With only four main ingredients (water, flour, salt and yeast from your sourdough starter), you won’t need to ransack your pantry or local supermarket for a bunch of ingredients to start baking your sourdough loaf. The results? Delicious artisanal sourdough bread with a crunchy golden outer and the perfect crumb every time.
What to expect
In this simple sourdough recipe, you’ll learn how to make artisan sourdough bread with step-by-step instructions and links to useful resources, guides and videos to help you along the way. There’s no kneading involved, and a fancy bread machine or a stand mixer is not needed to follow this recipe. All that’s needed is a bit of elbow grease and a lot of patience to master this recipe for sourdough bread.
From activating your sourdough starter to stretching and folding your dough to develop the gluten in the dough, you’ll learn all of the best techniques to help master the art of sourdough. Each step is explained in simple baking terms without all of the technical jargon, so bakers of all experience levels can follow along. We also stock our own Dried Sourdough Starter that can be bought online!
But, before we dive right in, here’s a secret: failure is inevitable when it comes to baking. The secret to baking sourdough is to keep baking through the fails. Trust me, I’ve had many. Just keep at it and eventually baking sourdough will become second nature.
Just remember, no two sourdough loaves will ever be the same, so embrace the unpredictability of baking sourdough and you’ll always have a great time!
- Complete Sourdough Starter Kit
- Sourdough Bread and Starter FAQs
- Sourdough 101: Sourdough for Beginners
- Explore Sourdough Baking Tools
What you’ll need:
- 150g (⅔ cup) active sourdough starter
- 350g (1 ⅓ cup) room temperature water (filtered)
- 500g (3 ⅔ cup) bread flour
- 10g fine salt
- Mixing bowl
- Dough whisk
- Plastic wrap, or bowl cover
- Dough scraper
- Banneton proofing basket
- Bread lame
- Dutch oven
How to bake sourdough: step-by-step instructions
In a bowl, add 150 grams (2/3 cup) of your 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 1/2 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. You 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 probably thinking: “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. Watch this video for a great example of the stretch and fold technique.
Complete the remainder of the bulk fermentation. Depending on the temperature in your kitchen, total bulk fermentation time (including the 2 hours for stretch and fold) could take anywhere from 3 to 8 hours. The ideal temperature for sourdough fermentation is somewhere between 25℃-28℃. Bulk fermentation is complete when the dough has risen by approximately 30%.
The next step is to shape the dough. This is the tricky part which takes a bit of practice (it 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, you 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. Watch this video to learn how to shape dough. From here, the dough goes smooth or ‘pretty’ side down (the side without any of the folds) into the well floured oval banneton basket (either with or without the linen liner, but 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 temperature), or overnight in the fridge (for more pronounced flavour). Your sourdough is ready to bake when it passes the poke test, which is where you 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 bread 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.
Remove your sourdough loaf from the oven and leave it to fully cool for at least an hour. Resist the urge to slice it early! It will dry out and become gummy if you cut it 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 tag us as @youkneadsourdough on Instagram, or use the hashtag #YouKneadSourdough so we can see your finished sourdough masterpieces.
Additional Sourdough Recipes
Now you’ve completed our step-by-step Sourdough Recipe, you might want to step up your baking game with one of our other delicious sourdough recipes, including:
- Healthy Whole Wheat Sourdough Recipe
- Ultimate Sourdough Pizza Recipe
- 7 Sourdough Discard Recipes
- Sourdough Starter Recipe
Still can’t find a sourdough recipe that tickles your fancy? Whether you’re a self-proclaimed sweet tooth, or a savoury person, we have sourdough recipes to suit every flavour.
Sourdough Frequently Asked Questions
Your questions, our answers. We have compiled some of the most frequently asked sourdough questions for beginners in one place, so you don’t have to scour the internet looking for answers you seek next time you decide to bake your own sourdough loaf at home. If you don’t find the information you're after, be sure to check out our extensive FAQs section.
What is sourdough bread?
Sourdough bread is slow-fermented bread which requires no commercial yeast to rise. Unlike normal bread, it uses a sourdough starter (a mixture of fermented flour and water that contains wild yeast and good bacteria) to rise. Sourdough is made using three main ingredients: flour, water and salt, as well as the sourdough starter.
How long does sourdough bread take to make?
Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer as to how long sourdough bread takes to make, as there are a lot of variables at play. Typically, preparation time for this sourdough recipe takes up to 25 minutes, which involves the combining and mixing of the active sourdough starter, water, bread flour and salt.
However, baking sourdough requires a lot of patience, as autolysing the dough takes 30 minutes, bulk fermentation takes anywhere between 3 to 8 hours, secondary fermentation takes 1 to 4 hours and baking should take up to 50 minutes. Meanwhile, freshly-baked sourdough requires an hour or so for cooling when it’s taken out of the oven.
With all of these different variables in mind, sourdough bread can take anywhere between 13 hours to 24 hours from start to finish.
When is my sourdough starter ready to use?
Your starter is ready to use, or ‘active’, when it becomes bubbly and doubles in size.
However, this can take anywhere from 2 to 12 hours or more depending on temperature and the condition of your starter, So, patience is a virtue when it comes to baking sourdough!
You can test whether your sourdough starter is ready to use by doing the float test, which is where you drop 1 teaspoon of your starter into a glass of water. If the starter floats to the top it’s ready to use. But, if it sinks your starter should be fed again.
What if I burn or ruin my sourdough bread?
Mistakes happen. Like I always say, it’s important to keep baking through the failures if you want to master the art of sourdough. Besides, just because your sourdough is a little burnt, or out of shape doesn’t mean it’s not edible. You can still eat your mistakes!
If you do burn your sourdough loaf, or make a bit of a mess, you can turn your loaf into breadcrumbs for meatballs or croutons for a salad!
What is autolyse?
Autolyse is the first resting period right after you mix the dough. It jumpstarts gluten development without kneading. The stronger the gluten, the better the bread!
If you’re wondering how long the autolyse process takes, it can range anywhere from 15 minutes to one hour or more, depending on the type of bread you’re making and the recipe. For this recipe, I always aim for 30 minutes for the gluten to develop properly. The dough will become more soft and manageable to work with afterwards.