Sourdough Bread

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The. Best. Sourdough Bread. Ever. (or The Key to the Bread Universe)

The first time I ever had this great bread was in my sister-in-law's kitchen. I thought I was eating some artisan bakery bread when she casually mentioned that she had made it herself. I've made a lot of bread over the years but I've NEVER made bread like what I was eating. The world of bread changed at that moment for me. Two years ago I wrote a lot about sourdough on my blog, My Sister's Kitchen. Since then, with a lot of practice almost daily, my recipe and technique has been perfected--at least for MY kitchen! (If you want to read more about my sourdough journey, please feel free to check out My Sister's Kitchen.)

I had resigned myself to simply buying good, crusty sourdough since I never even came close to replicating the famous San Francisco sourdough loaves I ate as a child. But no longer~! For over two years now my kitchen counter has been lined with many bowls of starter, batter, dough, etc. (Dr. Seuss aficionados should think, Bartholomew and the Ooblek.) My entire kitchen has been taken over by this wonderful project. So far, the results have been overwhelmingly excellent!

A very important detail to note is that this method makes extra large loaves that are approximately 4.5 pounds each. Each loaf costs only $0.68 to make. That is sixty-eight cents. I buy flour and yeast in bulk, so it's possible that if you buy your ingredients at a regular grocery store, your loaf might cost twice that....a whopping $1.36! As you'll see, that's for a loaf that's about 3 times the size of a loaf of grocery store bread.

(And don't be intimidated by all the steps. I've broken things down into as simple increments as possible because this is really EASY!)

In some ways, sourdough starter is the ultimate renewable resource because it's ALIVE! I was coaching a friend through her first bread-making experience and explaining how to care for her starter. She turned to me and said, "You're talking about this starter like it's a live creature!" And she's right. It IS a live critter. As long as I keep it comfortable and well-fed, it will go on growing, replicating, and replenishing itself.

The art of making sourdough bread is a delightful exercise in returning to the "olden days" of some of the original DIYers--the gold miners and the pioneers. Sourdough isn't a new, green technology; it's an old, even ancient, technology that has sustained people for milennia. Making our own sourdough returns us to an age of LESS technology and LESS speed. Don't forget: LESS money too!

Sourdough bread, made properly, ambles slowly in a world that frantically runs. It might even ask for a tall glass of sweet tea and a rocking chair on the porch.

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Love the little tang taste in it

Not sure what I did wrong but mine turned out flat and dense and tough. Flavor is good, but the texture and density is all wrong. It never rose into a pretty round loaf while cooking. Question: It was soooo thin when making it that I thought I must have forgotten a cup or two of flour - it was almost pourable! It rose well on the first rise and seemed to rise okay on the 2nd rist (about 4 hours). What did I do wrong?

Fancygrl682 months ago

I just made BOTH starters (the one with yeast and the one w/o) as an experiment. I'm REALLY excited about this! I Also have an order of grain to ill coming in in the next couple weeks. I guess I'm super into this baking thing. =-D

tkmom642 months ago

First - let me say that I worship this recipe...have made it several times!

HELP: I started my dough yesterday morning and after digging out from lots of snow I made my husband take me to dinner and completely forgot about my dough until this morning! So...needless to say it was a little flat and thinned out but I don't think it is dead. I added more flour to feed it and thicken it up and had to put it in the refrigerator and head out to work. Anyone think there is a chance of survival and sourdough for dinner? Thoughts on the what to do when I get home....looking at the second rise I guess!

