Super Easy No-knead Sourdough Bread

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Introduction: Super Easy No-knead Sourdough Bread

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This is my standard sourdough recipe that I bake almost every week. It is a no-knead recipe, so the taste to effort ratio is very high. Although the process takes about 16 hours, there is very little for you, the baker, to do. The yeast will do all the heavy lifting. In fact, most of the action will happen while you are fast asleep. The total active time to bake this bread is only about 20 minutes.

As this is a sourdough recipe, it requires a sourdough starter. If you do not have one, one can be purchased online, begged from a neighbor, or captured from the air around you. I won't go into details on capturing your own yeast, but you can find plenty of instructions online.

Step 1: Step 1: Mix the Ingredients

Ingredients:

  1. 16 oz Bread flour
  2. 300 grams filtered water
  3. 1/4 cup sourdough starter
  4. 1 tsp salt

Rather than doing a bunch of kneading, this recipe uses time to develop the glutton in the dough. Since we will be letting the dough rise for 12 hours, I like to start the dough the night before the day I will bake.

A quick note on sourdough starters:

I use equal parts water and flour when feeding my starter, which is stored in a mason jar with a piece of foil as a lid. To feed the starter I will dump out most of the jar, reserving about a tablespoon's worth. I then add 1/3 cup filtered water and 1/3 cup flour and stir with a spoon. It can then go into the fridge happily for a week. If I am baking, I will leave my starter at room temperature and feed it about twice a day. When pulling the starter out of cold storage, I like to feed it two or 3 times at room temperature to get the yeast really active before baking.

Mixing the dough(active time: 10 minutes)

  1. Dump the flour and salt in a large bowl or plastic container and mix together
  2. Fill a cup with 300g of room temperature filtered water
  3. Add 1/4 cup of starter. A healthy starter will float on the surface of the water. Stir in the starter with a spoon and and then dump the lot over the flour.
  4. Mix using a bread whisk or by hand until all ingredients are incorporated to an even consistency.
  5. Cover and let ferment for about 12 hours.


Step 2: Step 2: Forming the Loaf

After about 12 hours, the dough should have at least doubled in size and if you are using a clear container, you should lots of co2 bubbles. Now we can form the final loaf. But first...

A quick note on fermentation:

There are basically 6 factors that will affect how long the fermentation and glutton development takes for your dough

  1. time
  2. kneading and folding
  3. salt
  4. hydration
  5. temperature

In this recipe we are substituting time for kneading. . Because we are not kneading, we are compensating with extra time. Increasing the amount of salt in your dough will slow fermentation. A warmer temperature will speed up fermentation. More water(higher hydration) will speed up fermentation. The point of all this is that you have several factors you can play with. Without changing the work-ability of the dough and the taste of the bread, the easiest factor to play with it temperature. For example, if you know you are not going to be able to tough your dough for 18 hours, you may want to leave it in a cooler place so it will ferment slower. It's good to be aware of all these factors so when you make changes to a recipe, you will understand how it will affect fermentation times. The last factor which I didn't include in the list, is the amount of food available to the the yeast, which can vary by the type of flour(or also if you add sugar to feed the yeast)

Forming the loaf(active time: 5 minutes)

  1. Dump the dough onto a floured surface. I like to use a bread scraper to get it out of the container
  2. Gently push the dough into a flat rectangle
  3. Fold the dough lengthwise in thirds like an envelope(see picture)
  4. Fold the dough once vertically
  5. Put dough seam-side down. with one hand working the dough ball and one hand working bowl scaper at an angle, form into a tight loaf by pushing the scraper and dough ball together, rotating dough after each push. This will create a tight outer skin.
  6. Lift dough ball into floured banneton. I like to use rice flour, as it seems to be the most non-stick (protip: you can make rice flour by throwing some rice into a blender)
  7. Cover banneton and set aside for final proofing, about 2-3 hours



Step 3: Step 3: Proofing and Baking

After about 2 or 3 hours the dough should have risen a bit and be rather puffy. If you poke a finger into the dough at this point it will leave an indentation rather than springing back.

Baking the loaf(active time: 5 minutes)

  1. The oven and cooking vessel should be preheated to 500 degrees. You can use a le creuset, dutch oven, or a clay cloche. Mainly, you need something with a lid and a bit of thermal mass to hold heat. The dutch oven will essentially act like a steamer, keeping the moisture from the dough from escaping and creating a wonderful crust.
  2. The dough can be dumped directly into the dutch oven, but this is a tricky maneuver and a better way is to flip the dough over onto a piece of parchment paper and then gently lift the paper and lower into the dutch oven.
  3. I like to score an X into the top of the loaf which allows for controlled expansion or "oven spring".
  4. Place the lid back on and put your loaf into the oven. Reduce heat to 450 and back for 25 minutes with lid on.
  5. After 25 minutes, remove lid and continue to bake for another 25 minutes or so until the internal temp is around 208F. If you knock on the bottom of the loaf, it should sound hollow(don't do this when hot obviously)
  6. Set out to cool for at least one hour before eating(the hardest part)

Step 4: Step 4: Final Thoughts

I hope you enjoy making and, more importantly, eating this bread. I posted a video above so you can hear the fresh loaf crackle after it came out of the oven.

