Instructables

Sourdough Bread

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Picture of 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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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.

Step 2: Gather the ingredients

Picture of Gather the ingredients
Start by gathering all your ingredients. You'll need the following things:
1 c. sourdough starter*
6 c. bread flour**
3 c. water
2 t. salt
1/4 t. yeast

*information on sourdough starter is in the next step

** Bread flour works best, but all-purpose flour will also work out just fine. If you want a whole wheat loaf, you can substitute whole wheat flour in a roughly 1 to 1 proportion. I personally find that a loaf made of 100% whole wheat flour, especially flour I grind myself, a little too heavy for my family. Using 50% home-ground whole wheat flour produces a nice loaf. Some of the rise times might need to be adusted if your kitchen is cool.

Step 3: A Word about Sourdough Starter

If you don't have your own sourdough starter, there are a number of ways to get some.

You can find a friend who makes sourdough or keeps starter. If you start asking around, you might be surprised by how many people have sourdough starter sitting in the back of the fridge. You can buy a little kit of dry ingredients and mix up your own starter. Doing it this way will add some time because you'll need to let the starter get established before you use it.

Or, if you're feeling brave, you can try making your own starter from scratch. Here are two different methods that I've blogged about:
http://mysisterskitchenonline.com/2006/11/04/sourdough-starter/
http://mysisterskitchenonline.com/2007/04/18/sourdough-starter-redux/

Here are two Instructables for making sourdough starter:
http://www.instructables.com/id/Making-Sourgough-Starter/
http://www.instructables.com/id/Catching_wild_yeast_and_making_sourdough/

You can also buy sourdough starter from someplace like King Arthur Bread flour.

I've blogged about sourdough starters and suggest that you read a little bit about sourdough starters. The more you understand about sourdough starter, the easier it will be to use it. These posts should help you find your way around the sourdough neighborhood:

The Care and Feeding of Sourdough
What NOT to do with Sourdough

Step 4: Phase 1 - mix water and starter

Start by pouring two cups of room temperature tap water (not warm) into a very large bowl. Scoop out 1 c. of sourdough starter and stir it in. The starter likes being stirred up and aerated, so stir or whisk it together vigorously.

Take a moment to replenish your starter right now. If you're making one batch of sourdough and using one cup of starter, replenish with 1/2 c. water and 1 c. flour. If you're making two batches at once (which is what I usually do) you'll replenish the starter with 1 c. water and 2 c. flour. The proportion of water to flour is usually 1 part water to 2 parts flour. If the starter gets too thick or too thin, you can adjust according.

Step 5: Add yeast and flour

Stir in 1/4 t. yeast and 3 c. bread flour. Mix until smooth.

It's been brought to my attention that I should not need any commercial yeast at all if I'm using yeast-rich sourdough starter. That's true for me in the summer when my kitchen is 85 degrees. In the winter, my ambient kitchen temperature often stays around 55 degrees and I use that 1/4 t. for a little boost. Using only 1/4 t. means that the yeast flavor doesn't dominate the sourdough flavor.

Step 6: Phase 2: Add more water and the salt

Stir in the 3rd cup of water. Add the salt and mix thoroughly. The salt will slow down the fermentation. This is a good thing. The longer the sourdough takes to rise, the more sour the bread will be. If you're not comfortable with this much salt, you can reduce the amount. It will affect the flavor though, so experiment a little.

Step 7: Add the last of the bread flour

Stir in the remaining 3 c. bread flour. Stir until completely mixed. You do NOT need to knead this bread. The sourdough starter will actually do that for you. All those little yeasts get rowdy and over time inspire gluten fibers to form. This gives the bread its unique sourdough texture.

Step 8: Cover and let the sourdough do its work

Cover the bowl of dough with a towel and set aside in a draft-free place. Don't be jiggling the dough while it's doing its thing. Leave it alone. And then leave it alone some more. The bread dough needs to just sit and do its thing for 12-15 hours. When it's done, the dough will be bubbly and BIGGER than it was at the start. If the bubbles start to pop, then it's gone too long. It doesn't hurt to peek at it from time to time.

Sometimes you can see a little bit of clear liquid accumulating around the edges of the dough. This is actually a by-product of the fermentation process of the sourdough yeasts. The old miners called that hooch!

Now, let me make some disclaimers. First, if your kitchen is particularly warm or this is the middle of the summer, you might need to shorten this first rise time. If you notice the bubbles popping, then the dough ready for the next step. You CAN slow things down by refrigerating the dough at any point.

Step 9: Turning the Dough Out

Now it's time for the step that we call "turning out the dough." Start by sprinkling some more flour across the top of the dough. Then plunge your hands into the flour bin and get thoroughly floured up. Start by sweeping your hand around and under the dough in the bowl. Go stick your hand in the flour bin again. Scoop the dough up and over. Get a little more flour on your hands. Scoop and roll the dough over. It shouldn't take too many scoops and sweeps before the dough starts feeling elastic and practically alive! Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface OR a large piece of plastic wrap that has been sprayed with nonstick spray.

