The long-awaited secret sourdough bread recipe is here! This bread is consistently good every single time and it tastes so much better than any sourdough bread you could buy from a bakery.
It took me so long to finish making the video that it almost felt like I was hiding the recipe as a secret away from you. The truth is I had to film close to a hundred clips on 5 different baking sessions because things just kept going wrong. It seemed like this bread making video was cursed! Sometimes I questioned myself if perhaps it simply wasn’t meant to be? It was pure creative torture!
I was saying to Luca that making the sourdough bread video was like childbirth. I’ve never experienced it, so I might be completely wrong but so many women say that they swear they’ll never do it again during labour but as soon as the baby is in their arms, they want to do it all over again. While I was putting the video together, I swore to never ever do something as complicated again because it seemed like I was investing all of my energy into it and I was afraid to burn out. But guess what? As soon as it was finished, I watched it and thought, “Actually, it didn’t come out bad! Let’s do it all over again with another complicated project!”. 🙂
I’m so amazed to see this resilience and optimism in myself that I thought had been lost forever. Thanks to the amazing Hal Elrod and The Miracle Morning for giving me my life back.
Don’t Have Time for Sourdough Bread Making?
I’m sure you’re thinking right now, “Yes, but I don’t have time to make sourdough bread at home”. Well, I agree that making it requires good time management and planning. However, it isn’t labour-intensive at all. All it takes me is 30 minutes of actual labour and then lots of checking and waiting.
If you’re working full-time outside your home, you can always make sourdough bread over the weekend for the whole week and then freeze it (sourdough freezes very well) or just find a schedule that works for you during working days. You can also retard the fermentation in the fridge to adjust the process to your own schedule.
Once you get the hang of it, sourdough bread making can be a very flexible process.
Six Things that You’ll Need to Make Sourdough Bread (Some Aren’t Strictly Necessary)
- A large mixing bowl (preferably clear so you can see what’s happening) – I use a plastic one because it’s light and super easy to wash. Just make sure it’s large enough to contain your sourdough once it doubles. A salad bowl won’t work because it needs to have a round bottom to make mixing and kneading easier.
- A Dutch whisk (also called dough whisk) – it’s not strictly necessary, but it’s a great tool to have for mixing the sourdough starter and the initial dough for the autolyse step. You can always use your hands but if you start making bread regularly, you’ll notice your hands getting dry from all that acidity in the sourdough. I absolutely love my dough whisk and would never go back to using my precious hands. It’s also super useful for mixing cookie dough.
- A Dutch oven (3.5-5 quarts) – this is a MUST. If you’ve ever tried making bread without a Dutch oven, try it this way and you’ll never go back. A Dutch oven works like a professional steam oven because it traps humidity from the dough and creates the same kind of steam-effect. This creates a perfect crunchy crust and a super moist, chewy sponge. I paid around 45 euros for mine at Ikea and it’s something I will use forever not only for bread, but also for stews, chicken broth, soups, etc. I wouldn’t start making bread without a Dutch oven. It’s really a necessity and one of the best investments ever.
- A couple of bannetons – they aren’t strictly necessary at the very beginning, but if you’re serious about bread-making, consider investing in them. They will take your bread to a professional level in terms of looks and shape. I wouldn’t imagine making sourdough bread without banettons now. They will also last you forever.
- A sourdough starter – you can either make your own or buy it on eBay. I have a couple of them: Diego and Barnaby. Yes, you’re supposed to name them to give them a soul! You’re going to feed your starter for decades (or all of your life), so you might as well start treating it as a living being or another pet. Diego is made by me from scratch and it’s delicious. It’s actually my favourite because of incredible growth and mellow flavour. Barnaby is a 15-year-old sourdough starter I got from eBay. It’s slightly more pungent (the older the starter, the stronger the flavour) and has a deeper flavour. I love them both and alternate between the two each time I make bread. Read here how to start your own sourdough starter in just 5-7 days.
- Kitchen scales – if you’re serious about bread making, if you want to get consistent results every time you make bread, and if you want to confidently experiment with different flours and proportions, you’ll need to get used to using weight measurements rather than cup measurements.
Ingredients for my Secret Sourdough Bread
I read a lot of books about sourdough bread making before I finally got it right and I took some inspiration from a lot of them to create my own perfect method that suits my schedule and room temperature. This particular recipe is adapted from Ken Forkish’s “Flour Water Salt Yeast”. The amounts in his recipe didn’t work for me at all and I had to adjust all of the quantities, timings, etc. I’m so happy to finally have refined Vita’s Secret Sourdough Bread Recipe!
