Sourdough Artisan Gingerbread Loaf

Do you want your house to smell like Christmas? Make this sourdough artisan gingerbread loaf. Your whole house will fill with the aroma of freshly baked bread. And not just any bread: gingerbread! This loaf is my take on a gingerbread-style artisan loaf with its sweet molasses and ginger flavor permeating every bite. A mild, sweet and seriously delicious loaf that is perfect for the holiday season! I can’t wait to hear what you think about it.

Important Ingredients in Sourdough Artisan Gingerbread Loaf

Sourdough Starter: Use an active/ripe sourdough starter (doubled in size/bubbly/mild sour aroma) to mix the levain.

Molasses: I use regular molasses in this recipe. For a deeper (and more bitter) molasses flavor you can use blackstrap molasses.

Brown Sugar: I sweeten this bread with some brown sugar. The taste of the brown sugar complements the molasses and ginger. If you prefer a savory bread, reduce the sugar by 25 grams in the bread.

Bread Flour: I almost always use a 12.5% protein bread flour for any bread that I am kneading. The higher protein content and properly activating the gluten results in a lighter/springy baked good.

Salt: Salt enhances the flavor and helps temper the yeast. I delay adding the salt to help give the dough more elasticity in the first 30 minutes. Then I add the salt with a little extra water. Don’t leave out the salt!

Ground Ginger: This is a gingerbread-forward loaf. Since ground ginger doesn’t negatively affect the yeast in a loaf, I add it in the inital mixing stage of this recipe.

Ground Cinnamon: I laminate ground cinnamon into the dough right before shaping it. Cinnamon inhibits the activity of the yeast, so I don’t like adding it in during the initial mixing, but it does enhance the flavor and gives a swirl effect. You can omit it if desired.

Sourdough Sample Schedule for Sourdough Artisan Gingerbread Loaf

A sample baking schedule helps me when baking with sourdough. Sourdough takes much longer to rise than traditional bread. This schedule helps me plan my bake.

Note: This schedule assumes the dough temperature is 78 degrees F throughout the process.

Day 1Levain/Mixing/Bulk Fermentation/
Shaping/Cold Bulk Fermentation
8:00 AM – 11:30 AMMix Levain: Let sit at 78 degrees F for about 3-4 hours until doubled/bubbly and ripe.
11:30 AMBegin Bulk Fermentation: Mix water, molasses, ripe levain, brown sugar, ginger and bread flour. Let sit for 30 minutes before adding in the salt and extra water.
12:00 PMMix Dough: Add salt and reserved water
12:30 PM
1:00
PM
1:30
PM
Stretch and Fold #1
Stretch and Fold #2
Stretch and Fold #3
1:30-3:30 PMBulk Rest
3:30 PMLaminate in Ground Cinnamon
Pre-Shape/Bench Rest
4:00 PMShape Dough
Begin Cold Bulk Fermentation
Day 2Score and Bake
9:00 AMPreheat Dutch oven
9:30 AMScore and Bake

Mix Levain

1:1:1 Levain (ready in 3-4 hours/same day): This recipe calls for a levain mixed the same day you mix the dough. It should take 3-4 hours until it’s ready to be mixed with the dough, if you keep the levain temperature at 78 degrees F. Levain is ready when it has doubled in size, has lots of bubbles, a slightly sour aroma and is just about to start going down from its peak height. Mix together:

  • 40 grams of ripe/mature starter
  • 40 grams of warm water
  • 40 grams of bread flour

If you prefer to mix the levain the night before, you can mix a 1:10:10 Levain that is ready in 12 hours or overnight

  • 5 grams of ripe/mature sourdough starter
  • 55 grams white bread flour
  • 55 grams water

Mixing the Dough: Begin Bulk Fermentation

I like mixing together most of the ingredients in this dough and then waiting about 30 minutes to add the salt and a little extra water. This method helps strengthen the gluten strands in the dough and gives a better overall texture and crumb to this bread. As soon as the levain is ready (bubbly, doubled in size, peaked), mix together the bread flour, water, molasses, brown sugar, ground ginger and levain. Cover the dough and let it rest for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, add the salt and 10 grams of reserved water. Pinch chunks of dough and reincorporate them together gently. Pick up one side of the dough and fold it over on itself. The dough will be sticky. Wet your hands as needed and continue to work with the dough, gently kneading until all the ingredients are incorporated and the dough is smooth. This will probably take 3-5 minutes. Transfer the dough to a plastic container or a glass bowl if desired.

