This easy Beginner’s Sourdough Bread Recipe is made of three simple ingredients, flour, water and salt and there is no kneading required! The dough is left to slowly ferment and rise overnight, then baked in a Dutch oven to develop a crispy, golden brown crust. It is the perfect bread recipe for anyone that would like to try their hand at homemade sourdough bread!
What is Sourdough Bread?
Sourdough bread is fermented for 8 or more hours with wild yeast and bacteria that have been captured from the environment in a sourdough starter. The yeast and bacteria in the starter naturally leaven the dough and slowly break down the gluten in the flour; in turn making it easier for humans to digest the bread.
Sourdough may take longer to make than bread made with commercial yeast but the reward is well worth the wait. Once you’ve made a fresh loaf of sourdough bread, you’ll never want to buy bread again!
What you need to make Sourdough Bread:
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- Sourdough Starter. If you already have a mature sourdough starter, great! If not, check out my tutorial for getting one going and you’ll be able to bake this sourdough in about 7 days!
- Flour. For this recipe you will need 2 types of flour. Unbleached Bread flour and Whole Wheat flour.
- Sea Salt. Use sea salt that is finely ground so that the salt can dissolve more easily into the dough.
- Water. Fill a large jar with tap water and let it sit for an hour to let any chlorine dissipate or use filtered water.
- Kitchen Scale. When baking sourdough bread, a kitchen scale is a must-have in order to properly weigh ingredients!
- Glass Jars. Weck Jars are perfect for storing your sourdough starter and levain. You can also use a mason jar.
- Spatula. The oxo spatula is great because it has a super stiff handle. It’s perfect for mixing your starter and during the initial mix of sourdough bread ingredients.
- Mixing Bowl. Any bowl will do as long as it’s big enough to hold the dough.
- Bread Bowl Scraper. A bread bowl scraper can come in handy when flour is stuck to the sides of the bowl.
- Bowl Cover. You will need to cover the bowl during different phases to prevent it from drying out. Use a kitchen towel, plastic wrap, shower cap or a plate.
- Parchment Paper or Corn Meal. In order to prevent the bread from sticking to the bottom of the Dutch oven, use parchment paper or a light dusting of corn meal.
- Razor Blade. Right before the sourdough goes into the oven, you will score the top of the dough with a razor blade or a very sharp knife. This will give the dough a place to rise upwards instead of busting out of the sides of the loaf.
- Oven Mitts. Long silicone oven mitts will help to protect your hands and your arms when removing the heavy baking vessel from the oven.
- Baking Vessel. In order to create the steam needed to achieve a great “oven-spring”, it’s crucial to bake the sourdough bread in a Dutch oven. It creates the perfect steamy environment inside of your oven by capturing the moisture in the dough and releasing it inside of the Dutch oven during the first 15 minutes of baking.
How to make Sourdough Bread:
Step 1: Build the Levain – 12 hours before you are ready to mix your dough, prepare the levain by mixing 1 tablespoon of mature starter with 100 grams of water and 100 grams of all-purpose flour. (I usually mix my dough in the morning, so I prepare my levain right before I go to bed!)
Step 2: Autolyse – In a large bowl, use a spatula or your hands to mix 200 grams of levain with 700 grams of water, 800 grams of strong bread flour and 200 grams of whole wheat flour until there are no dry bits of flour left. The dough will be sticky and shaggy looking. Cover the bowl with a tea towel or plastic wrap to keep it from drying out and let it rest for 1 hour.
Step 3: Add Salt – Now it is time to add the salt and extra water to the dough. Pour 50 grams of water and 20 grams of salt on the top of the dough. Use your hands to incorporate the ingredients by pinching and squeezing the dough until it comes together. It will still be a lumpy but the dough will feel a little smoother.Cover the bowl and let the dough rest 1 hour.
Step 4: Bulk Fermentation – During the bulk fermentation phase you will do 3 sets of stretch and folds over the first 1.5 hours (one set every 30 minutes). A stretch and fold is exactly as it sounds. Place your hand underneath one side of the dough, pull it upwards and stretch it over itself to the opposite side. Continue this until you’ve come full circle. Place the cover back on the bowl and perform the next set in 30 minutes.
Once you’ve completed the 3rd set of stretch and folds, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough bulk ferment for 3-5 hours on the counter. The dough should rise about 1.5 times its original size and you should see signs of activity around the edge of the bowl in the form of bubbles. (The amount of time it takes to rise depends on the temperature of your kitchen. Warmer temperatures will cause the dough to rise faster.)
