How to Make Sourdough Bread: The Simplified Guide

This sourdough bread recipe is the ultimate guide to making your own sourdough bread! Easy to follow instructions, a printable checklist, and a step-by-step video help you master that tangy flavor, chewy crust, and perfect texture.

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Ready to get your hands dirty? Making sourdough bread at home is one of the most satisfying, transformative things you can do. It’s tastier, healthier, and cheaper than any bread you’ll buy at the supermarket. As two professional home cooks with previous careers in business writing, Alex and I leveraged our skills for making complex processes simple and created our best sourdough bread recipe, the Simplified Guide for Sourdough Bread. It has easy to understand steps, a video, and a printable checklist to make sure you’re able to master how to make sourdough bread. Keep reading for our sourdough bread recipe and all you need to know about how to make sourdough bread at home!

Related: How to Make Your Own Sourdough Starter | How to Feed Your Sourdough Starter

Our master video: Sourdough Bread Recipe

In this video, Alex shows you everything you need to know about this sourdough bread recipe! Since so much of bread making is learning by watching, this video is crucial to understanding how to make sourdough bread.

Keep reading for more about sourdough starters, the necessary tools, and our sourdough bread recipe!

Our “pretty simple” sourdough bread recipe

This sourdough bread recipe is years in the making. For the past 2 years, Alex and I have been making sourdough bread every week. In that time, we’ve learned that making sourdough bread is an involved process. But we’re also passionate making cooking pretty simple. We wanted to simplify the process so that everyone on the planet could learn how to make sourdough bread. We set out to make the best sourdough bread recipe — that is, the most repeatable, easiest to follow recipe in the world. Our instructions are easy to follow, and complete with a printable checklist and a step by step video.

So here it is: our simplified sourdough bread recipe! It’s our original recipe, though it was influenced by the Tartine cookbook and The Perfect Loaf. Our perfect sourdough bread? It’s got a chewy crust, tangy flavor, and just enough holes in the bread to be interesting but still hold up to a slather of peanut butter. Our sourdough bread recipe is the perfect everyday bread for snacking, sandwiches, and serving with soup. Ready to dive in? Before you start, read this post in detail so you understand the necessary tools and concepts! And if you have any questions, let us know in the comments below.

We’d love to see your loaf! Use #PrettySimpleSourdough to share on social media.

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Best sourdough bread recipe | How to make sourdough bread | sourdough bread recipe with starter

Making sourdough bread: an overview

Making sourdough bread is a process that spans across 3 days. Here’s an outline of the tasks and approximate active time for how to make sourdough bread:

  • Day 1 Evening: Feed the starter (5 minutes active time)
  • Day 2 Make bread and proof overnight (5 hours active time)
  • Day 3 Bake (1 hour active time)

What makes it simplified? Though it spans across three days, we’ve tried to simplify while keeping the integrity of the sourdough bread process. Our instructions are thoughtfully crafted to be easy to follow—and even memorize! The traditional method of cooking the bread using steam can be hard to create at home, so our recipe uses a Dutch oven. Best of all, we’ve created a custom video series and printable checklist so that you don’t miss a step. The hardest part is waiting for the bread to cool! Let’s get started with the tools you’ll need for making this sourdough bread recipe.

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Sourdough bread: what you need

Making sourdough requires some special equipment to get the job done. Here’s a list of the required tools. We’ve linked to the exact tools that we use, but you can use whatever suits you!

Required tools for this sourdough bread recipe

  1. Large dutch oven for baking the bread
  2. An active sourdough starter (here’s how to make it!)
  3. Plastic bag for proofing (reuse it every time you make bread)
  4. 500 gram oval banneton proofing basket where the dough has its final rest
  5. Kitchen scale for measuring
  6. Our printable Sourdough Bread Checklist
  7. Parchment paper
  8. Bench scraper for shaping the dough
  9. Dough whisk for quickly and easily stirring the dough mixture (optional)
  10. Lame or sharp knife for scoring the bread
  11. Oven gloves for easily removing the bread from the oven (optional)

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What flours are used for sourdough bread?

You can make sourdough bread with many different types of flour. For our sourdough bread recipe, we use a mixture of all-purpose flour (for texture), bread flour (for strength), and whole wheat flour (for flavor). We find that this mix makes a moderately open crumb—those beautiful holes in sourdough, a chewy crust, and tangy flavor. Personally, we use King Arthur brand organic flour for all three of the flours. In testing many different flours, we find it has the best and most consistent results for our sourdough bread recipe. (Some other flour brands made for a denser bread.)

