This easy sourdough bread recipe is as foolproof as it gets. From start to finish, you’ll learn everything you need to know to make bakery-worthy loaves.
Whether you’re a seasoned baker or just trying homemade sourdough for the first time, you’ve landed in the right corner of the internet. With just a little technique and the right tools, sourdough bread-baking is actually quite straightforward. Get ready for your house to smell like heaven and for an unparalleled taste!
Kitchen Tools You Need for Sourdough Bread
Before we dive into the recipe, let’s cover off on a couple of essential tools that make the process that much easier.
- Proofing Basket – This is the set I own! It comes with two proofing baskets and a handy scoring knife.
- Dutch Oven – The Staub Dutch oven is my go-to, but feel free to use any brand!
- Dough Whisk – This dough whisk makes combining all the ingredients a piece of cake and removes pesky bubbles and lumps.
- Sourdough Starter – You can make your own starter or ask a friend to lend you one. If you want to go the homemade route, consider this book your sourdough starter bible!
How to Make Sourdough Bread
Making sourdough bread requires patience and a little bit of technique. Here, you’ll find the instructions broken down accompanied with handy photos for all you visual learners out there.
Prepping the Dough
- Combine the Water & Starter: In a large mixing bowl, whisk the water and sourdough starter together. Spoon in the salt and whisk again.
- Add in the Flour: Next, stir in the flour until the dough looks dry, rough, shaggy, and a bit sticky.
Pro Tip: to make bread dough more exact, get a scale and measure 520 grams of flour, 325 grams of water, 90 grams of the sourdough starter, and 1 tsp salt.
The First Rise (aka “The Resting Phase”)
- Cover the Dough: Next, cover the large bowl with plastic wrap. Let the dough rest at room temperature for 30 minutes (this is when the gluten will begin to develop and the bread will gain a nice surface tension for perfect crust).
Shaping the Dough & the Second Rise (aka the “Bulk Fermentation Rise”)
- Shape the Dough: Next, fold the sides of the dough over into the center to form a ball (this is a great time to fix any errors. Is there flour lingering at the bottom of the bowl? Incorporate it! Is the dough too sticky to handle? Add a bit more flour until it’s manageable!).
- Allow the Dough to Rise: Cover the bowl with a towel again and let the dough rise on the counter for at least 8 hours, or until it doubles in size.
- Shape the Dough: After the second rise, the bread dough should appear wet and bubbly. Place it on a floured work surface and stretch it into a large, rectangular shape. Fold it over into itself to form a small ball.
- Remove the Blemishes: To finish the shaping process, push in the bottom of the ball with your fingers, while simultaneously shaping it into as perfect as a ball you can with your other hand.
The Final Rise (aka the “Bench Rise”) & Scoring
- Pop the Dough in the Basket: Next, place the dough into the dough basket with the seam side up. Cover the basket and let the bread rest for 45 minutes at room temp (or for a couple of hours in the fridge).
- Preheat the Dutch Oven: Pop the Dutch oven inside the oven and turn the heat to 450°F.
- Score the Bread: While the oven is heating up, place the dough on a piece of parchment paper with the seam side down. Score the top as you please – get as creative as you want here!
Baking the Sourdough
- Bake the Sourdough: Next, place the bread inside the Dutch oven and bake it for 30 minutes with the lid closed. Remove the lid and bake it for an additional 20 minutes. Give the bread a bit of time to rest and then pull it out to sit on a cooling rack on the counter. Slice it with a sharp knife and enjoy!
Helpful Tips & Tricks
A couple of simple tips and tricks will help you bake this sourdough recipe like a pro.
- Fully incorporate the ingredients for the dough. When you’re first mixing the ingredients together, make sure that they are well-combined and there’s no pockets of flour or salt. You don’t want to bake these in!
- Don’t forget to feed your starter. To keep your starter alive, make sure to feed it 8 hours before you plan to bake. Equal parts lukewarm water and all-purpose flour will do the trick. Once it starts dropping back down, feel free to use it! See my complete guide on feeding and maintaining your starter.
- Know that the temperature of the water will affect the rise. The cooler the water you use, the slower the rise. The hotter the water, the quicker the rise. Depending on the temperature and season, you can adjust the temperature of the water to control the rise (think: use cold water and an overnight rise in the summer to compensate for the hot temperature outside).
