Nothing at the grocery store beats a slice of tangy sourdough bread. It begins with the “starter” and ends with the best bread you’ve ever tasted. The mixture of flour, water, and salt can be done a thousand ways and has been done for thousands of years. Let’s break down what sourdough is and the baking process. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just getting started, there’s something so special about crafting your sourdough bread from scratch. Sourdough bread is so much more than the simple ingredients it is made from.
Sourdough bread has gained popularity as a healthier choice compared to regular white bread found in grocery stores. Unlike commercial bread, sourdough bread is made through a slow fermentation process using natural wild yeast and lactic acid bacteria instead of commercial yeast. This fermentation process not only gives sourdough its tangy flavor but also contributes to its health benefits. Who doesn’t want healthy carbs?
What is sourdough good for?
The list of what sourdough is good for will never end. Once you learn how to wield your sourdough starter you can replace leavening agents like yeast, baking soda, and baking powder and simply use your starter instead. The benefits and unbeatable flavor of sourdough can transform almost any recipe.
One of the key differences between sourdough and regular bread lies in the fermentation process. While regular bread is typically leavened (rises) with dry active yeast and rises quickly at room temperature, sourdough fermentation is a slower process that happens over several hours or even days. During this time, lactic acid bacteria and wild yeast present in the sourdough culture break down phytic acid and gluten. Sourdough uses carbon dioxide gas to create holes and bubbles to raise the bread dough. This slow process makes it easier to digest and potentially reduces the risk of reactions in individuals with gluten sensitivities. Please note that sourdough bread is still not recommended for anyone with celiac disease.
The beneficial bacteria present in sourdough bread also produce organic acids such as acetic acid, which contribute to its tangy flavor and help lower the bread’s pH. This lower pH not only gives sourdough its signature taste but also helps lower the bread’s glycemic index, reducing blood sugar spikes and making it a suitable option for individuals concerned about their blood glucose levels.
The fermentation process in sourdough bread increases the availability of certain nutrients and may enhance the bioavailability of minerals like calcium, magnesium, and iron. There are so many types of wheat that can make different types of sourdough and each different grain will have different benefits. I love making different varieties with my grain mill and using whole grain freshly milled flour like red wheat or rye. These options provide more fiber, vitamins, and minerals compared to bread made from refined white flour. Additionally, whole-grain sourdough bread typically has a lower glycemic index and may be easier for the body to process, making it a healthier choice overall. Today we will be using white all-purpose bread flour just because it is the most widely available.
All sourdough bread recipes regardless of what flour you use have one thing in common: a sourdough starter. So what is a starter? in simple terms, it is flour and water that create a “starter culture” and will grow are you feed it. This is what starts the sourdough fermentation process. If you want to make your own sourdough starter you can check out my BLOG HERE. But the easy way around starting your own starter is to ask around if anyone has a starter that is already established. The older the starter, the more mold-resistant it is. It will usually have a stronger flavor and will be strong enough to make leavened bread right away.
- Starter- Sourdough starters are a mixture of water and flour that you ferment. Your starter is what collects all the wild yeast in the air and will raise your bread.
- Leaven- Mixture of water, flour, and bacteria. In other words, it is fed sourdough starter that you will use for raising your bread. You can put the exact amount you need for a recipe in a separate jar and use it when it reaches its peak.
- Peak- When your starter has doubled in size, is no longer doming up, and is ready to use. Usually, you will see the top start to dimple (not falling). The “peak” is the best time to use your starter to make bread.
- Feedings- Every day after you have used your starter it needs to be “fed”. This is adding equal amounts of water and flour to your starter. If you have 200g of starter you can feed it 200 grams of water and 200g of flour.
- Hooch- Grey fermentation liquids or crust that can form on top of your sourdough starter.
- Discard- If you don’t want to use your starter, you still have to feed it. To do this you will remove some of your starters and this is “discard”. You can throw it away or you can store it in the fridge for use in other recipes like pancakes or brownies.
- Autolyse- Letting the dough rest to relax and increase elasticity.
- Stretch and fold- Stretching the dough and folding it on itself to build tension.
- Laminating- Folding and rolling dough in a specific way to help build tension.
- Boule- Round dome-shaped ball of dough.
- Bulk Fermentation- Your bread’s first rise that usually happens on the countertop or in a warm space.
- Proofing- The second rise that usually takes place in the fridge.
- Enrichments- Enrichments are ingredients such as fat, oils, eggs, and sugar in a recipe. Enrichments can decrease the volume and airiness of your bread but can produce a sweeter, richer flavor and a softer crust.
- Underproofing- Not allowing the dough to rise enough.
- Overproofing- Dough rising too much.
- Score- Slicing 1″ of bread to allow the dough to expand while baking.
