The perfect old fashioned sourdough artisan bread loaf with a crusty exterior and warm chewy center made simple
When I think of home bread baking, I instantly think of this easy old fashioned artisan sourdough bread. Adding starter to a bowl of flour, kneading the soft dough under my hands and the sour smell permeating off a fresh boule straight out of the oven. Nothing beats this.
It reminds me of European bakeries and homesteads in days long past where bread baking was a weekly chore. Mothers constantly kneading and baking on bread baking days to meet the needs of their families. It really is a lost art that I’m excited to see gaining popularity again.
When people think of sourdough, I think they typically picture the classic artisan loaf instantly. I also think most people assume this type of bread is hard to make judging by it’s appearance. And while it is a form of art, it’s actually not very hard to make in the comfort in your own home.
Why Eat sourdough bread?
Sourdough is a healthy option mainly due to the fermentation process and how easily your body breaks it down. Because the phytic acid is predigested during fermentation, It is far more digestible to your body than the typical white or wheat bread.
During the bulk fermentation and secondary rise, the lactic acid is what works this magic. This is what makes sourdough bread such a good choice for someone who deals with gluten issues. Long fermentation strips away those components that would normally be so intolerable to the gut. I think our ancestors had it right when they were baking bread this way for the past thousands of years.
Large Glass Bowl – Any large bowl will work here for the bulk fermentation.
Banneton Proofing Basket – Banneton baskets are perfect for the secondary proofing step. They really help your dough hold it’s shape as it goes through the second rise. They also imprint that cool spiral design you see on a lot of sourdough breads.
Bread Lame or Razor Blade – Bread lames are very helpful in holding the razor blade comfortably but not completely necessary. This is used for scoring the bread before baking
Enameled Dutch Oven – I use a five court dutch oven to bake this recipe and it turns out to be the just the right size. A dutch oven is the secret tool here to get that classic European boule look. The steam gets trapped inside with the bread creating that ideal oven spring with the the golden crust.
- 1 Cup of Fed Mature Starter – Your starter should be active and lively. Give it a good feeding about 6-12 hours before preparing to bake your bread
- 3 Cups of Unbleached Bread Flour – I love the unbleached King Arthur Bread Flour and that is what I used in this recipe. The reason we add bread flour, is because it gives structure due to gluten content. The bread will hold it’s shape better.
- 2 Cups of Unbleached All Purpose Flour – Again, King Arthur is a great choice here. It always gives good and consistent results
- 2 1/4 Tsp Sea Salt – I use a very fine sea salt so it mixes well into the dough
- 1 1/4 Cup – 1 1/2 Cup of Filtered Warm Water – Always use filtered water so the chemicals in tap water don’t interfere with the yeasts in your starter. Also make sure it’s warm, not hot, to really jump start those yeasts. The amount you use will depend on your environment and quality of flour used.
How To Make Easy Old Fashioned Artisan Sourdough Bread
Just so you get the full scope, the process of baking this bread from fed starter to finish product will span over the course of roughly two days, so keep that in mind when planning this process out. And it will yield two loaves. If you’re looking to only make one, cut the recipe in half.
In a large bowl, add the fed and active sourdough starter, warm water, and your two types of flours. Mix until a fully incorporated shaggy mass has formed.
Once you have done this, place a tea towel over your bowl of dough and allow it to rest on the counter for 45 minutes. What we are doing here is allowing the flour to fully absorb the water, creating elasticity in your dough. As known as autolyse.
Next, you’re going to add your salt by sprinkling it on top of the dough. Then, wetting your fingers, you’re going to work that salt into the dough. This takes roughly 5 minutes of pinching and kneading in.
The dough will now need to rest 30 more minutes.
Stretch and Folds
A series of stretch and folds will need to be preformed. These are done to help develop the gluten therefore strengthening your dough. Stretching and folding is basically taking one side of your dough while in the bowl or on the counter, grabbing it and pulling it up.
Then tucking it into the opposite side, work around the bowl repeating this until you’ve completed roughly 4 rotations. Also always make sure to wet your fingers before performing stretch and folds.
Bulk Fermentation – First Rise
Once done with the stretch and folds, add the dough to a well oiled bowl and let rise on the counter overnight. This should be anywhere from 4-8 hours. In a cooler house, the dough will take longer to rise and will need the full 8 hours.
In a warmer house, the dough will rise quicker so keep an eye on it. Look for noticeable signs that the dough has risen. A good indicator to look for is medium sized air pockets trapped under the skin of your dough. And obviously seeing that the dough has nearly doubled in size.
