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

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!


    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We’re glad to hear that, Dough! It’s one of our favorites as well. They’re the same recipe, so no differences to worry about. Kindly, Annabelle@KAF

  1. Ally

    I love this recipe! I’ve been making the Extra Tangy Sourdough recipe about weekly for the past month and a half, since I started my first sourdough starter in January.

    The only thing I do differently is bake the final risen loves (which I keep round) inside a closed, preheated dutch oven. Lid stays on for about 25 minutes while it cooks, then removed for the last 10 minutes cooking.

    Gives the loaves a nice oven spring, resulting in taller loaves = better sandwich bread! (IMO, anyway :)). Also, I brush the tops with water before scoring + baking, gives the crust a wonderful chewy texture.

    I’m still very much a beginner! But I wanted to share the couple small tips that have really helped my bread from those first few terrible loaves.

  2. Claudia

    So excited. I’ve been baking bread for years, but this was my first ever with a pre ferment and no commercial yeast. Definitely worth the two days it took to make. I was going to add a little citric acid but I was out. So glad I didn’t, because the tang in this was perfect. Made me think I was in San Francisco! Thanks, again, KAF for another fantastic recipe.

  3. Rizza carina malingin

    Hi, i just want to ask what happened to my sourdough. My dough was so wet. I followed the recipe by ounces. I could not manage my dough. It easily spreads out when i take it out from the bowl to fold. I could not shape it. I refrigerated it for 12 hours, by the way. I would say taste is good but I did not have a good shape. I cannot even score it. Huhu

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We’re glad you reached out to us, Rizza! It sounds like it just needed some extra flour in the dough. Maybe there was some humidity in the house that day? Humidity can take a big toll on doughs as the flour just absorbs everything it can from the mixture and from the air. We encourage you to reach out to our friendly Baker’s Hotline staff to help troubleshoot further at 855-371-BAKE (2253). Kindly, Annabelle@KAF

  4. Suzanne

    I used to make this recipe frequently, but I neglected my starter. I just started a new one so I was excited to be able to make my go to sourdough recipe again.
    I immediately noticed the hourly folding that had been added to the recipe which, frankly, I don’t completely understand. Any chance this technique could be added to this blog page?
    Here is my big ?: Why is the 1T of sugar deleted? At 1st I thought I must be wrong so I didn’t put in sugar, but the 1T of sugar is mentioned in quite a few comments. My dough is halfway through the 1st rise currently. I am trying not to panic, but my every instinct wants me to go back and add the sugar. This was always a foolproof recipe for me.
    The last mention I could find about the sugar was about a year ago. Any idea exactly when and why it was changed?
    What difference can I expect in sugarless loaves?

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Suzanne, we’re happy to answer your questions. First, regarding the folding: this was added to the recipe to address some of the concerns bakers were sharing about their dough rising outwards rather the upwards. To prevent flat loaves, the dough should be strengthened through developing the gluten during folding. While we don’t have plans to change the blog that was originally published about this recipe, we do have a full article that demonstrates folding here.

      On to your big question: the sugar! It was removed from the recipe simply because it’s not a necessary addition in order to make a successful loaf of sourdough bread. There are natural sugars present in the flour that the yeast can consume and use as fuel. However, if you’ve made this loaf in the past including the sugar and you’d like to continue that practice, you’re more than welcome to continue using it. No harm done. It might be interesting for you to bake a loaf without sugar to see if you notice any difference. We think you’ll be hard-pressed to notice any difference at all, but it could be a helpful learning experience. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

  5. Cameron Gurley

    I actually used my bread machine to mix the first dough ball, (used 1/2 the recipe). Then I removed it, divided in half (for 2 1/4 loafs) then froze both before they could rise. Removed one yesterday, let it thaw, used the stretch and fold method several times and got a really good rise. Cooked it at 425 til done, this is one beautiful loaf of sourdough. Will be making and freezing more!

  6. Elena W

    I absolutely cannot get the dough to be “smooth and satiny with a lovely sheen” after the kneading step. I try and try and try, and it just goes from very dry to very sticky and a quite firm ball of dough. What am I doing wrong? I tried using my mixer like in the photo, but it just gums up the attachment and doesn’t actually mix together, so I just use my hands. I’m sure I’m over-kneading the dough because the bread always ends up being super chewy. 🙁

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We’d be a little surprised if you were over-kneading the dough by hand, Elena, as it’s pretty hard to do, but it may be that you’re working too much flour into the dough because it’s so hard to handle when sticky. To help avoid this, you might try using an alternative kneading technique that’s geared towards wetter dough. If we can offer more guidance, feel free to give our Baker’s Hotline a call at 855-371-BAKE. Mollie@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Sheri, if you add the citric acid, add it on the second day during step 3 when the remaining flour is added. It will add a pleasant tang. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

  7. Timothy Cargain

    I started baking bread about a year or so ago although I have been baking other goodies for a number of years now. I tried this sourdough recipe today and was lucky enough to hit it fairly well on my first try (not always the case with attempts at other endeavors) so am happy and pleased. Between my wife and myself, this loaf doesn’t appear to be long for this world. Even with a fairly young starter, the taste came out really well, got good oven rise, good structure overall. As mentioned, your environment will dictate timing and proportions, but over all follow the recipe and you should come out with a outstanding loaf of sourdough bread.

  8. KJR

    SUCCESS!!! 😀 I’ve now made 4 loaves of sourdough bread! All 3 of the starters worked, so I ended up combining them, and I can feed it either whey or juice when it needs a boost. The bread turned out delicious, even when I got too anxious and didn’t let it finish rising. 🙂 It makes mean French toast, and I really look forward to trying out other sourdough recipes. Thank you guys for your input. I’m really not sure if it was the added ground rice or just better flour that did the trick this time, but I’m happy to be baking this recipe again! I feel like I have enough experience with the recipe to even “eyeball it”, and adapt it for other recipes. I did a happy dance when I ate the first piece of bread! Victory!!


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