Foolproof Sourdough Bread Recipe – An Easier Way To Make Bread At Home

Foolproof Sourdough Bread Recipe - An Easier Way To Make Bread At Home

Learning how to make sourdough bread doesn’t have to be stressful, frustrating, time-consuming or overwhelming. Instead, I think it’s a great way to relax and enjoy the process while learning a very valuable, long-lost skill of making authentic sourdough bread.

I made lots of mistakes at the beginning of my sourdough bread baking because none of the books were detailed enough, so I made sure I put all of the lessons I learnt into this recipe.

The main principle to remember is that it’s better to underproof a little than to overproof because overproofed sourdough yields bread as hard and flat as a brick.

These instructions will help you achieve the most perfect crust with a heavenly open crumb.

Here’s What You’ll Need for the Foolproof Sourdough Bread Recipe:

Foolproof Sourdough Bread Recipe - An Easier Way To Make Bread At Home

  • 200g sourdough starter (here’s how to make your own from scratch in 5 days, and also read below for more details)
  • 680 + 50g of water (I like using it at 34°C/95°F to speed up the fermentation process)
  • 900g strong bread flour (you can also use plain white flour, but you’ll have to reduce the amount of water by about 50g)
  • 100g wholewheat flour
  • 24g fine sea salt

If you’re wondering about all of the tools I use for sourdough bread baking, read more about them in the original secret sourdough bread recipe.

This recipe is adapted from a fantastic book called Tartine Bread.

How to Prepare the Sourdough Starter

I prepare my sourdough starter by discarding everything but one tablespoon of an old, fully mature starter. I add 200g of water and whisk until the starter gets dissolved. Then I add 200g of flour – equal amounts of white wheat flour (all purpose or strong bread flour) and whole wheat flour. I mix everything well and leave to ferment on my counter top.

For this recipe, it’s very important not to overferment the starter. When it grows by around 20-30% (definitely no more than 50%), it’s ready to be used. 

This will allow the yeast to dominate over the lactic bacteria in the sourdough and will give your bread lots of oven spring, airy texture, and mild, European flavour.

Mixing Up the Dough

Add 200g of recently fed (according to the instructions above) starter to a large mixing bowl. Next, add 680g of warm water (or cold if it’s very hot where you live or if you don’t mind waiting for longer). I like using warm water because it speeds up the fermentation and suits my schedule better, but feel free to experiment to find what suits you best.

If you do use warm water, make sure it’s not hotter than 34°C/95°F because higher temperatures will start having an adverse effect on the yeast and the flavour.

Whisk the starter in the water until its all dissolved.

Next, add 900g of strong bread flour and 100 of wholewheat flour.

Mix roughly using a Dutch whisk and even your hand if it becomes too difficult to use a whisk. Just dampen your hand and the dough won’t stick as much. Make sure there is no loose flour anywhere on the sides or the bottom of the bowl and you’re good to go.

Cover the dough and leave to rest for 30 minutes. This step will give enough time for the flour to absorb all the water, which means less kneading and better texture.

Second Hydration and Kneading

Next step is adding 24g of fine sea salt and the remaining 50g of water. The water is needed to make sure that the salt gets distributed throughout evenly and to improve the texture even more.

Knead using pincer and stretch & fold methods until all the water is absorbed and the dough is very soft, smooth, and extremely elastic. It will feel amazing! It takes me around 5 minutes to get to that point, but if you’re just starting out with baking, it might take you up to 10 minutes.

If you have no idea what these kneading methods look like, watch my recipe in action here:

Next step is repeating one set of stretch & fold four times every 30 minutes.

Beyond the first two hours, you’ll need to be very careful not to deflate the dough and stretch & fold gently once every 60 minutes or so until you feel that the dough is ready for shaping (but you can also skip doing it beyond the first two hours, I do it because I feel that it improves my bread and also because it makes it very clear when the dough is ready for shaping). It will feel very airy, like a cushion. Volume wise, it will have grown by 20-30%. It’s very important not to overproof it. I really can’t stress it enough!

It’s better to underproof a little than overproof. Overproofed bread yields bread as hard and flat as a brick, plus way too sour. Seriously!

As you can see, I’m not mentioning time because they will depend on the temperature in your house.

The secret is to follow the dough and to get to know the texture, the smell, and the look. You’ll know when it’s ready for the next step.

At the end of the recipe, I will tell you all the timings of all of my steps, so that you have a better idea, but for now I just want you to focus on the dough itself.

Pre-Shaping and Bench Rest

Gently scoop out the dough using your hand. Make sure not to disturb the gluten strands of the sourdough too much.

Flour the surface of the dough and divide in into two equal pieces with a dough cutter.

Flip each peace, so that the floured side ends up on the work surface. Fold it in half and then pre-shape it to a tight boule (again, you can watch the video I added above to see how I pre-shape the dough). It doesn’t have to be perfect. It’s just to introduce a little bit of tension to the surface.

Do the same with the second piece.

Flour the surface of each piece lightly and cover with a towel. Leave to rest for 30 minutes.

