My Favorite Go-To Sourdough Bread Recipe
on Nov 23, 2021, Updated Sep 25, 2023
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This basic go-to sourdough bread recipe creates the perfect crusty on the outside, tender on the inside loaf that’s just waiting to be sliced, toasted, and slathered with butter and jam!
I love this simple sourdough bread recipe because it generates the best flavor and texture, and it’s sure to please everyone in your home. This is one of those heart-filling recipes for sure.
The Best Homemade Sourdough Bread Recipe
I can’t believe I’m finally sharing my sourdough recipes with you! I planned on doing a bunch of these staple recipes this fall when everyone was feeling like baking again, but now that we are all baking together at home, this is the perfect time for me to get this helpful information into your hands. Plus … is there anything better than a crusty piece of sourdough bread with a generous spread of butter on top? I think not.
I’m here to tell you that sourdough bread baking does NOT need to be fussy or overly complicated. My method for sourdough baking does not include hydration rations, creating an autolyze, or any equipment that isn’t necessary. It’s simple and easy for anyone to get a handle on.
When I first started making sourdough bread, I spent a MONTH trying a million recipes and failing over and over again (I made 7 loaves over one week until I got ONE that was kinda right). I just didn’t understand enough and they were too fussy, and you know that’s not my style. I tell you that for a few reasons. If it takes you more than one loaf of bread to get it perfect, that’s normal, but you also shouldn’t fail for a month trying, and I’m here to help prevent that.
Table of Contents
Here are the basic steps and a timeline for making sourdough bread:
- Feed your active healthy starter. (Don’t have one? You can make your own in about a week with this tutorial.) This is typically done the morning before you plan on having a loaf of bread to eat (a day ahead of time).
- Mix up your dough (the night before you plan to bake the bread).
- Let the mixed dough rest for 1 hour. This is replacing making an autolyze in more formal sourdough bread baking.
- Use your hands to work the dough into a ball. Simply pull the edge of the dough in the bowl to the center and rotate around the bowl a few times.
- Cover and let rest for 8 to 10 hours (typically overnight the day before you want to bake the bread). This is often called a “bulk rise,” in sourdough baking terms.
- The next morning, remove the dough from the bowl and shape (turn it into a ball).
- Place the shaped dough in a prepared bread basket or bowl.
- Rise a second time before baking, generally 1 to 2 hours.
- Score the dough.
- Bake, cool a bit, and ENJOY!
To repeat that because it got long, all you do is: make the dough, rest, turn the dough, long rest, shape the dough, rest, bake, rest, eat! See? Not really hard, just some time involved. It’s a solid 10 minutes of hands-on time mixed in with 12 to 16 hours or so of waiting.
Tips for making your sourdough bread more sour:
- There are two things working in your sourdough starter: natural yeast and acid-producing bacteria. You want to promote the bacteria that make the flavor more sour.
- Feed your starter whole grains, like rye or buckwheat flour; they tend to make the bacteria happy!
- Keep your sourdough starter thinner by feeding it less often. The waste that the bacteria make (like the whey in yogurt) is called hooch and it’ll make your bread more sour tasting. Stir it in instead of pouring it off, and use after the starter has fallen (instead of at its peak in rise).
- Choose whole grain sourdough recipes; they’ll have a more sour taste then all white flour recipes.
- Let your sourdough bread dough rest longer. The longer it rests, the more sour it gets.
- Younger starters tend to be more mild; your starter will get more sour as it develops and ages.
Tips for making your sourdough bread more mild (less sour):
- Feed your starter white flour (like all-purpose); less whole grains lend to a milder flavor.
- Bake breads with all-purpose flour.
- Don’t ferment or rest your dough as long. I do an 8 to 10 hour first rise, but then I only let it rest for another 1 to 2 hours after it is shaped. If you’d like it more sour, you can rest the shaped loaves for another 8 to 10 hours or overnight.
- Feed your sourdough starter often, pour off any hooch that it might make, and use the starter when it is at its peak in rise.
Sourdough Bread Baking FAQ:
What ingredients do I need for sourdough bread?
