People serious about bread baking will likely get into the scratch-made sourdough process. Although sourdough bread takes a lot of time and patience, the steps are easy and the result is worth it.
Follow these few simple instructions in making homemade sourdough bread and you will never buy store-bought sourdough again!
For the Sourdough Starter (7 days before baking the bread):
For the Active Sourdough Starter:
For the Sourdough Loaf:
You will need to start making and feeding the sourdough starter 1 week before baking the bread. This is to ferment the flour as it extracts wild yeast naturally.
Day 1 – Combine ½ cup of unbleached all-purpose flour, ½ cup whole wheat flour, and ½ cup water in a mason jar. Mix well and cover the jar loosely before setting it in a warm place, or 70 degrees F for 24 hours.
Day 2 – Stir the starter with a rubber spatula and loosely replace the lid. Let sit for another 24 hours.
Days 3-7 – Each day, add 2 tablespoons of starter from the previous day to a new, clean mason jar along with ½ cup of flour and ¼ cup water. Stir the mixture until smooth and then cover it for another 24 hours.
Repeat these steps to feed the starter daily until it has lots of bubbles and has doubled in size. It is ready when the starter doubles in size about 4-8 hours after feeding. If your kitchen is known to have colder temperatures, this may take longer than 7 days.
Once the starter is ready, it’s time to make the active sourdough starter, which will eventually make the bread.
12 hours before baking your bread, make the active starter. Combine the sourdough starter, flour, and water in a mason jar. Cover loosely with the lid and allow to rise at room temperature. It is ready when you see lots of bubbles and it has doubled in size. This will take anywhere from 8-12 hours.
Make the bread dough. In a large mixing bowl, combine the entirety of the active starter along with the water. Mix until well combined. Add the salt and bread flour into the mix and stir with your hands until a shaggy dough forms with no dry spots of flour left in the bowl. Cover the dough with a lightly damp kitchen towel and let the dough sit for 1 hour at room temperature.
Wet your hands to prevent the dough from sticking to you. Pick up the dough on one side and stretch it up and over, allowing it to fall back on itself. Turn the bowl ¼-turn and repeat until you have stretched and folded the dough all around the bowl. The dough should form a tight ball. Cover again and allow the dough to rest for 30 minutes. Repeat the process once more to build up the volume in the bread.
Cover with oiled plastic wrap and allow the dough to sit and rise for 7-10 hours. The dough will not double in size, but it will rise about 50%. If your dough does rise more than that, it is over-proofed. Keep an eye on it throughout this process.
When it is ready, turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Pinch each of the 4 sides upwards to the middle of the dough, forming a ball. Turn the ball over so that the seams are facing downward. Lightly keep folding the dough under itself until a firm skin forms on the outside of the round loaf. Place the loaf seam-side-down onto some parchment paper. Use the parchment paper to lift the dough into a bowl and allow it to rise again for 30-45 minutes. Cover the dough with a clean kitchen towel.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Place your large Dutch oven with the lid inside the oven and allow it to heat as the oven preheats. After 30 minutes, carefully remove the hot Dutch oven using your best oven mitts and multiple pot holders for protection. Remove the lid. Score the dough using a very sharp paring knife and use the parchment to lift the dough and place it inside the Dutch oven carefully. Cover with the lid and place in the hot oven for 20 minutes. Remove the lid and continue baking for 20-30 minutes until the top is very golden brown.
Remove from the Dutch oven and allow to cool for at least 2 hours before slicing. If you slice too soon, the bread will be gummy and underbaked.
Serve with softened butter and a sprinkle of flaky salt. Store at room temperature on the counter cut-side-down under a clean kitchen towel.