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.

  3. Hi Vita,

    I just successfully made my first sourdough bread. The thing is I don’t know how to store it or there is probably something I did wrong in the process but after it is done baking, I let it rest a few hours before cutting it, but then my crust is not as crusty anymore. Also, after I cut into it, the crust became soft thereafter. Do you have any tips on storing the bread so the crust won’t go soft? Thank you! 🙂

    • Hi Marie, well done on your successful first trial! Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do to keep the crust as crunchy as it is for the first few hours after baking. The humidity in the air will soften it no matter what. You can keep the bread wrapped in a towel or in a paper bag, but the crust will still lose the crunchiness and the inside will get hard. That’s why I keep mine in a plastic bag because even though the crust becomes softer, the inside stays nicely soft which is what I like. You can toast it to get the crust more crunchy again but the inside will get crunchy too, so it isn’t the same as freshly baked bread. Unfortunately, it’s just the way sourdough bread is. <3

  4. Are you saying you only use one tablespoon of the starter? Or all but one tablespoon? I am confused… thanks

    • I discard everything but one tablespoon of the starter, which I then feed with fresh flour and water, wait for a few hours until it grows enough, and then make bread with it. xx

  5. Thank you thank you thank you! I had made 4 batches of sourdough bread from other internet sites and they all had issues… I had great starter but the ingredients and ratios were just off…let alone the poor instructions. I almost gave up until I found your site. Your details and video were so simple and I’ve now successfully made bread twice and have a new confidence. Thanks! I’m now going to invest in bannetons!

  6. Ruth Maas says:

    I am not having great success. My problem seems to be timing. I don’t want to be in the kitchen at 9:00 PM. I can’t seem to catch the prime time to start fermentiion. I have thought about getting up at 3:00 AM to make the starter, but then I can’t go back to sleep. Is there a faster way to start the starter? Am I making a bigger deal out of this than it is?

    • What’s the temperature in your house? If you tell me, I might be able to give you some ideas. xx

      • I live in Hawaii and it’s about 1100 feet up, it’s always cool somewhere between 60 and 70°. We have no heating . I got up at 4 PM yesterday to make the ferment starter, At 11 o’clock there was no change as far as volume. I went ahead and started the dough process. I followed the instructions, no problem with the stretch and fold. However it never seem to really rise. I did the extra hour and then put it in the fridge overnight. This morning I baked it, looked beautiful, had a little rise. Taste OK . However the crumb it’s not great large gapping hollow holes dence around it. Took a picture but didn’t know how to send it.

        • 60 degrees is really too cold for the bread. it will struggle to ferment properly. Is there any way to raise the temperature in the room a little bit or place the dough in a sunny place, close to the oven, in the kitchen close to the hob, etc.? Anywhere where the temperature is a little bit higher. 70 degrees or a little bit lower will work perfectly. What you can do is feed the starter just before going to bed at night. Mix up the dough the next morning. You should be able to shape the bread late afternoon or early evening and then bake the same evening. Or otherwise you can feed the starter in the morning, then mix up the dough that same afternoon/evening and then depending on your temperature and how fast things are progressing, you can either complete the 3-4 stretch and folds and then place the dough in the fridge overnight and then shape the next morning or shape in the evening and then leave the dough in the bannetons overnight and then bake in the morning. The combinations are endless really. You really don’t need to get up in the middle of the night. Also, you can make things faster by using warm water and/or a little bit more sourdough starter. <3

  7. have used your recipe for 6 months, excellent bread,one thing confuses me,because I only make bread once a week I reduce the starter after mixing with the dough then add water and fresh flour leave it to rise then put in the fridge until next week when I remove and add to the autolysed dough.But should I really on removing from the fridge reduce to 50 gms then add water and flour and leave starter to rise before mixing with prepared dough.Have to say I have tried many sourdough recipes but this one is the best.
    Many thanks, Gordon.

    • Refreshing the starter before making a new batch of bread will mean that it’s more active and the ratio between the yeast and bacteria is better. In other words, it means that the bread will be more airy and will have more oven spring. I’m so glad you’ve been baking successfully using my recipe! xx

  8. These instructions are great! But just to clarify a small thing; So, after bulk fermentation you can either put it in the fridge overnight or proof them in bannetons for 2-4 hours at room temperature before baking? or is the fridge part required?

    • No, you can do either of those, not both. It really depends on your schedule or whatever is more convenient for you, and your room temperature, so feel free to adjust the fermentation process however you like. xx

  9. Greetings. Can you tell me the size banneton you are using? Thanks.

  10. Christy Moceri says:

    I’ve never made bread before, but after starting the low FODMAP diet, I’m restricted to sourdough. This recipe looks easier than the one you posted that is tagged “low FODMAP.” Is this recipe also low FODMAP or will I need to stick with the other recipe? Also, am I in way over my head here trying to bake sourdough with no baking experience? This is intimidating.

    • Yes, it should be low FODMAP as well. Pretty much all homemade sourdough bread with mostly white flour will be low FODMAP. Please don’t be intimidated by sourdough making. You don’t need to have any baking experience. Perhaps the first few tries won’t be perfect, but they will all be edible, and you’ll be surprised how quickly it will become second nature for you. <3

  11. Hi Vita, I just wanted to thank you for this post, which has been so enlightening for me! My first loaf is just out of the oven, and I can barely believe my eyes. I’ve been baking sourdough for a little while, but have only ever succeeded with low-hydration loaves. This is the first (relatively) high-hydration bake I’ve succeeded with, and I’m so grateful for your guidance!

  12. Thank you Vita!! I’ve been trying for a while with various recipes and methods found in books and on the net. Your excellent detailed and clear instructions made it all clear for the first time, and I have now two BEAUTIFUL sourdough loaves. Rather, I did have 2 loaves – one is half eaten already. :-). I am very grateful for your generosity in sharing.

  13. Michelle Crowell says:

    When you use 200g of the starter at the ‘mixing up the dough’ step, can you put the remainder in the fridge to use as your starter for next time?

  14. Sabira Sharif says:

    Hi, I recently baked your other sourdough bread recipe ( I over profed it and it was like a brick) im trying this one out because the timings are more versatile for me. So far it my dough look good its just in the fridge for the final froof…in the blog it says you can also do this at room temp for a couple hours…I was just wondering when do u know it has profed enough in the final stage? Is the dough supposed to expand 20 or 30% like in the bulk fermentation or is it supposed to double? Thanks x

    • You can do the finger test. With a floured finger, press lightly on the loaf. If it springs right back very quickly, it’s not ready yet. If it rises back slowly, it’s ready to go into the oven. If it doesn’t rise back at all or only rises halfway, it’s overproofed. I usually bake it when it’s around 50% risen. Happy baking! <3

  15. I followed your methods and the bread was really really good. Thanks for sharing.

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