• Cool bread completely before slicing so you don't compress the crumb. (Alan Benson)

This is a well-tested recipe to begin your sourdough baking. It's made with white flour but you can use spelt instead.

Makes
2

Preparation

1hr

Cooking

35min

Skill level

Mid
By
Average: 3.6 (8 votes)

Standing time: 13 hours | Proving time: 6½ — 8½ hours | Cooling time: 1 hour

This recipe is one I have made many times with great results. Before you get started, read over my tips and tricks for making and baking sourdough bread. 

It does take at least 24 hours from start to finish but time is what helps create a great loaf of sourdough. I have included some time variations throughout to allow the making of this sourdough fit more easily into your day. This dough is folded six times (not kneaded) with rests in between. Below is a timeline to help you map out your day of baking.

Feed your sourdough starter to get it active, 4 — 8 hours

↓ ↓ 

Make levain, stand 12 hours (overnight)

↓ ↓ 

Mix levain + dough, stand 1 hour

↓ ↓ 

1st folding, prove 30 mins

↓ ↓ 

 2nd folding, prove 30 mins 

↓ ↓ 

3rd folding, prove 30 mins

↓ ↓ 

4th folding, prove 30 mins

↓ ↓ 

5th folding, prove 30 mins

↓ ↓ 

6th folding, prove 1 hour (or up to 4 hours)

↓ ↓ 

Cut into loaves, prove 1 — 2 hours

↓ ↓ 

Shape loaves, prove 2 — 3 hours

(OR prove 1 hour, then transfer to fridge for 12 — 14 hours)

↓ ↓ 

Bake at 240ºC for 20 mins, then 220ºC for 15 — 20 mins

↓ ↓ 

Cool (1 hour), slice, eat!

 

This recipe is part of our Bakeproof: Sourdough column.

Ingredients

  • strong bread or pizza flour, for dusting

 

Levain

 

Dough

  • 500 g (500 ml/2 cups) lukewarm water
  • 700 g (4⅔ cups) strong bread or pizza flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 2½ tsp fine sea salt

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.

Instructions

1. To make the levain, combine the sourdough starter, flour and water (see picture 1) in a medium bowl and mix until well combined. Cover with plastic wrap and stand at room temperature overnight (12 hours).  The levain should have expanded and be very bubbly (see picture 2) when it is ready to use (see Baker’s tip #1).

2. To make the dough, transfer the levain to a large bowl. Add half the water and use a balloon whisk or spatula to break up the levain until almost smooth. Stir in the remaining water. Sift together the flour and salt, add to the levain mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until combined and a very shaggy dough forms (see picture 3). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm draught-free place for 1 hour.

3. Instead of kneading, you are going to stretch and fold the dough (see Baker’s tip #2). To fold the dough, leave it in the bowl and pick up the top side of the dough, lift it up and fold it back on itself (see pictures 4-6). Turn the bowl a quarter turn and repeat three more times, turning the bowl after each fold. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm draught-free place for 30 minutes. Repeat this folding process five more times (which will be 6 foldings in total), resting the dough for 30 minutes between each time you fold (see Baker’s tip #3). When you begin this process the dough will be loose and shaggy but will become less so as you continue to fold and rest. Once all six folding and resting processes have been completed, the dough will be very smooth, spongy and elastic (see picture 7).

4. Once you have folded the dough a total of 6 times, cover and place in a warm draught-free place for 1 hour or until slightly puffed (see picture 8) (see Baker’s tip #4).

5. Gently turn the dough out of the bowl onto a well-floured surface. Being careful not to deflate the dough, use a sharp knife or a pastry scraper to cut the dough in half (see picture 9). Use well-floured hands or a pastry scraper to shape each dough portion into a loose round. Cover each dough round with an upturned bowl (large enough so the dough has room to rise) (see picture 10) and leave to rest on the bench for 1-2 hours or until well puffed.

6. Dust 2 clean, loosely-woven cloths or tea towels generously with flour and then use your fingers to rub the flour into the cloth (see picture 11). Line two 22 cm (top measurement) round dough proofing baskets or colanders with the cloths.

