Sourdough Bread for Beginners: Full Guide

Published Categorized as Beginner Guides

Some may find sourdough bread recipes daunting. But as long as you’re following a method, the process is fairly simple, and quite rewarding to say the least. Stick around for a full guide on baking sourdough bread for beginners!

sourdough bread baked

What is Sourdough Bread?

Essentially, sourdough bread is a type of bread that has been slow fermented, and naturally leavened through the use of a sourdough starter. Instead of commercial yeast, or chemical leavening agents (like baking powder or baking soda), a live fermented culture is used to make the bread rise.

The sourdough starter operates with the dough to break down gluten and create a loaf of sourdough bread that is easily digestible by the body. Sourdough bread is famous for its slightly tangy flavor, coupled with its thick, chewy crust.

Sourdough Starter

Before you attempt to bake sourdough bread, you’ll need an active sourdough starter.

The starter is made by combining equal parts flour and water together in a glass jar. Wild yeast and bacteria feed off the flour, prompting the number of yeast and bacteria to multiply within the mixture.

Feeding your starter regularly is important as it ensures that your sourdough starter becomes stronger, eventually being used in a sourdough bread recipe.

The process of making a sourdough starter from scratch can take anywhere from 7 to 14 days, depending on the temperature of your kitchen.

Sourdough vs Regular Bread

There are many attributes that set sourdough apart from traditional yeast breads.

Firstly, sourdough is much wetter and stickier, which is a very good thing.

Sourdough doesn’t require much kneading. Instead you can bring the dough together with your hands, until it’s almost entirely combined, and then you leave it alone.

Moreover, the biggest difference between sourdough and regular bread is the fact that sourdough doesn’t require yeast. You conjure your own wild yeast, through a sourdough starter. This starter is a fermented type of food that can be used to make a tasty sourdough loaf, sourdough cinnamon rolls, sourdough brownies, and so much more.

sourdough bread for beginners

How to Feed You Sourdough Starter for Beginners

You can use a small ratio of starter with water and flour during feeding so that it can rise slowly over several hours.

Feed the starter before you sleep, and combine the bread dough in the morning, to produce a fresh homemade sourdough bread by the evening.

Regardless of the time you choose to feed and bake you should aim to feed the starter 12 hours before you plan to make the dough. Mix 10 grams of unfed starter with 25 grams of flour and 25 grams of water into a clean jar, then cover it loosely and allow it to rise at room temperature.

When is My Starter Ready to Use?

Once the starter is ready to use, you’ll notice that it has doubled in size, with bubbles appearing on the surface and sides of the jar.

In warmer kitchens this can take up to 12 hours, on the other hand cooler kitchens may cause the starter to take longer to ferment.

If you’re unsure about the status of your starter, then attempt a float test. Simply drop a small tendril of starter into a glass of water, and if it floats its ready to bake with. However, if the small glob of starter sinks to the bottom, allow a few more feedings before trying again.

When working with a new starter, it can take multiple feedings for it to build the appropriate strength to bake with.

Ingredients

The best thing about this sourdough recipe is that you only require a few basic ingredients:

  • Bread flour
  • Water
  • Salt
  • Sourdough starter

We’ve found that glutenous type of flour such as spelt, einkorn, rye and whole wheat flour work best when baking a simple sourdough bread.

Kneading the dough

How to Make Sourdough Bread: Step-by-Step Instructions

Before we get our hands messy, let’s take a look at the steps required to bake your first sourdough loaf:

  1. Feed your sourdough starter and let it rise until it has doubled
  2. Mix the dough and let it rest for one hour at room temperature
  3. Perform 2 sets of stretches and folds spaced 30 minutes apart
  4. Cover the bowl and let the dough ferment for 7-10 hours
  5. Shape the dough and let the dough rise for 1-2 hours
  6. Score and bake

Feed the Sourdough Starter

About 12 hours before you plan to create your dough, find a clean jar and add:

  • 10 grams unfed starter
  • 25 grams water
  • 25 grams flour

Cover the jar and allow it to rest in your kitchen at room temperature. This small portion of starter combined with flour and water should take between 8 to 12 hours to double in size.

