This is an advanced sourdough recipe. If you are looking for an easier, beginner version, check out this recipe here.
This recipe is what sourdough dreams are made of. About 8 years ago, I first started making sourdough bread. At the time I had twin babies and a toddler. I was exhausted all the time and had absolutely no time for myself. I would lie on the floor of my twins room, waiting for them to fall asleep for nap time and research sourdough bread. It was an outlet for me that was much needed at the time and it brought me a lot of peace. As I’ve refined my skills over the years, I’ve grown more in love with sourdough (and all baking) and am in a place to hopefully share my knowledge and love of baking with others.
Being able to make a loaf of bread completely from three ingredients (flour, water and salt) is amazing. And this bread is also amazing. It is crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. This recipe comes from Tartine Bakery in San Francisco and I’ve given my take on the recipe below. When you read Tartine’s book, it reads like a story. An amazing story but it can be difficult to understand as a recipe for a home baker. I’ve tried to take that story and simplify it into an easier-to-understand version of the recipe.
With that said, it takes a long time. It is not an easy recipe that will result in a loaf of bread in one day. This is a multiple day process…but so worth it! Even though it takes a couple of days it does not require a lot of hands-on time, most of it is rising time. You can easily work some loaves of bread like this into your schedule over a weekend or when you have a mostly free day at home.
Before you take on this recipe, I highly encourage you to check out my posts:
Video of the entire process, start to finish!
If you are planning to use a starter that has been kept in your fridge, add a day to this recipe, pull it out and feed it the night before building your leaven. Feed it again in the morning and then build your leaven that night.
Yield: 2 loaves of sourdough bread (the best you’ve ever had)
Time: about 36-48 hours
Day 1 (at night): Build the leaven
In a small bowl, mix together the ingredients listed below. Cover and let sit at room temperature overnight or about 12 hours. This is your leaven.
- 1 Tablespoon (about 20 grams) of mature sourdough starter
- 200 grams all purpose flour or white bread flour
- 200 grams room temperature water
Alternatively, you can build the leaven on day two if you wake up early and have a little extra time. Mix the ingredients below. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 2-4 hours until doubled in size.
- 113 grams of mature starter
- 113 grams of warm water
- 113 grams of flour
You will not be using the entire amount of leaven. You can save any leftover leaven as discard and store in the fridge for a week or two before using in a “discard” recipe.
Day 2: Mixing Day (you will need to be present at different times throughout the day to turn the dough)
The leaven you built should have doubled in size overnight (or within 2 to 4 hours if you chose to build it the morning of day 2). First test the leaven using the float test to make sure it is ready to bake with:
Float test: Fill a clear cup with some room temperature water. Take a little drop of your leaven and plop it in the cup. If it floats, you are ready to proceed with the recipe. If it sinks, it either hasn’t risen long enough, or it has risen too long. If you think it needs to rise longer (for example, it has only risen a few hours or has been rising in a cold kitchen overnight), test again in another hour. If it has risen too long, you can still use this leaven, but your bread may end up with more “sour” notes.
Gather together a kitchen scale, a large bowl and these ingredients:
- 100 grams of whole wheat flour
- 900 grams of white flour or all-purpose flour
- 700 grams water, plus 50 more grams kept separately
- 200 grams leaven
- 20 grams salt
Autolyse: Mix together the 700 grams of the water with 200 grams of leaven. Add 1000 grams of flour (100 whole wheat, 900 white or all-purpose flour). Make sure the flour is fully incorporated into the mixture and let it rest for 30 minutes.
After the resting period, add 20 grams of salt and 50 grams of water. Combine using your hands by squeezing the dough between your fingers, pinching chunks of dough and reincorporating together. The dough will break apart and then reform in the bowl through this process. Fold the dough over on itself and transfer to a large plastic container or a big glass bowl.
- Note: this recipe has you perform the “autolyse” process with the leaven mixed in with the flour and water. Many recipes only mix together the water and flour, let that rest for 30 minutes or up to 2 hours (helps with the extensibility of the dough) and then mix in the leaven. You can try it that way if you want to experiment more.
Turning the Dough: (the bulk fermentation/first rise/building the structure) As you begin this stage, it is important to remember that the temperature of your kitchen will make a difference in the length of rise time. The ideal temperature of the dough is 78-82 degrees. I usually take note of the temperature in my kitchen and then place it in a location to add extra warmth or let cool it down a bit, depending on the season.
No traditional kneading is used in the process for this bread. Instead, you will be performing a series of “turns” throughout the next 3-4 hours. To “turn” the dough, wet your hand (so it doesn’t stick to the dough). Reach down to the bottom of the dough and pull it up and over the top of the dough. Then repeat this turning process on a different side of the dough (for even turning) a total of 2-3 times.
