- 1 cup “fed” sourdough starter*
- 1 1/2 cups warm filtered water
- 5 to 6 cups unbleached all-purpose or bread flour
- 2 1/2 teaspoons salt
- Oil of your choosing (optional)
* You can check if your starter is ready by dropping half a teaspoon into a glass of water. If it floats, it’s good to go! Be careful not to flatten the teaspoon of starter in the process - that will make it sink.
You can get away with using less starter if necessary, but you’ll need to let the mixture from step 1 sit for longer.
- Large mixing bowl
- Baking sheet
- Bench scraper (or equivalent - pan scrapers work well too)
- Sharp knife
- Measuring cups and spoons
- Spatula and/or wooden spoon
- Cooling rack
NOTE: If you’re familiar with bread dough, your instincts will help. Note, however, that sourdough dough is much wetter and sticker than normal bread dough - this is NORMAL, though more annoying to work with.
Pour the cup of starter into a large mixing bowl, using a spatula to scrape it out of the measuring cup. Feed your remaining starter.
Add the warm water and 3 cups of flour. Mix well with a wooden spoon or the spatula you used to scrape the measuring cup. The texture of this mixture will resemble a stiff cake batter more than a bread dough. Once combined, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, a lid, or a clean towel. This cover should not be airtight!
Leave the covered bowl for at least two hours and up to 8 hours. Expect it to bubble and expand and develop a slightly sour smell. It’s ready when creases in the surface of the mixture appear which indicate that it has risen as much as possible and has started to fall, and is ready to be mixed into dough. You can speed this process by placing the mixture in a warm location, or create a more sour flavor by leaving the mixture for a longer period at a lower temperature.
Once the mixture has bubbled and expanded, remove the plastic wrap.
Blend the salt and one cup of flour.
Stir the flour and salt into the mixture until well combined.
Continue adding flour a little at a time to the mixture, stirring until well combined, until the mixture comes together into a dough. The resulting dough should be wetter and sticker than a typical bread dough, but should come together and hold its shape.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead it for 3-4 minutes. This process will be messy but as you knead, the dough will slowly start to behave better. Use of a bench scraper, or something that can approximate one, is highly recommended.
Allow the dough to rest for several minutes. Take this time to wash and dry the bowl you turned it out of as you’ll need it again. Grease it generously to minimize the dough sticking.
Resume kneading the dough for about another 3-4 minutes, or up to 8 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. You should notice that the dough behaves better now and is slightly less prone to sticking (though may still be messy). Try to add only enough flour to keep the dough from sticking, as you don’t want to stiffen the dough too much.
Place the kneaded dough into the greased bowl. Cover it again and allow it to rise until doubled (about 1-2 hours, depending on the temperature). You can mark the outside of the bowl with tape to give yourself a baseline. Place the bowl in a warm place to speed the process.
Gently turn the dough out onto a very lightly floured surface. You may need to use a scraper to help it out of the bowl. Try to be gentle so as not to degas the dough too much.
Divide the dough in half. Shape each half into a loaf (you can find YouTube videos for how to do this) and place on a lightly greased baking sheet.
Cover the loaves with greased seran wrap or a large greased container. This is to prevent the dough from developing a “skin” and to protect the loaves for one final rise, so make sure they’ll have room to grow (they will likely grow wider rather than taller - if they touch, leave them be! They will separate again once baked).
Let the loaves rise until doubled. You can tell when they’re about ready to bake when an indentation made in them with a wet finger bounces back slowly. If it doesn’t bounce back, they need more time. If it bounces back immediately or the dough appears bubbly, you may have left them too long and you may want to knead them down and hope for another rise.
Preheat an oven to 450 degrees F.
Brush or spray oil over the tops of the loaves (this will give the crust a better, more even color). Slash them and bake in the preheated oven for approximately 20 minutes, until golden brown.
Turn the oven off, crack the door open, and leave the loaves for another 5 minutes. Once time is up, remove the loaves to a cooling rack and let cool completely before slicing.