Sourdough bread feels like the ultimate in homestead baking.
But it gave me FITS for years… In fact, there was a time when I just quit trying because I was so frustrated with my flat loaves, dry loaves, hard loaves, and the list goes on…. (And if you know me at all, it takes a LOT to make me quit…)
Then one day? It just clicked. Hallelujah.
However, just because homemade sourdough bread has a learning curve doesn’t mean you have to make as many mistakes as I did– and by the time you finish reading this post, you’ll be able to finally do this sourdough thing with confidence!
The One Thing I Don’t Like About my Cookbook
I’m 99.9% happy with the Prairie Homestead Cookbook that published last year (and I’d better be… considering how many edits it underwent!). That being said, there is ONE thing that I really wish I could change in my cookbook.
I wish I had included this simple beginner sourdough bread recipe in it.
And I know you do too, judging by alllll the emails I’ve received.
But we’re doing the next best thing– you’re getting it today instead. (And if you have my Heritage Cooking Crash Course, it will likely look familiar, as it’s the same recipe that is included in there.)
Watch Me Make This Simple Sourdough Bread
In case you’re a visual learner like I am, here is the entire step-by-step process caught on video.
(Keep scrolling for the printable recipe version. —>)
What Makes Sourdough Different than Regular Bread?
There are many things that set sourdough bread apart from traditional yeast breads (by the way, here’s my super easy versatile yeast bread dough recipe). First off, sourdough bread dough is much wetter and stickier. Wetter is better.
You also don’t really knead sourdough– instead you’ll bring it together with a spoon until it’s mostly combined and then ignore it.
However, the biggest thing that sets sourdough apart from traditional breads is that sourdough does not need yeast. Instead, you generate your OWN wild yeast, aka a sourdough starter with flour and water. This starter is a fermented food that can be used to make tasty sourdough bread, sourdough cinnamon rolls, sourdough brownies, and more. (And contrary to popular belief, sourdough doesn’t have to be extremely sour tasting– you can absolutely adjust the tang in your DIY loaves.)
The Key to Success: The Starter
Before you can successfully make sourdough bread, you will need an active and healthy sourdough starter. (You can learn how to make a sourdough starter in this post that has a printable recipe as well as a video)
Here is how I define an active/healthy sourdough starter:
It should double in size within 4-6 hours of each feeding It should be full of bubbles and “grow” up the sides of your jar If you place a teaspoon of the starter in a cup of cool water, it should float on top of the water
Keep in mind: It takes about two weeks for a sourdough starter to be mature enough to leaven (rise) a loaf of bread. But the wait is worth it– promise.
Sourdough Bread: The Equipment
You do NOT need a bakery full of fancy equipment to make sourdough bread, however, there are a few tools that will make the process easier:
A large bowl. You need a large bowl for the dough. Since it rises overnight (and has the potentially to rise considerably depending on how active your starter is), you’ll want to use a bowl that is tall enough to avoid overflowing and the subsequent mess.
Dough scraper. This is a super handy little tool that can help you get scrape the dough out of the original large bowl without deflating it and ruining those precious air bubbles in the dough. If you don’t want to get a dough scraper, you can use a stiff spatula instead.
Proofing basket. A proofing basket helps support the shape of the sourdough loaf during the final rise before baking. This awesome bread bakery set includes both a dough scraper and a proofing basket. If you don’t want to get proofing baskets, simply line a 9-inch bowl or colander with a tea towel that you’ve generously dusted with flour. That’ll work in a pinch.
A Dutch oven. In my opinion, a dutch oven is an important kitchen tool for any home. I also think that a Dutch oven does the very best job of baking sourdough loaves and producing and mimics the environment of a brick oven by steaming the dough as it bakes. This helps your homemade sourdough bread end up with a crusty outside and a soft center.
If you really don’t want to use a Dutch oven for this recipe, you can bake your loaf on a cookie sheet or baking stone instead. However, the crust of your finished sourdough will be different.
Go here for the full list of tools I recommend for sourdough breadbaking.
Print The Best Beginner Sourdough Bread Recipe
This is a homestead-version of sourdough bread, which is a non-fussy technique that will not require complicated measurements or instructions. This recipe is perfect for people (like me) who like a simple, hearty loaf that doesn’t require tons of effort and time.