Best sourdough bread recipe | How to make sourdough bread | sourdough bread recipe with starter

Proofing sourdough bread

So, what’s proofing? Proofing is when you let bread dough rest after you’ve added yeast so that it rises. In this recipe, there are multiple steps that involve proofing, some at room temperature and some in a warm area. What’s the optimal warm sourdough bread proofing temperature? For best results, your sourdough bread proofing temperature should be between 80°F and 90°F.

The recipe below calls for setting up a warm proofing area where the bread can sit at this temperature. If you have it, use the proofing setting on your oven for this step. Other options: you can turn on the oven to preheat for about 1 minute and then turn it off before you place the dough in the oven. Or, you can pour a few cups of boiling water into the oven beneath your bowl to raise the temperature. Whatever the case, while the bread is proofing, be careful not to accidentally turn on the oven for any other reason! (We’ve had this happen before, and it’s not pretty!) 

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What’s a banneton?

For the final proofing stage in our sourdough bread recipe, the bread proofs in a basket called a banneton. The banneton helps to shape the bread and also makes for those lovely decorative lines on the top of the bread. To ensure the bread doesn’t stick to the banneton, the inside is coated with a mix of 1/2 cup all purpose flour and 1/2 cup rice flour, a tip we learned from the Tartine cookbook. We keep a container full of this mix on hand for baking days.

When it’s not in use, you can store the banneton at room temperature. There’s no need to clean the banneton; simply let it dry out after baking. After every few bakes, we scrape out any excess flour with a spoon so that you can still get those nice decorative lines in the top of the dough.

Sourdough starter | Best sourdough bread recipe | how to make sourdough starter

Feeding and maintaining a sourdough starter

Sourdough bread is a naturally leavened bread, meaning that instead of using active dry yeast to rise, it uses a sourdough starter! The first step in our sourdough bread recipe is to feed the sourdough starter. The night before you decide to make bread, feed the sourdough starter following the instructions in the recipe below. Learning how to care for your starter is an important part of this sourdough bread recipe. To learn about how to feed your sourdough starter, see our post and video about How to Feed Sourdough Starter.

If you don’t have a sourdough starter yet, you can learn how to make sourdough starter at home! And it’s really simple. See our post about How to Make Sourdough Starter—Out of Thin Air!

What is baker’s percentage?

If you’ve read up on sourdough bread, you may have heard of the terms “baker’s percentage” or “hydration level”. These terms refer to the amount of water in the recipe, as compared to the amount of flour. This sourdough bread recipe is a high hydration bread. The baker’s percentage for this bread is 78% hydration (350 grams of water / 450 grams of flour).

Best sourdough bread recipe | How to make sourdough bread | sourdough bread recipe with starter

How to store homemade bread

Once you’ve baked your homemade bread, it is best eaten within 48 hours. We store ours wrapped in cloth at room temperature. You can use a clean dish towel; or, made a special bread bag for storage out of a large napkin. If you don’t think you’ll eat the entire loaf in 48 hours, you can freeze whatever you don’t think you’ll eat! Let the sourdough bread cool fully to room temperature, then cut it into slices and place it into a sealed bag or container.

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Printable checklist for sourdough bread

Last thing: as we’ve honed this recipe through the years, we found that the hardest part of making sourdough bread was keeping track of which step we were on! To solve that problem, we created this easy to follow printable checklist so that you don’t miss a beat. Filling in the circles also adds satisfaction to each step! You can reuse the checklist five times—after that, print a new checklist and you’re good to go.

Are you ready? If you’ve made it this far, you’re ready to learn how to make sourdough bread at home. See the master recipe below—and don’t forget that printable! Let us know any questions in the comments. Happy baking!

Related posts

This post is one of three in our series on how to make sourdough bread at home:

Best sourdough bread recipe | How to make sourdough bread | sourdough bread recipe with starter

Best sourdough bread recipe | How to make sourdough bread | sourdough bread recipe with starter

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sourdough starter | sourdough bread recipe | how to make sourdough starter | how to make sourdough bread | is sourdough bread healthy | sourdough bread recipe with starter | sourdough bread proofing temperature | how to store homemade bread | naturally leavened bread

Sourdough Bread Recipe: The Simplified Guide


1 Star (4 votes, average: 5.00 out of 1)

  • Author: Alex
  • Prep Time: 6 hours
  • Cook Time: 40 minutes
  • Total Time: 6 hours 40 minutes
  • Yield: 10 slices
  • Category: Bread
  • Method: Baked
  • Cuisine: French

Description

This sourdough bread recipe is the ultimate guide to making your own sourdough bread! You’ll be amazed by the tangy flavor, beautiful chewy crust, and perfect texture. And don’t forget the printable checklist!


