Welcome to Sourdough! You don’t think you can do it? But you CAN. If there’s one thing you get out of this: IF I CAN DO IT – YOU CAN. I’ll help you get on your way. I’ve got a beginner loaf video for you here, a sample schedule, and several videos in my Sourdough Video Tutorials gallery – also a Sourdough School for terminology, gear, and fantastic resources.
If you need sourdough starter – then here is MY EASY & FAST SOURDOUGH STARTER.
The recipe below is a Tartine Country Loaf – a traditional sourdough from Tartine Bakery in San Francisco – the absolute pinnacle of sourdough, and Chad Robertson has brought us a method we can easily adapt for a home kitchen. There are 2 qualities that make a Tartine:
- Using ONLY flour, water, salt, and sourdough starter (only made with flour & water). The flour is traditionally a combination of bread flour (or all-purpose), wheat, and rye. But you’ll see Tartine Country loaves using all white flour, or some ratios with Spelt or Einkorn. Any other sourdough “recipes”you come across that use other ingredients in the loaf or the starter itself, is not a sourdough in the traditional sense. It’s still sourdough – just a different style. Think of it as being part of the sourdough world – it’s a variety, just not Tartine. They’re all good!
- The other thing that makes Tartine and Tartine is the method. It’s a process of dough development and fermentation which creates the structure and elasticity. It’s what makes that crumb so creamy, airy, light, and that traditional sourdough tang.
I’ve intentionally written my beginner loaf recipe using only white flour (Bread flour or All-purpose) because it’s the easiest to handle. I’ve also combined a few steps – again making it easier to handle. I want your first loaf to be successful.
My Beginner Tartine Sourdough Bread video below moves through step-by-step, though rather quickly. I have more specific technique videos. Technique: Learning Stretch & Fold and Coil Fold for Sourdough Bread and Technique: Learning Pre-Shape and Shape for Sourdough Bread & also Proofing! These are longer videos with minimal editing, taking you through technique as I explain it on camera.
THEN – once your dough is ready you gotta score and bake it! I have these videos to show you how and am always adding more: Sourdough: Prepping to Score & Bake Video ALSO Technique: Learn To Score and Bake Sourdough. Demonstrating Three Loaves. AND Sourdough: 4 Quick Scores & Bakes
TO NOTE: This traditional method takes time…about 10 hours on your dough day, and about 1 hour on your baking day. I have a sample schedule below.
If I could give you one piece of advice before you start – just watch some videos, read through the recipe, watch technique – it doesn’t matter if it’s mine or someone else’s, but you need to prep & learn a little. Jumping in without knowing how to proceed will be frustrating and more than likely your bread won’t turn out. Just take a little time beforehand, get familiar with the steps, and then roll the video again while you’re working your dough to refresh your memory. It’s worth it to study up and these videos are here for YOU!
~ SAMPLE SCHEDULE ~
A very important word about scheduling. It is the dough and the temperature of your kitchen environment (the dough environment) that is the ultimate guide. Temperature is an ingredient – worth remembering. Know your kitchen temp (or the proofing environment temp) before you begin. Ideal temp is 75F. I have a kitchen cupboard that runs 78F, this is where I hold my leaven and my dough. If your kitchen temp is cold (less than 72F) try holding your dough in your oven, turned off, but the light bulb is on. This method can fluctuate wildly and my oven reaches 110 very quickly. I have to open the oven door several inches to keep it under 80F.
The dough prep schedule below is for an ideal temp of 75F.
- 7:00am Mix leaven
- 9:00am Mix autolyse
- 10:30 – 11:00am Check leaven, should nearly be ready (do the float test)
- 11:00am Combine final dough mix
- 11:30am S&F #1
- 12:00pm S&F #2
- 12:30pm S&F #3
- 1:00pm. Check for structure. You should see that the dough has held some structure from the previous S&F. Some of the folds are visible, it looks puffy and a bit bouncy, not slack and in a puddle. If you’re not seeing some structure, do another series of S&F 30 min apart, maybe even 2 more. Do what the dough tells you it needs. I most often do 3 S&F and that’s enough in my kitchen, but in yours, you may need 4, 5, or even 6 S&Fs. ** Assuming you don’t need to do another series of S&F’s, leave the dough alone now to finish the bulk ferment phase on its own. About 2 hours depending on the temp of your kitchen. It might be an hour if it’s warm, or up to 3 hours if it’s cold. When the dough is finished with the bulk ferment, it will have risen about 50%, will be a little puffy, jiggly, with some bubbles, and maybe slightly domed at the edges. ** Around 3pm (or 2 hours after your final S&F) check for signs the bulk is done. If it’s ready, move forward with the Pre-Shape.