Now comes the less-fun part: washing out the bowl. I use a plastic grocery club card to scrape all the bits of dough off the bowl. After washing and thoroughly rinsing the bowl, dry it completely.

Step 10: Getting the dough ready for the second rise

The dough is ready for its second rise. You have two options. You can either oil the inside of the bowl so that the dough will roll out easily when it's time to put it in the oven.

Or, if you're feeling slightly less virtuous and green, you can just put the dough on the plastic wrap into the bowl. The dough will come off the plastic wrap easily because you sprayed a nonstick spray on it, remember?

Step 11: Cover and Let the Dough REST again

Yes, we're letting the dough rest. The sourdough still has not finished creating gluten fibers, so it needs a few more hours. Cover the bowl with a towel and set in a draft-free area. How long the dough rests will depend a lot on the room temperature. If your kitchen is fairly cool, you should let the dough rest another 4-5 hours. If your kitchen is warm, you'll want to keep an eye on things and consider baking the bread after only 2-3 hours.

Pay attention to the dough during this stage. The thing that you do NOT want is for the starter to consume all the available fuel (flour) in the dough. If that happens, the dough will collapse in on itself after rising. If you see signs of the dough starting to collapse--that means the bubbles are bursting and the center of the dough begins to sag a little--it's time to hustle that bread into the oven.

Step 12: Preheat the Pans

The type of pan you use is actually very important. The very best option is a heavy cast iron dutch oven with a cover. I also use a covered roasting pan made by Pampered Chef that I got from a thrift store for $7.

The key is the cover. You'll need a cover to create a miniature steam oven for the first 30 minutes of baking. I use pans that are 8 - 12 quarts in size. The pan should be at least 8 quarts in size. If you want to divide the bread into two smaller loaves because you only have smaller pans, everything stays the same in terms of baking time.

Another important feature to pay attention to is the sides. The sides of the pan need to be straight or tapering out. If the top of the pan is narrower than the widest part of the pan, don't use that that pan! You'll never get the loaf out.

Pyrex dishes work very well for this method of bread-making with one important caveat. If you set the heated pyrex on a surface with ANY moisture on it at all, the pyrex will explode, sending shards of glass everywhere. I blew up some of my best casserole dishes before I settled on my cast iron.

Turn your oven on to 450 degrees and stick the pan and cover in to preheat for 30 minutes.

Step 13: FINALLY baking the bread

Pull the pan out of the oven, being very careful not to burn yourself. Sprinkle corn grits or oatmeal on the bottom of the pan. This will keep the bread from sticking.

Gently roll the dough out of the bowl and into the pan. Pop the cover back on and put it in the oven. Bake at 450 degrees for 30 minutes.

Then remove the cover and bake for an additional 15 minutes. This will brown up the top of the bread.

After a total of 45 minutes, you'll carefully take the bread out of the oven and tip it out onto a cooling rack.

IF you can resist sneaking a slice right away, you're a far better individual than anyone who lives in MY house.

Step 14: Alternative Baking Option #1

The easiest way to bake this bread is in the oven of course, but there are two very workable alternatives that allow you go a little greener (although I'm a little leery of using the word "greener" in the same sentence as the words homemade bread.)

The first option can be done in the winter if you heat with a wood stove. In some parts of the country, heating with a wood stove is the most responsible way to heat a home. If that's you, consider using the heat in your woodstove to bake your bread.

You want to wait until the coals are very hot and the firebox of the woodstove is completely heated. Level the coals and set the cast iron Dutch oven in the coals. Place hot coals on top of the Dutch oven lid to provide heat from all sides.

The trickiest part of this option is that you'll need to figure out how long to bake it. You probably don't need to preheat the pan (that would just make this more complicated than it's worth.) Put the dough inside the pan and put the cover on. You will have to check the bread from time to time. Depending on how your woodstove is configured, you may want to leave the lid on the pan the entire time to avoid getting ash on the bread.

If your wood stove is VERY hot, it won't take a full 45 minutes. When you're checking your bread, use a quick-read thermometer (available for under $10 at a regular grocery store. You can sometimes even get a quick-read thermometer for $1 at the Dollar Store.) The bread will be done in the middle when the internal temperature is 185-190 degrees on the quick-read thermometer.

What you can't see about my Dutch oven in these pictures is that this pan has legs on the bottom. I maneuver around them when I bake in the oven, but when I bake in the woodstove or over coals those legs are extremely important. Although the pan nestles into the coals, the legs keep the pan from sitting heavily on the coals. This helps with temperature control.

This method of baking bread should really not be attempted by kids. The Dutch oven is heavy and maneuvering it in and out of the wood stove could be quite dangerous for a child. Even adults need to be very, very careful.

Step 15: Alternative Baking Method #2

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During the summer, using the wood stove is not very convenient (unless you live in someplace that is pretty much frozen year round.)

A second alternative to using your oven is to bake the bread inside a kettle-style grill. Get plenty of coals red hot. Set the Dutch oven in on top of them. Arrange coals on the lid of the Dutch oven. Put the lid of the grill on.