You only need a sourdough starter, flour, water, and salt. That being said, I have had the best luck using unbleached flour and, if you can, organic flour. The natural yeast in the starter seem to do better with these flours. And as far water goes, I use tap water. If your water is highly treated you might want to consider using bottled or filtered water. If you have a lot of chlorine in your water, you can let a glass of water set out overnight and that will give the chlorine time to dissipate a bit. Those are small things and you don’t have to worry about it, but if your dough isn’t rising as well as you’d like, you might want to see if changing up your flour or water matters.
How do I make more of my starter?
Easy — simply feed it more! When you are getting it ready for baking, if you’d like to bake more than one loaf or make a recipe that uses more than 50 to 70 grams of starter, just feed it double: 100g of both water and flour. If you need even more than that, when the starter has peaked, feed it again. Repeat until you have the amount of starter that you need.
How does the temperature of my house affect my sourdough bread?
It will change how long it takes for your bread and starter to rise after being made or after a feeding. A cool house will take longer to rise, and in a warm house your bread will rise much faster. You’ll find that it takes longer in the winter for your bread to get ready, and it’ll be faster in the summer. That being said, you can do things to help even out the temperature. You can use warm water on cool days in your starter or in your bread or you can wrap a warm towel around your bowl or starter jar. There’s all kinds of tricks, I’d try a few if you are finding your starter or bread are being slow to rise.
How do I revive a neglected starter? How do I store my starter when I’m away or not baking? How do I make a homemade sourdough starter myself?
Lucky for you I wrote a giant post all about how to start/keep/revive a sourdough starter and you can check that out with any sourdough starter specific questions.
What equipment do I need to make sourdough bread?
You can get all kinds of things, but I’m here to tell you, you can make due with what you have at home, too. You’ll want a bowl and fork to mix the dough, a dish towel to cover the bowl with, parchment paper for moving the bread to the pan (though foil sprayed with cooking spray works in a pinch, too), an oven safe pan with a lid (a 4 to 5 quart pan is perfect), and a sharp or serrated knife to score the top.
Things that are nice to have: a scale for more accurate measuring, a dutch oven with a lid for baking (they trap the heat well and are just so nice to work with), a bread proofing basket instead of a bowl to let your shaped loaf rise in (it’s kind of fun to have), and a lame (or razor blade on a stick) is fun to make the marks on top. So you can go basic and if you get more into it, you can get a few specialty items like the bread basket, a dutch oven, and a lame.
One note on the bread proofing baskets or banneton: They come in a few sizes and shapes. I’d recommend getting a 9-inch round one. I have found that unless you have a really large dutch oven, the long or oval loaves don’t really fit in anything to bake them.
Do I need to heat my dutch oven before I add my bread for cooking?
No! You certainly can but after a fair amount of testing I have found that starting my bread in a room temperature dutch oven worked just great, and it was so much easier to not deal with a pot that was 450 degrees F. and trying to get the bread into it.
I made a video too for visual learners!
Easy Sourdough Bread Recipe
- 50 grams active starter, (1/4 cup)
- 350 grams warm water, (1 1/3 cups + 2 tablespoons)
- 500 grams all-purpose or bread flour, (4 cups and 2 tablespoons)
- 10 grams salt, (1 1/2 teaspoons)
- The day that you’d like to make your bread, feed your starter. I like to feed mine the morning before I plan to make my dough or at least a few hours before. Your starter will be ready to use when it is at its peak and before it starts to shrink back down in size.
- To make your bread dough, measure out your active sourdough starter into a medium mixing bowl.
- Add the water, and stir well with a fork to combine well.
- Add the flour and salt, and use the fork to combine the mixture well. It will won’t look like like bread dough yet; just stir it well to combine and that’s good enough.
- Cover the bowl with a damp kitchen towel, and let rest for 1 hour at room temperature.
- After an hour, use your hands to gently pull the edge of the dough near the side of the bowl and push it down into the middle of the bowl. Do this, rotating round the bowl, until the dough starts to look like bread dough and comes together in more of a ball. This should take about a minute of going round the bowl 2 to 3 times pulling and tucking into the center.
- Cover the bread dough with a damp kitchen towel and let it rise for 8 to 10 hours at room temperature. This is known as the bulk rise. I typically let mine rise overnight.
