This is an easy beginner recipe for sourdough bread. In this guide, you will learn the following:
- How to make a sourdough starter
- Why is sourdough bread better for you?
- What is Gluten?
- The importance of gluten in bread baking?
- Why Autolyse bread dough?
- Why add salt after autolyse?
- How to use sourdough bread and much more information compiled in one place for your convenience.
- What is sourdough
- History of sourdough
- Why this recipe is good for beginners
- Sourdough health benefits
- What is gluten and what does it do
- Useful equipment for this recipe
- Ingredients needed
- Where to get a starter
- How to make a starter
- Why autolyse dough
- Use a preferment/levain or not?
- Important notes
- How to make it
- How to use it
- Frequently asked questions
- Other recipes you might like
- Sourdough Bread | No Knead Recipe
- Nutrition Facts
What is sourdough
In short, it’s the daddy of all bread. Sourdough bread is naturally leavened with a fermented culture consisting of wild yeast and lactobacilli. The fermentation of the loaf takes longer than bread leavened with commercial yeasts and this, in turn, gives us a healthier bread too.
Sourdough bread has a chewy, mildly sour texture with a lovely crispy crust if done well. Making it the perfect loaf of bread.
History of sourdough
One day long, long ago there were only flatbreads. Unleavened flat things made with water and flour. Maybe salt if they were so lucky, but the point being flat without air.
Then one day, some drunk bastard left out this uncooked mixture of flour and water and it started to rise. Why?
Wild yeast present in the air and in flour formed a nice relationship with lactobacilli(a good bacteria). As with all great relationships, there were also by-products. One of these being carbon dioxide from the yeast and the other lactic acid from the lactobacilli.
Together they have a great party and their garbage is useful to us, or, at least became useful. The carbon dioxide inflated the bread while the lactic acid brought balance and chewiness.
The drunk bastard didn’t know this before he baked the inflated bread but, this is what came out. Beautifully fluffy, sour, crunchy bread the world saw for the first time.
That my friends, was the world’s first leavened bread.
Can you imagine?
Even the average supermarket bread had its roots in sourdough bread.
Short, sweet and most likely true.
Why this recipe is good for beginners
Almost as good as a true artisan sourdough rye bread baked in a professional bakery.
This no-knead recipe for sourdough bread creates the perfect loaf. Easy to cook for home bakers and beginners alike.
It does not require any special equipment like a bread machine, mixer, Dutch oven or even a baking stone.
Sourdough health benefits
Long fermentation times result in higher amounts of healthy lactic acid which our bodies use as the first line of defence against harmful pathogens.
Along with having healthy bacteria, the gluten( a protein) and starches are broken down more making it easily digestible and less likely to cause irritation and inflammation in our gut.
Apart from the obvious health benefit from eating naturally leavened sourdough bread, it’s also the best tasting and most versatile of all bread.
Like I said.
The daddy of all bread.
What is gluten and what does it do
Gluten is a protein vital in bread baking for its ability to trap air and keep the structure of dough in place.
Gluten is present in wheat products. When mixed with enough water the gluten forms a net-like structure.
When we knead or fold or stretch the dough with an adequate gluten net, we kind of, fish for bubbles.
Let me explain. The natural yeast and lactobacilli in the dough produce carbon dioxide while fermenting. This carbon dioxide needs to be trapped somehow.
Otherwise, what is the point?
Strong Gluten has the ability to stretch like spandex. In turn, trapping the gas that builds up within the dough.
It provides strength to dough structure during proving and baking.
Useful equipment for this recipe
- Water - Filtered or drinkable tap water
- Flour - Plain white flour with a 10% protein content(It's written on the side of the pack when you buy it)
- Salt - Fine non-iodized natural sea salt
There are plenty of sourdough bread variations which require different flours and added ingredients like raisins or spices but, the classical sourdough only uses three basic ingredients.
In order to make the bread we first need a sourdough starter.
Where to get a starter
Go to your local baker or ask a friend that bakes. Most people will be happy to give you some.
It costs nothing so don’t be fooled by people selling dried versions online for lots of money.
How to make a starter
For a detailed look at what a sourdough starter is and how to care for your sourdough starter read this sourdough starter guide.
Otherwise follow the simple steps below:
- Day 1 - mix 25g flour with 25g water
- Day 2 to day 5 add 25g flour and 25g water every day
- Keep an eye on the progress. because it's a wild ferment your starter might be ready sooner or later than specified here.
- Day 6 - remove 100g of your starter which is called sourdough discard. You can make these sourdough pancakes/crêpes with the discard. Otherwise, just store in the freezer for future use.
- Add 50g flour and 50g water.
- Day 7 - starter ready to use.
