My New Favorite Sourdough Bread Recipe

Is there anything better than fresh sourdough bread? Sourdough is one of my favorite breads to make and to eat.  I've been baking it for several years now so my starter is getting some age on it. The Clever Carrot's Sourdough Bread -A Beginner's Guide was my go-to recipe until now. It is a great tutorial. If you are a first-time baker of sourdough I think it is definitely worth a read.

I have tried many sourdough recipes, some successful, some not so much.  I'm always so disappointed when the bread doesn't turn out because it's such a time-consuming process.

I recently ran across another recipe for sourdough, How to Make Sourdough Bread by The Kitchn.  What was different about this recipe is it doesn't call for any kneading. It's not a no-knead bread, you fold the dough (for 2 and a half hours!) rather than knead it.

Like most sourdough recipes, you're not going to whip this bread up in an afternoon. You have to start early, especially if your starter has been in the refrigerator for a while. I pulled mine out Thursday afternoon and gave it a good feed.  I fed it again Friday morning so Friday afternoon it would be fat and happy and nice and bubbly.

Friday night I put together the Leaven. It uses just a tablespoon of that pretty starter. Yep, that's it, just a tablespoon to make two full loaves of bread!

This is mixed with 75 grams of bread flour and 75 grams of water to create a leaven. If you don't own a kitchen scale I highly recommend buying one, especially if you like to bake. Weighing ingredients is so much more accurate than measuring them. It really does make a difference. And, when recipes only give you weights, well, you can weigh things!

This is what the leaven looked like before I put it to bed for the night.

Saturday morning it was beautifully bubbly. I knew it was ready because it floats!

The Leaven is mixed with a water and flour and left to autolyze for anywhere from 30 minutes to 4 hours.  This starts the process of the starch breakdown giving the bread a little head start!  The dough is what is called "shaggy" at this point.

After 30 minutes or so of rest (that's all I wanted to wait!), I added a salt/citric acid/water mixture to the dough. The recipe states that the dough will "feel quite wet and loose at this point."  Ya think? Oh, and never forget the salt when making bread! Trust me. You won't like the results.

Now the folding starts. The picture above is after my first fold. Hard to believe it will turn into anything resembling a cohesive dough at this point!  According to Emma Christensen at The Kitchn, folding is better than kneading because it gives the crumb of the bread a better structure and nicer holes. I can't tell you if it was just the recipe or if it really was the folding, but this bread has amazing crumb!

I folded the dough for two and a half hours. No, I wasn't standing there folding the dough continuously, it was fold, rest 30 minutes and repeat until I had folded the dough a total of 6 times.

Here is what the dough looked like after three "folds". You can see it is starting to come together.

After the final turn the dough is allowed to rise for about an hour.  I love my dough buckets from King Arthur Flour. It's easy to see how much your dough has risen.

After the rise I had a nice dough with lots of airy pockets already.

The dough is split in two and allowed to rest again while the proofing baskets are prepped for the final rise. I wish I got to rest as much as this dough does!

Emma suggests using proofing baskets. I've never used them but have been curious, especially when I see those beautiful loaves of dough with flour rings.  The first time I made this I tried using a towel in a mixing bowl. I didn't put enough flour on the towel and, in addition to having quite a flour mess, the dough stuck to the towel. I was able to peel it off and still make a pretty loaf of bread, but I didn't want to repeat that this time so I ordered myself a proofing basket!

I loaded it up with flour and hoped for the best!  The second loaf went into another flour-laced towel. I hoped I used enough this time! This is the long proofing stage, three to four hours.

This recipe calls for baking the bread in a Dutch oven which is my preferred way to bake bread. I love the crust you get without having to put ice cubes or water in a hot oven during baking. I personally love my Lodge Dutch oven for this but my Le Creuset works just fine too!  I do sprinkle a little cornmeal in the bottom before adding the dough just to make sure nothing sticks.

I still haven't mastered turning the dough into the 500 degree cast iron pot. It turned out a little oblong, but I did get nice flour rings so I was hoping for a beautiful loaf of bread. And no fingers or arms were burned!

 A little slash and into the oven it went. I will admit I need some practice slashing bread in a 500 degree cast iron pan.

Emma's instructions call for baking the bread anywhere from 60 to 80 minutes, "until the crust is deeply browned; aim for just short of burnt." I tested the temperature of my bread after 45 minutes and found not only was the crust beautifully browned, it was about 205F in the middle so I pulled it out.

This is beautiful bread! OK it's OK looking this time. I need to work on my flour bread art.

BUT, the crust is crispy and chewy and the crumb is soft and just melts in your mouth! The addition of a little citric acid did bump the sour just a bit. I may add more next time.

The hardest part of fresh bread is waiting for it to cool before cutting into it. With this bread you are rewarded for that wait! This is now my go-to sourdough bread recipe!

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