Do you wanna bake the BEST Sourdough Bread at home??
Everyone loves a fresh, hot loaf of bread. But a lot of people are intimidated by bread baking. And for a long, long time, I too was one of those people. Now I can say with confidence that most bread recipes are fairly straightforward and can be successfully accomplished by any baker. But for some reason, people (again, myself included!) continue to be terrified of sourdough. Well, I’m here to tell you that sourdough bread is perhaps the MOST easy of all the breads to make! What’s that you say? Easy? Are you sure? YES! I’m sure! And I’m going to teach you how. I will use two recipes, one for those who want to make and keep a starter and one for those who don’t want to have to worry about keeping a starter going. Again, a starter isn’t scary. If I can keep one alive, ANYONE can. I have gone a month or more forgetting to feed mine and it always bounces right back.
First, the recipe for folks who want tasty, tangy sourdough bread but don’t want to keep a starter in the fridge. We shall call this:
No Knead Sourdough Bread
This recipe is loosely based on the Alton Brown ‘Knead Not” sourdough bread recipe (I LOVE Alton Brown)
1/4 teaspoon active-dry yeast
2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
12 ounces filtered water
2 tablespoons cornmeal
Whisk together the flour, yeast and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add the water and stir until combined. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to sit at room temperature for 19 hours. Alton recommends the 19 hours. I personally recommend more like 36 hours for super tangy sour taste. You can throw it in the fridge if you feel the need. But its not necessary.
After 19 hours, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Punch down the dough and turn it over onto itself a couple of times. Cover with a tea towel and allow to rest 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, shape the dough into a ball. Coat hands with flour, if needed, to prevent sticking. Sprinkle the tea towel with half of the cornmeal and lay the dough on top of it, with the seam side down. Sprinkle the top of the dough with the other half of the cornmeal and cover with the towel. Allow to rise for another 2 to 3 hours, or until the dough has doubled in size.
Oven baking: While the dough is rising the second time, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Place a 4 to 5-quart Dutch oven in the oven while it preheats. Once the dough is ready, carefully transfer it to the pre-heated Dutch oven. Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and bake until the bread reaches an internal temperature of 210 to 212 degrees F, another 15 minutes. Transfer the bread to a cooling rack and allow to cool at least 15 minutes before serving.
Outdoor coals: Heat charcoal in a chimney starter until ash covers all of the coals. Place 20 to 24 coals on a Dutch oven table. Place a cooling rack (or other wire rack that is at least 2-inches high) directly over the coals. Set a 5-quart Dutch oven on top of this rack and allow to preheat during the last 30 minutes of the second rise. Carefully transfer the dough to the Dutch oven and cover with the lid. Place 20 coals on top. Bake until the bread reaches an internal temperature of 210 to 212 degrees F, about 45 minutes. Transfer the bread to a cooling rack and allow to cool at least 15 minutes before serving.
This is a super easy, super high “Ahhhhh!” factor bread that requires no kneading.
And for those who want to start a starter and keep it going, here are the instructions for a starter as well as my personal favorite sourdough bread recipe.
Extra Tangy Sourdough Bread (courtesy King Arthur Flour)
- 1 cup “fed” sourdough starter
- 1 2/3 cups lukewarm water
- 5 cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon to 5/8 teaspoon sour salt (citric acid), optional, for extra-sour bread
- Combine the starter, water, and 3 cups of the flour. Beat vigorously for 1 minute.
- Cover, and let rest at room temperature for 4 hours. Refrigerate overnight, for about 12 hours.
- Add the remaining ingredients: 2 cups of flour, sugar, salt, and sour salt, if you’re using it. Knead to form a smooth dough.
- Allow the dough to rise in a covered bowl until it’s relaxed, smoothed out, and risen. Depending on the vigor of your starter, it may become REALLY puffy, as pictured; or it may just rise a bit. This can take anywhere from 2 to 5 hours. Understand this: sourdough bread (especially sourdough without added yeast) is as much art as science; everyone’s timetable will be different. So please allow yourself to go with the flow, and not treat this as an exact, to-the-minute process.
- Gently divide the dough in half.
- Gently shape the dough into two oval loaves, and place them on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover and let rise until very puffy, about 2 to 4 hours. Don’t worry if the loaves spread more than they rise; they’ll pick up once they hit the oven’s heat. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 425°F.
- Spray the loaves with lukewarm water.
- Make two fairly deep diagonal slashes in each; a serrated bread knife, wielded firmly, works well here.
- Bake the bread for 25 to 30 minutes, until it’s a very deep golden brown. Remove it from the oven, and cool on a rack.
To make starter, all you need is STONE GROUND flour of any sort. It must be stone ground to contain the wild yeasts necessary to get your starter going. I have crafted starters from stone ground amaranth, even stone ground corn meal. Anything is fine as long as it’s stone ground. Then you basically put equal parts water and grain in your starter. My first starter was 2 oz of regular all purpose flour, a pinch of sugar to feed the yeast, 2 ounces of stone ground amaranth and 4 ounces of water. You let it sit at room temp and stir every 12 hours and every 24 hours you take half out and add 2 ounces of flour and 2 ounces of water. After a week it should start to smell of bread, beer or alcohol. It’s now ready to use!
Today I tried a new starter strain and I used a few spoonfulls of my old starter, 2 ounces of stone ground corn meal, 2 ounces of all purpose flour, 4 ounces of water and 1/4 tsp of commercial packaged yeast. It is already bubbling away on my counter and I’m pretty excited to use it!