If you are new to sourdough baking I suggest you read the full tutorial on making a sourdough starter.
There I explain all the little details and answer many questions you might have.
Why autolyse dough
To autolyse a dough is to make sure it's fully hydrated.
Gluten develops best at this stage and the dough will be easier to handle.
It's super important to do this step especially if you use a no-knead recipe.
Kneading speeds up the hydration process which means you do not have to autolyse it for that long, but it requires a lot of physical effort.
I prefer the dough working for me and not the other way around.
Autolyse! It's the smart thing to do.
We add salt after the gluten has developed because salt strengthens gluten and we want the gluten to be fully developed before that.
Use a preferment/levain or not?
I normally use a pre-ferment, but to be honest, the difference is marginal and for the purpose of time and ease, I have decided to skip that step in this recipe to speed up to process and make it simpler.
Using a pre-ferment is easy though, and all it requires is the following step.
Take the amount of starter called for in the recipe and add it to an equal amount of flour. Let that sit covered at room temperature overnight or at least 8 hours.
We add 90 grams of the white flour called for in the recipe to 90 grams of starter and let it ferment for 8 hours minimum.
When the time is up, we continue to add the water as stated and the remaining 310 grams of white flour plus wholemeal flour.
Mix well, autolyse and then add the rest of the water mixed with salt as stated in the recipe.
As you can see. The pre-ferment is literally just taking a portion of the recipe and fermenting it before adding the rest.
As you get better at baking sourdough bread and start to understand your sourdough starter, you will gain more confidence and can use preferments in this way.
For now, stick to the easy steps below. If you run into trouble just contact me on Instagram @PANTSDWONAPRONSON.
I am always ready to help and answer any troubleshooting that may arise.
- Flour and water absorption –Never add more flour to your dough if it’s sticky. Sticky is good. The flour will absorb the water in time and when we get to folding and resting the dough it will take shape even more. Different flours will absorb different amounts of water depending on the quality, strength, mill and variety of flour.
- Flour to use - To make this recipe as fool-proof as possible I used regular store-bought white flour(10g protein per 100g) and 11g per 100g protein each whole wheat flour and rye flour. You can look on the side of the packet of flour to see these values indicated along with calorie value, carbohydrates etc. Look at the protein content and pick something between 10g and 13g per 100g for this recipe.
How to make it
Step 1 - Mixing the dough
- In a bowl, mix together the starter and water until dissolved and homogenous. It should look like muddy water and smell beautifully yeasty and beery.
- Next, add the flour and mix the dough, making sure all the water is absorbed into the dough.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a wet towel.
Step 2 - Autolyse
- Autolyse the dough for 1 hour. This will fully hydrate the dough and help develop the gluten.
Step 3 - Adding salt, resting and folding the dough
- Add the salt and give the dough a good mix making sure the salt is all dissolved and taken up by the dough.
- Wet your hands slightly and with confidence grab the dough from both sides and lift it up in one swift motion.
- At this point, the dough will be hanging with two flaps dangling(for lack of a better description.
- Let those two flaps fold in under the dough and repeat once more.
- Cover and rest the dough for 30 minutes and repeat the folding and resting process three more times.
- When these steps are complete you will notice your dough holding its shape more easily and it would be nice and pillow-like so be gentle with it.
Step 4 - Shaping the dough
The aim of this step is to get nice surface tension and give shape to our dough.
This will ensure that the air trapped by the gluten network expands evenly when baked.
- Dump the dough out on a lightly floured surface. As always with bread, work with confidence even if you have little at this stage. This makes things less sticky and by the end of it, your pretend confidence will turn you into a super confident bread baking Jedi.
- Once dumped onto the floured surface, grab the far ends together and fold them into the middle. Repeating all the way down until the bread looks like a wrapped up baby Moses.
- Next, grab the long end and fold to the middle. Grab the other end and fold over the previous fold.
- You now have something that looks like a tight roll. If you messed it up and it looks like a creature from hell. Don't worry!) Just rest the dough again for 20 minutes relaxing the gluten and try again. Sourdough bread baking is actually very forgiving.
- Shape into a round loaf using a circular motion using both hands slightly ticked in underneath the dough. Try and keep the surface tension without tearing the dough.
Step 5 - Overnight ferment in the fridge
- When you are happy with your shape. Grab a banneton or a bowl or loaf tin lined with an extremely well-floured towel or cloth.
- If you skimp this stuff will stick. So flour it well. Pop the dough into the container you prepared.
- Sprinkle the top generously with more flour.
- Place the whole bowl into a plastic bag or cover with a shower cap. Give it a cuddle, kiss, draw it a face and leave in the fridge over-night or for about 10 hours.
