Classic Sourdough Bread: time steps in for added yeast.

Sourdough bread.

For many, it’s the Mt. Everest of bread baking.

If you can “conquer” sourdough, there’s nothing you can’t do, bread-wise.

Not surprisingly, many new bread bakers want to jump right in and begin with sourdough. After all, it’s so distinctive; so delicious; so… well, trendy.

But tackling sourdough bread your first time out of the gate is like nosing into traffic on the Indianapolis 500 speedway when you’ve just gotten your learner’s permit.

Trust me – not a good idea.

Sourdough baking has a long (but ultimately simple) learning curve. If there was ever any process that should be taken one small step at a time, it’s baking sourdough bread.

First, you make your starter. Then, you feed it regularly until it’s strong and vigorous. These first two steps may take up to a week or more.

Then, and only then, do you bake bread.

Attention, sourdough newbies: don’t be discouraged. Our posts on creating your own starter and maintaining your starter take you step by step through the process.

Plus, if you run into a challenge along the way (a crevasse on the trail up Everest), our bakers’ hotline folks are ready to help – 855-371-2253.

Once you’re ready to bake, Rustic Sourdough Bread, with added yeast, is a pretty fail-safe way to start.

And once you’ve mastered THAT, you’re ready to plant your banner on the Summit of Sourdough:

The classic sourdough loaf, leavened simply with the starter you’ve been so lovingly feeding and growing – no Red Star, no SAF, just your own wild yeast.

So, whether you’re a seasoned sourdough trekker looking for a chewy, moist, richly flavored loaf of “natural” sourdough; or a sourdough neophyte who’s ready to take your baking above treeline, enjoy this recipe.

We call it Extra-Tangy Sourdough Bread, but that’s really a misnomer. Extra-flavorful would be closer to the mark; because there’s nothing like the nuanced, complex flavor of sourdough bread made simply with flour, water, salt, starter… and time.

Did you know that by clicking anywhere on this block of pictures, you can enlarge them to full size? Go ahead, give it a try; it’ll work for any of our gridded photos.

First, make sure your starter has been fed, and is good and vigorous: if not ready to leap tall buildings in a single bound, it should at least be prepared to raise bread dough all by itself – without the benefit of added yeast.

Place 1 cup (about 8 ounces) fed, vigorous sourdough starter in a bowl.

Add 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water, and 3 cups (12 3/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour. Beat vigorously.

Cover, and let rest at room temperature for 4 hours. Then refrigerate overnight, or for about 12 hours.

The dough will expand a bit during its overnight rise, but don’t expect it to go crazy. You may see some large, lumpy bubbles trying to emerge – kind of like the Creature from the Black Lagoon.

Add 2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour and 2 1/4 teaspoons salt.

Mix and knead to form a smooth, satiny dough. The dough may seem dry at first; but keep kneading.

It’ll eventually become very stretchy (albeit still a tiny bit sticky), and will have a lovely sheen.

Allow the dough to rest in a covered bowl until it’s relaxed, smoothed out, and expanded somewhat. Depending on the vigor of your starter, it may become REALLY puffy; or it may just rise a bit. This can take anywhere from 2 to 5 hours.

Understand this: sourdough bread (especially sourdough without added yeast) is as much art as science; everyone’s timetable will be different. So please allow yourself to go with the flow, and not treat this as an exact, to-the-minute process.

Gently divide the dough in half. Shape it into two oval loaves, and place them on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet.

Cover and let rise until very puffy, about 2 to 4 hours. Don’t worry if the loaves spread more than they rise; they’ll pick up once they hit the oven’s heat.

Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 425°F.

Gently spritz or brush the loaves with lukewarm water…

…and quickly give each one three 1/2″ to 3/4″-deep slashes, diagonally across the top surface.

This is scary, I know; you think you’re going to deflate your lovely loaves.

Guess what? You will. But if you get them into the hot oven IMMEDIATELY, they’ll pick right back up.

Bake the bread for 25 to 30 minutes, until its interior registers at least 190°F on an instant-read thermometer.

The loaves may brown beautifully.

On the other hand, depending on how long you’ve let the dough/shaped loaves rise, they may brown very little.

Why does sourdough bread often not brown as well as a standard, non-sourdough loaf?

Well, while the dough is going through its prolonged rises, lactobacilli has been helpfully converting starch in the flour into simple sugars for the yeast to consume. Eventually, though, the yeast has been working in the dough for so long, it consumes just about all the sugar there is.

Which means there’s none left for caramelization on the loaf’s surface: browning.

If they appear to be browning insufficiently for your taste, and you don’t mind a bit of oil, remove them from the oven with about 5 minutes left in their baking time. Brush or spray with olive oil, and return to the oven.

The loaf on the left is untouched by oil; the one on the right, sprayed with olive oil. Your choice.

Here’s the loaf without oil. It’s not a deep golden brown, but hey, it is what it is – sourdough.

