The Easiest Sourdough Bread - Beginner Friendly Recipe & Tips - Dani Koch (2024)

Y’all have been asking me all about my new sourdough baking hobby. I’ve received TONS of questions about my sourdough bread recipe, help with starters, what flour I use, etc. So, I figured I’d gather it all up into a blog post for you! I only started experimenting with baking sourdough at home 4 months ago. It took me a few months to really understand how it works. I’ve learned a TON in that short time and know exactly what you’re experiencing as a new sourdough baker, so hopefully this post will help!

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Jump to Section:

  • What Flour Do I Use?
  • What Do You Need to Get Started Baking Sourdough Bread at Home?
  • Common Sourdough Starter Mistakes and How to Fix Them
  • Determining Your Sourdough Baking Schedule
  • My Go-To Sourdough Bread Recipe for Beginners

If you already know all the basics of sourdough but are wondering what to do when you don’t have time for the full process, check out my lazy sourdough bread recipe!

Before we get going into how to maintain/use a starter and my sourdough bread recipe, let’s get some of the frequently asked questions out of the way…

What Flour Do I Use?

This list is sure to grow as I continue experimenting with what types of wheat I can have, but for the time being, these are the flours I like and use regularly!

All ingredients I use are linked below:

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What Do You Need to Get Started with Sourdough Baking at Home?

  • A Mature Starter – if you’ve never used or maintained a starter before, I highly recommend getting a mature starter from a friend, or buying one locally. You can also buy them online if you can’t find one local. The reason for this is: 1) creating a brand new starter is a 2+ week process that requires accuracy and patience with daily discards and feeding; 2) it’s hard to know what you’re aiming for and if you’re doing it right if you haven’t dealt with starter before (this was my experience.
  • A Kitchen Scale – This is so much more crucial for a beginner than you would ever guess. I asked my sister, owner of Crumb Cakery, which scale to buy, and without hesitation, she recommended this one because it is easy to clean and will last forever because the screen is fully protected.
  • Patience! – I know all you want to do is get that first loaf in the oven, but sourdough baking is a patience game. The single most crucial part of this process is letting your starter and dough rise enough before baking. That said, the learning process is so fun (and delicious!).

All supplies I use are linked below:

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Common Sourdough Starter Mistakes:

  • Not Discarding

    I know it seems like a waste, but discarding the excess when you feed your starter is necessary, otherwise you’ll end up with pounds of starter in a very short time, and the feeding quantities will actually cause more waste if you don’t use the discard. I found the easiest and incredibly delicious was to use sourdough discard, which brings me to my next point…

  • Not Using Your Starter Discard

    Getting started with sourdough can be overwhelming, and so I just ignored and threw out my starter discard at first because I didn’t have the time or energy to find a recipe to use it. That is, until I found you can literally just fry it up in a pan with butter, no additional ingredients or mixing required, and it makes an incredibly DELICIOUS sourdough pancake. You can add garlic and herbs, or cinnamon sugar, or anything you want, but it’s delicious just plain. To make it, heat up a pan on medium heat, add a pat of butter, and pour in your starter discard. Let it fry up on one side then flip over like a pancake to cook the other side.

    After some experimenting, I’ve also found that you can add some sourdough discard into just about any other dough/batter you’re already making, whether cookies, pizza dough, waffles, bagels, I’m convinced you can add it to anything!

  • Not Feeding Your Starter Consistently

    The thing with starter is, it needs to be fed consistently to be kept alive. And just like us, it needs to be fed the right amount of the right things consistently. Your starter’s feeding schedule will depend on temperature and how often you use it. I store my starter in the fridge and feed it once a week (or more if I am using it more). I have a reminder on my phone to feed it on the same day each week. If you are using your starter daily or every other day, you can keep it out on the counter, but you will also need to feed it daily. If you miss a feeding, don’t fret, your sourdough starter is NOT dead, you just may need to feed it an extra time or two before using it. Look for the same signs of a healthy starter before using it: if it is bubbly and doubles or more after feeding, then you’re good to go! If not, let it rise and fall, and feed it again. Avoid putting it in the fridge while reviving so it can regain it’s strength.

