, the more this is broken the more sour and less airy the bread becomes.
However, this fermentation also brings advantages: The bread becomes more intense in taste and easier to digest. This is especially interesting for people who do not digest gluten well.
If you want a slightly sour and airy bread, let the dough rest in the refrigerator for about 12 hours.
If you want a more sour bread that is easier to digest but also less fluffy, you can extend the resting time to 24-36 hours.
How to store sourdough
With this easy sourdough bread recipe you will make two loaves of sourdough bread. If you don't eat them right away, you can put them in an airtight container and freeze them.
Thaw them overnight in the refrigerator. To reheat, preheat the oven to 180 °C (360 °F), moisten the surface of the bread with water and bake for about 20 minutes until it is nice and crispy.
Let it cool briefly before cutting into pieces and serving.
To make sourdough, I recommend having the following equipment:
Even if your first loaf doesn't turn out perfect, don't be discouraged! Every time you make this recipe, you will learn something new and realize what you need to improve or do differently to get better results. Don't get disheartened, keep trying and you'll soon be baking fabulous loaves!
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