Are you a non-baker who is fascinated by sourdough? Me too, friend! I’ve never been a fan of baking, but I’ve long been fascinated by the idea of baking sourdough. It feels like magic to be able to make a loaf of bread rise from nothing but flour and water! Like many, I finally found the time to get into sourdough baking during quarantine. After posting a couple of my successes on Instagram, I had enough people ask for my recipe that I figured I should add this easy sourdough bread
recipe routine for non-bakers to my blog.
Hate long posts? Skip right to what you are looking for:
- Background on how I got started
- What is sourdough and what is the hype?
- Easy “routine” for baking sourdough
- What is a sourdough starter?
- Sourdough bread recipe
- FAQ about sourdough
- How do you know when your starter is ready to bake?
- What is the float test?
- What is the point of stretching and folding sourdough?
- What is sourdough hydration?
- Does is matter what kind of flour I use for sourdough?
- Can you use your starter to bake with daily?
- What are the best websites for getting started with sourdough?
THIS SOURDOUGH BREAD RECIPE IS A GOOD START FOR NON-BAKERS AND PEOPLE WHO DON’T LIKE TO FOLLOW RECIPES
Let me preface this recipe by stressing the fact that I am not a baker or even a professional food blogger. Oh yes, I’ve considered myself a professional blogger for years, but I don’t consider myself a pro food blogger.
If you are looking for the perfect beginners guide to sourdough bread written by a real professional foodie, then stop here and go read this post by The Clever Carrot. I started there and it led me down the rabbit hole.
Seriously though, this post is not meant to be a comprehensive lesson on how to make perfect sourdough. Instead I’m putting this out in the interwebs because I found a ton of technical recipes with measurements in grams and very specific wait times.
To be honest, all of those recipes really overwhelmed me. As a person who has always struggled with baking, I found the technical recipes to be too daunting.
As an 8 on the enneagram, the challenger, I have a hard time following specific directions and measuring correctly. That is definitely the reason why I have never been a good baker. However, with sourdough I’ve realized that it is more of a process with recommendations than a strict recipe.
Sourdough is easy and forgiving and doesn’t require much skill if you can just be patient enough to make a starter and give it a try!
EVEN THIS NON-BAKER CAN PUT A FRESH LOAF OF BREAD ON THE TABLE EVERY MORNING
As I’ve stated over and over again, I’m not a baker. I don’t have a kitchen scale, and I didn’t even know people decorated bread by scoring with a lame until I started baking this bread. I have no special sourdough bread tools. I’m just a mom who wants to provide fresh baked bread without preservatives to my family.
I always thought it would take a ridiculous amount of effort to bake bread from scratch daily. Now I’m that person who has a fresh loaf of bread on my kitchen table almost daily!
This recipe is meant to show you the tips and tricks that I’ve been using to make a fresh loaf of sourdough bread every morning without spending hours doing hands on work. This sourdough routine keeps me from stressing about feeding my dough at certain times or not letting it rise long enough. Also, it’s a no knead recipe which means that you don’t even need a mixer to whip this up.
What is sourdough and what is the hype?
Sourdough bread is magic.
Okay, not magic. Science.
Sourdough bread doesn’t use commercial bought yeast. Instead the dough is fermented through naturally occurring yeast and lactobacilli found in flour and the environment.
This is why sourdough in San Francisco tastes different than sourdough in Naples, FL. It all depends on the air around you!
The natural yeast and lactic acid allow for the bread to rise without adding any store bought yeast.
Fun fact: did you know that baker’s yeast has only been around for 150ish years? People have been baking with natural leavening agents for most of humanity.
So, what’s the hype?
Since sourdough bread is fermented and contains prebiotics it is usually gentler on the stomach. It can improve gut health and is less likely to spike blood sugar crashes. It also tastes like heaven.
We love it because we limit our processed food. You can’t get much more unprocessed than baking your own sourdough!
The easiest stress free schedule for baking sourdough bread
If you Google “sourdough schedule” you will find that almost every website has their own recipe with a different schedule for baking sourdough. Most even include specific times! Y’all, that is too much for me to handle. I just can’t.
That is why I put this easy routine together for you. Side note- it’s also important to know that I don’t even like to follow schedules with my kids. It’s too restrictive in my mind. Instead we are big fans of routines, except when it comes to meal planning. That is where I have a schedule and stick to it.
