An easy, step by step tutorial for how to make sourdough bread from a starter. After you try this crusty, delicious bread you’ll never go back to store-bought!
I have a friend I’d like everyone to meet. He’s a bubbly little guy who smells like beer, is pretty messy and he eats once a week. He also lives in my fridge. Meet Mick.
Mick came to me from Australia in the form of a dried sourdough starter given to me by Maureen at Orgasmic Chef. He originated from her starter, Esmerelda. Mick has been very, very good to us, producing gorgeous loaves of delicious sourdough bread, cinnamon rolls, and more. It took a few tries of baking with Mick before I got over the learning curve of sourdough, but now I feel confident enough to share with you a little tutorial on how to make sourdough bread. If you’ve never baked bread before, it can sound intimidating and confusing, but I promise it’s not as complicated as it sounds! It just takes a little time and patience. Soon you will be enjoying fresh baked crusty sourdough bread and you will never want to buy store bought bread again! So let’s jump in.
First thing’s first: Feeding your starter. I’ve seen multiple ways to do this and I think I use the most simple method. All you need is bread flour and filtered water (some tap waters are too harsh and not compatible with starters). Just feed your starter 1/4 cup flour and 1/4 cup filtered water about every 4-5 hours while it’s out on the counter. Cover and store in a warm place. Feed it double (1/2 cup each of flour and water) before bed. It will take about a day of feeding for your starter to “wake up” and become active again. The first couple times I used Mick it took a little over 2 days. You’ll know your starter is ready to bake with when it’s bubbly at the top. When you aren’t baking, you can store your starter in the refrigerator, covered, for up to a week at a time. Then take him out and bake with him, or just feed him and put him back in the fridge.
Now that your starter is ready to use, let’s make bread! The process seems complicated but is actually fairly simple. It can be summarized like this: mix dough, rest dough, knead, put in bowl, stretch and tuck dough 3 times during first rise, rise dough again without touching it, shape dough, bake, cool, eat.
The recipe I use is from An Oregon Cottage. I slightly adapted it to incorporate more starter, but I like her simple method. You’ll want to use bread flour for at least some of the flour. I like to use half bread flour and half white whole wheat flour. You can use a stand mixer or stir by hand. I like to do everything by hand because it tends to work better for me, but a stand mixer with a dough hook is certainly much easier.
Mix your dough up and let it rest for 15 minutes. Then, either knead using the dough hook on your stand mixer for 5 minutes, or turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead by hand for 5 minutes, add more flour as necessary to keep the dough from sticking to your hands too much.
At this point, shape the dough into a ball and place it in a large oiled bowl and cover it. I like to use my big Pyrex measuring cup because it has a lid. You can also cover it with plastic wrap. Place the bowl in a warm area. This will be the first rise, it will last 2-3 hours, or until the dough is about doubled in size. Every hour or so, stretch your dough and tuck it back into a ball in the bowl and replace the cover.
After that comes the second rise. You just leave the dough in the bowl, covered, and wait 2 hours. At the end of the second rise, preheat your oven to 475°F. Stick a dutch oven or baking stone in the oven to preheat as well. If you aren’t using a dutch oven with a lid, you’ll want to place a small pan of water on the bottom rack to create steam in the oven. Once the oven is preheated, remove bakeware from the oven and lightly oil it (or use parchment on a pizza stone). Careful! It’s hot.
Gently remove dough from the bowl and shape it into a ball. Place on the hot dish and use a sharp knife to cut 2-3 slits in the top of your dough. Immediately place in the oven and bake 30-45 minutes, or to your desired crustiness. At this point your house will smell amazing. Pull the bread out of the oven and remove it to a cooling rack to rest for 30 minutes and get ready to test your willpower. This final rest is a part of the cooking process so resist the urge to cut it open and eat it immediately!
After the 30 minute resting period, cut your bread with a serrated knife and devour! I love it fresh from the oven with some high quality olive oil. It also makes great sandwiches or pairs well with tomatoes in this Catalan style toast! Like I said before, baking bread comes with a bit of a learning curve, but with a little practice, you’ll be turning out more loaves of bread than you know what to do with! Which is awesome, because carbs.
- 3 cups bread flour or a mix of bread and whole wheat flours
- 1 1/4 cup filtered water
- 1 cup active hydrated starter
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Let rest for 15 minutes.
- Either knead 5 minutes with the dough hook of a stand mixer, or turn out dough onto a floured surface and knead for 5 minutes by hand, adding more flour as necessary. I find it works better when I knead by hand.
- Shape the dough into a ball and put into an oiled bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a lid and let rise for 3 hours. During the first rise, stretch the dough, tuck it back under, and return to bowl every hour.
- After the last "stretch and tuck" return dough to bowl for the final rise. Let dough rise 2 hours, covered.
- Preheat oven to 475°F. Preheat a pizza stone or an enameled dutch oven while oven is preheating.
- Once oven is preheated, carefully oil stoneware. (If using a pizza stone, line it with parchment.) Gently remove dough from the bowl and shape into a ball. Place on the hot stoneware and cut 3 deep slits into the dough.
- Bake for 30-45 minutes. Remove from oven place bread on a cooling rack to cool for 30 minutes (this is still part of the cooking process) before cutting.