Final Shaping

Take your bannetons and sprinkle them generously with a mixture of white wheat flour and rice flour. I first sprinkle one and then the other because I’m too lazy to mix them together, and it still works very well.

Be generous with the flour or the bread will stick, and trust me, it’s really not fun!

Flour the surface of the first boule, flip it, flatten it a little bit into a sort of a rectangular shape and then stretch one side and fold over. Stretch the opposite side and fold over. Do the same with the remaining two sides. You’ll end up with a tight, cute parcel.

Flip it and start rolling it to create more tension on all sides (again, you can watch the video to see exactly how). Use your thumb and the other fingers to push from the bottom. This will create palpable tension on the surface of the loaf. You’ll feel it!

Once it’s nice and tight, place it in the banneton seam side up.

Do the same with the second loaf.

Final Proofing

Place both bannetons in plastic bags and retard in the fridge until the next morning. For me, it’s around 12 hours. It suits my schedule because I like having fresh bread for breakfast. But if it suits you better, you can proof it at room temperature for 2-4 hours depending on your room temperature.

Baking Sourdough Bread

Switch the oven on at the maximum temperature (most ovens go up to 260°C/500°F) and place the Dutch oven inside to preheat for 20 minutes.

Once the time is up, take the Dutch oven out and sprinkle some flour on the bottom.

Take the first banneton out of the fridge and drop the loaf carefully into the Dutch oven. Don’t worry if it falls in awkwardly like mine did. The bread will still look great.

Slash the top with a sharp razor or a very sharp and thin knife. I either make three parallel cuts or I draw a square. Don’t make the cuts too deep but don’t cut too lightly either. The feeling will come with practice and the bread will still look and feel great regardless, so just be patient and enjoy the learning process.

Cover the lid, put the Dutch oven back in the oven, reduce the temperature to 230°C/450°F, and bake for 20 minutes.

Once the time is up, remove the lid and keep baking for 20-22 more minutes. Just watch it and when you’re happy with the colour of the crust, it will be ready. It should be deep caramel golden.

Foolproof Sourdough Bread Recipe - An Easier Way To Make Bread At Home

Voila! The sourdough bread is ready. Now it’s time to bake the second one. But first, you have to re-heat the oven and the Dutch oven. Place it in the oven, increase the temperature back to 260°C/500°F, and wait for 10 minutes.

Then take the Dutch oven out and bake the second loaf in exactly the same way as you did the first one.

That’s it! You’re now a competent and successful sourdough baker! 🙂

Timings and How to Adjust Them

  • There are 24-25 C in my apartment.
  • I feed the starter at around 9AM.
  • I mix up the dough at 3-4PM.
  • I bulk ferment it until 8-9PM.
  • I then shape it and place it in the fridge for around 12 hours, until the next morning.
  • I have fresh bread for around 9-11AM the next morning.

If it’s warmer in your home, you’ll need less time. If it’s colder, you’ll need more time.

If you want the process to be faster, don’t retard in the fridge. If you want to slow it down to suit your schedule, place it in the fridge. You can reduce the temperature in your fridge to slow down the fermentation even more. You can also reduce the amount of sourdough starter to reduce the speed of fermentation.

There are so many ways you can play around with the times, that’s why providing clear cut times wouldn’t be useful. If you focus on what the dough looks like and feels like, you’ll be able to develop your own perfect timings.

When you’re experimenting, always write down the temperature, all the times, quantities of the ingredients used, etc. So that you can look back and improve or repeat your successes.

Never follow the times blindly!

My Favourite Ways to Eat Sourdough Bread

I love eating it with butter, homemade pesto sauce or with any kind of cheese. It’s amazing with avocado and fresh goat cheese. Also Italian pancetta or lard is amazing with sourdough bread.

I can’t even tell you how good this fool-proof sourdough bread tastes. It’s nutty and slightly sweet, not too sour, and so incredibly chewy. I love it!

Happy baking, enjoy the process, learn to read the dough, use your intuition, and of course watch this space for more sourdough recipes in the future.

Let me know if you try this recipe! It makes me so incredibly happy when I see photos of your masterpieces. You can send me one on Facebook or Instagram!

Thanks for reading/watching!

Simply yours,
Vita xx

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Comments

  1. Hi,
    I am in the process of making my first starter. I find your instructions the most details and easy to follow, thank you so much for taking the time to explain and show your method!
    Question, while I am still figuring everything out (the type of flours, the temp in my house and such) I wanted to make only 1 loaf vs 2. Can I half the recipe?
    Thank you very much!

    • Hi Julia, glad you found my instructions helpful! Sure, you can definitely half the recipe until you’re confident enough to make more. Also, bear in mind that even the bread doesn’t look good at the beginning, it will still be edible, so it’s very unlikely that you’ll have to throw anything away. Good luck baking your first batch! <3

  2. jonny wong says:

    Hi Vita
    Thank you for sharing a lot of information from your website while I am learning to make a sourdough yields bread.

    i want to know if the dough to be removed from the fridge without having to go back to room temperature?

    Thank you very much!

    Best Regards.

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