Easy 3 step routine for sourdough bread
- Feed sourdough starter (don’t have a starter? Go here to learn how to make one). I take 1/2 C. of my sourdough starter and put it in a new jar. Then I add 1 C. of flour and 1/2 C. of water and stir well. I place the rest of my starter in a discard jar in my fridge. Then I use my sourdough discard to make lots of fun discard recipes like this one.
- Once your sourdough starter is established (mine took 2 weeks) you can start to bake with it. I prefer to bake with it when it doubles in size in 4-6 hours. I bake with mine right when it has doubled, but you can use it even as it is going down in volume, just don’t let it go down too far. Prepare dough according to a recipe of your choice (mine is here)
- At this point you have two choices: if it is later in the day you can mix your dough, let rise for about 4 hours and then let proof in the fridge overnight to bake the next morning. If your starter is ready earlier in the day you can let it sit on the counter until doubled (6-8 hours for me, but some people claim it takes theirs over 10 hours to double) and bake the bread in the afternoon or evening. Some people say that the fridge allows for a better flavor. Honestly, I think they both taste great! It’s best to do what works for your schedule.
Here is my easy schedule for getting a fresh loaf of bread on the table each morning:
Before noon: feed my sourdough starter (I use 1/2 C of starter then feed it 1/2 C of water and 1 C of flour)
Around 5ish: mix the dough
From 5ish until bed: pull and fold (keep reading to see how I pull and fold) every 30ish minutes if you have the time, but not absolutely necessary
Before bed: put the dough in the fridge
When I wake up: put the dutch oven with lid on in the oven and preheat to 450 degrees. Remove dough from the fridge and pull and fold one last time. Move the dough to parchment paper, put a liberal amount of flour on top and shape the dough. I score my dough with bread knife right before adding the dough to the heated dutch oven. Bake for 30 minutes with lid on, remove lid and bake another 20 minutes.
WAIT, WHAT IS A SOURDOUGH STARTER?
Oh yes, you’ve found this recipe for sourdough bread and you’re ready to bake, but you don’t yet have a sourdough starter.
Don’t fret. It’s easy and only requires 2 ingredients: water and flour.
I followed these steps by The Clever Carrot for my sourdough starter. If you don’t have a starter yet, pin my post for later and go to The Clever Carrot to get started! You’ll also love her other recipes. She even has an entire cookbook on baking with sourdough!
Now that you have your starter, here is my easy sourdough bread recipe
No, I’m not a professional recipe developer. It’s why I’ve stopped offering so many recipes on my blog. Instead of developing a recipe from scratch I’ve modified An Oregon Cottage’s sourdough bread recipe.
Mine calls for more water, an autolyse period, and longer baking time. I fully trust that you will take this recipe and modify it yourself! Baking and cooking is more fun when you break the rules and try something new. Plus there are so many environmental factors to consider when baking sourdough. Temperature and humidity are two factors that definitely play a role for me here in Southwest Florida.
I’ve also found from the many different recipes that I’ve tried that playing around with the different amounts of water and flour is totally okay. This is why I found sourdough so fun. You really can’t mess it up. And when I have “messed it up” it has still been edible and delicious.
Easy Sourdough Bread Recipe for Non-Bakers
So you want to bake sourdough, but you’re bad at baking and all the legit sourdough recipes make you feel confused? Don’t worry! This “recipe” is more of a tongue in cheek method. It’s intended to show you how forgiving sourdough can be. This is exact routine I follow daily to bake sourdough. Putting fresh bread on your table isn’t as time consuming or difficult as most recipes make it sound. I’m sharing this recipe for all the other struggling bakers out there who have a hard time following directions. This is for you, my friend. I see you and your struggle. Food is meant to be fun. Take this or any other recipe and make it your own.
- 3/4 C active sourdough starter
- 1 1/2 C warm water
- 3+ C flour (any flour works but I prefer fresh milled flour or bread flour)
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
In a large mixing bowl combine the sourdough starter, water, and flour. You don’t have to mix well, you’re aiming to combine ingredients for something called the autolyse. I like to mix with my hands just for fun. You can use a mixer with a dough hook, but I just stir with my hands until barely combines. Autolyse is important because this is where the gluten development occurs. At the same time most recipes don’t call for an autolyse. I prefer it and swear it gives my bread a special spring.. If you don’t have the energy for it, just combine all the ingredients. Either way, cover with a wet tea towel and let sit for 30ish minutes to an hour (see, I told you this was failpoof). Don’t fret. I place my dough outside because we keep our house cool. Temperature matters, so keep your dough in a warmish spot.