  • Not Feeding Your Sourdough Starter Enough

    Your starter should be fed a ratio of 1 part starter to 1 part room temp water to 1 part unbleached flour. I highly recommend using a kitchen scale for feeding because it’s faster, easier, and much more accurate (this is the scale I use). If you want to wait a longer period after feeding to use it, then you can use the same 1 to 1 ratio of flour and water, but reduce the amount of starter (even just using the scraps in the jar will be enough). Just keep in mind your first time doing this that it may take significantly longer for your starter to peak and be ready to use!

  • Using the Wrong Flour

    In general, you can use any wheat flour to feed your starter, or any combination of flours, however, they must be UNBLEACHED. If you feed your starter with the standard white bleached flour, the bleach will kill the yeast and bacteria in your starter and dub it completely useless. Other than that, you can use all purpose flour, organic, bread flour, pastry flour, any of the flours I recommended above, spelt, kamut, there’s so many options, just make sure it’s unbleached and you should be good!

  • Not Using Your Starter at the Right Time

    Sourdough starter should be used when it is peaking (i.e. when it’s freshly fed and still rising, but right at the top before it starts to come back down). That’s great and all, but when you’re new to using a starter, how do you know when it’s peaking??? Every starter will be a little different, so the best way to understand your sourdough starter is to feed it and pay attention to what happens. Note how much it rises before beginning to shrink back down – does it double? Triple? In general, once it’s doubled in size and bubbly (as shown below), it should be good to use.

    I put a rubber band around my jar after feeding it to mark the height, and that gives me an easy reference to see how much it has grown. The temperature will greatly impact how long it takes for your starter to rise – it’ll go faster in warmer temps and slower in cold temps.

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Determining Your Sourdough Bread Baking Schedule:

Before getting started, it’s helpful to plan WHEN you want your sourdough bread to be ready to eat. Sourdough requires patience, and planning around my schedule is what makes it fun and easy! This schedule is what works for me, but you can (and should) adjust the timing to make it work for your schedule. Keep in mind, you can shorten or lengthen the times for each of the rises based on temperature (warmer will take less time, colder will take more time).

My Approximate Sourdough Bread Schedule:

  • Day 1 – 10AM: Step 1, feed starter (~5 hours)
  • Day 1 – 3PM: Follow Steps 2-4, autolyse, mix dough, and stretch & folds (1.5 hours)
  • Day 1 – 4:30PM-7:30PM: Step 5-6, bulk fermentation and shaping (2-4 hours)
  • Overnight – 7:30PM to 7:30AM: Step 7, cold ferment (10-20 hours – adjust to your schedule or skip if wanted)
  • Day 2 – 7:30AM: Steps 8-13, preheat and baking (~1.5 hours)
  • Day 2 – 9AM: Let cool and enjoy your fresh baked bread!

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My Go-To Sourdough Bread Recipe for Beginners

This recipe has made it’s way through various friends and family before I received it. I’ve adjusted and adapted it to what has worked best for me, but the core ingredients are the same – that’s the beauty of sourdough! Just 4 simple ingredients: Starter, Water, Flour, Salt. Now, let’s get on to baking!

Sourdough Bread Ingredients:

Starter:

  • 100 grams Mature Sourdough Starter
  • 100 grams Room Temp Water (preferably filtered)
  • 100 grams Unbleached Flour

Dough:

  • 200 grams Fed Sourdough Starter (from above)
  • 260 grams Room Temp Water (preferably filtered) *if you live in a very dry climate, you may need to increase the amount of water
  • 420 grams Unbleached Flour – I like to use a mixture of Italian 00 Flour and Einkorn, and I’ll add in Rye or Whole Wheat sometimes too! See Recipe Alternatives Below…
  • 1 3/4 tsp Salt
  • Extra flour for proofing basket (rice flour works well to prevent sticking, while whole wheat adds more texture, but any flour will work!)