Author: Jill Winger Yield: 1 loaf of bread Ingredients ½ cup active sourdough starter (learn how to make sourdough starter) 1 ¼ cup lukewarm water 3 cups all-purpose flour 1 ½ teaspoons fine sea salt Instructions In a large bowl, combine the starter and water. Stir in the flour, and then add the salt. Use a fork to mix everything together until it becomes stiff– then switch to your hands to bring the dough together in a rough ball (Remember: don’t overmix! This is supposed to be a no-knead-style wet dough.) Keep the rough dough in the bowl, cover it, and let sit for 30 minutes. After this resting time is complete, stretch and fold the dough a few times to form it into a ball. (See the video for a walk-through on how to do this.) Cover the dough with a clean dish towel and let it rise in a warm place overnight or until doubled in size (or about 8 hours). I like to make the dough before bed and leave it in my turned-off oven (I leave the oven light on) to rise overnight. The next morning (or after 8 hours), turn the dough out on your counter. Fold it over a couple of times to tighten it into a ball, then let sit for 15 minutes. After this resting period is complete, gently shape the dough into a ball once more place into a well-floured proofing basket or a bowl lined with a well-floured dish towel. Remember: don’t add too much flour and do not knead the dough! Cover and rise for 2-3 hours, or until doubled. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Sprinkle a thin layer of cornmeal in the bottom of a Dutch oven (optional, but this helps the bottom not to scorch). Tip the loaf out of the proofing basket onto a sheet of parchment. Lower the parchment into the Dutch oven. Place the lid on the pot and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the lid and bake for an additional 30 minutes, or until the loaf is deeply browned and crispy on top. (For a less crusty finish, bake for the entire time with the lid on.) Move to a cooling rack and allow the loaf to cool completely before slicing it. Sourdough Bread: Your Questions Answered
I get plenty of questions about making homemade sourdough bread, so I’ve put together the most common sourdough questions and my answers. Feel free to ask me more questions in the comments section below!
What kind of flour can I use for my sourdough bread?
You can make sourdough bread with many different types of flour, however, if you’re brand new to sourdough, I recommend using all-purpose flour. It far less finicky to use than Einkorn or whole wheat, and it will rise more consistently for your first attempts. You can venture into the fancier flours once you get the hang of a simple loaf.
How can I better handle my super sticky dough?
If you’re struggling with your dough sticking to everything, try dipping your hands in a bowl of cool water before you work it. It’s tempting to keep adding more flour to the dough, but fight the urge. A wetter, stickier dough, while more difficult to handle, produces less dry or crumbly loaves.
How can I make my sourdough loaves MORE sour?
I get it, I love the tangy taste of a super sour sourdough. There are a few ways to get a more sour sourdough loaf:
When you feed your sourdough starter, use a higher ratio of flour to water. Use whole-grain flours to feed your starter, since the sour-producing bacterias seems to love them. If your sourdough starter produces a brown liquid layer (aka the hooch) on the top, mix it back into the starter instead of pouring it off. Use cool water and allow your dough to rise in a cooler location. This will extend the souring/rise time and produce a more sour loaf. Do I REALLY have to cool the bread before eating it?
I know, I know. It’s cruel, isn’t it?
Even though your kitchen now smells divine, try to resist cutting into your new homemade sourdough bread until it completely cools to room temperature.
The reason your bread must cool completely is because it is still baking and developing the texture as it cools. This is when the crumb is setting. If you cut open your bread when it is still hot, you will squish it and the crumb will be crushed, not to mention it’ll dry out faster in storage.
How can I store my homemade sourdough bread?
This homestead sourdough loaf is best eaten within 48 hours (which is NOT a problem for my ravenous kids). I store it at room temperature in a basic Ziploc bag, but you can get special bread bags or bread boxes, too.
If you don’t think you can eat the sourdough loaf within 48 hours, you can freeze the leftovers. Simply wrap it in plastic wrap and it will keep in the freezer for up to 2 months.
Why didn’t my sourdough bread rise?
Don’t worry– it happens to the best of us. When sourdough bread dough doesn’t rise, it’s usually because the starter you used wasn’t active enough. To remedy this problem, make sure you’re using recently fed, active starter with lots of bubbles. Also, next time try using warm (not hot) water when you mix up the dough and rising it in a warmer location.
Why did my loaf spread out?
Doughs that contain a lot of moisture tend to spread more than dryer doughs, so that could be the culprit. You also might try a few more rounds of stretching and folding next time to help develop the tension in the dough a bit more.
Can I make gluten-free sourdough bread?
You can, however, it’s not a skill that is in my wheelhouse. I would recommend checking out this recipe from King Arthur flour.
Other From-Scratch Recipes & Info You’ll Love Homemade Tortilla Recipe How to Make Biscuits From-Scratch The Simplest Homemade Pasta How to Make Butter Homemade Peanut Butter Pie Recipe The Tools I Recommend for Sourdough Breadmaking
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