After letting the dough autolyse for anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, add the salt and honey and combine well with your hands. Mine always feels wet and sticky and way wetter than normal dough. Using wet hands helps keep you from getting completely covered in stickiness. Cover with the damp tea towel and let sit for another 30ish minutes. Once again, don’t fret about time. Need to run an errand? Go for it. Come back in a couple of hours and start the next step.
Start pulling and folding the dough. Literally pull out one side of the dough and fold it into the center. Do it again clockwise (or counterclockwise- just go around) until you’ve pulled and folded all parts. I usually do 4-6 depending on how much I pull. You can do this as often or as little as you like. I prefer to do it about every hour when I remember. I think it helps to give my dough more bubbles. But remember, I’m not an expert. This is just what works for me. Do what works for you…
After you have stretched and pulled the dough once, it should have enough gluten in it that you can move the dough to a new well oiled mixing bowl. The olive oil will help make it easier for you do subsequent pull and folds. But you should know that I’ve forgotten to do this in the past and the bread still turns out fine. I promise. See, forgiving.
Once the dough has doubled in size, you can technically bake it. Sometimes it takes a couple of hours, sometimes it takes 10 hours! Yikes! It depends on how strong your starter is. An older and well fed starter will rise quickly. However temperature is a big factor here too. For me, I find that it works well to stretch and fold 4 times over the span of 4 hours then move the dough to the fridge overnight before I go to bed for a slow proof.
When dough has doubled on your counter or proofed overnight in the fridge, place a dutch oven with lid in the oven and preheat to 450 degrees.
Remove dough from fridge and transfer to piece of parchment paper. It will look and feel like a blob. At this point you will feel like you have messed up because it will look unlike any other bread you’ve ever baked. That is a normal feeling. Work through it and keep baking. At least I should say this is what has happened to me for every single one of my loafs. I’ve baked one almost every day during quarantine and each time I feel like I’m going to mess it up. Each time, the bread is gone in a matter of hours. Just keep going.
Pile a lot of flour (1/4 Cish) on top of the blob. Spread all over and gently shape your dough into a dome shape. The flour will help you push the dough under the dome to create a bigger dome. Flour your hands in order to help you get the dough shaped like a dome. Professionals use tools to get the dough shaped. Buy them if you want, but rest assured that you will make delicous bread without it. Note- there was one time that my dough was super watery and just didn’t form a dome. I poured it into a baking dish and baked it anyway. It was still devoured and still tasted amazing. I’m telling you, this is fail proof.
Once the oven is ready, score (cut) your bread. There are so many fun and beautiful ways to score your bread. If you are reading this crazy recipe than you are probably like me- content to just slice a cut right down the middle. Scoring allows the bread to rise properly in the oven. Place the bread and parchment paper in the dutch oven. Return the lid to the dutch oven.
Bake for 30 minutes with the lid on. Remove dutch oven lid and bake for another 20 minutes.
Attempt to let it cool completely, but end up cutting it about 20 minutes later because you just can’t wait, and warm butter bread is the best thing in the world.
A few sourdough visual aids
FAQ ABOUT SOURDOUGH
How do you know when your soughdough starter is strong enough to bake bread?
Easy, when it is doubled in size since “feeding” then you are good to go. If you are making your starter from scratch it is a good idea to do the “float test” first.
Wait, what the heck is the sourdough float test?
Take a tablespoon of your starter and put it in a bowl of water. If it floats, it is ready for baking! This means that it has enough air in the dough to make the bread rise naturally without yeast.
You don’t have to do this every time you bake. Instead, this is a great way for newbies to find out when their starter is finally ready to bake a loaf of bread. For example, my starter took 2 weeks to pass the float test even though it was doubling in size.
Why do you stretch and fold sourdough?
When done correctly, a stretch and fold will increase the air quality of your bread. It will increase the volume of the bread and give your bread less of a crumb (meaning you won’t be dropping crumbs everywhere). It expels the carbon dioxide created during fermentation and strengthens the gluten formation.
So how do you do stretch and fold your sourdough?
