How to Make a Sourdough Loaf

Sourdough Loaf on a wood cutting board with butter and jam

The Spruce / Cara Cormack

Prep: 30 mins
Cook: 50 mins
Proof Time: 14 hrs
Total: 15 hrs 20 mins
Servings: 10 servings
Yield: 1 loaf
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
216 Calories
2g Fat
42g Carbs
7g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 10
Amount per serving
Calories 216
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 2g 3%
Saturated Fat 0g 2%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 351mg 15%
Total Carbohydrate 42g 15%
Dietary Fiber 2g 7%
Total Sugars 0g
Protein 7g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 11mg 1%
Iron 1mg 6%
Potassium 76mg 2%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Thanks to British celebrity bakers such as Paul Hollywood, along with a renewed interest in making bread from starters, making sourdough bread has become very popular. Despite a reputation for being difficult to make, sourdough is actually easy once you have the required sourdough starter, which you can make on your own. In exchange for your starter and a bit of patience, you will be rewarded with crusty, chewy bread with that distinctive sour tang.

We are more accustomed to adding cultured, store-bought yeasts when making bread, but it is wild yeasts that have helped bakers make loaves for centuries—long before commercial yeast was available. The wild yeasts in sourdough are also believed to be healthier for us as well as easier to digest. The natural ferment used for the sourdough starter also creates an acidic environment in the loaf that good bacteria love, and molds don't like. Therefore, sourdough lasts much longer than commercial bread, and even when it's a week old—if the loaf lasts that long in your house—it still makes great toast.

Before you begin with this recipe, make sure you have your starter ready and healthy. If you have one made already, or you want to make this ahead of time, just remember the starter may require feeding for a few days if it has been dormant.

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Ingredients

  • 15 ounces/425 grams bread flour

  • 1/3 ounce/9 grams salt

  • 2/3 cup warm water

  • 10 ounces/285 grams sourdough starter

  • Olive oil, for greasing

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for sourdough bread

    The Spruce / Cara Cormack

  2. Mix the bread flour and salt together in a large, roomy mixing bowl. Make a well in the center and add the warm water and the starter. Drawing the flour into the center, mix the flour with the water and starter to create a loose dough that is soft and slightly sticky. You can use your hands to do this or a fork.

    mix ingredients in large bowl

    The Spruce / Cara Cormack

  3. Sprinkle your work space lightly with a little flour. Tip out the dough, reserving the bowl, and knead until it is smooth, silky, and elastic. If the dough is very sticky, sprinkle with a little more flour. If too dry, sprinkle with a few drops of olive oil and continue to knead. You can expect to be kneading for 12 to 15 minutes. Alternatively, use a stand mixer with the dough attachment on medium-low speed.

    knead the dough

    The Spruce / Cara Cormack

  4. Once the dough is smooth, silky, and elastic, lightly oil the reserved mixing bowl with olive oil. Tip the dough into the bowl and cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

    cover dough and allow to rest and rise

    The Spruce / Cara Cormack

  5. Place the bowl in a cool (not cold) draft-free place and leave it for up to 6 hours or until the dough has doubled in size. You can refrigerate it covered overnight; this will allow the bread to rise very slowly.

    place dough in cool place

    The Spruce / Cara Cormack

  6. Once doubled, tip the dough onto a floured surface. Knock out the air from the bread and knead the dough lightly for just a few minutes. Roll the dough into a ball, dust with flour, and place into a floured banneton or mixing bowl. Cover with a tea towel. Again place in a cool, but not cold, place and leave to rise slowly for 8 hours.

    place dough in banneton

    The Spruce / Cara Cormack

  7. Heat the oven to 475 F. Place a rimmed baking sheet filled with ice cubes on the lowest shelf of the oven. The steam creates a lovely crust on your loaf.

    Place ice cubes on a rimmed baking sheet

    The Spruce / Cara Cormack

  8. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and grease very lightly with a little olive oil. Gently lay the risen loaf onto the sheet (do not worry if you lose a little air from the loaf as you do this, it will come back in the oven). Score the top of the loaf a few times with a sharp knife or lame. Place in the middle of the preheated oven and bake for 30 minutes, then lower the temperature to 400 F and cook for 10 to 20 minutes more or until the loaf is golden brown, the crust crisp, and the bread sounds hollow when tapped on the base.

    place dough on parchment lined baking sheet

    The Spruce / Cara Cormack

  9. Place the loaf on a cooling rack and leave to cool completely before slicing.

    Sliced sourdough loaf on a cutting board, with butter on a knife

    The Spruce / Cara Cormack

Tips

  • A banneton is a bowl specifically made for proofing bread. It is usually round and its features determine the finished shape of your loaf. The banneton will often have circles or indentations, which create a decorative effect on the loaf.

Variations

Plain sourdough has plenty of flavor on its own, but feel free to fold in some dried or fresh herbs into the dough. Thyme and rosemary are especially delicious.

How to Store and Freeze Sourdough Bread

  • This sourdough will keep for up to a week, wrapped in a paper bag or a bread bin. Even after a week, it will be great toasted. If you store it in plastic, it will soften the crust.
  • Sourdough bread can be frozen and defrosted for later use. It's best used as toast after freezing since it will lose some of its softness.