- After the bulk rise, gently remove the dough from the bowl onto a lightly floured surface. Tuck the edges of the dough into the center and work around the edges until you’ve tucked them all in. Flip the ball dough over. Let it rest for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Using your hands, gently pull the dough ball towards you, letting its grip on the counter pull it into a tighter ball. Rotate the dough slightly and repeat around the edges until you’ve formed a tight ball (if this is confusing, watch the video on the post where I demonstrate how to do this! It’s not hard once you see it done once).
- Prepare a bread proofing basket by dusting it well with flour (if it’s new, you’ll need to season it by spraying it with a little water and then adding the flour so it sticks), or you can use a medium mixing bowl (about 8 inches across). To prepare the mixing bowl, you’ll want to coat it generously with cooking spray and then flour very well, or you can line it with a kitchen towel and dust it very well with flour.
- Place your dough ball, smooth top down, into your prepare basket or bowl, and cover with a damp towel.
- Let the dough rest for 1 to 2 hours, at room temperature, or until it’s spread out a bit and looks puffy.
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
- Gently turn your bread dough out onto a piece of parchment paper (I like to put my parchment paper on top of a thin cutting board, put the paper and board on top of my bread basket, and turn it over gently).
- Remove the dough from the bowl. Score the top with a lame, or sharp knife (serrated knife works, too).
- Use the corners of the parchment paper to lift the dough into your dutch oven. Place the lid on the dutch oven.
- Place the dutch oven in the hot oven and cook for 30 minutes.
- Remove the lid and put the dutch oven back in the oven, uncovered, for another 20 to 30 minutes.
- The bread will be very dark and sound hollow when tapped when it is done.
- Remove the pan from the oven, and then remove the bread from the pan and let it cool on a wire rack for 1 hour before slicing and serving.
- Sourdough bread is best eaten the day of, though leftovers make great toast or grilled sandwiches.
- I’m sourdough obsessed and wrote a whole cookbook about it! It has step by step photos for this recipe if that’s helpful. You can buy a digital or hardcover copy of the sourdough cookbook here.
- If the bottom crust is too dark, try lowering your oven temperature by 25 degrees.
- I have SO many sourdough bread tips and tricks in the notes of this post. I highly recommend reading it and watching the video before starting if this is your first time.
- You can store sourdough bread in the freezer. Let the loaf cool completely, then wrap it in foil, and then wrap it well in plastic wrap (or store in a large zipper-topped bag). When you’d like to eat it, let it thaw at room temperature for 5 to 6 hours. Then remove it from the plastic and foil. Spritz the loaf well with water (2 to 3 good spritzes!) and then wrap it back up in the foil. Bake at 400 for 45 minutes. It’s almost as good as new.
- After I mix up my dough, to “refresh” my starter, I simple feed it. I’ll keep 25 grams of the leftover starter and mix it with 50 grams of water and 50 grams of flour by weight. If I’m baking tomorrow, I’ll just leave it on the counter. If I’m not baking again the next day, I’ll let it rest at room temperature for a few hours and then store it covered in the fridge until I’m ready to bake again. See my post on how to make a sourdough start for tips on sharing it with friends and keeping it healthy while not baking.
- NOTE! A few people are having issues with dough that is very wet, sticky, and will not hold it’s shape when worked with. It just turns into a blob of dough when they handle it and spreads as soon as it’s turned out of a container. I am finding that there is more variation in the amount of protein and gluten in all-purpose flour that I thought would be the case. I’d recommend getting Bob’s Red Mill or King Arthur Flour all-purpose flour, organic if you can. I have tested all my recipes using those two flours. If you find you are having this issue, please reduce the water by 50 grams and/or increase the flour by 50-100 grams when you are mixing up your dough the first time. It’s much easier to make these changes in the beginning instead of trying to add flour at the end. Please see the posts for pictures and video on an appropriate texture for your bread. It’s better if it’s a little on the thick side the first mixing than wet.
Other bread recipes you’ll love:
- Homemade Subway Bread
- Four Loaf Wheat Bread
- Simple No-Knead Bread
- Rustic Italian Bread
- Easy Homemade Breadsticks
There you have it, a loaf of sourdough bread that you can make at home and LOVE without too much fuss! I hope you make this recipe over and over again!