afitzgerald52 months ago
Love this recipe. Would love a version of this with just the recipe now that I've got this down and don't need the details.
kayo394 months ago
Thank you so much! I was having such a hard time getting sourdough bread that worked. I even purchased some starter from Nichol's Gardens in Oregon thinking it must be my starter. But still, using other recipes my bread was coming out doughy and heavy. Its the 15 hour rise. Really makes a difference. Our house is cool in the winter too, but it rose just fine. I split the dough in two though after the first rise because I don't have a pot that big. But I have two old Magnalite Dutch ovens with lids and those worked fine. I would like to try this on my pizza stone though as a batarde, maybe putting my long roasting pan lid over it will work. Does it work to have a cake pan of boiling water on the bottom rack and skip the lid idea?
Does the recipe have to be this big? Can make halve the recipe?
amickelson4 months ago
This has been my favorite recipe - amazing sourdough flavor. I've proofed it warm/fast, as well as the recommended 15 hours... Way better flavor as mentioned before to proof cooler and slow. In the previous attempts, mine didn't do well when I transferred to the preheated pan (deflated) so this time I just did the second rise in a greased Calphalon pan with cornmeal on the bottom. After the rise, I preheated the oven and covered it, stuck the whole pan in.... The bread and crust came out crunchy and perfect! One day I'll perfect the turn...Maybe once I get a pan that's the right size!
Jezirabid5 months ago
Just came across this recipe the other day, as I was making my first batch of sourdough starter... the oven's heating, and I'll let ya know what I think when it's done!
nevermorefarm5 months ago
One more thing....this is a lot of bread to eat in one day. Around 24 hours out of the oven, I slice the remainder of the loaf and place the slices into a ziploc bag, then into the refrigerator or freezer. This preserves the bread, and I make toast out of the slices before waste for those times you don't give half of it away!
nevermorefarm5 months ago
I've made this recipe at least a dozen times now, and am completely in love with it...but I've worked a few tweaks that (for me) save time and hassle. A cast iron dutch oven works great but is very heavy for me to manipulate. A clay lidded oven (vintage Oven Brique)I found in a thrift store gives 95% as good results and is a fraction of the weight...just soak it as directed in water, then place it in a cold oven to preheat. I own a Kitchen Aid. This mixer can be used to make the initial dough with the beater blade and the pour shield (keeps the flour from launching out). For the first rising, I use a ceramic bowl covered with saran wrap. If you oil the saran wrap, no dough will stick to it, saving hassle. After the first rising, I transfer the dough back into the Kitchen Aid bowl, again fitted with the beater blade. It basically takes almost exactly three cups more of flour to get the dough to the proper consistency before the second adding a quarter cup at a time, the Kitchen Aid does all the work (Yes it's not purist, but I have bad wrists and this is a lifesaver for me). Obviously you have to use "feel" to determine how much flour to add based on ambient humidity, but 2.5 cups is going to be an almost guaranteed minimum. Don't use a credit card to scrape the dough from the ceramic bowl; just clean it up immediately with hot water. An ordinary silicone spatula will scrape all the dough out of the bowl. Once clean, oil it lightly with olive oil for the second rising. The before the second rising, regarding the last three cups of flour, substitutions can be made...I add in one cup of stone milled spelt flour and one cup of rye flour in place of bread flour at this point, which gives the loaf great flavor complexity while still retaining incredible texture. I don't have a proofing setting on my oven. On warm days I place the bowl covered with saran wrap and clean towels in a sunny location outside. On cold days I place a heating pad in my oven set on "high" which lets the oven be a great location for rising the dough.
I am a farmer who raises heritage grains. Today I'll be trying to make this recipe with 100% Sonora wheat flour that I milled yesterday....can't wait to taste that loaf!
sealtrain5 months ago
Great recipe well worth the wait!!!
cquintana27 months ago
By "t" is teaspoon or tablespoon meant?
Poincy2 years ago
Thank you so much. I just finished my first loaves of bread and they really are amazing. I am assuming that the flavor will become stronger as the starter "matures". I have a proofing setting on my oven. What is you opinion on using it with this bread?
I've never encountered an oven with a proofing setting. If it creates a warm (not hot!) environment, your bread will rise faster.

If you do a colder proof, you get a very slow rise with more flavor (bacterial growth is favored at lower temperatures).

If you do a warmer proof, you get a faster rise (yeast growth is favored over bacterial in warmer temperatures).
efish28 months ago
How big of a bowl do you use? The biggest glass or crockery bowls I have are 4-qt, and I wasn't sure it would fit properly. I used an 8-qt tupperware instead, and didn't think it ever looked like it got half-way full.

Great recipe and instructions, by the way. I've always been too intimidated to try making fresh, yeasted bread without using a bread machine. I have my first batch finishing off in the oven right now, and it's been very easy to follow your steps. Thank you!
Fishermom8 months ago
Thank you for your awesome instructions! I had success making two loaves of sourdough bread using the starter my hubby and I started last week. I had a bit of fear and trepidation but alas, for naught because the bread turned out beautifully and quite yummy. Thanks again!
BradOL9 months ago
If I preheat my glass/corning pan & cover at 450 degrees for 30 minutes, won't it crack when the dough goes into it?
My bread came out strange... the batter was very "wet"... it never quite got to that fully stretchy stage. The bottom crust is rock hard... but if I cut it off the bread tastes pretty good. I used less salt -- forgot that I always use unsalted butter so it needs a sprinkle of salt before eating. It is very moist even though the bottom crust is rock hard. It never did rise much, but my starter would never rise much either, even though it bubbled good and tasted sour. What do you think I did wrong? PS. The bottom hard crust is on the verge of being burned.. maybe a lower oven temp??
DaveineL10 months ago

California “bread” and born, my three favorite things about my home state is the citrus, avocado and San Francisco Sourdough Bread! . . . *Earned spending money when my children where small by making and selling bread and pasta. . . Always, always, always looking for and never finding a sourdough recipe that even resembled the chewy, rounded wharf staple wafting over the bay area ... that is until now AND I think it's even better! (Confirmed by my family who consumed that 4 ½ lb loaf in half the time it took to make it - LoL) I am still struggling with the turning part of the bread though ... I am used to kneading in enough flour to get the look and the feel (the shine and the bounce) but you seem to have something else in mind here ... wish I could see it on video or drop by someone’s house at bread turning hour to observe someone who actually knows what they are doing :) Any clarification on the subject would be appreciated. Thank you so very much for sharing this wonderful recipe ... Can't wait to get the "feel" so I too can perfect it for my friends and family.

