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.

Step 1: How in the World Does Sourdough Save Energy?

I'm glad you asked!

First of all, any time we prepare our own food instead of buying it at the supermarket, we're choosing a lower tech option.

*We start by saving the fuel cost of driving to the store to buy bread.

*We save the energy cost of the commercial manufacturing process of baking bread.

*We save the fuel costs of shipping commercial bread to stores.

*We know exactly what's IN our bread because we've made it by hand. There are no additives or funky unnatural ingredients.

*Every step of the breadmaking process is done by hand. We don't use mixers or blenders or any power-consuming appliances.

*We can even choose the option of baking our bread in the woodstove, on the charcoal grill, or over a campfire if we want to avoid using the oven.

*Both bread-making and the cultivation of sourdough starters have some great community implications. We're not in this alone. Just like the yeasts in the sourdough, we can permeate our communities with change.

*Best of all, anyone can make this bread. The average individual who is trying to live responsibly, minimize use of non-renewable resources, maximize use of renewable resources, and make small but significant changes can easily start making bread like this.

*Sourdough starter itself is a great example on a small scale of a renewable and renewing resource. The crock of starter sitting on the counter can remind you every day that small things make a difference.

So let's get started. This is much more of a method than a recipe. It's not difficult. The entire process takes several hours, but for most of that time, the starter does all the heavy lifting.
everyone seems to love your recipe :) I dove head long into it before realizing you add yeast. do you have any recipe variations that dont require yeast? <br>(i started the sourdough journey because I wanted to avoid adding yeast ;) )
<p>I love this recipe! My sourdough always comes out really yummy (it never lasts...) I don't use any added yeast because my sourdough starter is super active. I float it overnight in a bowl and make it in the morning, it's usually done by and out of the oven by 4 in the afternoon. Thanks for the recipe!!</p>
<p>It looks great,</p>
<p>It looks great</p>
<p>Hi Wheat free , but an article said Sour Dough was alright and since dinner to night was not complete because I still remember all the sour dough in California .My wife made the comment .Wonder if we could order the loafs frozen .Well I googled sour dough and landed here . So let try it hope it works in Denver .</p>
Hi! I noticed you are wheat free...how did the sourdough work out? My daughter is wheat/gluten sensitive and am looking to try this for her. Thanks for your thoughts!
<p>If you stretch and pull your sourdough over several hours, instead of kneading it, the gluten should break down quite a bit.</p>
Is it possible to make only with Wild yeast?
<p>I rarely add yeast to my sourdough. What I do is add a little more starter instead. </p>
<p>I wan to make this without the commercial yeast. Do I need to increase the amount of starter?</p>
<p>I make various sourdough recipes and when it calls for yeast, I've just added another 1/2 c of starter. I do let it rise longer than stated.</p>
<p>I use Kombucha for my starter</p>
<p>I have had a starter for years, and was out of town without my usual recipe to follow. Turns out this works way better. I still have issues with the bread ending up too dense, but the flavor was more sour (like I like it, with a bite!) and the crust was better than the way I have made it before.</p>
<p>I am new at this and I am wondering if you can freeze the dough and bake some later. I am Gary O</p>
Delicious! Thank you for the recipe. <br><br>For the 2nd rise, I put my bowl in the oven with the oven light on and it was perfect after 2 hours. <br><br>I used oatmeal on the bottom of two pyrex bowls, they came out beautifully. The crust is perfect. I also only preheated the bowls for how long it took for my oven to preheat. I figured since it's not cast iron, it didn't need that long to get hot.
<p>I've been making this recipe for about 2 years now and it is my favorite sourdough bread ever. Iv'e made it by following the directions exactly and by tweaking it (or forgetting something) and it is very forgiving and very delicious. If you do not do the hot covered pan step it is still good, just not crusty. This really is the best bread ever and the key to the bread universe. </p>
<p>Hi. The &quot;sourdough&quot; was a revolutionary turning point in my culture. We usually toss the dough if it smells like &quot;sour&quot;. I didn't know that the new flavor would be that &quot;extraordinary&quot;, yet simple, my family was amazed. Now we love and try everything new. Million THANKS.</p>
<p> Thank you for all of your tips! My sourdough bread came out crusty and brown!!!</p>
