Well…we made it. This blog post has been a long time coming. Ever since I made my sourdough starter (it was the first week of January, by the way), I’ve attempted to make sourdough bread. Yet each time I tried it, I couldn’t seem to get it right. I read countless blogs and articles, watched hours of YouTube videos, and for some reason would still end up with bread that had a gummy texture and barely risen. And then…a lightbulb went off in my head. I realized the mistake I was making, and from then on, I’ve made beautiful loaves ever since. Are you ready to learn what that “lightbulb” is? Then let’s dive into this long-awaited tutorial on how to make sourdough bread.
This recipe only makes one loaf
Alright, are you ready for my little revelation? Here it is: I was attempting to make two sourdough loaves at a time. It sounds crazy, but read any blog or watch any video about sourdough bread and you’ll see what I mean. It’s common—encouraged, in fact—to make enough bread dough that will result in two loaves of sourdough. So for the longest time, that’s what I was doing. Yet for some reason every time I would split the dough in half, that’s where things in the sourdough bread making process would start to go wrong for me.
Then I thought…why make two loaves when I really only want one?
So that’s what I did, and voila. The most beautiful sourdough loaf came out of the oven that made me cry and lead me to make this hilarious TikTok.
I know sourdough aficionados would say that I’m not doing it right, but you know what, I’m okay with that. My recipe works, and I’m able to make beautiful sourdough loaves of bread every single time because of it. So I’m just going to keep doing it, because to quote myself numerous times, it’s my blog and I’ll blog how I want to.
The key is using proper baker’s percentages
Another trick I learned during my many failed attempts at making sourdough bread was using proper baker’s percentages. I learned it in this very thorough YouTube video that shows you what those percentages would look like. While the bread he makes in this video uses an 80 percent hydration, I have a lot more success when I do a smaller hydration percentage. So here’s what I do.
- 500 grams of flour (100%)
- 325 grams of water (65%)
- 75 grams of starter (15%)
- 10 grams of salt (2%)
No matter the amount of flour you use, it’s important to follow these percentages. So if you decide you want to try a two-loaf batch of sourdough bread, make sure do the math and follow the same percentages.
The tools you’ll need for baking sourdough bread
You’re not going to need much—promise. But there are a few things that are going to be crucial for your sourdough bread-making process. Here are the tools I highly recommend.
- Dutch oven
- Kitchen scale
- Bread banneton (This one isn’t necessary, so if you don’t have one, use a clean cotton towel and your colander. I’ll show you how I do this below.)
- Bread bin (you’ll want to store your bread at room temperature in a bread bin.)
Alright, here’s how to make sourdough bread!
Stir flour and water, let it sit for 45 minutes
This is called the autolyse process. The scientific definition of autolyse is the “self-digestion, refers to the destruction of a cell through the action of its own enzymes.” Aka, you’re prepping your flour and water so that you’ll have a bread that’s easier to work with.
For my recipe, you’ll be mixing 500 grams of flour (I like to use 200 grams of whole wheat and 300 grams of unbleached all-purpose) with 325 grams of water. Mix together until it is all combined. The mixture may seem dry, just trust me. Do not add more water. Let it be dry this round, it will get better I promise. Cover with a clean dish towel and let it sit for 45 minutes.
Fold in starter and salt
Next, you’re going to pour in your starter and your salt into the bowl. Wet your hand and scoop parts of the flour and water mixture, folding it into the center. Go around the bowl twice so the starter and salt are fully incorporated. Cover with a dish towel and rest for 30 minutes.
Do the same folding technique 3 more times, 30 minutes apart
This stretch-and-fold process will help activate the gluten in your bread and get it ready for the bulk rise in the fridge. To do so, wet your hand in the sink, and grab the side of the dough. Stretch it up and fold it into the center. Go around the bowl and do this about 8 times. Then cover and let it rest for 30 minutes. You’ll want to continue this process for two hours, meaning you’ll stretch and fold four times since adding your starter.
Shape the dough into a loaf, place in a floured banneton
Move the dough to a floured surface, and it’s time to shape. Obviously, since this is not a two-loaf recipe, we’ll only have to shape the one loaf. Pinch the four corners and bring them to the center. Then you’ll want to move the “boule” to your banneton, pinched side facing down.. Now the banneton should be generously floured, so make sure to do so before you move the bread.
Don’t have a banneton? As you can tell, neither do I. But don’t sweat, you can still create your own by using your kitchen colander and a clean cotton towel. Place the towel on the colander and flour it down like you would for the banneton. It will work just fine—promise.
Leave the dough to bulk rise in the fridge for 12 to 16 hours
I try to time out where this rise is happening overnight. So typically I’ll start prepping the bread around 6 p.m. the night before, and from start to finish of the above process, I should be done by 9 p.m. Then I place it in the fridge and bake the next morning at 9 a.m. or honestly whenever I get out of bed (the baking usually happens on Saturday, and we always sleep in on Saturdays).
