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The easiest sourdough recipe: Get it right on your first try!

February 16, 2024

When it comes to home baking, the allure of sourdough is undeniable. With its distinctive tang, chewy interior, and crackling crust, sourdough bread stands as a testament to the baker’s skill and patience. Yet, the common perception of sourdough baking involves complex steps and day-long commitments, making many hesitate before taking the plunge. But what if I told you that achieving artisan-quality sourdough could be both simple and swift? Allow me to guide you through the easiest sourdough recipe that beautifully marries convenience with craftsmanship.

The Foundation: Ingredients and Prep

The journey to a perfect loaf begins with simplicity itself—just four ingredients:

  • ½ cup + 2 Tbsp Active Sourdough Starter (at peak)
  • 1 ½ Cups Warm Water
  • ¾ Tbsp Salt
  • 4 Cups + 2 Tbsp All-purpose or Bread Flour

With these in hand, you’re ready to embark on a baking adventure that defies the traditional sourdough complexities.

Step-by-Step: A Foolproof Guide

1. Initiating the Dough

The process starts by awakening the sourdough starter with warm water in a bowl, creating the foundation of our bread. With the addition of salt and flour, a simple mix leads to a shaggy dough, signaling the first step towards our artisan loaf.

2. The Art of Stretch and Folds

Introducing structure and strength to our dough comes next, through a series of stretch and folds. This gentle technique replaces intensive kneading, preserving the dough’s delicate air pockets. Initially vigorous, the process becomes more nuanced with each set, culminating in a dough that’s both elastic and robust.

3. Bulk Fermentation: The Rise of Flavor

As our dough rests undisturbed, it embarks on a crucial phase known as bulk fermentation. This period of growth not only increases the dough’s volume but also develops its characteristic sourdough flavor—a symphony of tangy, complex notes.

4. Shaping with Purpose

With a gentle hand, the dough is then shaped, first into a rectangle, then folded, and finally rolled into a cohesive ball. This act of shaping is more than mere formality; it’s where the baker’s touch turns a simple dough into a potential masterpiece.

The Banneton Hack:

Not everyone has a banneton basket at their disposal, but don’t let that stop you. Here’s a simple, ingenious workaround:

  • Use a Bowl and Kitchen Towel: Find a bowl that’s roughly the size you’d like your bread to be. Line it with a clean kitchen towel.
  • Rice Flour to the Rescue: Generously dust the towel with rice flour. This prevents the dough from sticking—a common issue with more traditional flours.

5. The Final Proof: Anticipation and Preparation

A brief sojourn in the fridge tightens our loaf, making it ready for the oven’s embrace. Even without a traditional banneton, a bowl lined with a kitchen towel and dusted with rice flour offers a perfect nest for our dough to rest and rise.

6. Baking: The Transformation

In the heated cauldron of our oven, the dough undergoes its final transformation. The scorching heat, paired with a splash of steam, gifts the loaf with its iconic crust—a golden armor encasing the tender crumb within.

No Dutch Oven? No Worries

Even without the coveted Dutch oven, a baking sheet and a tray of water can replicate the steamy environment needed for that perfect crust. This flexibility ensures that the joy of sourdough baking is accessible to all, regardless of kitchen equipment.

The Reveal: A Loaf Born of Simplicity

As the loaf cools, the anticipation builds, culminating in the first slice—a moment of pure, baking bliss. The intricate flavors, the satisfying texture, and the sheer beauty of the loaf bear witness to the journey from simple ingredients to a bread that’s anything but ordinary.

Embracing the Sourdough Journey

This easy sourdough recipe stands as a beacon for all home bakers, from the curious novice to the seasoned artisan. It proves that with a few ingredients, a bit of patience, and a dash of courage, the world of sourdough is within reach. So, cast aside those doubts, gather your ingredients, and join the ranks of bakers who’ve discovered the simple joy of sourdough. Your kitchen, and your taste buds, will thank you.

Easiest Sourdough Recipe!

Servings 1 Loaf
Prep Time 8 hours
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 8 hours 45 minutes

Ingredients
  

  • ½ cup + 2 Tbsp Active Sourdough Starter (at peak)
  • 1 ½ Cups Warm Water
  • ¾ Tbsp Salt
  • 4 Cups + 2 Tbsp All purpose or Bread Flour

Instructions
 

  • 1. Start out by adding your starter to a bowl, along with your warm water. Give that a good mix until most of the starter is incorporated, then add in salt and flour.
  • Mix with a spatula or your hand into a shaggy dough forms, and there's on dry flour left. Scrap down the sides of the bowl to bring everything to the centre, then cover with a kitchen towel or plastic and let sit for 1 hour.
  • After 1 hour, start stretch and folds. This means with wet hands, grab one side of the dough, pull up as high as it will go (stretching the dough), then fold over the rest of the dough. Turn the dough 90 degrees then repeat for all 4 sides. For the first set of stretch and folds you will go around the bowl 10 times, but every other set you will only do 4. After your first set of stretch and folds, cover for 30 minutes, then do next set. Do 4 sets of stretch and folds total, every 30 minutes (2 hours).
  • After your last set of stretch and folds, cover dough and place in a warm place to rise (untouched) for 2 hours; this is called the bulk fermentation.
  • After 2 hours, your dough should be 50%-75% larger. Remove your dough from the bowl (try not to pull it, let it fall out by itself if possible) onto a floured surface. Stretch your dough out into a rectangle, then fold one side into the middle and the other side over it (like a pamphlet). You should now have a long rectangle. Roll that tightly into a ball, then shape with your hands.
  • To shape, roll your dough on the counter with yoru hands under the dough to tuck the loose ends under, creating a round shape and creating tension on the surface of the dough. Cover on the counter and let rest for 20 minutes, this was your first rough shape.
  • After 20 minutes, repeat the shaping process. Pull out the dough into a rectangle (itll be harder this time, be gentle with the dough), fold pamphlet style and roll. Roll and tuck your dough will you're happy with the shape, place your dough in a banneton (seam side up, and sort of stitch it shut), cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 2 hours. (If you don't have a banneton, take a bowl, place a kitchen towel inside, then cover the kitchen towel and the top of your sourdough in rice flour. It will never stick again. )
  • After 2 hours, turn your dough onto a piece of parchment paper, and score the top. Preheat your oven and your dutch oven to 450-500℉, then bake with the lid for 35 minutes. Drop the temperature to 425℉, remove the lid and bake for another 10-15 minutes. Allow your loaf to fully cool and enjoy!

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