Ingredients

  • 200 grams all purpose flour
  • 200 grams bread flour
  • 50 grams whole wheat flour
  • 350 grams purified water, room temperature
  • 80 grams active sourdough starter
  • 10 grams kosher salt
  • 50/50 blend of rice flour and all purpose flour, for dusting the banneton

Instructions

Day 1: Preparing the Starter

On Day 1, you’ll feed your sourdough starter the night before you prepare the dough.

Feed the starter: Remove the active starter from the refrigerator around 9:00 pm. Discard all but 1 tablespoon of the starter. Add 50 grams of purified water and 50 grams of all purpose flour. Stir, cover, and leave at room temperature overnight. The starter should be bubbly and about doubled in size between 9:00 am and 11:00 am the following day. (More about feeding your starter is at How to Feed Sourdough Starter.)

Print the printable checklist: Print off our Sourdough Bread Checklist to use when baking the dough tomorrow!

Day 2: Preparing the Dough

On Day 2, you’ll make and proof the dough. This is the most labor intensive day; the entire process will take around 5 hours. The step numbers correspond to the printable checklist; make sure you have it printed and ready to go!

1 Mix flour and water; rest for 1 hour at room temp (“autolyse”): In a small mixing bowl, combine the all purpose flour, bread flour and whole wheat flour with the purified water. Use a spoon or dough whisk to stir until all dry flour has been incorporated into a raggy dough. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or place the bowl in a large Ziploc bag and place leave room temperature. Set a timer for 1 hour.

2a Prepare the proofing area: Prepare a warm area for proofing before starting next step. For best results, the proofing should be in a warm location, between 80° and 90° degrees. (For more on creating a proofing area, see the section above, “Proofing sourdough bread.”)

2b Stir in the starter and proof for 30 minutes: Add the starter to the dough and stir until loosely incorporated; it does not need to be perfectly stirred in. Cover the bowl and place it in the warm area for proofing. Set a timer for 30 minutes.

Watch the video instructions for about folding for the next few steps.

3 Add salt, mix with your hands, and proof for 30 minutes: Add the kosher salt evenly across the dough and mix the dough with your hands until the salt is incorporated. See the video above to watch how to mix the dough. Return the covered dough to the proofing area and set timer for 30 minutes.

4 Fold and proof for 30 minutes: Fold the dough: with wet hands, lift one side of the dough straight up so that it stretches and fold it across the center; turn the bowl a quarter turn and repeat 4 times. Lift up the dough and wrap it onto itself until you have a smooth surface, then flip it over and place it in the bowl seam side down. See the video above to watch how to fold the dough. Return the covered dough to the proofing area and set timer for 30 minutes.

5 Fold and proof for 45 minutes: Fold the dough again in the same way as Step 4, wrapping it as much as possible without tearing the dough. Return the covered dough to a warm area and set a timer for 45 minutes.

6 Gently fold and proof for 1 hour 30 minutes: Gently fold the dough in the same way as Step 4, being careful not to deflate built up air in the dough. Return the covered dough to a warm area and set timer for 1 hour.

Before you start Step 7, watch the video for instructions on pre-shaping and shaping the dough.

7 Pre-shape the dough and rest for 30 minutes at room temp: At this point the dough should appear bubbly on top and wiggle when shaken. (If it is not ready, proof for a few more minutes; the timing can vary depending on the temperature of your proofing and variations in the starter.) Turn the dough onto an unfloured countertop. Lightly flour the top of the dough and then use a bench scraper to gently scrape the dough into a ball, creating tension on top. Do not go so far that you tear the dough. Place an inverted bowl over the top of the dough. Set a timer and rest the dough for 30 minutes.

8 Shape the dough, place it in the banneton, and rest for 30 minutes at room temp: Prepare the banneton by rubbing the 50/50 rice flour mixture into all of the grooves of the banneton. Remove the bowl from over the dough; the dough should be formed into a gently rounded shape. Rub just enough flour onto the top of the dough so that it isn’t tacky. Use the bench scraper to flip the dough so that the floured side is down. Gently stretch the dough into a rectangle. Moving quickly, fold the top third of the dough down, and the bottom third up to create a packet. Rotate the dough 90 degrees and gently roll it into a log shape. Be careful to not press the dough or deflate it. Use your hands to gently pull the dough tight and pinch off the seams at the end of the dough. Rub a little more flour onto the top of the dough so that it isn’t tacky. Gently flip the dough into the banneton and pinch off the bottom seam. Place the banneton into the proofing bag and set timer for 30 minutes.