*Many different factors can effect the overall hydration of your dough (including your climate, altitude, type of flour you use, etc.), so don’t be afraid to adjust the amount of water and flour as needed. I included photos of what my dough looks like at each step for reference.

Sourdough Bread Baking Instructions:

1. Feed Your Starter

Purpose: Activate your starter so it’s primed and ready to use

Feed your starter by mixing 100 grams of mature sourdough starter with 100g of water and 100g of flour. Loosely cover and leave on the counter to rise for 5 hours or until at least doubled (how long this takes will largely depend on the temperature inside your home). I like to keep my starter in a large, wide mouth glass jar and mark my jar with a rubber band right after feeding so I know where it started. The ideal time to use your starter is when it has peaked, meaning it’s risen as high as possible but has not started to go down.

You’ll use 200 grams of this for the bread and the other 100 grams will be your remaining starter to keep.

2. Make an Autolyse and Mix Dough

Purpose: Develop flavor, hydrate the flour, and start fermentation

Combine 200 grams of your risen starter with the 260 grams of water and mix until fully incorporated. Gently add in your 420 grams of flour. There’s no need to over-mix, you just want to incorporate all of the dry flour. Using a dough whisk makes this incredibly easy, but a stand mixer works too! Cover and allow to sit for 30 minutes or more (this helps to add more flavor).

IMPORTANT: Do not forget the salt!! I like to put my salt right next to my bowl of dough so I don’t forget to add it in the next step.

NOTE: Whole wheat flours can benefit from a longer autolyse, so I often will mix together equal parts water and whole wheat flour 1-2 hours before I start. I then add the remaining water and flour for the 30 minute autolyse before continuing to step 3.

3. Add The Salt

After your dough has rested for 30 minutes or more, add the 1 3/4 tsp of salt. I find it easiest to incorporate into the dough by pushing into the dough with my fingers. Gently mix your dough using a dough whisk or stand mixer with a dough hook until the salt is mixed in. There’s no need to over-mix or knead this dough as the next step with stretches and folds serves the same purpose as kneading (to develop gluten), but I find it much easier and more consistent than kneading.

NOTE: Your dough should not feel dry or stiff. If this is the case, it’s likely too dry and you will need to add more water. It’s best to add a little at a time with your fingers until it becomes a malleable dough, then move on to the next step.

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4. Stretch & Fold

Purpose: Develop gluten and create air pockets to help the dough rise

Cover the bowl and let rise for 1-2 hours, performing stretch and folds every 15-30 minutes.. Stretch and fold the dough by pulling the sides of the dough up and folding it over onto itself, rotate the bowl and repeat until you’ve pulled all sides of the dough. You’ll do a total of 3-5 sets of stretch and folds. This will create more air pockets to help the dough rise. You’ll notice the texture of the dough will become smoother, stronger and more stretchy with each set of folds, that means it’s developing gluten (which is good!).

NOTE: If your dough doesn’t feel stretchy and strong after 4 sets of stretch and folds, you can do a few more sets to develop more gluten. An easy way to check this is to pull up a small section and stretch it out really thin with your fingers, it should stretch and not break apart too easily. If you cannot stretch it to be thin, then it needs more gluten development.

5. Bulk Fermentation

Purpose: Allow the dough to rise

Cover your bowl and allow your dough to rise for about 2-4 hours, until it has almost doubled in size (aim for about 75% rise), you will see some larger bubbles forming in the dough and it will be giggly. How long this takes will highly depend on temperature, taking more time in a cold kitchen and less time when warm. You can speed it up by using a warming drawer or putting in a warm environment (about 80-90 degrees).

6. Shaping the Dough

Purpose: Create your desired loaf shape and create surface tension on the exterior of the dough to help build a nice crust for your sourdough bread

Remove dough and place on a hard, unfloured surface. Stretch and pull in the edges of the dough, then flip it over, seam side down. Shape dough by pulling it toward you in a circular motion. Picture rolling the dough around on the counter while pulling it toward you so it slides against the counter, stretching the outer layer underneath. This will create surface tension which helps build the crust and shape the dough into a nice, tight ball.