- 3-4pm Pre-Shape
- 4:30pm Shape and into the banneton, leave on the counter to finish the proof. About 30 minutes – sometimes up to an hour (if your kitchen is cooler)
- 5:00-5:30pm Put your banneton into the refrigerator to hold overnight. Can bake the next day – or up to 3 days later.
If you’d like to see preparing to score and bake videos, check these ones:
and for technique videos on S&F, Pre-Shape, and Shape …check these ones, here.
Beginner Tartine Sourdough
- 25 g sourdough starter fed the night before, stirred down before scooping out.
- 50 g bread flour
- 50 ml tepid water
- 450 g bread flour
- 340 ml water warmed to 95F
FINAL Dough Mix
- 10 g kosher salt this is flexible, allow for at least 7g
- prepared Leaven
- prepared Autolyse
White rice flour for dusting before the score (if preferred)
- Tip: for a strong leaven, feed your starter 1:3:3 the night before you plan to make your sourdough. The next morning: Note the temperature in the kitchen. If it's warmer than 75F your fermentation will be faster, if it's cooler it will be slower.
- Place a jelly jar (or 8oz jar with a lid) on the scale and weigh in 25g sourdough starter. Zero scale and add 50ml tepid water. Stir, zero scale and add 50g bread flour. Stir thoroughly and scrape down sides to tidy the jar. Cover and set aside in a warm place (ideally 75F). The Leaven will take about 4 - 5 hours to build.
- About 2 hours after you mixed the Leaven, check it for activity and if it's risen by 50% and has bubbles around the edges, then you're on track and time to mix the Autolyse.
- Place a medium mixing bowl on the scale and weigh in 450g bread flour, zero scale then add 340g water that's been warmed to 95F. With clean hands, mix thoroughly, squishing the dough with your hand, and holding the bowl firmly with the other hand. Scrape all along the sides and bottom of the bowl to completely incorporate the flour & water. The dough will be sticky, gloopy, tacky, shaggy. Scrape it off your fingers as best as you can, trying to keep most of the dough in the bowl. Cover and set the Autolyse aside in a warm place (ideally 75). Time is flexible with the Autolyse. It's basically hanging out until the Leaven is fully built and ready to use.
Combine FINAL Dough Mix
- When the leaven is fully built it will be puffy and pillowy, doubled in size (or more), bubbles around the edges, and a bit jiggly. You'll get to know this by eye, but if you're not sure it's ready, do a float test. Carefully scoop out a small dab of leaven and gently lower it into a bowl or glass of water to see if it floats. If it floats, it's ready to bake. If it sinks, it needs a bit more time to ferment and build. With your leaven being ready, take the cover off the autolyse and set it on the scale, zero the scale, and scoop in the leaven. You'll need most if not all of it, about 90-100g. Zero the scale and weigh in the salt. You're done with the scale. Mix the final dough to thoroughly combine. It seems tricky at first, the autolyse is stretchy and the leaven is slippery, but it will come together in about 5 minutes with a vigorous hand working it together. Working the dough, scrape along the sides and bottom, folding it in half and quarters, turning it - trying to get the interior mixed with the exterior. The goal here isn't to 'knead' but to thoroughly combine. Tidy the edges of the bowl with a dough scraper, then the edges with a paper towel if you're super tidy. Take a temp of the dough - it's hopefully around 75F - 78F. Cover and now the Bulk Ferment starts. Place the dough someplace warm, ideally around 75F, and note the time. The entire bulk ferment process takes 4-5 hours. In the first 90 minutes, we are handling the dough 3 x at 30 minutes apart. In the last few hours, the dough finishes the bulk ferment on its own. Set your timer for 30 minutes (this is flexible but no shorter than 30 minutes)
Bulk Ferment phase 1: Stretch & Folds
- Return to the dough and uncover. Wet your hand with water and reach in the bowl to grab a section, sliding your fingers like a cup, down the sides, and to the bottom, then grab the dough (just that handful) and pull it up - allowing it to stretch about 12 inches - then fold that stretched dough over the top of the dough still in the bowl, and tuck it into the opposite side from where you initially grabbed it. You will do 3 more stretch and folds to complete doing the entire bowl, mentally dividing the bowl into quarters (as in 12 noon, 3pm, 6pm, 9pm) So rotate the bowl a quarter turn, re-wet your hand if needed and grab the next section. Stretch up, fold over the top, tuck in down the edge on the opposite side. Rotate and repeat, rotate, and repeat. You should have done 4 turns and you probably noticed the last one (maybe even