Beginner’s Rustic Sourdough Loaf
As promised, here is my beginner’s recipe for sourdough bread. It’s gloriously simple, has 4 ingredients (including water and salt, which barely count as ingredients), and has a very impressive result with minimal work. It’s easy enough for a beginner, but beautiful and delicious enough for anyone.
This is going to be a basic crusty white sourdough loaf. We’ll move on to whole wheat later, but let’s start with white because it’s easier to work with, has more consistent results, and it’s so yummy! I mean, look at it. Slap on a thick layer of cultured butter and heaven in your mouth. It’s perfect for a hearty sandwich, and even better with soup. It’s just a good, all-around loaf, and worth trying to make. I think you’ll be surprised how easy it is.
- Gather your ingredients.
- Add them all to a large bowl. Make sure you choose a bowl large enough to hold double the volume of what you’re putting in. It’ll get that big after rising. It’s better to have something way too big than too small.
- Stir with a wooden spoon. (If you have one, a Danish dough whisk is wonderful)
- This is what it should look like when it’s done stirring. Still a little craggy, but evenly stirred with no wet or dry spots.
- Feed your starter.
- Cover loosely with plastic wrap or a lid and let rise for 12~24 hours. If it’s warm, go with the shorter rise, if it’s cold, go with the longer rise. But really, this is a very forgiving loaf. I’ve totally forgotten about it and accidentally let it rise too long and still turned out a beautiful loaf.
- This is what it looks like after the first rise.
- Scrape the dough out onto a generously floured surface.
- What the dough looks like scraped out onto the surface.
- This is a very wet dough, so I prefer to use a pastry scraper, but you can use your hands for this. Start by pulling the dough from one side and folding over.
- Rotate and fold another side.
- Repeat with a third side.
- Keep folding until you have a relatively light little ball. It’ll take a few turns.
- This is after 5 turns.
- Now take the dough with floured hands, turn it over so the seam side is down, encouraging the tension you’ve created on the surface to stay.
- Place the ball of dough, seam side down, on a generously floured clean kitchen towel.
- Gently fold the towel over the dough and let rise for 2-3 hours.
- 30 minutes before the full rise, preheat the oven to 475°F with a large, heavy bottomed, lidded pot inside.
- After the second rise, gently place the dough inside the pot, this time seam side up.
- Cover the pot and bake for 30 minutes.
- After 30 minutes, remove the lid and bake for another 15-20 minutes.
- Let cool completely before slicing or tearing. Don’t be tempted to cut into the hot loaf. The bread is still releasing it’s last little bit of steam to create the perfect crust and crumb. Cutting into it prematurely will result in a denser, wetter bread.
- 3 cups unbleached (preferably organic) all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup sourdough starter
- 1-1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1-1/3 cup cool water (preferably dechlorinated)
- In a large bowl, combine all of your ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon or dough whisk until thoroughly mixed. Cover and let rise on the counter for 12~24 hours. In warmer weather, go with the shorter rise, cooler weather the longer rise. Keep an eye out for the dough doubling in volume.
- After the first rise, scrape the dough out onto a generously floured surface. Gently pull one side of the dough over, turn and pull another side, and keep repeating until you have a tight little ball. It'll take 4~6 turns.*
- Generously flour a clean kitchen towel. Pick up the dough ball, seam side down, place it on the prepared towel. Loosely fold the towel over the dough and let rise 2~3 hours.
- 30 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 475°F with a large, heavy bottomed, lidded pot inside.
- After the full second rise and preheat, Place the dough seam side up inside the preheated pot. Put the lid on and bake in the oven for 30 minutes. Then remove the lid and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes until the crust is a dark golden brown.
- Let cool completely before cutting.
- *This is a very wet dough, so I prefer to use a dough scraper to be sure I get all of the dough up, but you can use your hands to fold.
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