<p>I&rsquo;m brand new at bread making. Made my first loaf last night/early this morning. UPS <br>delivered my starter Wednesday evening (today is Sunday) and I stayed up <br>that night after dinner guests left and mixed it up. I&rsquo;ve been a slave to it ever since, setting <br>the clock to feed it, etc. I&rsquo;ve done <br>some things wrong but I keep reading that it is very forgivable. What I would love to know is once you get it <br>up and running, when in the world do you need to begin the process if you would <br>like to have a fresh loaf of bread to serve, say for dinner Saturday night, so I can <br>count backward and know when I need to begin the process? I&rsquo;ve lost so much sleep since I began the process I&rsquo;m beginning to wonder if I can do this. There&rsquo;s got to be a way because I haven&rsquo;t <br>read anything about sleep deprivation in your blog. Thanks for any tips you can give me. By the way, is this blog still active? All these posts are from 6 years ago?</p>
<p>great technique. I used my own starter from kamut flour, and made the bread with a combo of Pamela's bread flour, kamut, whole wheat, whole white wheat, and home sprouted spelt. It turned out great, and is in fact the first time I've had good luck with bread at all at our altitude of 5500'. I did have to replace the lid and bake for about 12 more minutes to get the interior done, but still delicious. Thank you!</p>
<p>A tip for cleaning out the bowl between 1st and 2nd rise - put a bit of water in with a generous amount of salt and sweep that slurry around the bowl. It will cause the dried up dough bits to fall away.</p>
<p>I've been making this for months now.............WOW! So good and soooooo easy. There is NO KNEADING and for someone with arthritic hands that is a major benefit. Even if there was I would still make this one first. Takes about 10 min prep and hours of rise so I usually start mine between 4-7pm. And have a fresh loaf about the same time the next day. My recipe varies a little in that I use about 7C of flour in the initial prep then another cup or more in the fold in prep. My family begs for loaves. Oh, and it only takes a 5qt dutch oven for me. Not the 8 specified. Once you get the hang of what is done, it whips together in no time. And one more thing. It comes out of the oven with a super crunchy crust but if you want the softer crust, place it in a plastic bag when still SLIGHTLY warm. This softens the crust.</p>
<p>You got me to thinking about making some bread again. I love sourdough because it has so much flavour. My method varies a bit from yours as I make a sponge with my starter the night before and then remove my starter for the following day. The next time I see a Dutch Oven I am going to grab it. Thanks for inspiring me.</p>
Oh, and I didn't have bread flour... So I used Pillsbury All Purpose with great success!
I've made this recipe several times and this is the best outcome yet. The flavor is always there but the texture has been everything from dense and heavy. to nice and airy with a good chew. This is one of those recipes that conforms to the vessel it is cooked in. I do not have the perfect pan to cook it in, so I experiment with various oven proof pans/pots with lids. I have cooked previous attempts covered, and this time I decided to say screw it. I doubled the recipe and used three loaf pans and one covered Dutch oven. Because the dough is so sticky I ended up letting them rise the second time right in the pans (with grits lining the bottom) and cooking the three loaves uncovered for the first 30 minutes. I then covered each with foil to finish them. The result was a perfectly crisp crust - especially on the three sides that were in contact with the pan. I definitely let it rise 15 +4 hours...and my sourdough starter was very active. I love the chew, sourdough tang, and air pockets in this batch... It is amazing bread. I have the covered Dutch oven loaf baking right now and I'm excited to see that result as well!
<p>I have been using this recipie for a couple years now and I love it! It couldn't be easier or more delicious. I have no idea what took me so long to say something, but I highly recommend this recipie. I typically make 3 or 4 loaves at a time, just because it is so time consuming, not because it's hard, cause it's not.....at all. I will say it freezes well. Having said that, I cant agree more with the author that there is nothing better in the world than this bread right out of the oven, with lots of butter. </p>
<p>I hope this isn't blasphemy, but... If I were to bake these in regular loaf pans, how many loaves would this recipe make? I don't have a dutch oven or a good pan/pot with lid. And I only have two bread pans, so it would be helpful to know if I need to cut the recipe down a bit. Thank you for sharing and I can't wait to try it!</p>
<p>I have been making this bread for a couple years now. It does not work the same without a covered 'something' because it needs the steam. I have tried all kinds of ways to keep steam in the oven but so much of it is lost in a standard household oven (a casserole dish of ice worked best). I would suggest finding anything you can cover (the heavier, the better) that the loaf pans will fit in.</p><p>Now, regarding the amount, this recipie doesn't rise very much again after you pour it into the pan to bake so keep that in mind. You will just need to make a batch and see, depending on the size of your bread pans, how much you need the good thing is, this is VERY inexpensive so you you have to throw a little away, it will only be pennies, literally. Hope this helps, let me know how the loaf pans turn out. </p>