the 3rd one, too) the dough seemed to tighten up and it was more difficult to stretch - this is normal). Take the temp just to mentally note it, then cover and set aside for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes return to the dough and repeat the stretch & folds, doing your 4 turns, cover, and set aside for another 30 minutes. You might have noticed, the dough seemed to relax and be more stretchy. This is good! It's building elasticity and strength. After 30 minutes return to the bowl to do your 3rd set of stretch and folds. The dough will seem so much more stretchy and silky now, and a bit tacky but not sticking to your fingers like it was before. Check the dough in 30 minutes to see if it's holding some structure from the last time you handled it. You should see some folds or creases - indicating strength in the dough. If it's totally smooth and puddled - you'll need to do another set of stretch and folds and check it again in 20 to 30 minutes. Once you see it's held some structure (creasing and shape from the last time you handled it), cover the bowl and set it aside for it to finish the bulk ferment on its own.
Bulk Ferment phase 2:
- Leave the dough alone, covered, to finish the bulk ferment. This may take anywhere from 1 hour to 3 hours depending on the temperature of your kitchen. After an hour, check for signs that the bulk ferment is coming along or possibly done. Signs the bulk is done is when the dough has risen about 50%, appears fluffier on top, even slightly domed around the edges, possibly some bubbles on the surface, and will be somewhat jiggly. If it still looks stiff, not much rise, and not showing the other signs, it just needs more time.
- When your bulk ferment is complete, dust a clean counter with a very light coating of flour. Dipping your fingers into the flour to prevent the dough from sticking to your hands, tilt the bowl over the floured surface and scrape out the dough with your floured hand. The dough will be tacky, but shouldn't be too sticky. You're going to handle it lightly here and resist the temptation to add any additional flour into the actual dough ball, it's ok if you need to add a bit of flour to the counter, but really try to keep it minimal. Using lightly floured hands, you'll be handling the dough very lightly, and sort of quickly - not allowing your hands to linger on the dough too long or they will stick. Imagine if it's really hot - you need to touch it but it's hot, so it's brief. Pull each side of the dough outward, stretching it quickly and with a light hand, into a rectangle shape about 8 x 12 or around there. You're going to fold it into a letter shape, by thirds, folding over the top section and tack it in a bit, then fold up the bottom section, tack it in gently, then one side and then the last. The purpose is to fold the dough into itself creating tension on the underside of the dough (the part touching the counter). You should have a semi-firm ball, but not tight. Flip the dough over, with the seam side down. Dust a little flour where you plan to let it rest, then place your dough on that and let it sit, undisturbed for 20 minutes. If you want to cover it you can, I leave mine open to the air for part of the time so it looses some of its tackiness.
- Once your preshape has been sitting 20 minutes, you'll do this final Shape and then get it into the banneton. Prep the banneton - dusting it liberally with white rice flour (ideally) or you can use all-purpose flour. Rice flour has a higher scorch point so it won't discolor in the oven and it stays pretty white. All-purpose can tend to bake off a bit grey/brown. It's fine either way, the color won't affect the flavor. Flip the dough back over so the seam side is now back up and the smooth side is down. Working in a circle, pull the edges of the dough in sections over the opposite side and pin, pull and pin, pull and pin. You should be able to get in 4 or 5 before the dough really starts to tighten. You don't want to attack it and totally deflate it, don't squeeze all the air out. Just work it gently, but trying to tighten it up. You're building tension which will give good spring when baking. Flip the dough over, so the smooth side is up and seam side down. Cup the dough using your hands, dragging it across the counter a few inches, using your pinky fingers to guide and shape the back edge. Work it one way, then slide it the other, trying to keep it shaped in a ball and you'll see the surface of the dough is getting tight. Don't drag the dough so much that it rips. You want to find the sweet spot of pulling it firm enough, but not ripping. Once you feel it's decently taught and round, you'll flip it into the floured banneton, seam side up and smooth side down.