9 Refrigerate overnight: Place the banneton in a bag and refrigerate until the following morning.

Day 3: Baking the Dough

10 Preheat the Dutch oven at 515°F for 30 minutes: The following morning, place a covered Dutch oven on the center rack in your oven. Preheat to 515°F for at least 30 minutes. If your oven only reaches to 500°F, the recipe will still work, but you won’t get quite as much rise out of the bread.

11 Place on parchment, score, and bake for 17 minutes in Dutch oven:

  • After preheating, cut a piece of parchment paper the width of your banneton. Remove the banneton from the refrigerator and pull back slightly around the edge of the dough to release it from the banneton. Gently invert the banneton onto the parchment paper and reach your hand into the basket to release it from the banneton. Try not to deflate the dough. 
  • Using a lame or sharp knife, cut a shallow slit at angle across the top of the dough. You can also add additional small shallow cuts for decoration. 
  • As quickly as possible, remove the lid from the Dutch oven and carefully place the parchment paper with dough into the Dutch oven. Cover it and set the timer for 17 minutes.

12 Place the bread on the oven rack, reduce to 400°F and bake for 23 minutes: After 17 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 400°F. Remove the Dutch oven, carefully take out the bread. and set the bread directly onto the oven rack. Bake for an additional 23 minutes. Remove the bread from the oven and allow it to cool on a cooling rack for at least 45 minutes.

After cooling, the bread is ready to eat. Store the bread wrapped in cloth or in a bread bag on the counter for up to 2 days, or freeze wrapped in foil in a plastic bag for several months.

Keywords: Homemade Sourdough Bread, Homemade Bread, How to Make Sourdough Bread, Best Sourdough Bread, Easy Sourdough Bread

 

About the Authors

Sonja Overhiser

Cookbook Author and writer

Sonja Overhiser is an acclaimed vegetarian cookbook author and cook based in Indianapolis. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.

Alex Overhiser

Cookbook Author and photographer

Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the “best vegetarian cookbooks” by Epicurious.

11 Comments

  • Reply
    Emily
    October 22, 2018 at 3:10 pm

    I am so excited to try this! I recently decided I wanted to learn to bake sourdough this fall/winter and checked out several books from the library which seem rather overwhelming. This seems straightforward and easy to try!

    • Reply
      Sonja
      October 23, 2018 at 8:08 am

      We love hearing this! Let us know what you think when you try it, and if you have any questions! Good luck!

  • Reply
    Vickie
    October 25, 2018 at 1:24 pm

    This is a great article and I am trying the bread today! One question I have – Is it okay to go a bit longer on some of the rise times – the ones after dough folds and before the final overnight rise?

    • Reply
      Alex
      October 25, 2018 at 1:48 pm

      Hi! Yes, 15 minutes here or there doesn’t effect things too much 😁 if you need more time for one step, you can do a room temperature rise so that it moves slower as well.

  • Reply
    Vickie
    October 25, 2018 at 4:56 pm

    At step 6 my dough seems much wetter than in the video, and I couldn’t even lift it out of the bowl to turn and shape. I am afraid that when I put it in the banneton it is going to stick too much. Not sure what to do.

    • Reply
      Alex
      October 25, 2018 at 8:52 pm

      Hi! You can always add a bit of extra flour during the final shaping if the dough turns on wet. I hope it worked out!

  • Reply
    Vickie
    October 26, 2018 at 3:14 pm

    My bread came out really good. I have had a starter for a while, and have been making sourdough bread for a while, but my recipe didn’t have as many steps as yours and I think your process improved the texture of the bread. I was thinking it may not have risen enough – there are holes, but not as much as in your photo. I did have the issue with it being too loose and sticky, so I think next time I will add more flour as you suggested above. Thank you for this, and for the very helpful video!

    • Reply
      Alex
      October 26, 2018 at 4:16 pm

      I’m glad it worked out! The size of the holes can be greatly influenced by how gentle you are with the folds. I get a little more comfortable each time I make it!

  • Reply
    Vickie
    October 27, 2018 at 8:25 am

    Thanks Alex I will keep working on this bread recipe. I appreciate all your detailed instructions, the video, and your answering my questions!

  • Reply
    Vickie
    October 29, 2018 at 8:46 am

    How do you store this bread, if you want to keep it for a few days?

    • Reply
      Alex
      October 29, 2018 at 9:15 am

      We keep the bread wrapped in a clean dish towel on the counter for up to 2 days. Otherwise, you can freeze until using it!

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