Turn the dough once every 30 minutes for the first two hours. As the time progresses, notice how the dough changes. It should become more airy and you will see many bubbles develop. The dough will rise 30-40 percent or even double in size. Turn at:
- 30 minutes
- 1 hour
- 1 ½ hours
- 2 hours
After the first hour, be more gentle while turning, to avoid pushing the air bubbles out of the dough. Continue turning at:
- 2 ½ hours
- 3 hours (this will probably be your last turn if your dough has almost doubled in size)
- If your dough needs longer to rise, continue the turning process until it has increased at least 30 percent compared to the start of the turning process.
Bench Rest: Tip your bowl upside down, allowing the dough to fall onto the counter. Using a scraper or bench knife, cut the dough into two portions. Flour the tops of the dough and then use your bench scraper to turn the dough over (so the flour side is on the counter). Lightly shape the bread into a circle, folding the dough as you go around. It may be helpful to check out my video of this process. Let rest for about 30 minutes. The dough will flatten out and look kind of like a pancake during this time.
Prepare the bowls: Line two small bowls with a kitchen towel. Liberally flour with a 50/50 blend of rice flour and whole wheat flour. You can also use plain white flour.
Shaping: After your dough has rested for about 30 minutes it is time to shape the bread into a round. Going around in a circle, pull the dough sideways towards you and then fold up to the top of the round. Move 90 degrees and repeat the same process pulling the dough sideways and then folding up to the top. As you continue this process around the dough, increase the tension as you pull. Gather the bread into a circle and use a bench knife to lift the bread and place into your lined bowl. I always liked seeing this process before doing it myself, so check out this video to see the shaping process.
Retard the dough: Cover your dough with some plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator overnight or for up to 18 hours. Alternatively you can let your dough rise outside the fridge for another 3-4 hours and then bake your loaves the same day. I prefer using the refrigeration option because it keeps my dough firm and easy to score.
Day 3: Baking Day (sometime in the morning…will take 2-3 hours to bake 2 loaves of bread)
It’s baking day!!! The day when all this hard work will finally come to fruition.
Pre-heat: Put your dutch oven (top and all) into the oven and preheat to 500 degrees. Allow your dutch oven to heat for about 30 minutes at 500 degrees before baking your first loaf. You are working with very high temperatures and you don’t want to burn yourself, so make sure you have some good hot pads.
Once your dutch oven has heated for about 30 minutes, pull your first loaf of bread out of the refrigerator. Take off the plastic wrap and place a piece of parchment paper on top of the bread dough. Put a cutting board on top of the parchment paper and flip over so that the bread dough is now sitting on the parchment paper and cutting board. Take off the bowl and the kitchen towel.
Scoring: Smooth the flour over the top of the dough (add a little extra for more contrast) and score with a bread lame, razor or very sharp knife. You can do a fancy design or a simple square. The point of scoring is to allow the steam to rise through the bread for a beautiful “oven spring”, but it also makes for a fun look!
Baking: Remove your dutch oven from the 500 degree oven. Take the top off and place your bread into the dutch oven (including parchment paper–this helps with the transfer). Be very careful not to touch the sides of the dutch oven. Put your hot pads back on before you pick up the lid of the dutch oven and place it on top of the bread. Put the whole dutch oven back into your oven. Lower the temperature to 450 degrees and bake for 20 minutes. Once 20 minutes are up, take the top off the dutch oven. Ooh and ahh over the beautiful oven spring and continue baking for 20 minutes until the bread is a crackly deep brown.
Remove the bread (and parchment paper) from the dutch oven and place on a baking rack. Preheat your oven to 500 degrees again and place the dutch oven back in the oven to preheat for the next loaf of bread. Preheat again for about 30 minutes. You are building the steam back up in your oven. If you don’t allow it to preheat long enough you won’t have the oven spring you are looking for in your loaf. Follow the same process of scoring and baking your bread as you did above. You can even re-use the parchment paper if you want to.
Once your loaves are cooled, slice into them and enjoy with some butter, jam, as a grilled cheese sandwich or plain! I love to slice and freeze any extra loaves and toast them when we want a single slice of bread. They are delicious! I also love sharing a loaf with a neighbor or friend.
As you go through this sourdough process, please feel free to send me messages or ask questions. I’d love to help if I can. This process has a special place in my heart because it got me through a really tough time in my life when I was surrounded by babies and exhausted. Having an outlet for me was a big deal. I hope that this “experiment” or amazing recipe, however you choose to look at it can bring you similar peace and enjoyment during any difficult times in our world. Thanks so much for being here!
Please share this recipe if you enjoyed it! Post a photo and tag me @amybakesbread so I can see your bake 🙂