You literally pull or stretch the dough and fold it back in on itself. Wet your fingers first to keep your hands from getting too sticky.
It is suggested that you do 4 of these, but like I said, I don’t like to follow directions and I usually do 6.
If you have a very wet dough, do this 4 times 15-30 minutes apart. If your dough is dryer do it 30 minutes to an hour apart. Honestly I just do it when I remember. Some bread tastes better than others, but like I’ve said over and over, I’m doing this for fun and to put healthy food on my table, not to win awards.
Mom hack: if your husband is home around bedtime, tell him you have to “tend to your sourdough”. I swear the only reason I like stretching and folding my dough is because it gets me out of brushing my kids’ teeth at night. Shhh… our secret.
Basically, you’ll be fine if you forget to do this. But you’ll also be fine if you do too many. See how forgiving sourdough is?
If you want a real legit answer to this question complete with video, go to The Clever Carrot. I love this post.
What is sourdough hydration?
This one really confused me when I got started. I just followed a sourdough starter recipe I randomly found on the internet. Then I read about hydration. How was I supposed to know if I had something that was 100% hydration or 75% hydration? I was stumped.
Hydration is the ratio of water to flour in the sourdough starter. You can change this ratio at any point when you feed your sourdough.
Simply put 100% hydration has more water and 75% hydration has less water.
You can measure by weight or volume. Seeing as how I don’t have a scale, I opt for volume.
- 100% hydration- equal weight or volume of water to starter. 1/2 C. starter, 1/2 C. water, 1 C. flour
- 50% hydration- half the weight or volume of water to starter. 1/2 C. starter, 1/4 C. water, 1 C. flour
- 75% would be something in between
Personally I like 100% hydration because it is easy to measure and remember.
Does it matter what type of flour to use for sourdough recipes?
Yes and no.
Once you really get into baking with your sourdough you can try fancy recipes that will call for certain flours.
Until then, just stick with what you are comfortable using. I switch between whole wheat, all-purpose, and bread flour. I find that I prefer the bread flour. I also find that fresh milled flour is superior to regular flour. If you can find fresh milled flour near you, buy it!
Each type of flour adds a different flavor and changes the texture of the bread differently. You can learn more about different flours here.
Can you use your starter to bake with daily?
Since the starter is fermented and is continuing to ferment, it is best to bake with your starter no more than every other day.
Of course you can bake with it more or less, but the experts advice that you give it a rest every other day.
If you want to bake a loaf daily it is best to have multiple starters. I keep two on my counter and rotate which one I bake with each day. Both get fed daily, but only one gets baked with.
The best websites to help you get started with sourdough bread baking
I searched the internet for all the information before I dove into sourdough. I love to research new things and really enjoyed the process of learning about sourdough. Some websites were better than others.
These are the best links I’ve found to help you learn all about sourdough bread:
- History of Sourdough
- How to Make a Sourdough Starter
- A Beginners Guide to Sourdough
- Autolyse Information
- A Podcast About Sourdough
- Myths about Sourdough
- What is Hydration?
Sourdough is truly simple
Trust me when I say that you can’t mess it up.
I know all the words and steps seem daunting, but once you do it once and taste that amazing bread, you will realize that baking bread is actually easier than going to the grocery store during a pandemic.
Sourdough starters are pretty hard to kill. Even if you accidentally forget to feed it for a few days, it will come back to life pretty easily after regular feedings.
Proper measuring isn’t even an issue! Some bakers prefer higher hydration bread while others prefer lower hydration bread. What this means for you is that changing the amount of flour and water will change the consistency of your bread, but it will still make great bread. You get to choose if you like yours to have more water or less water. You decide!
Yes, a lot of bakers will tell you that using a kitchen scale will make for more consistent recipes, and this is true. But if you are like me and have a hard time measuring properly, you’ll find that a little extra water or flour here and there doesn’t change the bread too much.
Bottom line- no one has complained about a single loaf of bread I’ve made. This is the first time in my baking history that this has ever happened. My kids even complain about my cookies and muffins. No lie.
Don’t be afraid to give this a try. What is the worst thing that happens? You end up with a crusty loaf of bread to eat and gain a ton of weight? Yes, that is a real possibility. But you won’t be stuffing your face with loads of preservatives. That has to count for something, right?
Stick around for a bit!
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