Step 6 - Scoring/slashing and baking
After the slow fridge ferment, your sourdough should look nicely risen about doubled in size and ready to bake.
- Remove the dough from the fridge and leave at room temperature for 30 minutes.
- In the meantime heat your oven to 250C and prepare a small metal container filled with water.
- Place a baking tray into the oven to get nice and hot. I suggest doing this about 1 hour before baking to get everything piping hot.
- After thirty minutes to an hour remove the baking tray from the oven.
- Sprinkle the hot tray with some flour or semolina. Carefully invert your sourdough onto the floured tray.
- Using a sharp knife or razor blade, score or slash the top of the loaf a few times. I suggest keeping it simple at the start.
- It helps to flour or dip the blade in some water before slashing in order to give it a cleaner less sticky cut.
- The cuts need to be at a 45-degree angle and about 2 cm deep. There are millions of ways to do this and everyone has their own favourite way. So just my suggestion and not set in stone. This is to make sure the loaf rises evenly while the hot steam escapes the bread and the crust forms slowly. Eventually, providing us with the perfect loaf!
- Place the dough into the oven along with the metal tray filled with hot water.
- At this point, also sprinkle a bit of water onto the base of the oven creating some steam.
- Close the door quickly and bake for 15 minutes at 250C. Turn the oven down to 220C and bake a further 15 minutes.
- After this time is up, carefully turn the loaf over and bake the bottom for another 10minutes. In professional bakeries, this process is a bit different, but this recipe and method were developed with the average home kitchen and what the home baker would be comfortable with, in mind.
- When done remove and set onto a wire rack or cloth to cool down.
Never slice hot bread fresh from the oven!
Let it cool for about an hour before cutting into it. Don't forget to take a selfie with the perfect loaf first.
When you slice the first piece have it with some nice butter a bit of salt and freshly cracked black pepper.
It's simple but, it's heaven on earth!
How to use it
Here's a few of my favourite ways to use sourdough, but the possibilities are endless.
- Garlic bread - Have it with this Ukrainian beetroot soup
- Sourdough bruschetta - With these oven-dried cherry tomatoes and a bit of ricotta.
- Sourdough sandwiches - Especially this hangover cure sandwich or this home-cured salmon with cream cheese and dill.
- French toast - Sweet or savoury or combined. Think bacon and maple syrup
- Kvass - A naturally fermented lightly alcoholic drink popular in Russia.
- Sourdough ice cream - If you have an ice cream maker at home then blend a few toasted slices of sourdough into your ice cream mix before churning.
- Croutons - Here's how to make homemade croutons. Then use in a bacon salad, Caesar salad, Panzanella, or any other salads that need a crunch like this salmon salad. Also great in soups and stews like Viking stew, mushroom soup, potato and leek soup or a healthy red lentil soup.
- Breadcrumbs - Dried out old sourdough bread blitzed up in a food processor. Use as you would normally use breadcrumbs.
- Stuffing - Soaked in milk and mixed with minced pork, fried onion, sage and toasted walnuts. Yum, Christmas came early.
Frequently asked questions
Yes, because sourdough has been naturally fermented for an extended period of time it contains gut healthy lactic acid and the long fermentation means that it's easily digestible.
Yes, unless you use honey or other animal products.
As soon as the loaf has cooled down you should seal it airtight and store at room temperature. Storing bread in the fridge makes it go stale quicker.
A properly stored loaf will keep for up to 5 days. It will lose its crunch but will stay fresh and can be toasted to regain crispiness.
The best way to store bread is to slice it after it's cooled down and store in the freezer sealed airtight.
When you need a pice you simply toast it in a pan or toaster and your bread is good as new.
It will keep for up to 3 months correctly stored in the freezer.
You can easily modify this recipe to include other flavours or change the colour by adding the following.
- Turmeric(yellow) - Add a tablespoon of turmeric powder to the final flour mix.
- Cocoa(dark brown) - Add a tablespoon cocoa powder along with the flour when making the dough.
- Blue pea flour(purple or blue) - Tablespoon butterfly pea flour when mixing the dough.
- Seeds and nuts - Add chopped walnuts, pecans, pumpkin seeds, sesame, poppy or sunflower seeds.
- Dried fruit and berries - chopped up dried cranberries, cherries, raisins or apricots.
- Herbs - hard herbs like rosemary, thyme and sage work best.
- Different flours - Substitute half the wholewheat flour in this recipe with flax meal, buckwheat flour, or gram flour.
Other recipes you might like
If you like baking then you will find the following recipes useful.
- Flax wholemeal sourdough
- Sourdough baguettes
- Borodinsky rye bread
- Soft flour tortillas
- Russian honey cake
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