Not sure if your bread rose enough? Here’s how to test it. Poke the bread softy with your finger. If the indent slowly starts to bounce back, it’s ready. If it bounces back too quick, it’s not ready and you should leave it to rise a bit more in the fridge.
Prep the dutch oven at 500 degrees for 30 minutes
Now before you bake the bread, you want to make sure the dutch oven is nice and hot so it’s ready for your bread to start baking, Cover it and place it in the oven at 500 degrees, and let it sit there for 30 minutes. You want it nice and hot, so obviously make sure you’re using your oven mitts.
Score the bread
Do this right before you put it in the oven. I’m telling you right now, scoring the bread is something you’ll have to keep practicing. I’m really not good at it myself. But while this process may seem cosmetic and not needed, I learned that scoring the bread helps you to control how you want the bread to expand during the “oven spring” when it bakes. I like to use a simple razor blade, however, you can use a sharp knife as well. Don’t feel bad if your design looks weird, it’ll take some practice. Someday maybe your bread will look like these.
Just make sure before you score that the bread is on a floured piece of parchment paper. I actually am reusing a piece that I had from the last bread I baked because it was still perfectly fine to use.
Bake 20 minutes with a lid, then 20 minutes without at 450 degrees
To bake, grab the corners of the parchment paper and place the bread into the dutch oven—carefully! It’s going to be hot, so use those oven mitts. Cover the dutch oven with a lid and bake for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, you’ll take off the lid and bake for another 20 minutes at 450 degrees, so turn that oven down. Lifting the lid is honestly the most anxious part for this process—it’s the determinant of my failure. If the bread rose, yay! If it didn’t…well…breakfast strata it is.
Leave the bread to cool for 1 hour
This is going to be hard, I know. Having to wait on fresh bread as it just punches your house with the most delicious smell is the absolute worst. But trust me on this one! Waiting to slice open that boule will help with accentuating that sourdough flavor later. I find that the sourdough flavor is a lot more powerful the days after baking it, so if you really want that taste, just wait. Plus, slicing into the sourdough bread after it has cooled will actually be easier for you to get nice even slices.
Store in a bread bin at room temperature—not the fridge!
The fridge will take away that delicious sourdough flavor and dry out your bread, and that’s going to be the last thing that you want. Trust me, the bread is going to be perfectly fine for at least 4 to 5 days in that bin. That’s if, of course, you don’t demolish all of your loaf before then.
While the specific bread bin I have is no longer on the shelves, there are so many cute ones you can snag. Here’s a basic one that’s great for storing all kinds of bread, but surf the web and find one that works with your kitchen aesthetic.
Alright, that’s my step-by-step tutorial! I hope my thoroughness helps you to make the most delicious sourdough bread you’ve ever tasted. Just promise me you’ll be patient with yourself! It may take time to perfect this, and that’s okay. I promise, the rewards later are worth it!!
- Dutch oven
- Kitchen scale
- Bread banneton
- 200 grams whole wheat flour
- 300 grams unbleached all-purpose flour
- 325 grams water
- 75 grams sourdough starter fed, at its peak
- 10 grams salt
Day before baking
- Mix together the whole wheat flour, unbleached all-purpose flour, and water in a large bowl until combined. Cover with a clean dish towel and let it sit for 45 minutes.
- Pour in the sourdough starter and salt into the bowl.
- Using a clean, wet hand, fold the mixture in on itself by grabbing the sides of the dough and stretching it vertically then pressing it into the middle.
- Stretch and fold all sides of the dough, doing this about 8 times. Cover with the dish towel and let it sit for 30 minutes.
- Repeat the same strech-and-fold process three more times, separating each folding session every 30 minutes. So after two hours, you should have stretched the dough four times since adding the starter.
- Generously flour a bread banneton. If you don't have one, cover a kitchen colander with a clean dish towel and flour that instead.
- Move the dough to a generously floured surface. Shape it into a loaf by pinching the four corners of the dough and bringing them together in the center.
- Place the dough (pinched side down) into the banneton. Cover with the kitchen towel and place in the fridge for a bulk rise. Leave it for 12 to 16 hours.
Day of baking
- Cover your dutch oven with the lid and place it in the oven. Preheat the oven at 500 degrees, and let the dutch oven sit there for 30 minutes.
- When the 30 minutes is up, gently flip the dough onto a floured piece of parchment paper.
- Score it with a razor blade or a sharp knife to control the "open spring" process of the baking.
- Place the loaf with the parchment paper in the dutch oven, then cover. Make sure to use oven mitts—the dutch oven will be hot!
- Bake in the oven with the lid on for 20 minutes.
- Remove the lid and lower the oven heat to 450 degrees. Bake with the lid off for another 20 minutes.
- Let the loaf sit on a cooling rack for one hour before digging in—this enhances the sourdough flavor.
- Store in a bread bin at room temperature (not the fridge!) for up to 5 days.
Other sourdough discard recipes
If you’ve made it this far in the entry, thanks, I love you. Here are a few more recipes to use up that leftover sourdough starter.
Or use up the bread and make yourself a Patty Melt.
Ok I’m done—bye! <3