- Don’t rush the resting. Each rise serves a specific purpose, so don’t rush the process. Patience is key when it comes to bread-making!
- Mark the bowl to know when your dough has doubled in size. To gauge when the dough has doubled in size, mark the bowl at the level it sits at pre-rise.
- Use a razor blade if you don’t have a scoring knife. If you don’t have a scoring knife, carefully use a razor blade to score the top of the bread.
- Use high-quality flour. Bob’s Redmill Bread Flour is my top choice for it’s superior flavor and high-protein content (protein = great for texture). King Arthur Bread flour is also a great choice!
Ideas for Serving
Now that you’re down baking, it’s time to put the loaf of sourdough bread to good use. Here’s a couple of ideas to inspire you!
- Sandwiches – Use your sourdough to make air fryer grilled cheeses or garlic toasted sandwiches.
- Soup, Salad, & Bread – Pair the sourdough with minestrone and a garden salad.
- Stuffing – Slice day-old sourdough into tiny cubes and use it to make holiday stuffing.
- Appetizer Toasts – Slice the sourdough into small pieces and use it to make smoked salmon tea sandwiches or crab mushroom canapés.
- Breakfast Toast – Slather a slice of sourdough with butter and strawberry or blackberry jam.
Best Practices for Storing Sourdough Bread
To keep the sourdough fresh for 4-5 days, store it in a plastic bag at room temp. Whatever you do, don’t put it in the fridge! Instead of keeping the bread fresh for longer, the refrigerator actually dries it out due to the cold temperature.
Why is my sourdough bread so flat?
Sourdough bread turns flat for two reasons: 1) it wasn’t shaped properly or 2) there’s too much moisture/hydration in the dough and it can’t hold its shape.
Why is sourdough bread sour?
Sourdough bread gets its signature sour flavor from the acids produced by the starter. When the starter interacts with a warm environment during the rise, the fermentation process kicks off and the sour flavor begins to develop alongside the bacteria.
What kind of flour do you use for sourdough bread?
Bread flour tends to work best for sourdough, but you can use any flour that contains a good amount of starch. Rye, whole wheat flour, or spelt are some other great options. Avoid using all-purpose flour.
Why is your homemade sourdough bread so dense?
The main cause of dense sourdough bread is under proofing. If there isn’t enough yeast activity in the dough, there won’t be enough gas. This will result in a dense and gummy loaf. That said, patience is key!
Can you double a sourdough bread recipe?
Yes! You can double the sourdough bread recipe and divide it into two separate proofing baskets. Just make sure that you mind the measurements, as sourdough can be finicky.
More Tasty Homemade Bread Recipes
- Baguette (The Easiest Recipe) – Classic, French-style baguette
- Honey Wheat Bread – Slight sweet, hearty wheat bread
- Easy Dutch Oven Bread No Knead Bread (Video) – White bread round
- Sourdough Bagels – Easy-to-make overnight bagels with customizable toppings
- Easy Whole Wheat Baguette – Hearty whole wheat baguette
- In a large bowl, whisk the water and sourdough starter together. Add in the salt and whisk again.
- Stir in the flour (the dough will look very dry and that's totally fine). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set it aside at room temperature to rest for 30 minutes.
- After the sourdough rises, fold the sides of the dough over into the center to form a ball. Cover the bowl again and let the dough sit at room temperature for at least 8 hours. After the dough rises, it should appear wet and bubbly.
- Flour your work surface generously. Place the dough on the counter and stretch it into a large, rectangular shape. Fold it over until it turns into a small ball of dough.
- To finish shaping the dough, push in the bottom of the ball with your fingers while shaping it with your other hand into a perfectly round ball. Turn it several times in a circular motion to work out any bumps or blemishes.
- Place the dough into a dough basket with the seam side up. Cover the basket with a towel and let the bread rest for 45 minutes at room temperature or for a few hours in the fridge.
- Place the Dutch oven inside of the oven and preheat the oven to 450°F.
- Place the dough ball on parchment paper with the seam side down. Score the top as you please.
- Place the bread inside the Dutch oven. Bake it for 30 minutes with the lid closed. Remove the lid and bake the bread for an additional 20 minutes. Let the bread rest for a bit before slicing into it and enjoy!