No knead, rustic sourdough is the perfect beginner recipe for a delicious loaf of crusty sourdough bread. 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. I love that you can keep the dough in your fridge for up to two days before baking. Fresh-baked bread on demand?! Sign me up! If you are new to sourdough, this recipe is for you!
Sourdough Sample Schedule
I put sample schedules at the beginning of my sourdough recipes. This is not meant to be followed exactly. It is to give you an idea of how to fit a recipe into your schedule. I hope it’s helpful to you.
|8:00 AM – 11:00 AM||Mix together ripe sourdough starter, water and flour to make levain. Let rest until bubbly and ripe, about 3-4 hours.|
|11:00 AM||Mix together levain, flour, water and salt.|
Begin Bulk Fermentation and let rest 1 hour.
|12:00 PM||Stretch and Fold #1|
|1:00 PM||Stretch and Fold #2|
|2:00 PM||Stretch and Fold #3|
End Bulk fermentation. Cover and place in refrigerator overnight.
|Anytime||Pre-heat dutch oven for 30 minutes|
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 levain (or leaven). I always use a levain method when baking with sourdough and you will see that throughout my website. A levain is an offshoot of a sourdough starter. It is a mixture of starter, flour and water that has unique characteristics. A levain is created for a specific recipe and will be used entirely in the day’s bake. Read more about levain and sourdough starter here.
Making the Levain
You have two options when it comes to making the levain for this recipe.
- Make the levain the day you bake. This is what I have listed in the recipe. Take 90 grams of ripe sourdough starter and feed it 90 grams of flour and 90 grams of water. Cover and let sit until doubled in size, bubbly and peaks. If your starter is kept at 78 degrees, this should take 3-4 hours.
- Make the levain the night before. For this option, take 15 grams of ripe sourdough starter. Feed it 150 grams flour and 150 grams water. Cover and let sit overnight until doubled in size, bubbly and peaks. If your starter is kept at 78 degrees, this should take about 12 hours.
Whichever method you choose, make sure that you use sourdough starter that is ripe. Read this for more information about sourdough starter and it’s fermentation cycle. You will know your levain is ready to be mixed into the dough when it is also ripe, bubbly and has doubled in size.
Mixing the Dough
To a large mixing bowl, add the ripe levain, flour, water and salt. If your kitchen is cold and your ingredients are cold, use warm water. If your kitchen is warm and your ingredients are warm, you may need to use cool water. You can take the temperature of your ingredients with a thermometer to know for sure. The dough should be kept right around 76-78 degrees F for best fermentation. Read this for more information on how temperature affects sourdough. Mix together with a dough whisk or your hands until a shaggy dough forms.
Bulk fermentation is the time right after the dough has been mixed until it is baked. I like to split my bulk fermentation into two parts: Bulk Fermentation (at warm room temperature, 78 F) and Cold Bulk Fermentation.
- Bulk Fermentation at warm room temperature: This should take about 4 hours total at warm room temperature (78 F). During that four hours, you will perform 3 sets of “stretch and folds.” A set of “stretch and folds ” takes the place of traditional kneading and helps strengthen the gluten strands in the dough.
- How to “stretch and fold:” Reach your hand down into the bowl. Pick up the underside of the dough. Fold it on top of itself. Turn the bowl after each fold and pick up a different section of the dough, stretching it and folding it on top of itself.”
- Cold Bulk Fermentation in the refrigerator: After four hours at warm room temperature (78 F), cover the dough and place it in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. I typically let the dough sit overnight before shaping and baking but you can leave it in the refrigerator for 48 hours if desired.
Dutch Oven For Crispy Crust
One more important note about this recipe and about artisan sourdough bread in general is that you will need a dutch oven to bake it in. 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 or a bread and potato pot (my new favorite, affiliate link) and want to bake sourdough, you can try using a pizza stone (affiliate link). The pizza stone may not give quite the same results, but they should be good if you follow these steps: 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 sourdough 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.
Baking No-Knead Sourdough Bread
Pre-heat the Dutch Oven: Put your dutch oven (top and all) into the oven and preheat to 500 degrees. Allow the 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.
Shaping the Bread: mmediately 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. Let the dough rest for 30 minutes while the dutch oven pre-heats.
Scoring: After the dough rests for 30 minutes, smooth a little flour over the top of the cold dough (add a little extra for more contrast if desired). Use a very sharp knife or bread lame to score the dough. 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: 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. Decrease temperature to 450 degrees and bake for 25 minutes with the lid on. After 25 minutes take the lid off and bake for an additional 20 minutes until crispy.
Watch No-Knead Beginner Sourdough from Start to Finish Below
No-Knead Beginner Sourdough
Levain(3-4 hours until peak)
- 90 grams ripe sourdough starter
- 90 grams water warm or cool depending on the temperature
- 90 grams all purpose flour
Dough (8-36 hour rise)
- 230 grams levain about 1 cup
- 400 grams water, room temperature about 1 3/4 cups
- 600 grams bread flour or all purpose (see recipe note) about 4 1/2 cups
- 12 grams salt about 2 teaspoons
Build the Levain (3-4 hours before peak)
- To a clear liquid measuring cup add 90 grams of starter, 90 grams of water and 90 grams of flour. Mix together. Cover and let sit at warm room temperature (78 F) for about 3-4 hours until the mixture has doubled in size. Once the levain has doubled in size and has reached it's peak height, it is ready to use.
- Mix 230 grams of ripe levain (you will have some leftover), room temperature water, flour and salt in a bowl using a wooden spoon or dough whisk (affiliate link). 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 "stretch and folds". 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. An example of this folding technique is found here (halfway through the video).
- Cover the bowl again and let it rest for another hour. Notice how the dough is coming together. It doesn’t feel shaggy anymore and is becoming more stretchy and cohesive. For the second time, do the series of three stretch and folds.
- Cover the bowl again and let it rest for its third and final hour. Repeat the series of three stretch and folds.
- 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. See recipe notes for instructions on baking the same day.
- The next morning (or whenever you are ready to bake your bread), put a dutch oven (affiliate link and see recipe notes for more options) 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 30 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 30 minutes, score the top of your bread with a bread lame (affiliate link), 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 temperature to 450 degrees and bake for 25 minutes.
- After 25 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!