How to make Sourdough Bread.
I am going to add my own baker’s timeline for you, please note timing varies for everyone. When considering the timelines temperature of your home, the age of the starter, and the climate all play a part. It is normal to have to adjust the timing a few times before you know what works for you and your kitchen.
First, you will need to feed your sourdough starter and place it in a warm spot. Once your sourdough starter has reached its “peak” it is ready to use. This can take 4-12 hours depending on the temperature of the room. Cooler countertops will take 10-12 hours and warm places like next to a heater or wood stove could be as little as 4-6 hours. I leave my starter on the counter and it usually takes 12 hours to reach its peak.
8:00 pm- Feed sourdough starter.
8:00 am- Once your starter is at its peak you can mix 200g of starter with 650 grams of warm (not hot) water in a large bowl. Add 1000 grams of bread flour and 20 grams of fine sea salt. Using your hands or a wooden spoon, mix until combined and it creates a “shaggy” dough. Do not over-knead.
8:45 am- Cover the bowl and allow the mixture to autolyze for 30-45 mins. Uncover and knead the dough with wet hands until you feel the tension building in the dough. Place the cover back on and let rest for another 30-45 mins.
Begin stretching and folds 30-45 minutes apart. Gently lift the dough stretching it up without tearing and fold it back on top of itself. Complete 3-6 stretches and folds.
10:30 am- Once stretches and folds are done, cover and place the bowl in a warm spot for its first rise/bulk ferment. Let the dough double in size. This can take 4-6 hours.
2:30 pm-4:30 pm- On a lightly floured surface, gently remove the dough from the bowl. Be careful to not pop any bubbles! Using a bench scraper cut the dough into two equal amounts. Gently shape the loaves by tucking all four corners to the centre, flipping over, pushing it away from you and in a spinning motion pulling it towards you to create tension and form a round ball/boule.
Let the dough rest for 10-20 minutes on the counter before placing it in a floured banneton basket upside down, you want all the seams up. Pinch the seams together and cover the banneton with a plastic bag or shower cap.
Place in fridge for 12-16 hours for its “long ferment”. You can ferment even longer in the fridge if you would like a more sour loaf.
8:00 am (the next day)- Preheat oven with Dutch oven and lid inside at 500 degrees for one hour.
8:50 am – Take the banneton basket out of the fridge and place it on floured parchment paper. Dust the loaf with rice flour or flour. Using a sharp knife or breadlame, score your loaf.
9:00 am- Place cookie sheet on lower rack to help prevent the bottom of the bread from burning. Place the loaf with parchment paper in the Dutch oven. add 1/4 cup of water under the parchment to create steam and put on the lid. Bake at 500 for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes remove the lid and lower the heat to 450 for the remaining 25-30 minutes. To prevent the ear from burning you can add aluminum foil over the top of the bread when you remove the lid.
10:00 am- remove from Dutch oven and allow to cool for a minimum of one hour before cutting.
Gather your flour, water, and sourdough starter, and let the magic of fermentation guide you as you bake your way to delicious, homemade goodness. Remember, with each loaf you bake, you’re not just making bread—you’re creating memories, nourishing your family, and sharing the love of sourdough with those around you. Happy baking!
Simple Sourdough Bread
- 1 Digital scale
- 1 Large bowl
- 1 Banneton basket
- 1 Tea Towel
- 1 Plastic bag
- 1 Bread lame
- 1000 grams White Bread Flour
- 650 grams Water Filtered
- 20 grams Fine White Sea Salt
- 200 grams Sourdough Starter Bubbly and Active
- Mix starter, flour, salt, and water in a bowl using your hands. Once combined Cover and allow to autolyze for 30-45 minues. Place bowl in a warm spot.
- 3-6 Stretch and folds 30-45 minutes apart covering bowl in between. Be careful to not over work the dough.
- Cover and place the bowl in a warm spot for 4-6 hours until doubles in size.
- Gently remove the dough from the bowl onto a lightly floured surface. Using a bench scraper divide the dough into two equal loaves.
- Shape loaves. Allow to sit on counter for 20-30 minutes.
- Place upside down in a lined, floured banneton basket. Cover with a pastic bag and place in the fridge overnight for 12-14 hours
- The next morning, preheat oven with dutch oven inside at 500 degrees for one hour. Place cookie sheet on second rack to help prevent the bottom of loaf from burning.
- Take out your banneton basket and place loaf on lightly floured parchment paper. Dust the top with flour and score loaf.
- Place in hot dutch oven and add 1/4 cup of water under parchment paper to create steam. Add lid and bake at 500 for 30mins. Remove lid and lower heat to 450 degrees.
- Remove from dutch oven and allow to cool on rack before cutting.