7. Dust the top of one of the dough portions with flour. Turn it over and then use a similar folding action in Step 3 to shape into a round loaf, pulling the edges of the dough into the centre so that the dough surface underneath is tight to help shape it, only folding 6 times to help retain as much air as possible (see pictures 12-14). Gently turn the loaf over again (so that the smooth surface is on top) and use the palms of your hands to shape and even the round, stretching the top surface of the dough towards its base (see picture 15). Repeat with the remaining dough portion. Dust the top and sides of the loaves with a little more flour and then turn each, top-side down into your lined basket or colander (see Baker’s tip #5). Loosely fold the overhanging edges of the tea towels over the dough.

8. Place each of the loaves in their baskets or colanders in sealed plastic bags (see Baker’s tip #6). Set aside in a warm draught-free place for 2-3 hours to prove or until well risen (see Baker’s tip #7) (see picture 16).

9. Preheat the oven to 240ºC (220ºC fan-forced) (read tips in Baking your bread). Line two heavy baking trays with non-stick baking paper (see Baker’s tip #8).

10. Gently turn loaves onto the lined trays. Use a very sharp knife to score the surface of the loaves, about 1.5 cm deep, in a pattern of your choice (see picture 17). Place the loaves in the oven, throw a large handful of ice cubes into the bottom of the oven and immediately close the door (see Baker’s tip #9). Bake for 20 minutes.

11. Swap the trays around in the oven, reduce the oven temperature to 220° (200°C fan-forced) and bake for another 15-20 minutes or until the crust is deeply coloured and the loaves sound hollow when tapped on the base. Transfer the loaves to a wire rack and set aside to cool before slicing. 

 

Spelt sourdough variation

Replace the strong bread or pizza flour with wholemeal spelt flour. Note, because of the lower gluten content of spelt wholemeal flour the resulting bread will be heavier and less ‘holey’ than the basic sourdough loaf. However, it will have a wonderful pleasant earthy flavour.

 

Baker’s tips

#1. When the levain is ready to use, a teaspoon of it dropped into a glass of water should rise to the surface. This indicates that the levain is active and strong enough to produce enough carbon dioxide for it to be light enough to float.

#2. Folding the dough, along with the multiple resting / proving times in this recipe, replaces the kneading process and produces a bread with quite large, uneven air pockets and a great texture. The more air you can retain during this process, the more opened textured your crust will be.

#3. It is particularly easy to lose track of how many times you have folded your dough. To make sure you don’t lose track, use a permanent pen to put a mark on the plastic wrap covering your dough each time you finish a folding.

#4. In Step 4, you can leave the dough stand for up to 4 hours. If you are using traditional proving baskets you don’t need to line them with a cloth (particularly if you want the bread to take on the lovely pattern of the basket) just dust and rub the insides of the baskets generously with flour.

#5. Before adding the dough to the proofing baskets or colander make sure the surface of the dough is well floured – if it isn’t, it is likely to stick when you go to turn it onto the baking tray.

#6. Recycled plastic shopping bags or large snaplock bags work well to seal the dough in the basket or colander for the last proving stage.

#7. In Step 8, you can prove the loaves for 1 hour, or until risen slightly, in a warm draught-free place and then place them in the fridge overnight for 12-14 hours, if you wish. Stand the dough in its baskets for 1-2 hours before turning out and baking.

#8. It’s a good idea to bake the loaves separately, if you don’t have a large oven. Leave the second loaf in the proofing basket while the first one bakes.

#9. Creating steam by throwing a large handful of ice cubes into the bottom of your oven will help give your bread the best possible ‘oven spring’ or rise when baking and a thick, crunchy crust (read tips in 'Baking your bread').

 

Photography by Alan Benson. Styling by Sarah O'Brien. Food preparation by Anneka Manning. Creative concept by Belinda So.

 

View previous Bakeproof columns and recipes here.

 

Anneka's mission is to connect home cooks with the magic of baking, and through this, with those they love. For hands-on baking classes and baking tips, visit her at BakeClub. Don't miss what's coming out of her oven via FacebookTwitterInstagram and Pinterest.