*My kitchen stays around 67 degrees and my dough is usually ready for the next step of pre-shaping in about 4 hours.
Step 5: Pre-shape – Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface and use a bench scraper to cut the dough in half. To pre-shape the dough, take your bench scraper in one hand and push it under one side of the dough. Push the dough forward with the bench scraper while turning it in a circular motion. Repeat this process until you have a tight, round dough ball.
Repeat with the other half of the dough and cover with a towel. Let it rest for 20 minutes.
Step 6: Final Shape – Lightly flour the surface of the dough and then use your bench scraper to flip it over. Gently pull the dough out from the right side and fold it over to the center of itself. Repeat with the left side. Repeat this shaping process with the top and bottom sides of the dough.
Flip the dough over so that the seam side is down. Cup your hands around the dough and gently pull it towards yourself to help create tension on the outside of the dough. Turn the dough in a circular motion and repeat the pulling and turning motions until the dough has developed a “tight skin”.
Dust the dough ball with flour to prevent it sticking to the towel in the bowl.
Place the dough, seam side up, in a bowl that is lined with a floured tea towel. (You can use a banneton if you have one.) Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let sit on the counter for 30 minutes before placing in the refrigerator. Let the dough ferment, up to 12 hours or until the next morning in the refrigerator.
Step 7: Bake – Preheat the oven to 450 degrees (without the Dutch oven inside).
Remove the sourdough from the fridge, place a piece of parchment paper over the top of the bowl and invert it onto the parchment paper. Use the parchment paper to pick the dough up and place it into the Dutch oven. Score the top of the dough with a sharp knife or a razor.
Place the cover on the Dutch oven and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the cover and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes. The inside of the dough should be somewhere in between 205-210 degrees. (Remember to use oven mitts so that you do not burn yourself!)
Step 8: Cool – It’s important to let the sourdough bread cool on a cooling rack for at least 2 hours before slicing. (You can cut it earlier, but the crumb is more likely to have a “gummy” texture because it continues to bake after you take it out of the oven.)
Make sure to check out my easy How to Make Sourdough Starter tutorial if you’re new to sourdough bread making!
- 200 grams levain
- 800 grams unbleached bread flour
- 200 grams whole wheat flour
- 750 grams water, reserve 50 grams
- 20 grams salt
- Build the Levain - The night before you wish to mix the dough, combine 1 tablespoon mature starter, 100 grams water and 100 grams all-purpose unbleached flour in a clean jar. Cover and let sit overnight.
- Autolyse - Mix the levain, 800 grams bread flour, 200 grams whole wheat flour and 700 grams of water in a large mixing bowl with your hands or a spatula until it forms a sticky, shaggy mass. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a towel and let rest for 1 hour.
- Add Salt - Add 20 grams of salt and the remaining 50 grams of water to the dough. Use your hands to pinch the dough so that the salt and water are incorporated well. Cover the bowl and let rest for 1 hour.
- Bulk Fermentation - Remove the cover and stretch and fold the dough. Starting on the right side, wet your hand and then pull the dough up and over it's self to the opposite side of the bowl. Turn the bowl a quarter-turn and repeat this 3 times until you have completed 4 stretch and folds. Repeat for a total of 3 sets every 30 minutes. Cover and let rise on the counter at room temperature for 4-5 hours or until the dough has risen 1.5 times it's original size.
- Pre-shape - Turn the dough out onto a clean surface and cut the dough in half. Use the bench scraper to shape the dough into a tight round. Cover with a towel and let rest for 20 minutes.
- Final Shape - Lightly flour the top of the dough and flip it over using the bench scraper. Pull the right side up and over to the center. Repeat with the left, top and bottom sides. Flip the seam side down, cup your hands around the dough and gently pull it towards your self. Turn the dough in a circular motion on the work surface and repeat these steps until the dough has a "tight skin". Dust the top of the dough with flour and place it in a bowl, seam side up, that's been lined with a floured tea towel. Let rest on the counter for 30 minutes, cover with plastic and place in the refrigerator overnight to ferment.
- Bake - Preheat oven to 450 degrees (without the Dutch oven inside). Remove the sourdough from the refrigerator, place a piece of parchment paper on top and invert the dough onto the paper. Use the paper to pick up the dough and place it into the cold Dutch oven. Score the top of the dough with a razor or sharp knife. Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the cover and bake for 15-20 minutes.
- Cool - Carefully remove the bread from the Dutch oven and let cool for 2 hours before slicing.
- Levain is made by using this Sourdough Starter.
- This recipe can be halved to make one loaf.
- Each loaf contains 20 slices.