Want a stronger flavor?: Use Blackstrap Molasses for a deeper flavor and reduce sugar by 25 grams for a more savory loaf.

Stretch and Fold the Gingerbread Sourdough

In artisan bread we don’t use traditional kneading methods, instead we use a series of gentle folds to help strengthen the gluten strands in the dough. This dough usually gets about 3-4 sets of stretch and folds over a 2 hour period, if the dough is kept right around 78 degrees F.

Stretch and Fold: To “stretch and fold,” wet your hand (so it doesn’t stick to the dough). Reach down to the bottom of the bowl of dough and pull the dough up and over the top of the dough. Turn the bowl a quarter turn and repeat the stretch and fold. Turn another quarter turn and repeat. Perform one more quarter turn with stretching and folding the dough. Cover and set aside for 30 minutes. Repeat every 30 minutes a total of 3-4 times.

Rest: After the 2-hour period of stretch and folds, let the dough rest in a warm 78-80 degree F place until puffed up and jiggly with a few scattered bubbles around the top. This usually takes 1.5-2 hours. If the dough doesn’t look like this, give it another half hour and check again.

Laminating in the Cinnamon

Once the dough has risen about 30-40%, has a few bubbles scattered around the top and feels extensible and aerated, it’s time to pre-shape the dough and laminate in the ground cinnamon. The lamination method adds some layers to the finished dough, but also imparts a little cinnamon flavor that is really delicious in this sourdough artisan gingerbread loaf.

To Laminate: On a clean counter top, stretch the dough as thin as you can without tearing it. When the dough is fully stretched, sprinkle ground cinnamon over the dough. Fold the dough up and sprinkle a little more cinnamon as you fold it into a little square. This strengthens gluten strands and gives even dispersement of cinnamon. Let the dough rest about 30 minutes before shaping.

Shaping the Dough

Prepare a banneton or small bowl. Place a kitchen towel or hair net in the bowl and liberally flour. If you use the hair net, you should not need to use much flour.  Using the bench knife, lift the dough up off the counter and place it on top of the countertop – floured side down. Pull the dough down toward you and then fold up to the middle of the dough. Take the right edge and pull out and then into the middle of the dough. Take the left side of the dough and stretch out and then back to the middle. Repeat with the top of the dough, forming a little “package” of dough. Gather the bread into a circle and use a bench knife to lift the bread and place into your lined bowl.

I almost always use a cold fermentation for my sourdough artisan bread. Cover the dough in the banneton and place in the refrigerator for 12-20 hours. If it goes a little longer than that, it should be okay – up to as much as 48 hours depending on the temperature of your refrigerator.

Baking a Sourdough Artisan Gingerbread Loaf

Pre-heat the Oven: Put a 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. This builds up steam, which is necessary to achieve the beautiful oven spring and perfect crust that artisan bread is known for.

Scoring the Dough: Once the oven is preheated for 30 minutes, pull the loaf out of the refrigerator. Remove the plastic wrap (this is easy to do straight out of the refrigerator if the dough is chilled – not easy if the dough warms up) and place a piece of parchment paper on top of the bread dough. Flip the dough over so that it is now sitting on the parchment paper. Take off the bowl/banneton and kitchen towel. Smooth the flour over the top of the dough (add a little extra for more contrast if desired) or leave the flour off completely for no contrast. Use a bread lame or very sharp knife to score the dough.

Baking the Bread: Carefully remove the Dutch oven from the 500 degree oven with hot pads. 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 hot 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 and continue baking for 20 minutes until the bread is fully baked.

For Best Results: Let the bread cool completely before slicing! This helps the crumb to set and keeps the bread from being “gummy.”

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I store leftover Sourdough Artisan Gingerbread?

