I am the type of person who likes to do things really, really well the first time. I always want the best of the best and I like to “shoot for the stars.” This can be a good quality but it also has its downsides. Sometimes I won’t try if I don’t think I can do it well enough. Sometimes I bypass the “easy” and “beginner” recipes for the more complicated ones and miss out on some really great bread.
This is the case with today’s recipe. In some ways I wish I had learned to make this recipe when I first learned about sourdough because it would have been helpful to understand some basics before trying to wrap my mind around “more advanced” techniques. I also love how simple this bread is and that you can keep the dough in your fridge for up to two days before baking. Fresh-baked bread on demand?! Sign me up!
This recipe is the perfect rustic sourdough bread for anyone looking to learn the simple basics of sourdough. It will produce an addictive, crunchy crust and a yummy middle. It doesn’t take much active time, just a lot of “hands off” time and you can have a delicious loaf of bread with no commercial yeast. This bread is no-knead and even the newest bakers can make it and treat their families and loved ones to some of the best bread right out of your home oven. Basically, it’s the perfect starter recipe. If you are new to sourdough, this recipe is for you! If you are looking for a more advanced recipe, I have my favorite one here.
If you are a sourdough beginner, it’s important to understand a couple basics. People will often use different terms when talking about the rising agent in sourdough. You will see recipes on the internet or in cookbooks that talk about starter and leaven (levain in French). The makeup of these is basically the same…flour, water and natural yeast/bacteria. The purpose of them is different.
A sourdough starter can be thought of as the “mother” (maybe you have heard of the term “mother yeast?). You keep the “mother” at the same level, re-feeding it weekly by getting rid of the discard and adding flour and water to the “mother” starter. Anytime you want to make bread, you take a portion of the “mother” and create leaven with it (the offspring of the mother). The leaven is the yeast that is actually used in the bread. It is an offshoot of the “mother yeast.” The process of building the leaven looks the same as the starter. Take a small amount of the sourdough starter (“mother”), add flour and water as dictated by the recipe and allow it to rise and ferment over the course of a few hours or overnight. This is a new leaven. The leaven is what you will use when you make your loaf of bread.
Said another way, your leaven is “built” using a small portion of your starter. In all my sourdough recipes, I keep my “mother” starter separate from my leaven. I always build a leaven (using the starter) for the recipe. Clear as mud?! Comment if you have questions and I am happy to clarify.
One more important note about this recipe and about artisan sourdough bread is that you will need a dutch oven. A dutch oven helps trap the steam which gives your loaf of bread a beautiful “oven spring” and rise. If you don’t have a dutch oven and want to try this anyway, you may not get the same results. However, you can try baking it on a pizza stone. Throw in a few handfuls of ice cubes at the bottom of your oven right before you close the oven door to bake your loaf. This will generate some steam and give you some crust and rise. I do highly recommend investing in a dutch oven if you can and are planning to make this bread. It is worth it. The caramelized crust and delicious flavor with a hint of sourdough are perfect when paired with some soft butter or a dollop of jam.
To see the recipe start to finish on IGTV click here.
Yield: 1 loaf of rustic sourdough bread
Time: 5 minute mix, 8 hour rise, 10 minute mix, 15 hour rise, 10 minute shape, 40 minute bake This recipe only takes about 25 minutes active time. The rest is rising time.
Leaven (mix the morning of or the night before)
- 50 grams sourdough starter
- 200 grams (about 1 cup) water
- 200 grams (about 2 cups) flour, all purpose or bread flour
- 230 grams leaven
- 400 grams (1 ¾ cup) room temperature water
- 600 grams (5 cups) flour, all purpose or bread flour
- 12 grams (2 teaspoons) of salt
- In the morning mix your leaven. To a bowl or large jar add 50 grams of starter, 200 grams of water and 200 grams of flour. Mix together. Cover and let sit at room temperature for a few hours until the mixture has doubled in size. Once the leaven has doubled in size it is ready to use. At this point you can do the float test to see if it is ready to use. Drop a small piece of the leaven in a glass of water. If it floats, it is ready. If not, leave it to sit a little longer. If you decided to mix your leaven the night before, let it sit out covered on the counter overnight. In this case you don’t need to worry about the float test.
- Mix 230 grams of ripe leaven (you will have some leftover), room temperature water, flour and salt in a bowl using a wooden spoon. The dough will look “shaggy” but will come together.
- Cover the bowl and let it sit for an hour. After an hour, uncover the bowl and do a series of three “fold-and-turns”. To do this, pick up the underside of the dough and fold it on top of itself, turning the bowl after each fold and picking up a different section of the dough to fold and turn.
- Cover the bowl again and let it rest for another hour. Notice how the dough is coming together. It doesn’t feel shaggy anymore. For the second time, do the series of three folds.
- Cover the bowl again and let it rest for its third and final hour. Repeat the series of three folds.
- Now cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a lid and put it in the refrigerator to rest overnight. The dough can stay in the refrigerator for 8 to 48 hours.
- The next morning (or whenever you are ready to bake your bread), put a dutch oven into your oven with the lid on and set the oven to 500 degrees. Preheat the dutch oven by leaving it in the oven for 50 minutes.
- Immediately after setting the dutch oven to preheat, pull out a piece of parchment paper. Take your dough out of the fridge and shape into a round ball. Do not punch down the dough, just lightly form with the palms of your hands. It should be fairly easy to work with because it is cold.
- When your dutch oven has preheated for 50 minutes, score the top of your bread with a bread lame, sharp knife or razor.
- Take the dutch oven out of the oven. Warning: This is a VERY HOT dutch oven. Keep those oven mitts on and be very careful not to burn yourself. Take the top off the dutch oven and place the dough and parchment paper into the dutch oven. Place the top back on the dutch oven and close the oven door.
- Immediately decrease the baking time to 450 degrees and bake for 20 minutes.
- After 20 minutes, take the top off the dutch oven and continue baking for 20 more minutes. This will produce the crisp crust you are looking for.
- Pull your bread out of the oven. Wait (if you can) to cut into it until your bread has cooled. Enjoy!
Please share this recipe if you enjoyed it! Post a photo and tag me @amybakesbread so I can see your bake 🙂