While baking sourdough bread is a project, it is also inexpensive, fun and truly rewarding. As Edwards says, “A Dutch oven and some bowls, and you’re ready to rock-and-roll. It’s all going to make bread, and it’s all going to be eaten.”
NOTE: As with other bread recipes, precision all but guarantees success as it allows you to be absolutely certain you’re achieving proper hydration percentage for your dough. We recommend investing in a kitchen scale and opt for grams to weigh ingredients instead of using volume measurements.
Storage: Properly covered, the bread will keep at room temperature for up to 5 days.
Make ahead: The Sourdough Starter needs to be started at least 1 week before you want to bake. (See related recipe.) After that, you will need about 3 days to complete the project — though it is mostly hands-off.
- For the leaven
- 105 grams (generous 3/4 cup) bread flour
- 105 grams (scant 1/2 cup) spring or filtered (not reverse-osmosis) water
- 30 grams (about 2 tablespoons) Sourdough Starter, see related recipe
- For the bread
- 640 grams (about 4 3/4 cups) bread flour
- 160 grams (generous 1 1/4 cups plus 2 teaspoons) whole-wheat flour
- 560 grams (about 2 1/3 cups) water
- 160 grams (about 1 cup and 2 tablespoons) leaven
- 19 grams (generous 1 tablespoon) fine sea salt or table salt
One week before you want to bake, create your Sourdough Starter. (See related recipe.)
Two days before you want to bake bread, make the leaven: In a large bowl, combine the flour, water and starter and mix until incorporated. Cover with a clean kitchen towel or plastic wrap and leave on the counter overnight.
The next day: In a large bowl, stir together the bread flour and whole-wheat flour until combined. Add the water and leaven and squish the mixture through your fingers until there are no lumps. Keep squishing until a homogeneous mass forms — it may be shaggy and that’s okay. Using the scraper, scrape down the sides of the bowl and your fingers. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let the dough rest for 10 minutes.
Using your fingertips, dimple the dough in the bowl, and sprinkle with the salt. Flip the dough over.
Start kneading: With the dough in the bowl, use a pull-and-stretch motion to make about 30 kneads, pulling the dough toward the center of the ball. Flip the dough back over, cover with a plate large enough to cover the bowl and place it somewhere warm for 10 minutes.
Repeat, again with no more than 30 kneads to the center. Flip the dough over, cover and place somewhere warm for about 10 minutes. The dough will start to come together and become a more solid round.
Repeat a third time, then flip the dough over, cover and let rest somewhere warm for 30 minutes.
Fold the dough: To do a fold, wet your hands, and then loosen the dough from underneath, stretch, pull up and fold the dough up over on itself. Rotate the bowl and do this 2 more times. Cover and let the dough rest 30 minutes. Repeat, and continue this for 2 to 3 hours, folding every 30 minutes, until the dough doubles in size.
First shaping: Very lightly dust the counter with some flour and transfer the dough to it. Divide the dough in half and gently flatten each half. Form each half into a round by loosely rolling the dough toward the center from both sides (sort of a double jelly roll), and then again. Flop the now-slightly-rectangular dough over on itself, as if it’s sitting and bent over, napping with its head on the floor. That will give you a loose package, from which you can guide it into a round. Let the dough rest on the counter for 15 minutes.
Baking day: Position the baking rack in the middle of the oven, place a large Dutch oven with a lid in the oven, and preheat to 500 degrees for at least 45 minutes. Cut a large square of parchment paper and have it ready on the counter.
Remove one of the doughs from its basket by quickly turning it over onto the parchment, and leave the other one in its basket in the refrigerator. Using a baker’s lame or a pair of kitchen scissors, score the loaf quickly in just one move — an arc of about a 45-degree angle works well. Carefully take the Dutch oven out of the oven and remove the lid. Lower the dough in its parchment sling/liner into the Dutch oven and recover with the lid. Return the Dutch oven to the oven and reduce the heat to 450 degrees. Bake with the lid on for 20 minutes, and then remove the lid and continue to bake an additional 15 to 20 minutes, until the bread is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped. Transfer the bread to a wire rack, and reserve the parchment paper.
Remove the other dough from its basket, and score and bake according to the instructions above, reusing the parchment paper.
Transfer it to the wire rack, and let both loaves cool completely before slicing.
Correction: A previous version of this recipe misstated the volume equivalent of 640 grams of bread flour. It is 4 3/4 cups. This version has been corrected.
Adapted from Tom Edwards of Artisan Bread Camp.
Tested by Eliza McGraw and Ann Maloney.
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Nutritional analysis not possible due to variable ingredients.
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