- With your dough now resting in the banneton, cover it so it's enclosed but also so that if the dough rises a bit, it won't touch the surface of whatever you're covering it with. A trick is to use a plastic grocery bag or produce bag, place the bowl inside the bag towards the back, blow up the bag like a balloon, then twist and knot the opening. You should have a semi-inflated sealed environment. Or, you could use a shower cap and pull up the top like a peak, as far away from the surface as you can get it. Last would be to dust the surface of the dough with flour and cover it with a clean linen or cotton towel. This isn't ideal because you don't want the dough to stick to it, it will cause problems with your oven spring if the dough is ripped by dough sticking to the towel.
- Allow your covered banneton to rest on the counter 30 minutes to 1 hour. If your kitchen is quite warm, 75F or more then this bench rest might only need 30 minutes. The idea is to allow the dough to ferment a bit, get settled in the banneton, and relax before it gets cold.
- Put the covered banneton in the refrigerator to rest overnight. The ferment will continue, but will slow down so it probably won't rise much. This is normal. The flavor will improve, though. You can even leave it in the frig for a few days, the flavor will become more pronounced, but still delicious, especially if you like more 'sour' sourdough.
Prep to Bake
- Put your dutch oven or combo-cooker in the oven and pre-heat it to 500F. (Put it on a lower rack with enough space to allow you to take the lid off during the bake.) Let it heat at least 30 minutes - it depends how long your oven takes to reach 500. Mine takes about 15 minutes, and I leave it in for another 15 or 20 minutes. You want the dutch oven to be HOT. It will help the spring. To note: Ovens vary with heat, some are hotter or cooler than others. This is very common and can create issues my recommendations on exact temperatures and baking times. You may need to bake at a higher temperature, even up to 25 degrees warmer than my baking temp and/or increase or decrease the exact baking time. This will be something you either learn with experience or better yet buy an oven thermometer that hangs on one of the racks. That will give you an accurate reading.
- Set up for the score by getting a piece of parchment ready. Cut the parchment down to size to fit the diameter of your loaf plus allowing a few more inches on the sides - just enough to grip it while you're transferring the bread into the kettle. Get out your blade and set it nearby, a pastry brush (to brush off the flour if any comes off when you turn out the dough), and some fresh white rice flour (or all-purpose) to re-dust with fresh flour. You want everything ready to roll before you take the dutch oven out of the oven and the bread out of the refrigerator. First - take out the dutch oven and set on a surface where it's safe (I use my stove-top) and far enough away from you so you won't burn yourself. Then quickly get the banneton, uncover it, place the parchment on top, then flip it over, turning it out, and holding the parchment at the same time so the dough rests on the parchment. If there's cakey flour on the surface from resting in the frig, brush it off carefully. Working quickly, sprinkle on some fresh flour, then score however you like, creating at least one slash 1/2 inch deep to allow a controlled release of steam.
- Your hot dutch oven is close by and you've just finished your score. Quickly but carefully lower your scored bread into the dutch oven using the parchment paper as a sling. You'll bake your bread on the parchment paper. (Up in the SCORE step you cut your parchment down to size - this is an important step - you don't want it billowing over your loaf). Replace the lid and put it in the oven AND TURN THE OVEN DOWN to 475F. Set the timer and bake for 20 minutes. Take the lid off and see how things look - your bread should have some nice spring and a light brown color (maybe on the blond side, maybe a bit darker). Turn the oven down to 450 and continue to bake with the lid off for approximately 15 more minutes. Keep a close eye on it during the entire time you're baking with the lid off so it doesn't over-brown. If it starts to over-brown right off the bat (while baking with the lid off), tent it loosely with foil. For the last few minutes, you're just baking for the color - pull it when you get the color you prefer, checking it in 1-minute intervals. If your bread has sprung nicely, the score will have separated and created an 'ear'. The edge of that ear may become crispy and on the dark side - this is normal. Remove from the oven, gently lifting the bread out of the kettle and setting on a cooling rack. Don't slice it for at least 1 hour if you can....bare minimum 45 minutes. If it's sliced too early, the crumb (the interior) won't have cooled enough and it might be gummy. It won't be raw, but the texture won't be as pillowy as it would if you let it fully cool.