I like to let my loaf cool completely. Then slice, stick in an airtight bag and freeze. You can also freeze the whole loaf and then let it thaw or warm back up in the oven for a few minutes before enjoying.

Does this taste like Gingerbread?

I think this sourdough artisan gingerbread loaf recipe tastes like a sweet Christmasy bread with notes of ginger and cinnamon throughout. It’s definitely a holiday bread with a mild ginger flavor. To get more gingerbread flavor, use blackstrap molasses and a little extra ginger.

Can I add dried fruit and nuts to this bread?

Yes. This would be a great bread for inclusions of dried fruit and nuts. I would probably do about 1 to 1 1/2 cups total of inclusions.

This bread was sticky. Help!

Sourdough artisan bread is a more sticky dough than other breads. This bread has sugar and molasses in it, which makes it even more sticky. Make sure you are using bread flour and a bench scraper when shaping the dough. Keeping your hands wet will also help you shape it. And don’t worry, trust the sourdough process!

My loaf burned on the bottom. Help!

Because this loaf has molasses and brown sugar in it, it can have a tendency to burn more on the bottom, especially if you are using a dark cast iron pan. Decrease the temperature by about 25 degrees F and make sure there is a baking sheet or stone on the rack below the dutch oven to help deflect the heaet.

Gingerbread Sourdough Artisan Bread

Amy
A mild, sweet gingerbread-flavored artisan sourdough bread that is perfect for the holiday season. Pair with some butter or enjoy with your breakfast, this is the perfect winter loaf with sweet spices and made with natural yeast.
5 from 3 votes
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Fermentation Time 1 day
Total Time 1 day 1 hour 15 minutes
Course Artisan Bread, Bread
Servings 1 loaf

Ingredients
  

Levain (1:1:1, 3-4 hours at 78 degrees F)

  • 40 grams ripe sourdough starter
  • 40 grams bread flour
  • 40 grams water

Gingerbread Artisan Loaf

  • 100 grams ripe/bubbly/peaked levain
  • 300 grams water (reserve 10 grams for adding in with the salt)
  • 100 grams molasses see recipe note
  • 50 grams brown sugar light or dark
  • 5 grams ground ginger about 1 Tablespoon
  • 500 grams bread flour
  • 10 grams salt (added in after 30 minutes)
  • sprinkle of ground cinnamon during shaping

Instructions
 

Day 1: Levain/Mix/Bulk Fermentation/Shape/Cold Bulk Fermentation

  • Levain: Make levain by mixing together ripe sourdough starter, flour and water. Set aside for 3-4 hours at 78 degrees F.
  • Mix Dough: Once the levain is ripe/bubbly/doubled in size, mix together the ripe levain, 290 grams of water, molasses, brown sugar, ground ginger and bread flour. Let rest for 30 minutes.
  • Add Salt and Reserved Water: After 30 minutes, add in the 10 grams reserved water and 10 grams of salt. Pinch chunks of dough and reincorporate them together gently. Pick up one side of the dough and fold it over on itself. The dough will be sticky. Wet your hands as needed and continue to work with the dough until all the ingredients are mixed and the dough is smooth, about 3-5 minutes. Transfer the dough to a plastic container or a glass bowl if desired.
  • Stretch and FoldsPerform 3 sets of stretch and folds every half hour for the first 1.5 hours.
  • To “stretch and fold,” wet your hand (so it doesn’t stick to the dough). Reach down to the bottom of the bowl of dough and pull the dough up and over the top of the dough. Turn the bowl a quarter turn and repeat the stretch and fold. Turn another quarter turn and repeat. Perform one more quarter turn with stretching and folding the dough. Cover and set aside.
  • Repeat the stretch and folds every 30 minutes for three times total.
  • Rest: After your third set of stretch and folds, cover the dough and let rest/rise for about 1.5-2 hours at 78 degrees F until showing signs of readiness to shape. The dough will have risen about 30-40%, have some scattered bubbles around the edges and be doming and pulling away from the sides of the bowl.
  • Lamination & Bench Rest: On a clean counter top, stretch the dough as thin as you can without tearing it. See post for pictures and description. When the dough is fully stretched, lightly sprinkle ground cinnamon over the dough. Fold the dough up and sprinkle a little ground cinnamon as you fold the dough up into a little package. See post for pictures. Let the dough rest for about 30 minutes.
  • Prepare a banneton: Prepare a banneton or small bowl. Place a kitchen towel or hair net in the bowl and liberally flour.
  • Shaping: After the dough has rested for about 30 minutes, it is time to shape the bread into a round or oval shape. Sprinkle flour on top of the dough if desired (I use a fine mesh strainer). Using the bench knife, lift the dough up off the counter and place it on top of the countertop – floured side down. This ensures that the flour is staying mainly on the outside of the dough. Pull the dough down toward you and then fold up to the middle of the dough. Take the right edge and pull out and then into the middle of the dough. Take the left side of the dough and stretch out and then back to the middle. Repeat with the top of the dough, forming a little "package" of dough. Gather the bread into a circle and use a bench knife to lift the bread and place into your lined bowl.
  • Cold Bulk Fermentation: Cover the dough and store in the refrigerator overnight or for up to 18-20 hours. Alternatively you can let your dough rise outside the fridge for another 3-4 hours and then bake your loaf the same day. If you choose this method, stick your banneton or bowl of dough in the fridge or freezer to chill it for a few minutes before scoring. This dough really benefits from the cold because it tends to be a little more sticky.

