Basic Sourdough Bread Recipe

Baker's Percent
One Boule
Three Boules
All purpose Flour
After Autolyze
Additional water
Total Dough
  1. Feed the starter:  About eight hours before you are ready to mix the dough, prepare your starter. 

a.       This recipe assumes that you have starter that you have either made, gotten from a friend, or purchased (it’s best not to purchase it, which is a waste of money).

b.       I feed my starter the night before by adding 200 grams of flour and 160 grams of water to 50 grams of my old starter

2.       Initial Mixing:  In a large bowl, mix flour, water, and starter until all the ingredients are incorporated into a shaggy dough. 

a.       Note that if you are more familiar with making bread with commercial yeast, this will seem like a stick mess rather than dough.  That’s the way it should be.  If you keep your hands wet, the dough won’t stick as much.

3.       Autolyse:  Let the dough sit for 40 minutes.

a.       This is the autolyze period, which allows the flour to hydrate and to stimulate gluten development

b.       After 40 minutes, mix in the salt and remaining water.  Make sure you get it mixed in well.

4.       Stretch and Fold:  After you have mixed in the salt and water, rest the dough for 40 minutes.  Then you stretch and fold the dough. 

a.       I pick up an edge of the dough and pull it out as far as I can then fold it over the top.

b.       Then I pick another edge about a quarter of the way around the bowl and repeat this stretch on fold.

c.       I do this a total of four times.

5.       More Stretch and Fold:  Repeat the stretch and fold in step 4 three more times for a total of four stretch and folds at forty-minute intervals.

a.       I cover the bowl with a shower cap or wet tea towel to keep it from drying out.

b.       Sometimes I only do this three times total

6.       Bulk Proof:  After the last stretch and fold, let the dough rise for about eight hours.  This is the bulk proof

a.       Depending on temperature and other environmental variables, it may take more or less eight hours.  It is better to not let it proof long enough than to let it proof to long.  If you let it go too long, the dough will deflate and not bake well.

b.       During this period, the dough will at least double in size, but the real test is when you see big bubbles forming on the surface.  When you have these, you should be good to go.

7.       Shape the Boules:  Now is the time to shape your dough into a boule or, if you are making multiple loaves, boules

a.       Pour dough onto a flat surface

                                    i.         I use my granite counter, which I disinfect with a hydrogen peroxide solution.

                                  ii.         I do not flour the surface.  It will be sticky, but you don’t want to get flour inside the dough as the raw flour will not bake and leave streaks in your bread.

b.       Divide the dough

                                    i.         If you are making multiple boules, it is at this point that you divide the dough.  If you want to be precise, weigh it—I just eyeball it.

                                  ii.         Tip:  Use a bench knife to work the dough.  I use one to both divide the dough and to shape the boules

c.       Shape the dough

                                    i.         After you’ve divided the dough, spread each loaf into a flat square.

                                  ii.         Take a corner of the square and pull it over to the center .  Do this with each corner.

                                iii.         Now use flour and you bench knife to shape the boule.  I sprinkle flour (a lot of flour) around the perimeter and using my bench knife and my hand begin working flour under the bread while pushing and turning it into the shape of a boule.

                                iv.         Do not fold the dough anymore—you do not want flour to get inside the dough

d.       Prepare the  bannetons
                                    i.         Flour each banneton.  I use ample amounts.  Not only do I coat the dough thoroughly, but I also coat the banneton

                                  ii.         Place dough in banneton

8.       Final Proof.  For the final proof, I put the boules in the refrigerator.

a.       I usually proof the boules for at least eight hours, but sometimes up to 36 hours before baking.

b.       If I’m in a hurry, I will proof them at room temperature, but the dough is hard to work with and the results, in my experience, are not as good

9.       Heat the Oven and the Dutch Ovens.  Heat the oven to 500° Fahrenheit (260° Celsius).

a.       I bake my bread in Dutch Ovens.  I have two Staub 22 enameled Dutch ovens that I really like.   I heat them in the oven (with the lids on) as it is heating.

b.       I’ve also used clay cloches and a Lodge combo cooker, both of which work well.

10.   Bake the Bread.   I bake my bread right out of the refrigerator.

a.       Take the dough out of the refrigerator and the Dutch oven out of the oven. 

b.       Turn the dough out of the banneton into the Dutch oven being careful not to burn yourself.  I turn the banneton over and shake the dough into my hand (my hands are big enough to do this) and then drop the dough into the Dutch oven.  I have to be careful to let the dough unstick from the banneton on its own accord.  This can take a minute and is why I use a lot of flour before I put the dough in the banneton

c.       After I drop the dough into the Dutch oven, I slash an X across the top.  I have a lame, but a sharp knife will also work.  This is another reason I like proofing in the refrigerator—I find that I get a much better slash on cold dough.

d.       Bake for 30 minutes with the lid on.

11.   Cool the Bread.  I let the bread cool on a rack before I slice it.  

Please note:  I have put links to Amazon for some of the equipment I use.  I am not endorsing these products.  Rather, I simply believe that it is useful to have an idea of what I'm using.  Additionally, I enjoy reading the comments people have about these products.  Often times you can get interesting tips or get help deciding if its the right product for the way you bake.  Do not take my word for it.  I don't always make the best decisions.  My Staub Dutch ovens are wonderful, for example, but I think there are cheaper alternatives that would do as good a job.  The Lodge combo cooker, for instance