Cool completely before cutting.

Nice crumb, eh? Love the big holes.

You’ll find this loaf is very chewy, somewhat dense, and nicely moist.

Best way to store this bread: cut-side down on the counter.

That’s right – no bag, no refrigerator. It’ll stay pretty fresh for several days. If it feels weird not bagging it (or if you fear the cat may give it a lick), place it in a bag, paper or plastic, but don’t seal it up; sealing will turn the crust rubbery.

Read, bake, and review (please) our recipe for Extra-Tangy Sourdough Bread.

Print just the recipe.

Note: for added sour tang, try adding 1/2 teaspoon to 5/8 teaspoon sour salt (citric acid) to the dough.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!

comments

  1. Erika

    When you say shape the loaves- how much shaping should you do? Just push into shape or fold like a normal loaf? Not sure if too much touching will deflate it too much?

    Reply
  2. Kayla

    Hi- loving the recipe so far! I’m wondering if I should feed my leftover starter before returning it to the fridge? It’s an excellent starter and I don’t want to feed it incorrectly. I fed it in the morning, left it out all day, and then baked with the ripe starter. Can the remainder which was fed this morning to back in the fridge, or should i feed it again?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Kayla, you always want to re-feed your starter before putting it back in the fridge (assuming you want to maintain the same amount of starter you had). Replenishing the starter with fresh flour and water will give you a useable volume to work with the next time you want to back. Otherwise, you might find yourself with just a few ounces and not enough to bake the next time around. Re-feed it, let it sit for a few hours, and then put it back into the fridge. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

  3. Francis

    I baked my first rustic sourdough loaves while the inside a wonderful, the crust was extremely hard. I read somewhere to spritz the loaves often during baking but that technique was mention only once before putting the loaves in the over in KA’s directions. How can I make the crust softer? Thanks so much.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      This isn’t a question we’re asked often, Francis — we’re usually asked how to make loaves crispier! You can spray your loaf with a spray bottle of water halfway through baking if you’d like, but a very crunchy exterior is also sometimes a sign that you could have taken it out of the oven a few minutes earlier. If you happen to have an instant-read thermometer, you want the center of the loaf to be between 190°F and 195°F. Going beyond that tends to dry out the crust a little bit too much. Try the spraying method and check its temperature and you should be good to go. Annabelle@KAF

  4. francine wright

    I am looking for sour dough bread using waste starter. Having trouble finding any recipes on your site. Please help

    Reply
  5. Marileigh schulte

    Is there any place where I can purchase sourdough bread already made ? I’m not a very good baker. Thanks.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Marileigh, your best bet is a local bakery, or your supermarket bakery section. I’d suspect either place would be able to sell you a loaf. But you might also try sourdough baking on your own someday — once your starter is established it’s not as complicated as you might think! PJH@KAF

  6. Louise

    Can I make a sourdough loaf with a good starter just out of the fridge that’s been fed several times? Do I have to feed it again before using it? Feeding it again would add several hours to the time it takes to create a loaf.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Louise, it’s best to feed your starter, leave it at room temperature to become bubbly or “ripe” and then use it in your recipe. This is true for recipes that call for “fed,” “ripe,” or “mature,” starter. If you’re using a recipe that calls for unfed starter, it can come straight from the fridge. You can also use starter that’s been recently fed but maybe spent a short 12 hours in the fridge in recipes that call for starter as well as the addition of commercial yeast. You’ll get the sourdough flavor from the starter and the rise from the yeast. Together, it’ll be delicious! Kye@KAF

  7. Lea

    Hi, thanks for the wonderful recipe. can i make this bread exclusively with spelt flour, half whole grain and half white? if yes how much less water or more flour will i need?

    also does the process of acidic acid fermentation lower the gluten and GI index? if yes will leaving it to ferment in the fridge longer lower the levels more?

    Thanks

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Lea, thanks for your question. We have been loving baking with ancient grains lately, and we did a number of tests using spelt flour. While we didn’t make a naturally-leavened sourdough, we did make a yeast bread using 25%, 50%, and 100% spelt. Our taste testers all agreed that the 50% version had the best taste and texture. If you’d like to give the Extra-Tangy Sourdough recipe a try using some spelt flour, you might want to start by making the Day 1 starter with all-purpose flour and then using spelt flour on Day 2 to make up the rest of the dough. This should give you a loaf that rises nicely but has a notable flavor of whole grains. You may not need to add a full 2 cups of flour on Day 2, so add it slowly in 1/4 cup increments until the dough feels soft and tacky to the touch.

      As for your question about lowering gluten and the bread’s placement on the GI index, there has been much research and debate about how these factors play out in sourdough. At this time we encourage you to speak with a nutritionist, as our expertise focuses on the baking qualities of bread and naturally-leavened recipes. Refrigerating the shaped loaf overnight before baking will encourage a more sour loaf. We hope this helps, and happy baking! Kye@KAF

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