Here’s what you’ll need:
- 704g organic white wheat flour
- 326g wholegrain spelt flour
- 684g water
- 214g sourdough starter (it must be fed and fully risen, don’t wait until it starts going down because it will be more sour, unless you really like more sour bread – for me it takes around 8 hours to reach that point)
- 23g sea salt or Himalayan salt
Feel free to use all spelt or all wheat. This is just the combination that works for me because white spelt flour is really expensive and wholegrain spelt flour is reasonably affordable, so I use it to tap into some of that ancient wheat goodness.
I always use organic wheat flour because regular wheat is heavily sprayed with Roundup and it’s not something I want to consume. Organic wheat flour is still very cheap, so it doesn’t make that much of a difference price-wise, but makes a huge difference for my health.
Step 1: Autolyse
Add both flours to the mixing bowl and mix/rake with your fingers to mix the two flours together and to break up any clumps of flour. There’s nothing more annoying than finding clumps of flour inside your bread. Yuk! 🙂
Add the water. I use water at room temperature because there are 26°C (79°F) in my apartment. But if your house is cooler than 21°C (70°f), you can use warm water at around 30-32°C (86-90°F) to encourage fermentation.
Mix this initial dough with a Dutch whisk or using your hands until all the flour is incorporated. Next, leave the dough to autolyse for 30 minutes. Autolyse is a fancy term but the meaning is very simple: it’s allowing the flour to absorb all the water. This will make kneading much easier and quicker.
Step 2: Kneading
Add the sourdough starter on top of your dough and sprinkle the salt all over. I always knead my sourdough bread alternating between two methods: the pincer method and the stretch & fold method. I learned about these from Ken Forkish’s brilliant book.
Always keep a bowl of water next to you and wet your hands before kneading to minimise sticking. That’s the only way to work with a reasonably high hydration bread. Whenever you feel it sticking again, dip your working hand in the water, shake off the excess, and keep kneading.
Pincing is sort of like pinching the dough all over with your fingers. It’s very effective.
Stretching & folding involves resting around half of the dough on your palm and then stretching it until you reach its resistance point. Don’t go further or you’ll break the gluten strands that you’re working so hard to build. Once you feel strong resistance from the dough, fold it onto itself and then stretch the remaining three sides in the same way.
I always do a few pinches and then four stretch & folds, then repeat again until the dough becomes really supple and elastic. There should be no more feeling of a hard ball in the middle anymore. It should all be uniformly elastic.
Kneading should take anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes, depending on how experienced and fast you are. For me personally it takes around 5 minutes. The first 2-3 times are going to be a little hard, but once you get the hang of it, it’s going to become like a session of meditation. I cherish my mornings with a bowl of sourdough. It’s incredibly relaxing and never fails to leave me with a smile on my face.
Next, you’ll need to do four stretch & folds within around 90-120 minutes. The first three stretch & folds should be done during the first hour and then the fourth one can be done anywhere between 30 to 60 minutes later.
Here’s an easy stretch & fold schedule that you can follow:
- Once you finish kneading the dough, cover the dough and wait for 20 minutes.
- Do the first stretch & fold.
- Wait for 20 minutes.
- Do the second stretch & fold.
- Wait for 20 minutes.
- Do the third stretch & fold.
- Wait for 30-60 minutes.
- Do the fourth stretch & fold.
Place the bowl in a plastic bag or cover with cling film to prevent drying.
Step 3: Bulk Fermentation
Depending on the room temperature where you live, there are two options.
Option 1: if it’s more than 23°C (73°F) in your house, you’ll want to retard the bulk fermentation in the fridge to develop the flavour and ferment the dough more slowly. This will also make the dough less sour. Once you finish the fourth stretch & fold, leave the dough on the counter for other 90-120 minutes and then place it in the fridge for a few more hours or overnight. How to know when it’s time to place it in the fridge? The dough will have grown around 20-30% from the original size and there will be little bubbles visible across the sides of the bowl. The dough will be ready to come out of the fridge when it has doubled or nearly doubled in size.
Option 2: this option is for those who have 23°C (73°F) or less at home. In this case, you won’t need to keep the dough in the fridge. Just ferment it on the counter for anywhere between 10 to 12 hours, depending on the temperature. When it doubles or nearly doubles in size, it’s ready!
In my case, it’s 26-27°C (79-81°F) in my apartment at the moment (yes, I know, that’s hot!). I’m placing the dough in the fridge 90 minutes after the last stretch & fold. Around 5-6 hours later, the sourdough is ready for shaping.