I find that sourdoughs like a fairly high hydration level. As you move to a higher hydration, you get an airy, bubbly crumb. As the hydration get really high, the dough is harder to work with and has trouble standing up so you end up with a flatter loaf. I think this recipe strikes a nice balance.


Final sidenote: temp control

I live in cool coastal northern California and for a while struggled with consistent fermentation. Finally, I built a temp controlled fermentation box out of an old cooler, a light bulb, and a temp controller and probe. Essentially, I set the temp I want and when it drops below that, the 60 watt light bulb turns on to warm things up. This has greatly improved the consistency of results with my bread baking. Also, if I know I need my ferment to go faster or slower, I will adjust the temp down or up a bit.

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28 Comments

My New Year's resolution this year was to learn to make good sourdough bread. It's November, and your instructions allowed me to fulfill that goal after a lot of failure and frustration throughout the year! The only thing I did differently was a cold start, set the oven at 475 and gave it 30 minutes with the lid on and another 30 with it off. Sorry i have no picture, but my loaf looks like yours and even crackled and snapped like in the video. Eating a piece right now--delicious, tender, moist, nice crispy crust. Thanks for sharing!

1 reply

That's great. I'm glad you had success!

May I post this link to your recipe on my Bread FB page. I made the dough yesterday, but did not bake it off yet. It is in a banneton in the fridge waiting for a morning bake. The dough was beautiful......thank you.

4 replies

After the 12 hour ferment, I pre-shaped, shaped, placed in banneton and put in the fridge. It was in the fridge for 15.5 hours and baked straight from the cold into a hot pot/hot oven. Thank you. Can't wait to see the crumb.

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Wow it looks great! I have been busy the last few weeks and have not baked, but this has inspired me.

I see that it is shareable.....I just shared the link to this page. Thank you :)

for those of us that don't (can't) weigh ingredients, please supply conversion of 300gm water and 16 oz to cups? Thank you

2 replies

Flour cups-to-weight is notoriously inaccurate, as the volume will vary greatly depending on how packed the flour is, but try this: http://lmgtfy.com/?q=how+many+cups+of+flour+is+one+pound

Thank you trimbandit, I agree and have ordered a cheap scale. I tried yesterday with 4 cups and the sponge is much too dry. Trying to figure out how much water to add. Haven't made bread for many years. Lots to relearn/remember.

It depends where you live! Where We live grams litres, standard size measuring cups and spoons ( Metric) are used ?

When I was a kid we were given a sweet starter named "Herman" with a set of instructions. We fed him, we ate him, we let him take over the bottom shelf of the refrigerator, until we divided him up and shared his offspring with several unsuspecting souls. Eventually he died and we were none too sad as we were done being his keeper.

The measurements above are a bit of a dog's breakfast with ounces, grams, cups and teaspoons. Generally, North Americans use cups and spoons for measuring both fluid and dry ingredients. Europeans use weight and volume using the metric system. It is the same in Britain but many cooks still use pounds and ounces along with spoons to measure. Trimbandit's reply below is right on the mark as far as bread making goes. Exact measurement enusres good results. But Sour Dough Bread went to the Gold Rush and mamma's scales left behind in San Fransisco. As long as you take good care of your starter Sour Doug Bread is fairly forgiving. That being the case, measurement by volume is perfectly acceptable for the above recipe. Sour Dough Bread was baked by grizzled old propectors who were hungry for a tasty loaf of bread and doubtless took little time from the 'moiling for gold' to attend to the nicities of exact measurement by weight. A cup, tablespoon- Tbsp., teaspoon - Tsp. and a pinch. of an ingredient was all the measuring their bread recipe needed. But in the interests of clarity -- there are plenty of websites that will give accurate conversions for recipe ingredients but for those of us with only a cup and a couple of spoons the following is useful: One teaspoon equals five grams or a sixth of an ounce dry weight. One teaspoon equals 5mL or 5cc of fluid measure. Four teaspoons equal one tablespoon. One cup equals close to a half pound dry weight, eight fluid ounces or 250ml/cc. So with that in mind 300mL equals one and a fifth cups. Or one cup plus two and a half tablespoon. Or 60 teaspoons. But why go through all that, get a good measuring cup. It will be marked in cups and fractions thereof alond with metric and imperial measures. Get set if measuring spoons too. Enjoy your bread without having to worry about conversions. And a good sour dough is hard to beat.

1 reply

Hah, yes my recipe is a hodgepodge of metric and imperial. My scale does both but 1lb flour and 300grams water are easy for me to remember since they are nice round numbers. I prefer to measure by weight whenever possible as it usually saves me from washing some measuring cups, especially for recipes with a lot of ingredients where I can add everything in one bowl and hit the tare button to zero out before each ingredient.

Wow, you treat your sourdough like a pet! Wish I had enough time to take care of it like you do. A funny thing in a region near my place, neighbours share sourdough around a feed it at their place to grow it. But the one making the first sourdough gives it a name and tells the name everytime it's passed around. So everybody knows which "mother" they are using and eventually who it comes from.

2 replies

And so one should. It was not unknow for the Sourdoughs, miners heading off to he Gold Rush, to carry their starter next to their body. That would ensure the starter arrived alive and in good condition ready for use.

Hah! My old starter was named, "Fred!"

Unfortunately, he died from neglect and the new starter I got from a neighbor a couple years ago did not come with a name.

Thanks for the pointer, I went to nextdoor.com a couple hours ago asking if anyone had some.