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A beginner’s guide on how to make a gorgeous loaf of Artisan Sourdough Bread! Complete tips for a homemade white bread baked in a dutch oven.
This post has been in the works for about 2 years now. When we originally started learning about sourdough from sifting through my grandma’s old cookbooks, her sourdough starters used yeast and the recipes often called for leavening agents other than just the sourdough. I didn’t know any better…but I was enjoying working with and learning about sourdough starters.
As the past 2 years have gone by I’ve realized that a “real” sourdough starter doesn’t begin with yeast. And sourdough bread recipes don’t normally have yeast. This has been fascinating for me to learn, and with the current state of shortages in supplies, it was the perfect time for me to fill in the gaps.
So…today I introduce to you our beautiful artisan sourdough bread. This has been a rollercoaster of a ride in learning, but we’ve been through the failures and testing so you don’t have to.
We promise that if you step through our process, you’ll end up with a gorgeous loaf of homemade bread without yeast!
Most breads use commercial yeast to give rise to bread doughs. They are quick, easy and generally no nonsense. But what happens when you don’t have yeast on hand?
Sourdough bread uses a “starter”, a naturally fermented mixture of flour and water that will give a beautiful rise to your baked goods…without the use of yeast. The process takes longer but is so, so easy once you get started with it. It’s really a lot of hands off time.
Because of the natural fermentation, the bread has a “sour”, tangy flavor that is just amazing. The longer you keep your sourdough starter going, the better the flavor it will have!
We have an entire post dedicated to making homemade sourdough starter. It takes about a week. Start at that article, then once you have an starter that is bubbly and active, come back here to make bread.
There are a few things you’ll need to have on hand if you want your bread to turn out in the best possible way.
This is one of the most important questions when making sourdough bread. If your starter is not active and bubbly, it won’t give any rise to a loaf of bread. And no one wants to waste ingredients.
You should feed your starter a few hours before you are ready to bake bread. When it has doubled and is really bubbly, it’s time to bake with. You want to bake with it before the starter deflates. This is important!
Drop a little bit of starter into a glass jar. If the starter floats, it is ready to bake with. See the picture below.
You may hear about “high hydration” and “low hydration” breads. High hydration breads means there is more water in the dough. The doughs will be stickier, may spread more (not hold their shape well) and will have larger holes in the bread once it is baked.
Low hydration breads are tighter in texture (not big holes) and will hold a nice round dome before baking.
We call this bread recipe a medium hydration. It is the perfect mix between the two for our family. Try using less water (or more flour) as you tweak this recipe to be the perfect bread for your family.
You’ll want to plan about a day and a half for making artisan sourdough bread. Here’s the timeline I usually follow. They are somewhat flexible based on temperature and humidity, but it gives you an idea.
I plan my artisan sourdough bread this way because I don’t want to be up late baking bread. I’d rather let it rise overnight. You can tweak this if you’d like, but as you can see it will take almost 24 hours to make. Thankfully, most of that is hands off time.
Turn on your kitchen scale. Place the glass bowl on top. Press “tare” so that it isn’t using the bowl weight, but only the ingredients you’ll add. Also make sure it is set to grams.
A note about how much starter to use for a loaf of bread: You can use as little as 25 grams of starter in this recipe. However, know that it will take longer for the bulk fermentation stage. If we are running low on starter, we’ll use 50 grams. We normally have a nice amount of starter on hand so using 90 grams of starter simply allows the whole process to go a little more quickly for us.
Add 90 grams of active sourdough starter to the bowl. Then add 350 grams of warm water. Use a whisk to whisk the ingredients together.
Then add 500 grams of a high quality, unbleached bread flour. This is the type of flour that will give you the best results. We have not tested other flours, only unbleached bread flour.
Lastly, add 9 grams of salt.
Mix these ingredients together until they form a rough, shaggy dough.
Allow the dough ball to sit for 30 minutes. This will help the gluten strands form. It’s an important step for the texture of the dough.
After the 30 minutes is over, use your hands to form a dough ball. This should only take about 15 seconds and isn’t necessarily “kneading” the dough, but just forming a smooth ball.
Place the dough ball back into the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Now it is time for bulk fermentation. That starter is going to make all of your bread dough bubbly and light textured. Watch it do it’s magic! Or do like me and go to sleep while it works. 🙂 This step normally takes about 10-12ish hours for us. It really depends on temperature and how active your starter is. The dough should be nearly doubled in size though.