Secondary Fermentation – Shaping & Proofing
This is where the dough gets shaped.
This recipe can be split into two smaller boules or baked into one large boule. If splitting, separate the dough equally. To shape the dough, fold the left and right sides to meet in the middle, and then fold the top and bottom to meet in the middle as well. Flip it over and work the dough into a tight ball. Do this by cupping the dough and pulling it towards you on the counter.
Heavily flour the surface of the dough and place the smooth side down into the banneton basket. You have the option here of either putting it in the fridge for 12-24 hours or letting it rise on the counter a bit and then putting it in the fridge.
It’s more common for people to ferment in the fridge, but I have never had luck with mine rising in my fridge, so I leave it out on the counter for another 4-6 hours to get a good rise and then put it in.
Considering refrigerators are only a recent thing and sourdough bread has been around since the Egyptians, I’m guessing rising in the fridge isn’t totally necessary. I find it just helps the scoring and loaf hold their shape better.
Scoring is done by taking a razor blade or your lame and creating gashes in the dough.
There are two types of scoring. The first is expansion scoring and the second is decorative scoring. An expansion score is a deep score that allows you to have more control over the bread splitting and expanding. Decorative scoring is shallow scoring done typically just for aesthetic.
After the dough has completed it’s last fermentation, it can be scored. Flip it out of the banneton with the smooth side that was down in the basket on top. Place it on parchment paper.
Before scoring, dust the top of your dough with a generous amount of flour to help the scoring stand out well when baked.
This is where you can get creative and have fun doing different patterns such as wheat stalks, a center cross, french cuts or half moons. It helps to look up sourdough scoring designs on the internet for ideas.
Baking Easy Old Fashioned Artisan Sourdough Bread
Preheat the oven to 450. While the oven is preheating, stick the dutch oven in with the lid on so it can have time to heat up. I stick my dutch oven in as soon as I start preheating and leave in in for 20 minutes to get nice and hot.
Once the oven and dutch oven are heated up, place the dough in the dutch oven and place the lid on. Bake for 25 minutes covered. We bake with the lid on here to give the bread a good oven spring.
After 25 minutes, remove the lid and let the bread finish baking fo another 10 – 15 minutes. The crust should take on a deep golden brown color and you should have a nice crispy ear on your loaf if you did a long deep side score.
Remove from the dutch oven and let cool on a rack.
Despite the lengthy instructions, this bread really isn’t that difficult to make. It just requires a little bit of planning out. It’s so perfect for things like French toast, sandwiches, and even a side with soups.
And in case you don’t yet have your own sourdough starter, check out my post on how to make your own starter here.
- 1 Cup of Fed and Active Sourdough Starter
- 3 Cups of Unbleached Bread Flour
- 2 Cups of Unbleached All Purpose Flour
- 2 1/2 Tsp Salt
- 1 1/14 Cup to 1 1/2 Cup of Warm Filtered Water
- In a bowl, add the starter, water, and flours
- Mix until a fully incorporated shaggy mass has formed
- Place a tea towel, beeswax wrap, or plastic wrap over your bowl of dough and allow it to rest on the counter for 45 minutes
- Sprinkle the salt over the top of the dough
- Wetting your fingers, work that salt into the dough
- Let rest again for 30 minutes
- Do a series of stretch and folds around the bowl of dough 4 times
- Place the dough in a well oiled bowl and let rise in a warm spot for 4-8 hours
- Seperate the dough into two equal parts
- Fold the dough over itself on all four sides
- Work the dough into a tight ball by cupping it on one side with one hand and pulling it towards you with the other hand
- Place into well floured banneton basket with the smooth side of the dough down
- Let the dough rise again for roughly 4-6 hours (on the counter or in the fridge)
- Place the dough in the fridge if you let it rise on the counter and let it chill for 6-8 hours
- Preheat the oven to 450
- Place the dutch oven with lid on in the oven while preheating and let bake for 20 minutes until hot
- Sprinkle the dough surface with a generous coating of flour
- Score the loaves with desired design using a lame or razor blade
- Place one boule in the dutch oven directly after scoring and bake for 25 minutes with the lid on
- Remove the lid and bake the bread for an additional 10-15 minutes until exterior crust is golden brown
- Repeat the baking process for the second loaf.
Don't remove the bread from the fridge until right before it's to be baked
Score the bread directly before baking
Leave the lid on for the full 25 minutes. If you remove the lid to peek, the steam will escape and ruin your chances of getting a pretty scored design
Sprinkle rice flour or all purpose flour on the dough surface before scoring to make scoring design stand out better
Dough will rise quicker in a warmer house and slower in a cooler house