We know that sourdough has been all the rage lately on social media and in kitchens everywhere as we all reconnect with home in new ways. As a longtime sourdough enthusiast, I (Joël) want to share my simple sourdough recipe in case this particular trend still feels a little intimidating.
While baking bread can be very technical and scientific, I won’t bore you with a dive deep into enzymes, molecules, and gases. While helpful, too much information can lead to overwhelm and discouragement.
First, let’s focus on baking a beautiful, tasty loaf and – most importantly – enjoying the process!
My love for baking bread started in 2006 when I spent 3 years working in an artisanal French bakery in Winnipeg’s French Quarter. I stumbled upon the job haphazardly, having never baked anything before that moment. The owner of the bakery, a master baker and pastry chef from France, vowed to take me under his wing and teach me the craft of traditional French baking if I were to accept the position. It was a total curve ball and not at all the direction I had in mind for my career but something about it sounded romantic and appealing.
I needed a job and he simply needed an extra set of hands (it helped that I also speak French and he didn’t speak English). So, I accepted and thus began my adventures in baking and cooking for the next 10 years of my career.
From the early hours of the morning till well into the afternoon (and sometimes evening) we worked hard baking baguettes, loaves, croissants, Danishes and pastries. All from scratch.
I would come home smelling like flour, butter, milk and sweat. We worked hard. We worked long. I loved it. I stumbled upon the industry by accident and to my surprise I found the work deeply satisfying.
It kept me engaged mentally, physically, and spiritually. To my surprise, I was hooked.
I hope I can share some of this passion with you through this simple recipe and method for making a beautiful and delicious sourdough loaf at home.
Bread dough is a living thing. As the baker you are in control and you determine how the dough will behave. You do this by manipulating the environment: time, temperature, location… In essence, you obtain the desired result by altering the conditions of the environment so that the dough behaves the way you want it to.
Unlike regular bread, organic sourdough doesn’t use store bought yeast to ferment the bread. Sourdough is leavened using a starter, a live mixture of flour and water that is fermented by airborne yeast. This is what produces the unique and highly sought-after sourdough flavour.
You can make your own starter or obtain one from a friend. The last two starters I’ve used both came from family members. They simply gave me a small portion that I was able to feed and use right away without having to go through the process of starting one from scratch.
If you need to make your own here is a good resource: https://www.theperfectloaf.com/7-easy-steps-making-incredible-sourdough-starter-scratch/
*You can also order one online and have it delivered right to your home if you prefer to skip this step!
I keep my starter in the refrigerator during the week as I typically bake on Saturday or Sunday.
I take my starter out on Thursday or Friday and feed it at a 1:10 ratio.
-1 part starter
-5 parts flour (I’m currently using Red Fife whole wheat)
– 5 parts water
Leave it at room temperature covered.
I repeat this twice per day for 2 days before I want to bake bread, this increases fermentation activity.
Cover and let rest for 6-12 hours.
Ingredient | Quantity | Bakers %
Water (80F) 700g + 50g (75% )
Starter 200g (20% )
Total flour 1000g (100%)
-Bread flour 800g
-WW flour 200g
Salt 20g (2%)
All ingredients are scaled by weight, this is the most accurate way to measure and will help obtain the most consistent result.
Instructions / Steps
Mix the Dough
- Mix the water (700g), starter and flour with a wooden spoon or using your hands. The goal here is just to incorporate all the ingredients together. It will feel sticky, this is normal. Once this step is complete the dough will appear “shaggy”.
- Cover and allow to rest for 30 mins.
- Add 20g salt and 50g water (80F). Mix well to incorporate these ingredients.
- At this point the gluten will be developing structure and your dough will begin to the have some elasticity.
Folding & Bulk Fermentation
- Now that you’ve added the salt and water, it’s time for the first fold.
- On a lightly floured surface, punch down dough.
- Grab the bottom edge of the dough and fold it up halfway.
- Grab the top edge and fold it over halfway again.
- Turn the dough and repeat on the two other sides.
- Return the dough to an oiled or floured bowl, cover and allow to rest for 30 mins.
- Repeat this step every 30 mins until 6 folds have been completed (approx. 3 hours)
- This will help develop the gluten structure and your dough will gain strength and elasticity.
Divide and Pre-Shape
- Divide the dough into 2 equal portions.
- Shape the dough into balls by cupping the dough with your hands and tightening the surface while keeping the seam on the bottom. The dough should grip the counter in order to tighten properly so make sure you don’t have too much flour on the counter.
- Place the pre-shaped boules on the lightly flour-dusted counter. Cover and allow to rest for 30 mins.
- Before doing the final shape, dust your proofing baskets with flour
- Turn the dough upside down and shape them into boules once again. Do not shape them too tight, we do not want the gluten strands to tear.
- Place the shaped dough upside down in the floured proofing baskets with the seam up. Cover.
- Allow the dough to proof at room temperature for approximately 2-3 hours.
- Judging the final proof is one of the most difficult aspects of baking and takes much practice to get right. Here are some tips to help you determine if you have proofed your dough long enough.
- The dough should have gained significant volume, doubling or tripling in size is common.
- Feel the dough with your hand. Shake it slightly. Does it feel strong or weak? Does it feel like there is a lot of air in it? Does it feel like it can continue to proof without collapsing?
- The dough should feel quite airy and light. However, it should also feel like it has some strength left in it. If it feels like it is close to collapsing, then you’ve gone too far.
- The dough should be proofed to around 80-90% of its capacity. You need to leave some energy left for the “oven-spring”.
- Preheat your oven to 450F-475F. You want the loaf to bake for approximately 40 minutes, but every oven will have a different optimal baking temperature.
- Place a cast iron pot (or pan) with lid in the oven for at least 15 minutes so that it is nice and hot.
- Turn the first loaf upside down into the centre of your cast iron pot.
- Score the dough using a sharp razor blade. You can do a square shape, a cross, half circle, slashes… the options are endless. Just have fun!
- Cover the pot with the hot lid and place in the oven for 15-20 minutes. Covering the loaf allows for it to steam during the “oven spring” phase of baking. This is where the loaf will obtain its final shape.
- After 15-20 mins, remove the lid and allow the loaf to continue baking for an additional 20-30 mins. This is where the loaf will develop its crust and colour. Keep an eye on it without opening the oven door, it should begin to develop a golden-brown crust.
- After 20-30 mins, pull the loaf out of the oven and tap the bottom of the bread. It should sound deep and hollow; this is the sound of a fully baked load.
- An under baked loaf will have a gummy centre and a soft crust. A properly baked loaf will have a crisp and caramelized crust with a soft and spongy crumb (interior).
- Repeat the baking process for the second loaf.
- Allow the baked loaves to fully cool down on a rack for at least 20-30 minutes before cutting into it. It will be tempting to dive in right away but it’s important to allow for excess humidity to escape the loaf for the crust and crumb to set.
There’s nothing we love more than a fresh loaf from the oven. Not only does it make the whole house smell incredible, but we love eating those fresh slices with butter, preserves, or cheese.
We hope this guide gives you a solid starting point for your own sourdough journey and we’d love to hear how your loaves turn out!