BurningSkies11 months ago
Kelemvor, how much is 'not a lot'? I usually give away about a cup, but you can get by with just a few ounces. If you do have about a cup, use the standard directions without discarding any (one cup of flour and half a cup + of H2O...). If you have a small amount I'd start by cutting the feed amount half and building it up to a larger quantity by feeding it a few times. King Arthur sells theirs in 1oz jars, which is pretty's how they tell you to get it going...
kelemvor11 months ago
So we got some sourdough starter from a friend. What do we need to do with it to start? There isn't a whole lot so I'm assuming we have to get it bigger before we start making any bread. Do I want to do what's written in that Care and Feeding link?

Any other tips for a first timer? :)
BurningSkies11 months ago
Amyldawson I can get the page to let me do a direct it's going up here... the covered baking works best, but there are some other options. Bouchon suggests having a pan filled with stones and chains preheated and splashing or spraying water on them before baking . You can also use a spray bottle and spritz the top of the dough before it goes in. I've also learned that I add some crushed ice between the sides of the dutch oven and the parchment paper and it works perfectly to generate some initial steam while baking, giving the crust a nice shiny appearance. I don't think just a pan with water underneath works that well.
amyldawson12 months ago
This is an excellent recipe! I'm making my 2nd batch. I am using a wild yeast starter so I didn't add any extra yeast (the weather is really warm right now). Can someone tell me how I could use this recipe to make sourdough loaves? I have the sourdough loaf pans (holds 2 loaves of bread) but the dough seems a bit loose for me to use them (they have vent holds). Also, I would have no way to cover them up, but thought a pan of water in the bottom of my oven would work. Any recommendations?
BurningSkies12 months ago
***And a quick follow up to my earlier post:
Also, I have gotten less afraid to add a bit of salt...The recipe calls for 2 tsp, and I usually use about 2.5. Seems to make the bread taste better (it was a little flat tasting with only 2). It doesn't seem to impact the overall rise or quality of the fermentation. What else...I use a bit more water than the recipe calls for, probably less than a quarter cup more added to the last step to adjust the wetness of the finished dough. In the first step of mixing, I use a whisk and VIGOROUSLY whisk the water and starter until its light and very foamy/bubbly. Don't be afraid, the yeast/starter LOVES air and you'll have better rises from it.
BurningSkies12 months ago
I've been using this recipe weekly for the past month. I've also gone through a number of others, including the King Arthur Flour recipe, and the Bouchon recipe. This one is by far the least fussy to produce and the most successful. I've done it both with and without added yeast with success. I use a 4 quart Le Creuset dutch oven (oval) and a 3 quart round Le Creuset for 'half loaves'. They both are plenty big, and can produce a loaf that's TALL enough to use for sandwich bread. I've also tried both all purpose flour and bread flour. All purpose works well but you don't get the same 'crust action' on top with it. I let mine rise for 12-14 hours @ 55* and 12hrs @ 65. It comes out very light and fluffy with big air pockets that home bakers seem to want. My REAL secret is after you 'turn out' after your first rise, LINE YOUR BOWL WITH PARCHMENT PAPER and return the dough. Then once it proofs, you can just lift it out and into your baking vessel very gently. It won't deflate and will stay fluffy and light.
Msalle1 year ago
After the long rise, which I ended up putting it in the fridge for several hours overnight so I didn't have to wake up and make bread in the middle of the night, there was a dry crust over the top. It seemed really dy. it was nice and moist underneath but those little dry pieces are now mixed in, hopefully it won't be a problem. Last rise happening now. Didn't see tons of bubbles or liquids though so concerned it won't turn out. Thoughts?
xrhodie1 year ago
Hallellujah!!! My quest for a rockin' sourdough bread recipe is over! Thank you sooo very much... made my first loaf, today... it is awesome!!! ...and to the mean spirited poster - magicentral - go get yourself a life... this recipe was posted with love... and must have taken quite some time.. sure allowed me to make AWESOME bread... and if you disagree with the author... on such a stoooopid point... eat a nice pill... politely point it out... and move on... if I can find out how to vote... I'll vote this recipe as FIVE stars!!! Thanks, once again!
dinosb1 year ago
I didn't notice anyone else respond to your comment but I do not suggest that you continue to use the fina "cake" flour...different types of flours have different gluten content and higher gluten makes chewier bread ....cake flour/pastry flour is lower gluten..all purpose would be medium and bread flour would be higher so technically all purpose would be a better choice for you than cake flour (and probably cheaper) which is taking your gluten content in the opposite direction ...sometimes if I lack bread flour i will use all purpose flour with about a 1/4 teaspoon of vital wheat gluten per cup of flour used to increase the gluten content...I have made this recipe with bread flour and it comes out fantastic...the gluten forms very well if you follow the instructions and I assume it would come out pretty close with all purpose as well. Hope that helps some and I plan on posting some pics of the next loaves i make if i remember.