<p>awesome work buddy .........keep it up</p>
<p>I had so much fun making this, and the bread came out wonderfully. The baking time was about 6 minutes shorter, but I think that is due to my oven rather than the recipe, so I am going to try reducing the temperature to 425 on my next try, which I'm starting in about 5 minutes. I might experiment with smaller sizes and different shapes as well. It seem the perfect recipe to adjust to any individual needs. Thanks for posting this!</p>
Can't wait to make this using White Lily flour!
<p>after trying a dozen different recipes, this is the best! my starter is just over a year old and the bread turns out better and better each time I make it --being in Vegas at 2,630 ft elevation I find adding olive oil at both rises gives the inside a moist &amp; chewy texture and the outside that great crust especially once toasted. getting a ceramic bread dome took it to the next level - I'm a San francisco native and couldn't be happier with the results - havent had to buy bread in over a year</p>
<p>Every time I try to make this recipe, the flavor is delicious, but the texture is weird-- The bread comes out feeling gummy and too wet, and I bake it to the point where the crust starts to burn. I've tried leaving the lid of my casserole dish on longer to let the middle cook more, but it hasn't helped. Why is this happening?</p>
This happened to me once when I practiced with a little less flour. I can be &quot;juicer&quot; with the initial rise; however, when you knead it through with added flour before the second rise, I found if the dough is more elastic, the cooked texture is perfect.
<p>Thank you! I've been baking this bread for 2 weeks and not one ops. Even ventured out of the box to bake roasted garlic and rosemary versions. This recipe is great for both learners and experienced.</p>
I've made this bread in various forms also; sliced pickle jalape&ntilde;o/cheese, rosemary/garlic, pizza dough, and olive breads. I give 1/2 away because the kids are out of the house. Each recipient is hopeful for their &quot;next&quot; turn.
<p>Has anyone had success incorporating some rye or other whole grain flour without making the bread far too dense? Also, Barb, you said this cost 68 cents per loaf. How's you figure that? Did you include the cost of cooking the break? </p>
<p>Great recipe. I used a 6 1/2 quart ceramic dutch over, and it was fine to use the smaller one. I had some questions. 1. Can you freeze the dough and save for later? 2. Can you freeze the bread? 3. When is it good to wrap and store the bread (at what point in the cooling process)? 4. HOw to store.</p>
<p>This is twice the amount of ingredients I have used - what size Dutch Oven are you using? </p>
<p>Great article and Ive got my starter out ready to try the recipe. Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us. I'll try to take a pic to post if these turn out.</p>
<p>i love this recipie</p>
<p>i like you work.</p>
<p>Good share:)</p>
<p>great light wieght and effective</p>
<p>Just a quick question. I'm European and not familiar with cups and so on. I do however understand that the 'c' in your recipe refers to cups. What does 't' stand for tho? Also, how much of that 1/4 t of yeast translates in to fresh yeast? I've never been a huge dry yeast fan.. :)</p>
<p>t stands for teaspoon. </p><p>T stands for tablespoon.</p>
<p><br><br>I have made this recipe three times, now, and it works like a charm. Here is my latest loaf for this recipe. I do not use yeast. I cooked this loaf in an ancient Club cast aluminum dutch oven that I bought at the resale store. As you can see, the loaf has nice &quot;ears&quot; and a nice &quot;crumb&quot;. I have only one &quot;complaint&quot;, each time, I make this, the crust is chewy, crisp, perfection, but I am not fond of the &quot;sponge-y&quot; texture of the inside of the loaf. Does anyone have a suggestion as to how to make the bread &quot;firmer&quot; on the inside? Add vital wheat gluten, perhaps? Any advice is appreciated because I love the ease of this method, and with a &quot;fix&quot; for the texture, I could call this &quot;the perfect loaf&quot;.</p>
I am using starter from King Arthur flour and it tells us to add more flour and water, after starter has been refrigerated, then wait for twelve hours to use it. Do you have to do this or, as it states in your instructions above, just feed it after using some, stick it back in fridge and the it is ready for use, as soon as it comes out of fridge. Hope so as the way the have us do is a real pain :) Thanks.<br>
<p>Has anyone tried it using 'small loaf pans' to result in sourdough rolls? If so, how did you do it? I'm going to try, but I can't quite figure out how to cover it the first 1/2 of cooking time.</p>

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Bio: I'm Barb, one of two sisters who live in two different states, cook in two different kitchens, and each raise our own families. In ... More »
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