If the wood stove is likely to bake hotter than a 450 degree oven, the grill is likely to bake slightly cooler than a 450 degree oven. So keep track of the internal temperature of your bread with a quick-read thermometer. There's a balance here though. The more often you take off the lid of the Dutch oven, the more heat it loses. So don't check every two minutes or the bread will NEVER get done.

When you bake the bread on the grill, you can easily take the lid off for the last 15 minutes or so of baking as long as you put the domed cover of the grill back ON.

You can also bake your bread over a campfire. It's a little harder to get the coals hot enough, but it can be done. If you're baking on a campfire, be sure to pile plenty of coals on top of the Dutch oven lid. Do NOT take the lid off for the last 10 to 15 minutes of baking. The bread won't brown up on the top with no heat source over it.

Step 16: My DREAM method of baking sourdough

Someday, my dream is to have an outdoor bread oven to bake my sourdough. I have no photo of my own outdoor bread oven because I don't have one; it's still a dream. If I DID have one, it would look like this:

http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-build-a-Pizza-Oven/

The best thing about having an outdoor bread oven would be that I could invite my neighbors to all come bake bread WITH me, turning bread into a community affair.

Step 17: The final step: lots and lots of butter

Oops, did I just admit that?

The very best time to eat any bread is about 30 seconds after it comes out of the oven. The very best WAY to eat bread is with butter dripping off of it. Running over your fingers and down your arm. Dripping off your elbow.

Step 18: Actually, the REAL final step

Because this crusty sourdough bread is very, VERY inexpensive to make, it's also very easy to share liberally with friends and family. Remember, each loaf costs me roughly $0.68 to make. I probably give away four or five loaves (which weigh approximately 4.5 pounds each) of sourdough each week. I probably give away two baggies of starter each week.

Sourdough loaves are great for bartering too. I haven't met anyone who doesn't want a big loaf to take home.

Sourdough is definitely the gift that keeps on giving.

Happy Eating,

Barb Kelley
in My Sisters Kitchen
Tweeting as @Sisters_Kitchen
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really good :)
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just one word-impressive :)!!!!!!

HarryLaine13 days ago

impressive stuff :)!!!!!!!

love it sour

mgalgoci made it!18 days ago

I followed the recipe for the most part. I used a medium sized turkey pan with lid for baking, which worked out pretty well. I did NOT preheat the pan. I did however spear the pan with nonstick cooking spray (should contain dimethyll-silicone - release agent) and coated the sprayed area with uncooked grits.

The starter I made from wild yeasts. Absolutely NO commercial yeast was used. I basically took a flour/water mix as described in most how-to-make-sourdough-starter articles you will find on the internet. I did however leave it outside on the back porch on a warm night for a few hours, which is my own improvisation. Three days later of feed and care and the starter had attained self awareness. Note that you do not feed the starter sugar except maybe a teaspoon on the first day to get it going. You want your wild yeast culture to be adapted to consuming the starch and gluten present in the flour you will be using - thus, skip the sugar except on the initial start. Given how fast yeast produces you basically have controlled evolution happening in your wild yeast culture. Keep the culture covered and warm. I put a paper towel over my culture container and tied it with a string, keeping it in the garage.

Another tip I have for first time bread makers is to use bread flour. This is a hard lesson learned. All purpose flour is ironically not all purpose and will yield a bread loaf suitable for use as a doorstop. It doesn't matter how much yeast you add or how much sugar - you will end up with a doorstop.

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jorr7 made it!1 month ago

This is a fabulous recipe! My first time making sourdough bread was as huge success! I baked it in a cast iron skillet lined with oats as suggested. I didn't preheat the skillet or put a lid on it. I put a small pot of water into the oven while baking. The bake time is pretty much spot on! Everyone loved it and it was a special treat with Father's Day dinner! Thanks for the great instruction!

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Cynthia B2 months ago

best recipe I've ever tried for Sourdough. made it many times and it consistently turns out delicious!

Stmcgarret2 months ago

I followed the instructions and bread came out very good. I have made with different types of flour but bread flour worked best. Using mostly rye or wheat was too dense but still good none the less. Going to try a different ratio for my next batch.

jbloom22 months ago

My bread turned out better than I expected. It looked and smelled delicious out of the oven. It is really dense and very moist the second day. Nevermorefarm said they added 2.5 cups of flour before the second rise. I must have missed that part. Maybe I needed to add more flour. Should there be that much flour added? Thanks!

robinjohnson4 months ago

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?

Fancygrl685 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

tkmom645 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!

afitzgerald56 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.
kayo397 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?
amickelson7 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!
Jezirabid8 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!
nevermorefarm8 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 eating....zero waste for those times you don't give half of it away!
nevermorefarm8 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 rising...by 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!
sealtrain8 months ago
Great recipe well worth the wait!!!
cquintana210 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).
efish211 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!
Fishermom11 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!
BradOL1 year 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??
DaveineL1 year 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.

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 small...here's how they tell you to get it going... http://www.kingarthurflour.com/tips/sourdough-starter.html
kelemvor1 year 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? :)
Amyldawson I can get the page to let me do a direct reply...so 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.
amyldawson1 year 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?
***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.
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!
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