Mix the Dough

  1. Once the starter has doubled in size, transfer it to a large bowl, plus 350 grams of water.
  2. Stir them together using a spatula, to distribute the starter evenly
  3. Add 500 grams of bread flour, and 10 grams of sea salt to the bowl
  4. Use the spatula to combine these ingredients together until you’re left with a shaggy formation.
  5. Make sure you grab the dry bits stuck to the sides of the bowl as well.
  6. Cover the bowl with a damp kitchen towel and let the dough rest, or autolyze for one hour on the kitchen counter. During this period the dough will absorb the water, making it easier to handle.

Stretch and Fold the Dough

  1. Once the hour is complete, perform two sets of stretches and folds spaced 30 minutes apart. This process will increase the strength of the dough and help gluten development.
  2. Wet your hands with water, pick up the dough on one side and stretch it up and over itself.
  3. Turn the bowl a quarter of the way and repeat this step until you have turned your bowl a full circle. The dough should have begun to form into a tight sticky dough ball.
  4. Let the dough rest for 30 minutes, and repeat the series of stretch and folds a second time.

Bulk Fermentation

  1. After the second stretch and fold, cover the bowl, and let the dough sit for 7-10 hours on your kitchen counter.
  2. The dough would be ready for the next step once it has risen by about 50-75%.

Shape the Dough

  1. Gently tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Pull the 4 sides of the dough up and into the middle of itself, then turn flip the dough over so that the seam side is down.
  2. Gently cup the dough, pulling and twisting, till it forms a taut skin, with surface tension outside of the dough ball. Place the dough on to a piece of parchment paper, seam side down. Use the parchment paper to lift the dough into the bowl.
  3. Cover the bowl and let the dough rise for 1-2 hours. The dough will be ready to bake once it has risen by 25%. Use your thumb to make an indentation in the dough to check if it’s ready. If it springs back very slowly it’s ready to bake.

Preheat Oven

  1. 30 minutes before the dough is ready to bake with, preheat your oven to 450 degrees, with an empty Dutch oven inside.
  2. The Dutch oven acts like a steam oven by entrapping the steam from the dough during the initial 20 minutes of baking. The steam helps the dough produce good oven spring to the loaf.

Score and Bake

  1. Once the dough is read to bake with, use a bread lame, sharp knife, or sharp razor blade to create a 2 or 3 inch slash to the top of the dough.
  2. Scoring the dough allows it to expand and rise instead of bursting when baking.
  3. Wearing a pair of heavy silicon gloves, remove the Dutch oven from the oven, and take off the lid. Use the parchment paper to carefully carry the dough and transfer it to the Dutch oven.
  4. Place the lid back on the Dutch oven, and return it to the oven to bake for 20 minutes.
  5. After 20 minutes, remove the lid and bake uncovered for a further 25 to 30 minutes, or until the crust has achieved a lovely golden brown colour.
  6. Let the load cool on a cooling rack for 1 to 2 hours before slicing it to prevent your bread emerging gummy.
Bread sourdough

Sourdough Bread Equipment

You really don’t have to own a bunch of fancy equipment when baking, however they do tend to become a little handy for beginners!

  • A Large Bowl – A large bowl is appropriate for your dough. Since you may require a dough rise overnight, you’ll need a bowl that’s tall enough to avoid overflowing.
  • Dough Scraper – This super handy tool is great at scraping the dough out of the original bowl, without popping the air bubbles in the dough.
  • Proofing Basket – The proofing basket helps support the shape of the sourdough loaf, during its final rise before baking.
  • Dutch Oven – A Dutch oven is great at producing sourdough loaves providing enough steam for the dough while it bakes. This helps your first loaf achieve a crunchy crust with a soft center.

Sourdough Bread Tips

Here’s a list of tips to help you create your first loaf when making artisan sourdough bread.

  • Keep a Baking Journal
  • Use an Active Sourdough Starter
  • Use a Kitchen Scale
  • Use a Loaf Pan

Keep a Baking Journal

When you’ve only started making sourdough bread, it’s a good idea to keep the first few notes of the times you managed to bake sourdough bread. Pay attention to the overall temperature of your kitchen and note it down.

Take notes of how long it took your dough to rise, so that you can make slight adjustments next time.

Use an Active Sourdough Starter

The best time to make your dough is when your starter has been fed and is active and bubbly.

The moment it begins to fall back into its container, it needs to fed again in order to make the bread.

Use a Kitchen Scale

For accurate results, use a kitchen scale. It will provide the most accurate measurements for your bread making ingredients.

