Recipe: Basic Sourdough Bread

This is my go-to basic sourdough bread recipe that makes a crusty, chewy loaf for eating with cheese, making sandwiches, and ultimately turning into croutons. Takes up to 2 days from start to finish but most of that time it’s just sitting around.

2/3 c sourdough starter
3 1/2 c unbleached bread flour or unbleached all-purpose flour plus 7/8 c to replenish starter
1/2 c whole wheat flour
approximately 1 5/8 C water plus 7/8 C to replenish starter
1 1/2 t Kosher salt

Basic Sourdough Bread

Basic Sourdough Bread

Method: Mix sourdough starter in a large glass bowl (so you can watch the bubbles forming on the side) with 7/8 C flour and 7/8 C water; stir until well blended. Cover with a plate or plastic wrap and allow to sit at room temperature until very lively; this will take from 8 to 24 hours depending on room temperature and the condition of your starter.

Put 1/2 of the conditioned starter back into your storage jar and return to refrigerator; leave the other 1/2 in the bowl for mixing. Add flours and water, stirring with a large spoon. You should end up with a shaggy dough. Allow this to rest (autolyse) for 20 minutes or so; add salt and then knead or stretch-and-fold for 10 minutes until it has a smooth consistency and will make an opaque “gluten window”, instead of tearing, when you take a piece of it and stretch it thin. Return the dough to the bowl and let it rise until doubled in volume. Depending on room temperature, this might take 6 hours to overnight. Punch down, place on a flat floured surface, cover with a dish towel and allow to rest 2 hours.

Half an hour before baking time, put your 5 qt or larger cast iron dutch oven* in the oven and preheat to 450 degrees. When oven is ready, wearing a good oven mitt open the oven, pull out the tray with the dutch oven on it, and sprinkle the bottom of the dutch oven with cornmeal. Pick up the dough and carefully transfer to the dutch oven without burning yourself hopefully. If you like, take a sharp knife and cut a couple of slashes or a simple pattern in the top of the dough. Place its lid on the dutch oven and return to oven, bake 25 minutes. During this time the moisture in the dough will steam the bread and produce a beautiful blistery crust, just like the steam in a professional baker’s oven. Remove the dutch oven lid and cook for an additional 15 minutes to brown the bread. Remove from oven, dump the bread onto a cooling rack and allow to cool completely before slicing.

Makes one 1 1/2-lb loaf.

  • This is another item you will need for your culinary toolbox. You can order from Amazon and, even though it’s heavy, they’ll pay the postage because it’s over $25.
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