Day 2: Bake

  • Pre-heat the Oven: Put a 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.
  • Once preheated for 30 minutes, pull the loaf out of the refrigerator. Remove the plastic wrap (this is easy to do straight out of the refrigerator if the dough is chilled – not easy if the dough warms up) and place a piece of parchment paper on top of the bread dough. Flip the dough over so that the dough is now sitting on the parchment paper. Take off the bowl/banneton and kitchen towel.
  • Scoring: Smooth the flour over the top of the dough (add a little extra for more contrast if desired) or leave the flour off completely for no contrast. Use a bread lame or very sharp knife to score the dough.
  • Bake: Carefully remove the Dutch oven from the 500 degree oven with hot pads. 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 hot 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 25 minutes. Once 20 minutes are up, take the top off the Dutch oven and continue baking for 20 minutes until the bread is fully baked. Note: If your oven runs hot or you are using a dark cast iron pot, there's a tendency for the loaf to burn. Make sure to put a sheet pan on the rack underneath the pot to deflect the heat and decrease the temperature to 425 degrees F instead of 450.
  • Let cool completely and enjoy!

Notes

A Note: This is a wet and stickier dough, thanks to the high hydration and molasses. Trust the process. It will all come together.
Molasses: I used regular molasses in this recipe. For a deeper (and more bitter) molasses flavor you can use blackstrap molasses.
Brown Sugar: You can use dark or light brown sugar in this recipe. The sugar sweetens up the dough and makes the dough taste more like gingerbread. If you prefer a less sweet bread with a sharper gingerbread flavor, decrease the sugar by 25 grams or leave it out completely.
Keyword 100% sourdough, Christmas bread, gingerbread loaf, gingerbread loaf bread, gingerbread sourdough, gingerbread sourdough bread, sourdough artisan gingerbread loaf, sourdough artisan gingerbread recipe, sourdough gingerbread
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29 Comments

  1. I would love to try this loaf! It sounds and looks delicious! Thank you!! 👩🏼‍🍳🍞😋

  2. I’m making today and it is so sticky but if hands are wet makes it slippery and easy to fold and stretch. In the refrigerator now can’t wait to bake it!

    1. Yes, wet hands make a big difference! This is a little more sticky thanks to the molasses but it rises nicely in the oven.

  3. Why can’t the cinnamon be added when the other spices are added at the beginning? I never have much luck at laminating. Can it be added earlier?

    1. Cinnamon slows down the fermentation quite a bit. It can make the dough difficult to work with if you add it at the beginning.

