Sourdough bread is science and it is art. It is bread that takes 2-3 days to make a loaf and has only four ingredients: flour, water, salt and leaven (which is made from flour and water). It is the oldest form of bread and has been made for centuries before the invention of commercialized yeast, which sped up the bread baking process. Sourdough also offers awesome health benefits due to the long fermentation process. The amount of time and skill it takes to create loaves of sourdough is the reason these loaves of bread are more expensive. You most likely cannot find this kind of bread in a traditional grocery store but rather in an artisan bakery. It is also the most delicious bread you will eat, in my opinion. Once you make it, it’s hard to go back to any other kind of bread, so proceed with caution! With that said, there is no traditional kneading involved and the process is not very difficult if you follow the steps.
I will be posting my favorite basic recipe soon, but before I do, I wanted to give a run down on the supplies you will need (or at least the recommended supplies) to make this outstanding bread. You may think this is a long list. Some of these things are optional, but some of them make a huge difference to your loaf of bread. If you are going to spend the time to culture yeast and create a beautiful dough, it only makes sense to invest in tools to help get the rest of the job done. For me, personally, I didn’t invest in all of these at one time. They are not all necessary immediately but if you choose to make baking sourdough a habit, you will want to own these tools.
- A Digital Scale: Artisan bakers scale all of their recipes based on ratios and the percentage of the total flour in the recipe. This is called a Baker’s percentage. Percentages are much easier to work with using the metric system and basing recipes on 1000 grams (or 1 kg) of flour. Recipes can be easily scaled down or up based on these percentages. Also, people scoop flour differently and so it can be difficult to give precise measurements in cups. Do yourself a favor and grab a digital scale. I bet you will find other awesome uses for it in your kitchen other than weighing ingredients for bread. I bought mine from Costco but this one from Amazon looks similar (or search digital scales and read the reviews–make sure it uses the metric system–grams).
- A Sourdough Starter: You can check out how to make a starter on my Instagram IGTV or check out this blog post for a printout to follow. Alternatively you can purchase one from Amazon or my recommendation, King Arthur Flour.
- Mixing Bowl: You will need a big wide bowl for mixing your bread.
- Danish dough whisk: This is not a necessity, but wow is this tool awesome! I used to get globs of dough all over my fingers when mixing my sourdough together by hand. This tool quickly and easily incorporates all the flour and water together and I don’t lose any of my bread dough down the drain because I can’t get it off my fingers. It is also very easy to clean. I bought this one and love it.
- Mixing bowl or Plastic Container (for bulk rise): You will need another large bowl or plastic container for your bread to rise. You will be stretching and folding the dough during this rise time so you need a bowl in which your dough will be able to double in size. For many years I used a large mixing bowl I had at home. I recently bought some large plastic tubs that have measurements written on the side. This is very handy for seeing exactly how much my dough has risen and I love them. I highly recommend them, though they are not completely necessary if you have two big bowls. I like this one for large batches of dough (it’s a fairly large container, in case you lack storage space). This one is good for smaller batches and just barely fits a double batch of my sourdough bread once risen.
- Rubber Dough Scraper: I like having this tool to help shape my dough, scrape the edges of my bowls, etc… I don’t think it is completely necessary, though, it makes the process a little easier. This is the one I have. It is very pliable and flexible.
- Bench Knife: I love my bench knife. I use it to separate dough all the time…and not just sourdough. You can use a big knife instead, though I do think a bench knife is worth investing in. This one is similar to the one I have. I bought mine at the King Arthur Flour flagship store if you want to look online there.
- Dutch Oven: This is a must have in my opinion. For sourdough bread to get the dark, crispy crust and beautiful oven spring it is known for, it needs to have two things: plenty of steam in an enclosed place AND high heat that doesn’t fluctuate. A simple dutch oven will solve this issue for a home-baker. I have an inexpensive one and it works great (it will get discolored on the bottom from baking all that bread at high heat but it’s held up for many years).
- 2 bread proofing baskets (or mixing bowls): In my early days of sourdough baking I used mixing bowls. I found small bowls with a bit of a wider opening worked best. Now I’ve invested in some bread proofing baskets which I love. If you are planning to make sourdough often, they are worth it. You can try different shapes of bread proofing baskets. I tend to stick with round shapes because my dutch oven is round. Mine look like these.
- Kitchen Towels: You will be lining your bread baskets (or bowls) with a kitchen towel to set your bread in the night before baking. I like to use thinner towels, but it’s up to you. I’ve even used paper towel before and it’s worked okay in a pinch.
- Rice flour/whole wheat flour: I mix together a blend of rice flour and whole wheat flour and keep it in a little bag. When it’s time to flour my bowls (before placing the dough in them) I use this blend. This is not critical, just my preference. I wouldn’t make a special trip to the grocery store for it but I would use it if I had it on hand or add it to my grocery list.
- Plastic wrap: I cover my rising bowls with this so the bread doesn’t develop a hard crust in the fridge. This is optional.
- Parchment paper: I use parchment paper all the time while baking. When I turn my bread out to score it, I do it on a piece of parchment, which makes it very easy to lift and put into my dutch oven when I am ready to bake.
- Bread lame: I love a bread lame for scoring my sourdough loaves. You can make many amazing designs which is part of the fun of baking the perfect loaf! If you don’t have a bread lame you can use a very sharp knife OR a razor blade. I bought this one and like it.
- Hot pads: You will be baking your bread at very hot temperatures and handling your dutch oven up to 500 degrees. Make sure you have really good hot pads to deal with the high heat produced by your oven.
And that’s about it! It is quite the list, but many of these things are optional or you can use a different kitchen appliance if you are just starting out. Check through your kitchen and make note of what you will need to purchase and what you have before we make a loaf of sourdough together. I can’t wait to see your bakes!
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