Step 4: Shaping
Sprinkle some flour on your work surface. Get the dough out of the fridge and admire how much it’s grown! Now sprinkle some flour around the edges of the dough (where the bowl meets the dough). This will make the removal much easier. Flour your hands and gently ease the dough gently out onto the work surface. Handle it carefully not to break the gluten strands that have developed. This is what will give your bread that beautiful shape.
Flour your hands again and stretch the bread a tiny bit to form a sort of rectangle.This will make it easier for you to divide it to two equal parts (remember you’re making two loaves).
Sprinkle some flour along the line in the middle where you’re going to divide the dough. Cut using a dough cutter (they cost very little on Amazon) or a knife.
Shaping the bread is really easy when you know what exactly needs to be done. Watch my video to see the method in action. No words will do it justice, but for those who really don’t like videos, I’ll try to explain it briefly.
Firstly, you’ll need to repeat the same stretch & fold trick on all four sides. It’s going to look like a tight parcel once you’re done. The next step is pulling the dough towards you on the counter. Wrap your palms around it and pull towards yourself while pushing with fingers at the bottom to create tension on the surface of the bread. Do it on all four sides.
That’s it! You should have a beautiful round loaf by now. Repeat the same process with the second part of the dough.
Grab your bannetons, sprinkle generously with white flour, rub it in well into the sides and the bottom, place the two loaves inside (seam side down), and place the bannetons in plastic bags to prevent drying. Rub a little oil on the bag to make sure the surface of the bread doesn’t stick once the dough has doubled in size.
Step 5: Second Proofing
Leave the bannetons out on the worktop for around 4 hours if the dough wasn’t refrigerated before shaping. In my case, with the dough refrigerated and room temperature of 26°C (79°F), I proof it for around 3-4 hours. There are no exact timings in sourdough bread making because there are so many factors involved. Just watch what your bread is doing. Once it has doubled in size, it’s ready to go into the oven.
A great way to find out if your bread has perfectly proofed is poking the dough gently with a damp finger. If it’s perfectly proofed, it will spring back up slowly. If it needs more time, it will spring back up instantly, like a spring. If it’s over-proofed, it won’t spring back at all, and the hole will remain.
Step 6: Baking
30-40 minutes before the end of your second fermentation, preheat the oven with the Dutch oven inside to 250°C (482°F). You need all this time to make sure that all the walls are saturated with heat and the temperature won’t drop as much when you open the door.
Once the oven is ready, get some parchment paper and sprinkle some flour on it. Take the Dutch oven out of the oven and remove the lid. Now it’s time to reveal the beautiful shape of your sourdough bread!
Place the banneton upside down on top of the parchment paper and carefully release the bread onto the paper. Place the parchment paper with the bread inside the Dutch oven, cover the lid, and place it back in the oven.
Reduce the temperature to 245°C (473°F) and bake for 35 minutes. Then remove the lid and bake for 10 more minutes or until the crust is a deep golden-brown colour.
Voila! Your artisan bread is ready
Bake the second loaf in the same way.
Always wait for at least 30 minutes before slicing into the bread. While it’s hot, the cooking process continues on the inside and you really shouldn’t interfere with it. Plus, if you slice it while it’s very hot, some of the humidity will be able to escape through the hole in the crust, which will make the bread much drier.
Here’s what it looks like sliced:
Just look at these exquisite holes!
This is how you can distinguish sourdough bred from regular bread: sourdough bread will always have these irregular large holes, regular bread will be more uniform.
And this is my favorite snack in the entire world: homemade sourdough bread with butter. Yummmmm!
If you’d like to watch a video tutorial where I show you how I make my secret sourdough bread, here it is:
Have problems digesting regular bread?
This sourdough bread is low FODMAP, which is brilliant for any of us with fructose or FODMAP malabsorption. According to Monash FODMAP app, you can safely eat two slices of this bread without any consequences.
As sourdough bread is properly fermented, it’s extremely easy to digest and all its nutrients are highly available. Sourdough bread is truly a nutritional powerhouse.
I really hope you’ll give this recipe a try and if you do, I’d be over the moon if you shared a picture of your sourdough bread with me. You can either send it to me on Facebook or tag me on Instagram (@vitalivesfree).
And don’t expect it to be perfect right from the start. I can’t even tell you how many loaves I had to throw away because they were complete failures. Don’t give up. Keep experimenting. Listen to your intuition, and you’ll soon start making the most amazing sourdough bread consistently.
The best things in life take patience and effort, but the rewards are out of this world. Making sourdough bread is one of those things!
Have fun bread-making!
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