      1. Okay, thank you so much for answering so quickly. I’m going to try it with the lamination, cross our fingers that I can do it! 😁

      2. You can do it. Use wet hands. It’s a little sticky and it doesn’t need to stretch too far, just enough to get some cinnamon on there. The purpose in this case is laminating the cinnamon, not really strengthening the dough.

  4. It’s a wet sticky mess – but I think I know what I did wrong… I used fresh grated ginger, not dried ginger powder. Could that be it?!?!

    1. This dough is higher hydration with the molasses and sugar in it, so it will be a little more sticky than a traditional artisan loaf. I haven’t tried using freshly grated ginger in this, so it could have made the dough more sticky. Also make sure you are using a bread flour with a 12.5% protein content at least that can absorb the liquid. And make sure your hands are wet when working with the dough so it doesn’t stick quite as much.

  5. I made this the other day and oh my goodness it was delicious!! Yes it was on the stickier side but I kept getting my hands wet and using the bench scraper often which helped tremendously. I’m still working on my scoring skills, hah! Do you think I could double this recipe and make 2 loaves at once? Hoping to give as gifts. Have you tried that before?

  6. I was frustrated when my bread wasn’t holding it shape while shaping and didn’t get a good rise in the oven (still tasty though!) I was reading and re-reading the recipe and noticed that I had skipped over the 1.5/2 hour rise after the stretch and folds. I think it would be helpful to include that as a separate step! Other than that, the bread smells delicious and I cannot wait to share at my family Christmas! I will attempt this recipe again soon without skipping that bulk ferment on the counter and let you know how that goes. 🙂

    1. Thanks for the feedback! I just updated the recipe to make that step more clear. So glad you loved the flavor of it!

  7. Made this without cinnamon (simply forgot) and used my normal process instead of the listed one and it turned out great. Awesome oven spring and smells amazing. Can’t wait to cut into it.

  8. I made this for last night’s Christmas dinner with friends and it turned out perfectly and exactly as pictured. It has real gingerbread taste which I loved. I used the blackstrap molasses for extra depth of flavor. It came out perfectly spiced, a little sweet, moist (not gummy), and soft and springy. I paired it with a cranberry pecan cheeseball and apple butter and everyone raved about it. I used three layers of parchment, lowered the temp as directed, and had the cookie sheet on the rack underneath to prevent burning as I was using a dark cast iron dutch oven. My bottom wasn’t burned at all. Yes, it is a sticky and seemingly too hydrated dough, but as the blog states, trust the process and it does turn out perfectly. I was tempted to add extra flour at shaping but glad I didn’t. Thanks for the recipe! I will be adding it to my archives!

  9. I’ve made this twice and it’s delicious! However, mine keeps coming over very dense. Any suggestions to help with that?

    1. What temperature are you keeping the dough at? A dense loaf to me usually is a proofing issue. It could also be a starter issue if your starter isn’t super active.

      1. During the process, 76-78 degrees. It’s in the fridge for about 12 hours (recipe says 18-20?) overnight before cooking.

      2. In that case I’m guessing it’s a little underproofed. If you add the cinnamon in during lamination that slows down fermentation, so you really do want to have your dough warm (78) during this process or extend the bulk fermentation a little bit. I would either let it bulk ferment on the counter longer before shaping or leave it longer in the fridge.

  10. This dough was sticky and messy to work with, however, it was totally worth it 💯
    We had it toasted for breakfast yesterday morning, and it had a subtle sweetness. The ginger is there but doesn’t overpower, and the salted butter melted through gives it a delicious savory quality.
    Today I had a piece untrusted, slathered in butter (of course) and it was even better. I am in love with this bread! 😍

    1. That was supposed to say untoasted, not untrusted – thanks autocorrect 🤣

      I also forgot to add that the chewiness of the crust is the best. I couldn’t rate this bread any higher 😍

  11. 5 stars
    Added crystallized ginger chips ( 100g) and it was delicious! Thanks for another great recipe! Definitely made it a sweet treat, but I have a sweet tooth. If you love ginger, try it!

  12. 5 stars
    This bread was amazing! First time ever trying a flavored bread and now I want to make it every weekend. Easy to follow recipe. Didn’t need to adjust anything.