Sourdough Saturday – Making Basic Sourdough Bread

Baked basic sourdough I had a wonderful response to last week’s Sourdough from Scratch post, but received few questions. That means either everyone’s starter is bubbling away and you’re all anxious to get some bread made (yeah!), or that you abandoned your starter half way through the week (tell me it isn’t so!). I am going to go with the first option. It’s time to jump in and make a loaf of tangy, chewy, butter-melting, air-freshening (really, what smells better than baking bread!) bread.

starter + water In a large bowl or the bowl to your stand mixer, combine 2 cups of the ripe starter from day 7  (see last week’s directions here) with 1 2/3 cups water. Stir to mix well.

bread ingredients

Add 4 3/4 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour, 1/2  cup rye flour, and 1/2 tsp salt. Stir to combine.

mixed ingredients Knead until fairly smooth and slightly tacky. As you can see from the photo, I like the dough to be just dry enough to hold together. This is easier if you are using a stand mixer. If you are making this dough by hand you may have to add a little more flour in order to handle the dough.

dough transfered to bowlGather the dough and make it into a ball. Grease a large bowl with butter or oil, place the dough in the bowl, cover with plastic wrap or a clean tea towel, and let ferment/rise in a warm (70-80 degrees) area for 2 hours.

risen doughGently fold dough to deflate. (Never punch dough like we were taught to in the old days – it deflates the loaf too much). At this point you can either divide the dough into 2 average sized loaves, or leave it as one large loaf.

dough in loaf panI usually make one large loaf which is what I have done here. Place the dough in a buttered or oiled loaf pan. Cover and let rise 2 additional hours or place in the refrigerator overnight. Keeping the dough in the refrigerator gives you a more sour sourdough. If you really love the tang of a San Francisco sourdough for example, placing the dough in the refrigerator (called retarding the dough) will give you more of that authentic San Francisco flavor.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Before baking quickly slice the top of the loaf with a razor blade or very sharp knife. Bake for about 40 minutes or until the internal temperature is 200 degrees.

Let the bread cool on a rack for at least 15 minutes before slicing. I know, it’s hard to wait! But the bread needs this time for the crumb to set – which is just another way of saying that it takes the molecules a little bit of time to settle down after coming out of the oven. Think of it like a group of pre-schoolers jumping and playing (bread baking in the oven) settling down for story time (sitting and cooling) – it takes a few minutes to get the active ones to sit quietly.

sliced breadSee the bubbles in the sliced bread? That is a sign of good gluten development and something you want to work for in every loaf. IMHO sourdough bread has two big advantages over regular yeasted breads: First, the sourdough process may take longer, but it gives the bread soooooo much more flavor. If you grew up eating real bakery bread and can’t find it anywhere now, making your own sourdough is the best way to re-create that bygone flavor. Secondly, a pre-fermented sourdough loaf will last much longer than a traditional yeasted bread before drying out or molding (assuming it isn’t all eaten in one setting!).

You may be wondering what to do with your sourdough starter now. See this post for how to nurture your starter so it’s still there when you want to make another loaf of bread.

Happy cooking! Please share your sourdough experiences and photos for us all! And check back next week for a new sourdough recipe.

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About the Author

Renee Pottle, an author and heart-healthy educator, loves to explore and write about the Mediterranean Diet. She blogs at and

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