This sourdough bread is easy to make with only starter, bread flour, water, and salt, and the finished artisan loaf has a crunchy crust and tender crumb. Here’s how to make it.
There’s no shortage of sourdough bread recipes available, many of which involve many complicated steps. While they can produce outstanding results, they can be intimidating for those of us who are new to baking bread and somewhat fussy and impractical for all of us. This simple sourdough recipe requires less than 30 minutes of your time and the finished loaf has the same crunchy crust and tender crumb of a classic artisan sourdough.–Angie Zoobkoff
WHY DO I HAVE TO WAIT BEFORE SLICING FRESH-BAKED SOURDOUGH?
We know! Waiting for that bread to cool seems like something made up just to mess with amateur bakers. Sadly, it’s true—you definitely have to let your bread sit for at least an hour before slicing into it. This lets the cooking process finish and ensures that you don’t end up with a soggy or gummy loaf. On top of that, if you slice into it too soon, all that moisture will evaporate too fast—it will be gummy now and dried out later. It might seem unreasonable, trust us…we know, but it’s science.
- In a large bowl, use a fork to whisk the starter and water together. Add the flour and salt. Combine until a stiff dough forms, about 1 minute. Then finish the mixing by hand to fully incorporate the flour. The dough will feel dense and shaggy and it will stick to your fingers as you go. Scrape off as much as you can, using a bench scraper if you have one.
☞TESTER TIP: Keep in mind that this bread takes more than 12 hours to complete, so start the process early in the morning or in the evening to allow for an overnight rest.
- Cover the dough with a damp towel and let rest for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, replenish your starter with fresh flour and water, and store according to your preference.
- Grab a portion of the dough and fold it over, pressing your fingertips into the center. Repeat, working your way around the dough, until it begins to tighten and form a fairly smooth ball, at least 15 seconds.
- Cover the bowl with a damp towel and let rise at room temperature. This will take 8 to 12 hours at 70°F (21°C), although it may be as short as 6 hours in a very warm climate. The dough is ready when it no longer looks dense and has doubled in size.
☞TESTER TIP: Because this dough rises while you’re asleep, you won’t be tempted to rush the process or check on it every 5 seconds to see if it’s ready. (No, you’re not the only one who does that.)
- Once the dough has doubled in size, gently coax it onto a lightly floured work surface. To shape it into a round, start at the top and fold the dough over toward the center. Turn the dough slightly and fold over the next section of dough. Repeat until you’ve come full circle. Flip the dough over and let it rest for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, line an 8-inch (20-cm) bowl with a towel and dust with flour. With floured hands, gently cup the dough and pull it toward you in a circular motion to tighten its shape. Using a bench scraper, place the dough into the bowl, seam side up.
- Cover the bowl and let rest for 30 minutes to 1 hour. The dough is ready when it looks puffy and has risen slightly but has not yet doubled in size.
- Preheat the oven to 450°F (230°C). Have ready a large lidded baking pot, such as an enamel-coated Dutch oven or clay pot. Adjust the oven rack so the Dutch oven or pot just fits beneath the top of the oven with the lid on. Cut a sheet of parchment paper to the size of your baking pot, leaving enough excess around the sides to remove the bread.
- Place the parchment over the dough and invert the bowl to release the dough. Sprinkle the dough with flour and gently rub the surface with your hands.
- Using the tip of a small, serrated knife or a razor blade and holding it at an angle to the dough, score the dough with a cross-cut pattern or any way you’d like. Use the parchment to gently move the dough to the baking pot.
- Bake the dough, covered, on the center rack for 20 minutes. Remove the lid and continue to bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Then, carefully remove the loaf from the pot and bake directly on the oven rack until the crust is crisp, 5 to 10 minutes.
- Using the parchment, move the bread to a wire rack. Cool for 1 hour before slicing. Kindly note that sourdough is best consumed on the same day it’s baked, which shouldn’t be a problem with this lovely specimen. To maximize freshness, cool completely and store at room temperature in a plastic bag for up to 1 day.
Recipe Testers' Reviews
This is the sourdough you've been looking for! I’ve tried quite a few sourdough recipes in my quest for the perfect loaf and most have been a sad failure, but not this recipe. This one has that amazingly chewy and crunchy crust and that wonderfully chewy, airy interior that you expect from really good sourdough. Absolutely delicious! This isn't a quick recipe, as you need to plan ahead for the overnight rise and for feeding your starter if necessary, but the results are more than worth it.
I used a starter that I've had going for quite a while that I knew was a good one with a 1:1:1 ratio (starter, flour, water) feed. The first mixing took about 90 seconds to bring it together as did the second turning. I used my bread scraper to turn the dough so I didn't lose as much dough to my fingers.
Our house is a little cool so I let it rise for 12 hours, starting it before bed and finishing the next morning. You DO need a covered baker for this recipe. I used a 3 1/2-quart enameled cast-iron Dutch oven that I placed in the oven while it preheated. I didn’t adjust my oven rack and probably should have moved my oven rack up one notch as the bottom ended up a bit darker than I like but that's easily adjustable.
My finished loaf ended up with beautiful "ears" (the crunchy little spikes that show up from proper slits) and was a beautiful golden color. Unfortunately, my parchment didn't fare well and I ended up dumping the bread out and flipping it over onto my oven rack since the paper was disintegrating when I tried to lift the bread. Minor inconvenience for such a wonderful result.
The hardest part is waiting that hour to slice! I would say this loaf would probably make 12 servings... although it won't serve that many here as we're devouring it too quickly!
This was a very simple sourdough bread recipe to execute, right down to the dough being easy to work with. Some doughs tend to be so sticky they can be challenging to form and remove from resting containers. This dough was pliable and quite velvety, even in the early shaggy stage. The last step, cooking the loaf on the bare oven rack for 10 minutes, was a technique I hadn't done before and I feel it gave the crust one last blast of heat. The crust had a crispy, chewy texture that I look for in a sourdough. The inside was denser, I was missing those delightful air pockets. This could be due to the fact that I used all-purpose flour instead of the recommended bread flour. Or it could be the minimal time spent kneading the dough.
The dough puffed up in 1 hour. (My house was cold, so for the last 30 minutes, I carried my bread baby around with me for warmth. It worked.) I used a 10-inch Le Creuset pot. I used a razor blade to make a leaf cut in the top. And the baking time was spot on.
Originally published May 20, 2020