Place the shaped dough seam side up in a floured bread proofing basket. I find it easiest to use a small mesh strainer to evenly sprinkle the flour in the basket. Using whole wheat flour gives the exterior of the bread a nice texture, while rice flour is said to be best to prevent sticking, but any flour will work!

7. Cold Ferment (Optional)

Purpose: Slow down the fermentation process and allow the dough to develop more flavor

Cover and place in the fridge overnight. *Note: the exact timing of this doesn’t matter significantly. You can reduce the time or even skip this step entirely if that’s what fits your schedule. If you choose to skip this step, it’s still best to cool your dough in the fridge for an hour. This makes it easier to transfer to your

8. Preheat Oven and Dutch Oven

When ready to bake your bread, preheat your oven to 450* degrees and place your Dutch Oven inside to preheat for 30 minutes. Remove the dough from the fridge to rest while you wait. If you don’t have a dutch oven, you can add a pan to the bottom rack to preheat, you will add ice to this pan during baking to create steam. However, using a dutch oven will give you the most consistency and almost always results in the best loaf of bread.

NOTE: Every oven is different, so you may need to adjust the temperature to get the ideal rise and crust for your bread.

9. Cut Into The Dough

Purpose: To allow steam to escape and encourage a better rise during baking

Once your oven is heated, flip the dough from the bread basket onto parchment paper (if you don’t have parchment paper, you can sprinkle flour and cornmeal on bottom of your dutch oven/pan and transfer directly to that).

Brush off any excess flour with your hand, then cut into the top of dough using a dough lame or very sharp blade. Aim for 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep. I recommend one large cut across the top about 1/2 inch deep and keeping any smaller cuts more shallow. The single large cut works well for the oven spring (when the bread rises in the oven).

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10. Bake with Steam for 20 Minutes

Purpose: Steam helps to build a nice crust on the bread

Spray or brush loaf with water. If using a dutch oven, cover with the lid and place in oven. If not, place on a second sheet pan and add a cup of ice to the preheated pan on the bottom of the oven to create steam.

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11. Bake without Steam for 20-30 Minutes

Purpose: Crisp up the crust to a beautiful golden color

Remove lid and reduce the temperature to 425 degrees. Your sourdough bread should have risen and now we’ll create that nice, crispy crust. Bake until richly golden to brown in color, usually 20-30 minutes.

12. Let Cool & Enjoy!

Your sourdough bread is done once it as golden as you’d like (it should be at least 165 degrees internal temperature, but mine is usually over this to get the nice crust color). Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack for at least an hour before slicing, then enjoy! Your bread will be best on day one, but it will stay fresh for at least a few days!

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Sourdough Recipe Alternatives:

Adding Whole Wheat, Rye, or other Types of Flour

I swapped out 150 grams of my regular flour for a mixture of rye and whole wheat. It came out great (it was actually even better than normal!). I also fed my starter with 20 grams of rye subbed in for the all purpose flour, which added a lot of flavor as well. All that to say, don’t be afraid to experiment with different flours! I’m in firm belief that if you use the same ques as described above with both your starter and your dough, then you can make a great loaf of bread with anything. It may take a few tries to perfect it, but that’s the fun part!

Adding Seeds, Nuts, or other Mix-in’s

I have not tried this yet, but I’ve looked into adding various mix in’s. The important thing to note is that you need to soak anything hard (such as nuts and seeds). Other than that, the rules seem fairly open. I’m definitely planning to try adding garlic to my sourdough one of these times!

Alternate Method

Originally, I used a method where I did the cold ferment before the bulk fermentation. This works too, however, I found the method described in my recipe is much easier to tell when the dough is ready, holds the shape better, gives me a more even crumb, and it allows me to bake the bread first thing in the morning instead of waiting for a cold dough to rise. So, I prefer to do the cold ferment after the bulk fermentation, but do what works for you and enjoy that delicious homemade bread!

The Easiest Sourdough Bread - Beginner Friendly Recipe & Tips - Dani Koch (2024)

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