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Use a Loaf Pan

If you aren’t in possession of a Dutch oven, then you can bake this sourdough bread in a lightly greases loaf pan.

After the first rise, shape the dough and place it seam side down into the loaf pan, allowing it to rise.

Bake the loaf in the oven at 375 degrees for 45 minutes, until the internal temperature reads 190F.

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Baker’s Schedule

A baker’s schedule helps monitor your baking in chronological order, and ensures a comfortable bread baking experience.

Remember that in colder kitchens, the rising times will need to be longer than in warmer kitchens.

To Bake Bread in the Morning

  1. 8.00 am – Feed the starter in the morning the day before you plan to bake
  2. 8.00 pm – Mix the dough and let it rest at room temperature for 1 hour
  3. 9.00 pm – Stretch and fold the dough, cover and let the dough rest at room temperature for half an hour
  4. 9.30 pm – Perform another set of stretches and folds, then cover the bowl and allow it to rest on the kitchen counter overnight
  5. 6.00 am – Shape the dough, place it onto a piece of parchment paper, and then into a proofing bowl. Cover the bowl and let the dough rise for 1 hour
  6. 6.30 am – While the dough rises, place your Dutch oven into your oven and preheat it to 450 degrees for half an hour.
  7. 7.00 am – Bake covered for 20 minutes, uncover and bake for a further 25 to 30 minutes.

To Bake Bread in the Evening

  • 6.00 pm – Feed the starter the evening before you bake
  • 6.00 am – The next morning make the dough and let it rest at room temperature for an hour
  • 7.00 am – Stretch and fold the dough, cover and let it rest for 30 minutes (room temperature)
  • 7.30 am – Perform another set of stretches and folds, then cover the bowl and let it rest on the kitchen counter
  • 4.00 pm – Shape the dough, place it on parchment paper, and then a proofing bowl. Cover the bowl for 1 hour
  • 4.30 pm – While the dough rises, place your Dutch oven into your oven and preheat to 450 degrees for 30 minutes
  • 5.00 pm – Bake covered for 20 minutes, uncover and bake for another 30 minutes/

How to Store Sourdough Bread?

Store the loaf at room temperature in a bread bag, wrapped neatly in a kitchen towel. You can even store the bread on a cutting board, with a cake-stand top covering the bread.

Refrain from refrigerating the loaf as this will cause the bread to become hard. Freeze full loaves or individual slices, wrapped taut in plastic wrap, and pop them into a freezer safe container for up top 3 months.

Baking Sourdough is Easier than You Might Think!

Baking a loaf of sourdough bread can be quite a challenge for beginners, especially with the important role temperature plays in most of sourdough bread baking.

But once you’ve baked your first few loaves, you begin to get the hang of it. Soon enough you’re creating beautiful, delicious loaves for you and your family to enjoy!

FAQs

Why is Sourdough Bread Not Good For You?

While sourdough bread is easier to digest, it is also a calorie dense bread, meaning that it can be difficult to maintain your weight, depending on the type of flour that was used in the starter.

Is it Hard to Make Sourdough Bread?

While it is true that sourdough is harder to make than regular bread, due to it having a starter that constantly needs to be fed, before it’s ready to bake with, it isn’t extremely complicated, and once you get the hang of it, you may enjoy it more than any other bread recipe.

Is Sourdough Bread the Easiest Bread to Digest?

Sourdough might be easier to digest than white bread for most people. Sourdough acts as a prebiotic, meaning that the fiber in the bread helps nudge the good bacteria along in your intestines. These bacteria are good for maintaining a healthy digestive system.

Is Sourdough Bread Good for Weight Loss?

Sourdough can contain health benefits due to the fermentation process, with beneficial bacteria and low phytates making sourdough easier to digest; this may also help with weight loss.

By Natasha Krajnc

Hi! My name is Natasha and I'm specialized in home sourdough bread baking and currently based in Slovakia - a very small country in Central Europe. My bread baking story began in 2011 when I decided to give up commercial yeast. I felt tired all the time (especially after eating bread and other foods made with yeast), I wasn’t motivated to do anything, had trouble concentrating throughout the day, my abdomen was bloated and I was like a trumpet on steroids – basically, I was quite a wreck. I was a big bread lover (and still am) and having to stop eating bread was quite hard at that time but I felt I was on a right way to give my body a chance to heal itself.

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