• White and wholemeal spelt loaf (Camellia Aebischer)Source: Camellia Aebischer
You don’t need anything special to get started on naturally-leavened bread at home, just a colander, tea towel and set of scales.
By
Camellia Ling Aebischer

16 Apr 2020 - 4:21 PM  UPDATED 17 Apr 2020 - 10:31 AM

If you’re riding the bread bandwagon and are confused by all the fancy wooden proving baskets (banneton) and Dutch ovens, never fear, you don’t need any of it.

Making a loaf of sourdough with a hard, crisp crust and bubbly interior at home is entirely possible. I’m not saying it won’t take a lot of time and that your first one won’t turn out like a dense brick, but you can do it, and it’ll be delicious.

Not pictured: a set of scales, preferably digital.

Equipment

Here is a definitive bare minimum list of the items you’ll need to make sourdough at home:

1 x set of scales (digital preferred)

1 x mixing bowl

1 x clean tea towel (cotton or linen preferred)

1 x colander

1 x flat baking tray

1 x tray with sides e.g. cake tin, roasting pan etc.

Measuring in weight is important for baking bread, as a 1:1 ratio of flour water is very different from cups to grams. It’s also integral for measuring baker’s percentage which is the ratio of all other ingredients relative to the weight of the flour.

You’ll use the bowl to mix the dough and do the bulk fermentation + folds, then once it's shaped, place into the colander lined with a tea towel dusted in flour (this replaces a banneton).

After its final proof, bake on a pre-heated flat tray, and instead of a Dutch oven use the tray with sides to create steam in the oven when baking. Details below.

I made this overnight loaf (not sourdough but still) with regular plain flour.

Flour

It’s entirely possible to make sourdough using regular store-bought plain flour. Anneka Manning, BakeClub owner and author of the SBS Food how to bread baking guides, says you can also feed your starter with nearly any flour you have. The organisms in the starter thrive on interesting bits of grain like wholemeal and rye, but it’s completely fine to put in the 95c plain white stuff.

Make your own sourdough starter
A practical, step-by-step guide to how to make your own sourdough starter and bake with it. Just add flour, water and patience.

Baking a loaf with regular plain flour is also doable and yields a very edible slice of bread. It may not yield nice big bubbles as the gluten content is lower than bakers’ flour, but it will work in a pinch. The best part about fresh bread is that even when it's bad, it still tastes so good.

Proving

Some people buy fancy proving boxes to control the humidity and temperature of their dough during a bulk. If you don’t have one, just turn the oven on low for 5-10 minutes (even better if there’s a proof setting) until it feels like a warm day inside. Cover your dough with a damp tea towel, pop it in the oven, shut the door and turn it off.

Crusty on the outside and soft on the inside.

Baking

Manning says in her sourdough tips & tricks explainer, and on our Instagram story Q&A, that you don’t need a Dutch oven/cast iron pot to bake sourdough bread at home.

You can easily achieve a thick, crisp, dark crust by baking at high heat and creating steam in the oven as the bread goes in. Do this by tossing a tray of ice or cup of water onto a pan placed on the bottom rack of the oven (below your bread), as you put the bread in.

Still confused?

Read our comprehensive guides on how to make a sourdough starter, basic sourdough bread, and sourdough bread tips & tricks.

Love the story? Follow the author here: Instagram @cammienoodle

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