You should see pretty bubbles of all sizes in the dough. That’s why we love to use a glass bowl!
Now that the dough has fully fermented, it’s time to shape it! If the dough feels super sticky, dust it lightly with flour. It’s important to note that through this shaping the dough will naturally deflate, but you don’t want to press down on it hard or knead it. Hold it gently and work with it lightly.
Start on one side and fold the dough over. Then turn the dough slightly and fold over the next section of dough towards the center. Turn the dough again and fold again, then do it again until you’ve gone all the way around the circle. This process creates a surface tension on the outside of the dough for a nice shape.
Place the dough ball, smooth side down, into a floured banneton basket. Allow the dough to sit again for another 1-3 hours. You want the dough to look light textured and not dense at all. It won’t fully rise to double again….just watch for the texture to lighten. Don’t let this stage go too long because you want that “oven spring” during baking, which is the final rise before the crust forms on the outside of the bread.
Homemade bread bakes best when it has steam or moisture to allow it to form and rise correctly. Baking bread in a dutch oven traps that moisture and works beautifully to allow the inside of the bread to bake before the exterior dries out. It gives the crust a crispy exterior that you know and love in a sourdough bread.
So yes, we 100% recommend using a dutch oven to bake artisan sourdough bread.
Sourdough bread is perfect for sandwiches, paninis, French toast, breakfast casseroles or grilled sandwiches.
Our favorite is simply when we slice it and slather it with butter and honey. So, so good!
We’ve had so much fun working with sourdough and creating all the things! Try one of our favorite recipes, both with discard and active starter.
Still have discard? You’ll love these recipes!
Most detailed and clearly explained recipe I have seen. Thank you.
Baking my 4th loaf today following your recipe, however I do find I need more flour so it’s not too sticky. I live in the desert and at about 4k elevation. I also find that sometimes it’s more sour tasting than other times (using the same starter) any idea why?
First time in 25 yeas making sourdough bread. Thank you for a great recipe. I still have my Grandmother’s dutch oven. It is well over 100 years old! Should I cool the bread in the dutch oven or take it out immediately to place on cooling rack?
Thanks again for a great recipe.
Thanks for the recipe! I made my first loaf yesterday. Kind of a fail because the dough was really sticky and stuck to the basket (I must have been too stingy with the flour), so the loaf deflated and came out about as thick as foccacia, but it still tasted great! Good crunchy crust, and the taste of San Francisco. We must have good wild yeast in Minneapolis. Next time I’ll flour the basket really liberally, and maybe use a bit more flour in the dough. I forgot to feed the starter four hours before making the dough, but I… Read more »
Great recipe! My dough overproofed on the counter last night. Great flavor, just a shapeless loaf for breakfast. I read a recipe that said to do 1st proof overnight in the fridge- do you have any experience with that?
I want to thank you for this recipe and instruction on making Sourdough bread! 🙂 I have been successful in making 4 loaves through your process, which came after 1 failure with a different method.
My question that I have, is that this recipe makes a fairly large loaf. Can it be widdled down to make a smaller loaf? And if so, does this change the baking time?
This bread is easy, and delicious! I am a newbie and found it easy to follow. It turned out fabulous with amazing flavor. Definitely a favorite! Now to master cutting in beautiful designs. 🙂 Thank you!
Hello! Just starting the bread and I was thinking that can the bulk fermentation go over 12 hours? Because right now it’s 12pm and that means I should bake my bread at midnight. Can I proceed in the morning?
Thank you for this recipe and how-to guide. I’ve made it several times, and it came out perfectly each time. Please keep the recipes coming! Incidentally, if you haven’t tried the Lizzy T sourdough biscuits, you’re truly missing out!
I have no clue about grams and don’t own a scale. Could you break it down using cups and tsp
I’ve made this several times now, always comes out great! Thanks!
If I normally feed in am should I feed twice the day I want to bake or wait till 3pm?
Followed the directions. Easy to do. Mine was sticky. Used watered hands to work first time and flour to the pot. Did not heat Dutch oven like other recipes say. Cooking time was less and lower for this one, but came out great! I’d at a picture but don’t know how. 😁
Best bread I’ve ever made!
So my dough is sitting here on the counter and I just realized my mom does not have a Dutch oven! Could I use a pizza stone instead? Or a Cooke sheet? Lol help! I’ll be baking in a few hours!! 😬😬😬