An easy and straightforward technique for a classic, artisan style loaf of sourdough bread with big holes and sour flavor. Perfect for sandwiches or serving with a meal.
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What makes this the best artisan sourdough
I have been working on this recipe for approximately five years, when I first got my little hungry jar of starter in the mail. I fed it, read about it, experimented with it, and then got frustrated with it. My loaves were flat, hard, stupid looking, and I hated them. Recipes said things like “oven spring” and “banneton” and “lame”. It was a whole new world, sourdough baking, and I was not ready.
My starter got tucked in the fridge and starved to death, may it rest in peace.
A year ago, I tried again. I kept the starter on the counter so I could not kill it. I gathered recipes and altered them. At first, I mostly did things with commercial yeast added, like my sourdough rolls. Over time, the starter matured and I began to tackle loaves without yeast.
How to get an open crumb loaf with good height
I eventually learned that to get an airy, open sourdough loaf, I needed more water in my recipe. One big problem with this! It makes the loaf flat. So how do we balance this?
Well, you just have to give the dough a little strength. This is normally accomplished through kneading in a traditional dough. But with a wet dough, it doesn’t work as well. We need to build strength another way, through the stretch and fold technique.
How to do the “stretch and fold”
After you knead the dough and it starts rising, it is so wet that it will just spread out into a blob and look like this:
But we need to give it structure, so we fold it back up. Like this:
You keep folding it up on all sides until it looks like a ball again. An hour later, it will be a blob once more, and you reshape it.
Dutch Oven technique for steam
The next part of the recipe that helps the wet dough’s tendency to flatten out is steam. A Dutch oven is perfect for this as it traps the steam created by the bread as it bakes. If you don’t have a Dutch oven, you can preheat a baking sheet in your oven and pour water on it to create steam.
And finally, a secret ingredient called diastatic malt powder helps the dough spring up even more in the oven. It also helps brown the crust.
I firmly believe that everyone has their own way of making sourdough bread. Although there is nothing like a good recipe that can be followed exactly, for some reason sourdough bread is different. It is probably something to do with the fact that everyone’s starter is a little bit different, and that technique is so important. I offer my method and recipe as a starting point for you, in the hopes that you will eventually tweak it and make it your own. I guess that’s why is is called “artisan” not “scienceisan.”
I’m done now.
A few notes before you begin baking artisan sourdough bread:
Perhaps I’m not done.
I would not try to make this recipe if you are new to bread baking. Start with something really simple and then move on to sourdough.
This recipe requires a mature starter, at least a few months old. Make sure it is well fed and extra bubbly before you start. I feed mine the night before I want to make this bread, and then again when I wake up first thing in the morning.
Speaking of… this is a long process. So much so that there is a schedule for it.
5 AM: Wake up, feed starter
9AM: Autolyse (mix everything except salt in a bowl and let it sit 30 minutes.)
9:30 AM: Knead in salt.
10:30AM: First fold
11:30 AM: Second fold
12:30 PM: Third fold
1 PM: Shape loaf, place in banneton and put in fridge
9 AM: Preheat oven and remove dough from fridge
10 AM Place dough in Dutch oven and bake
11 AM Remove from oven and allow to cool
5 PM: Serve with dinner
Long does not mean hard! Baking this bread fits into the rhythm of your day and is just a few minutes of work here and there.
Looking for something faster?
- Chewy sourdough rolls are a staple around here, and baked at least once a week.
- You can make real sourdough, with no yeast, in a MUCH simpler way if you aren’t obsessed with big holes. My favorite sourdough bread recipe is prepared in the bread machine.
- Sourdough sandwich bread or cinnamon swirl sourdough are also easy and can be made with or without yeast.
Here’s the recipe
Easy Artisan Sourdough Bread
- 7 ounces mature well fed starter
- 15 ounces bread flour
- 9 ounces room temperature water
- 1/2 teaspoon diastatic malt powder OR sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- Combine all ingredients EXCEPT the salt into a large mixing bowl and stir with a spoon or spatula to create a wet, sticky dough. Cover with a towel and allow to rest for 30-60 minutes.
- After the resting period, measure the salt and add it to the dough. Knead gently on the counter for 40 turns until the salt is worked in. Place in a clean, lightly greased bowl. Cover with the towel and allow to rest at warm room temperature, ideally 80-90 degrees, for 1 hour.
- After an hour, do ONE knead/ fold motion of the dough. This can be done right in the bowl or on the counter. You are trying to reshape the dough back into a round ball, even though it will want to relax back out to a flat shape. Shape it once and then cover and allow it to rest for another hour.
- Repeat step three, two more times, for a total of three kneads/ and folds, each spaced an hour apart. Cover the bowl for a final 1 hour rest at warm room temperature.
- Your dough should now be puffier, but may not have doubled in size (or even close). It is now time for the second proof, which is a cool rise in the fridge overnight. Dust a banneton or bowl with a tea towel VERY generously with flour (rice flour is best) and place the dough into it. Remember that what is on the bottom of the bowl will be the top of your loaf.
- Cover tightly with plastic wrap and place in fridge overnight, for 12-18 hours.
- In the morning, preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Sprinkle a sheet of parchment with cornmeal, then dump your dough into the center. Gently lift off the basket or bowl. You should have a rounded loaf and the bottom should now be on the cornmeal coated parchment. Dust again with flour and slash with a lane or very sharp knife. Place this sheet carefully into a dutch oven and cover with the dutch oven’s lid.
- Bake with the lid on for 30 minutes, then remove the lid and bake for 30 minutes more
- Remove bread from Dutch oven and peel off the parchment. Allow to cool at least 3 hours before slicing.