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Simple Sourdough

This is about the most basic sourdough recipe I think you can really get away with. It uses a mix of strong white bread and rye flours, though you can ditch the rye entirely by just replacing it with more white flour, and uses only minimal equipment available in most kitchens.

Sam Clarke
Sam Clarke
. 4 min read
Simple Sourdough

Jump straight to the recipe ↵

Measurements are metric, by weight.

This recipe takes roughly 6/7 hours from start to finish and yields two loaves, but requires that they proof overnight before being baked the next day.

Most recipes will tell you that a good starter is the secret to making the best sourdough, and while that's certainly one of the most important parts, I'd say that grasping the skill of tightening the dough when shaping is really the trick to getting the best bread - without a firm crust to encourage the dough upwards when in the oven, the whole thing will just melt in to a puddle of shapeless bread - so it's important to get the shaping right.

As for the starter, you can buy your own if you just want to get going. If you want to go all out and make your own, mix equal parts (by weight) white bread flour and water. Each day tip out half the mixture and feed it another round of flour and water.  You'll see the mixture bloom, bubble and deflate each day. As it begins to deflate is the ideal time to feed it.

Bear in mind a mature starter is always best, so try to feed yours for at least 7 days before use.

Equipment

  • Dutch Oven
  • Mixing Bowl
  • Bench Scraper (optional)
  • Banneton Proving Basket (If you don't have this you can use a mid-sized mixing bowl lined with a cloth)
  • Lame (If you don't have this a sharp knife or razor will work fine)

Ingredients

  • 125g Sourdough Starter
  • 650g White Bread Flower
  • 350g Rye Flour
  • 600g Lukewarm Water
  • 20g Salt diluted in 80g of Water

Method

Prepare your starter

Make sure your starter has been fed 4-5 hours before you're ready to start making your load. Mix equal parts water and strong white bread flour in to your existing starter and wait for it to bloom.

Make a shaggy dough

Using your hands mix your 1kg combination of flour with 600g of water. The key here is to not over-work the dough, you're just aiming to get all the flour saturated. Once combined, cover with a damp cloth (or clingfilm) and let it sit for 1 hour.

Mix your starter and dough

Add 125g of starter and the 100g of salt water to your shaggy dough and work together well for 4-5 minutes. It's important to get a good technique here as this is the point at which you'll be starting to build some gluten structure in to your dough. Once the dough has reached a smooth texture and everything has combined, cover again and let it rest for 15 minutes.

Slap and fold

This process is aiming to align all the gluten proteins in the dough and begin to incorperate air, allowing for a consistent and airy crumb. No matter the consistency of the dough when you begin, by the time you're finished it will be smooth, glossy and ready for proofing. I recommend this video as a great starting point.

Once finished let the dough rest for 15 minutes.

Stretch and fold

This technique is looking to do two things, incorporate air and further developer the loaf's gluten proteins. It's fairly simple, the trick is to not let the dough tear as you stretch it.

With a wet hand firmly grab the side of your dough and pull it upwards, slowly. You'll begin to feel the dough get firmer as you pull. As you reach what feels like the maximum of your pull, gently fold the section across the top of the dough. Turn your bowl 90° and repeat.

Do this four times, then let it sit and rest for 15 minutes. Do this whole process four times until all sides have been stretched, then let your dough sit and rest for a further 30 minutes.

Shape

Here the goal is to gently form the dough in to a tight ball which ensures it will rise properly in the oven.

Turn the dough out on to a lightly floured surface, without moving it around too much and let it rest for another 15 minutes.

Begin folding the dough starting with the section closest to you, pulling up and over the top of the dough. Next fold each side, left and right, and finally fold from the top towards yourself. On the final role pull the dough towards you as if to flip it, until the floured side of the dough is face up.

The aim is now to tighten the dough without tearing the top open. Gently cup either side of the dough with either your hands, or use one hand and your bench scraper if you prefer and begin pulling down and around the side, slowly forming the dough in to a tight ball. This needs touch and experience above all else, but slowly you'll start to see the dough take shape.

Once you feel you've stretched the dough as far as you can, let the dough rest for a final 15 minutes.

Proof

Now the dough is shaped and rested, it's time to transfer it to a banneton (or your mixing bowl) to slowly proof overnight.

Generously flour your proving basket so the dough doesn't stick when it's time to take it out. Gently cover the top of the dough with your hand and - using your bench scraper - life the dough in to your open hand and gently turn the dough out in to the basket. The top of the dough should face down in the proving basket.

One final step before leaving the dough overnight in the fridge, is to close up any open seems left on the exposed side - to do so, gently pinch the dough together with your fingers and seal shut.

Cover your dough with a damp cloth/clingfilm and let it proof in the fridge overnight.

Bake

Preatheat your oven to 240° (or as hot as it'll get) with your dutch oven inside for at least an hour.

Once your oven has reached temperature, gently turn your dough out on to a piece of baking paper cut to the size of your dutch oven. Carefully place the dough in the dutch oven and use this opportunity to score your dough. There. are plenty of different ways to do this, but the simplest is a score at a 45° angle down the length of the loaf.

Replace the lid and leave in the middle of the oven for 30 minutes. Once the first 30 minutes have passed, remove the lid and drop the temperature of the oven to 200°. Bake for a final 25 minutes until the outer crust is dark brown in colour.

Minding not to burn yourself on the dutch oven, gently turn your dough on to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely before cutting open and digging in!

I hope you enjoy this recipe!

recipe

Sam Clarke

👋 I'm Sam, a maker living in Herefordshire, England.