tcr1 year ago
Wonderful, clear instructions; thank you! I am new to this and have just revived my first dry starter and am ready to bake my first batch of sourdough! I'm in Portugal and everything is just a bit different, including finding baking products. Strangely, I can only find fresh yeast (refrigerated, foil-wrapped cubes). Do you think this would be a problem and, if not, what would be the conversion? Also, I cannot find anything labeled "bread flour" so have purchased simple, "fina" (fine) flour "para bolas" (for cakes). Will this be a problem? Thank you again for this wonderful site. Excited to start baking!
Ok. Loaves are out and I will tell you that this is a great recipe. It was necessary that I adjust a few things. My starter must be a bit more loose than yours as I used 3 cups each of wholegrain and bread flour. I ended up adding one more cup after the overnight rise.
I do not have access to a pan like yours. Therefore, I used a flat baking sheet lined with baking paper and polenta (we do not have cornmeal here) I then put a broiler pan filled with water on the bottom of the oven while it was pre-heating. I put the loaves in (at 200°C Fan Forced oven) leaving that pan of water in to produce the steam. It worked well and the loaves are sour and have a perfect chewy crust and colour. Thanks so much.
Am using your recipe now. It is night here in AU (and Summer) I already have my own starter. I shall check back tomorrow and let you know how this great recipe turned out. Thanks.
m2crabby1 year ago
So, I'm on my 4th loaf.... And this is the BEST recipe EVER!!! My starter was already pretty top-notch, and I have made other loaves of sourdough using other recipes, but this is by far, the whole family's favorite. I let it rise 13 hours overnight, 2nd rise is 3 hours. I add 1/4 tsp of citric salt. I use my grandmothers old 4qt cast iron dutch oven. I bake at 350 instead of 400, maybe my oven runs hot? Anyway, so perfect! Thanks for the wonderful, easy recipe!
cwiens11 year ago
Oh my goodness! Thank you SO much for finally providing a step by step instuctable for my most favorite bread! I live at high altitude and have thus far been terribly disappointed in all my previous bread baking attempts. My first try following your instructions made wonderful bread (2 smaller loaves) which I baked in a cast iron dutch oven. My kids came home from school asking what smelled so good! Thank you! I will be making many more in the months to come.
My 1st attempt at this turned out GREAT! Two things I did different: During second rise, I separated into two 9.25 x 5.25 loaf pans, preheated to 435 with pan of water in bottom of oven (humidity raises the overall oven temp), covered for 30 mins, uncovered for 15 min - VOILA! Getting ready to start the second batch today for tomorrow!
dmaui1 year ago
I think I may have jumped the gun on this one. My starter is onky 2.5wks old but is alive and kicking & smells wonderfully sour. I thought I would get started on a loaf but I don't have a dutch oven or cast iron skillet. I have a couple Pyrex dishes but no lids..was gunna attempt foil but after reading some comments that idea no longer sounds promising. & I'm afraid my Pyrex might explode :/ Was thinking I could use a few loaf pans -- again with foil? or mayb my loaf pans and put them inside my heaviest pot that has a lid? Or mayb just the stock pot by itself? I'm on my first rise and was hoping to bake tomorrow but I might be a little too optimistic and might have to start over another day :( Anyone tried other methods with this recipe? I didn't realize it was too wet a batter to put straight onto a pan and free form it. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated--tnx! This recipe looks and sounds awesome!
eyesee1 year ago
kjepson1 year ago
If my sour dough didn't produce a nice brown crust, could my coven temp be off?
stivo85411 year ago
What kind of yeast did you use? Instant or Active dry yeast? If active dry yeast then why did you omit the proofing step? Your bread looks amazing! Hope to hear from you soon.
magicentral4 years ago
I love this instructible and hope to eventually try it, but I hesitate in voting because I still don't see how it saves energy. Unless you are using local wheat, locally ground etc. it is still, aside from being cheaper, not that green. Maybe you will get one of my votes if you can better explain...
Truth is reading your comment you are difficult ! Nothing could please you even if she walked 100 Miles to the Store and sat on the dough to make it rise , some people are impossible to please because they just want to be negative you are one of them. Ease up and stop being ridiculous not like you had your arm twisted to come here . Keep your vote you need it!

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