I got into baking sourdough in earnest this winter when we got home from my 100-miler because, well, I was hungry and had a couple weeks off. And what I realized after a lot of trial and error was that most recipes were far too complicated (even the ones that promised to be easy!) for me to follow, and frankly, they rarely worked that well for me anyway. I am a very lazy, inexact baker, and I don’t need a lot of complex additions and steps to make a freaking loaf of bread. And it turns out, it can be simplified greatly. So, this is my recipe cobbled together from a dozen other, much more complicated recipes, tweaked to be as simple as humanly possible, and without an 18-page explanation as to why I love sourdough, yada yada yada. Here we go.
- 380 grams of room temp water
- 100 grams of bubbling, active sourdough starter (the best results I’ve had have come from sourdough starter that came out of the fridge—and not fed—about 12 hours prior to using it)
- 10 grams salt
- 510 grams flour
- Parchment/foil paper
- Food scale
- Cast iron pot or dutch oven with lid
- Mix water, salt and starter
- Add flour, blend until it’s all wet (should look ‘shaggy’)
- Cover bowl with damp towel
- Let it rest for an hour, then ‘envelope it’ (basically, fold it in on itself a few times)
- Let it rise somewhere warm-ish for 11-13 hours covered with damp towel (should at least double in size)
- Envelope again
- Let it sit for 45 min while oven preheats to 450 F
- Drop over temp to 400 F
- Line cast iron pot or dutch oven with parchment foil
- Put dough into pot and cover it, bake for 20 minutes
- Remove lid, score the top of the bread with a knife
- Bake another 40 minutes uncovered
- Remove bread from oven, let rest for at least 90 minutes before eating/refrigerating/freezing
It’s not the most perfect sourdough in the universe and it takes a bit of trial and error, but I’ve found that so many recipes are just waaaaaay too intense for someone like me who prefers to keep things super simple.
And now, a few simple tips that I’ve learned as I’ve made dozens of loaves since February, with differing results…
Tips for Sourdough Bread Baking
Timing is everything: Because the rise time is so long, you’ll want to either start your dough when you wake up and bake in the evening, or start dough in the evening and bake when you wake up. Don’t try to start a loaf mid-day! You won’t win that rising game.
Bake in bulk: Not several loaves at once (unless you have two cast iron pots and can do that), but get an assembly line going so that when you put one loaf into the oven, you’re prepping the dough for the next. You can do two loaves a day this way, starting one in the evening and one in the morning. I tend to do this for three days in a row and end up with six loaves, which I then freeze (or give as gifts).
Your starter needs to start: Don’t try to start a dough if your starter isn’t bubbling and active. It won’t rise well or have loads of those yummy air pockets, it’ll just be ultra-dense. I found taking it out of the fridge and leaving it to warm up overnight was perfect for getting it bubbling and hungry again before I start baking.
Parchment paper + foil: Seriously, I cannot stress this enough. It completely changed the crust of my sourdough, making it chewy but not burnt, and it no longer has any sticking/baking into the loaf issues. It also was easier to fit it neatly into my cast iron pan. You can also reuse one piece for at least two loaves. (get it here in Canada or here in US). I only figured this out because I ran out of regular parchment paper, but now, I’ll never go back!
Sourdough Starter Tips
Don’t overthink the “get rid of half, feed it its weight in flour and water” thing. If it’s in the fridge, give it a few tablespoons of flour and water once a week. When you take it out, feed it daily. I occasionally siphon off some of the starter if the jar is getting too full, but usually if the jar is getting high, that’s the sign that it’s time to bake another set of loaves!
Set a reminder on your phone to feed it if you do have it in the fridge, because it’s really easy to forget it once it’s tucked away! And remember as you are going through the three days of baking if you’re baking in bulk to feed it once a day as well.
If your starter isn’t bubbling, it may not be warm enough for it to get active. I actually put mine by our fireplace to wake it up when it’s winter and our place isn’t kept super warm!
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