Step-by-Step Instructions on How To Bake Sourdough Bread
So you're finally ready to bake your very own sourdough bread! Below is a super easy sourdough recipe that will produce a great looking loaf that will taste delicious. The ingredients for sourdough is simply flour, water, salt and yeast (that's your sourdough starter with yeast that you've created from the dried starter flakes in your complete sourdough starter kit).
Sourdough Bread Recipe
- In a bowl, add 150 grams (2/3 cup) of very active sourdough starter (make sure it’s nice and bubbly) to 350 grams (1 + 1/3 cup) of room temperature water. Mix well so the sourdough starter is well distributed throughout the water.
- Add the starter-water mixture to 500 grams (3 + 2/3 cup) of bread flour and 10 grams (1.5 tsp) of fine salt (non-iodised) and mix with the dough whisk. Make sure there is no dry flour left in the bowl.
- At this stage the dough will be a sticky, shaggy mess. We need to leave it for 30 minutes to ensure all of the flour has time to fully hydrate (this is called the ‘autolyse’). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap during this stage.
- Now it’s time to knead, but not in the traditional sense as sourdough is quite a wet dough and it’s extremely difficult to handle without making an extreme mess (I know I know, you’re saying "why did you call it You Knead Sourdough if I don’t even knead it!”). This really is a no knead sourdough. We are going to utilise a method called ‘stretch and fold’ which develops the gluten in the dough and makes it nice and strong. Every 30 minutes during the bulk fermentation time, you will grab one side of the dough and fold it back onto itself (while it's still in the bowl). Wet your hands first to stop the dough sticking, then fold the dough 4 times clockwise from top to bottom (handle gently to keep the bubbles inside the dough). Do this a total of 5 times (every 30 minutes over 2 hours which includes the stretch and fold right after the autolyse stage). Each time you do this you’ll notice that it’s much easier to stretch, as the gluten is getting stronger and stronger. Check out this great example of a stretch and fold.
- Complete the remainder of the bulk fermentation. Depending on the temperature inside your kitchen, total bulk fermentation time (including the 2 hours for stretch and fold) could take anywhere from 3 to 8 hours. Ideal temperature for sourdough fermentation is somewhere between 25℃-28℃. Bulk fermentation is complete when the dough has risen approximately 30%.
- The next step is to shape the dough. This is the tricky part that takes a bit of practice (took me quite a few tries to get it right when I first started!). Empty the dough from your bowl onto a lightly floured bench and rest for 10 minutes. Next we are going to build tension on the surface of the dough by folding the dough like a piece of paper going into an envelope. Stretch the dough out into a square, then fold the top down by a third. Next you will fold both sides into the centre, before rolling the dough up from the bottom. Use your bench scraper to handle the dough to make sure it does not stick to the bench. Check out this great example of dough shaping. From here the dough goes smooth or ‘pretty’ side down (the side without any of the folds) into the well floured oval banneton (either with or without the linen liner - make sure to flour the liner well if you use it). Finish by sprinkling some flour on the top of the dough before putting it into the fridge (loosely covered).
- Complete the secondary fermentation (proofing) of the dough. This can either be done at room temperature for 1-4 hours (depending on kitchen temp), or overnight in the fridge (for more pronounced flavour). Your sourdough is ready to bake when it passes the poke test (you can poke a finger in and it springs back but leaves a small indent).
- Time to bake! Place a Dutch Oven in your oven and preheat to 250℃. If you don’t have a Dutch oven you can use a normal baking tray with an additional tray on the rack below that you will pour boiling water in as you put your loaf in the oven. This helps to create steam which will give your bread a great oven spring. Turn the dough out of the banneton onto a piece of baking paper. Score the top of the dough with the lame (the tool with the razor blade) - one long slice down the middle should work well. You can even get creative with your scoring patterns!
- Place the loaf with the baking paper into the Dutch Oven, turn the temperature down to 220℃ and bake with the lid on for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, remove the lid and continue baking for 25-30 minutes. The bread is cooked when the internal temperature reaches at least 97℃ or if it sounds hollow when tapped on the base. It should be a deep golden brown (photo below for reference).
- Remove from the oven and leave to fully cool (at least an hour). Resist the urge to slice it early! It will dry out and be gummy if you cut too early as it will let a lot of moisture escape.
- Enjoy your bread! Try it with a nice spread of good quality butter and a sprinkling of flaky salt. Don’t forget to send a photo of your finished sourdough bread to @youkneadsourdough on Instagram!