Baking sourdough bread is great fun. James Beard Award-winning baker Sarah Owens answers your questions about sourdough baking and gives you all the tips you need to succeed.
A recipe that answers all your questions
This recipe for sourdough bread includes the basic steps for making sourdough, while answering questions like “what temperature water should we use?” “how much starter?” and “what flour is best?” In addition to ingredients, Owens also demonstrates best practice techniques like using your hands to mix in order to test the temperature of the dough, and shaping and scoring the dough into a beautiful loaf.
Give it a starter
You know your leaven is ready when you can see fermentation bubbles all over the top and sides of the starter. Add 60g of your leaven to your bowl. Then add the flour and water, and use your hands to mix so that the flour is fully hydrated.
Add 8g of non-iodized salt, sprinkling over the surface of the dough. You can sprinkle a little bit of water as well, and squeeze and mix to work the salt into your dough. The bulk fermentation stage takes about 3-4.5 hours until the dough is ready to shape. Cover the bowl and set aside. Every 30-45 minutes, stretch and fold the dough into the center, pulling from the outside and turning the bowl to stretch and fold all the way around.
Let the dough rise
After the bulk fermentation stage, pre-fold and then fold your dough, making sure to place it in the basket seam-side up. Leave the loaves in the fridge for about 24 hours.
For the final proof, pull the dough from the fridge for a little while before it goes in the oven. Gently poke the dough to check the texture; it should feel like a full water balloon.
When ready to bake, turn our dough out of the basket onto a piece of parchment paper and score it with a sharp razor to give the dough space to expand and decorate as you’d like. The key with the scoring is to make a smooth cut, and to cut deep enough but not too deep.
Leave your Dutch oven in the oven so that it gets hot, then drop your scored loaf with the parchment paper into the heated Dutch oven, cover it, and put it in the oven. Bake covered for about 20 minutes, then remove the top and continue baking until the loaf is done. Enjoy your bread!
A handy guide to Owens’ video
The above video is Owens’ detailed guide on how to bake sourdough, and we’ve included these handy reference timings for all the key steps:
0:58 – How to Tell If Your Leaven Is Ready
1:30 – Prepare Your Sourdough Bread Dough
3:50 – How to Mix Your Sourdough Bread Dough
6:54 – How to Add Salt to Your Sourdough Bread Dough
8:32 – The Bulk Fermentation Stage
9:07 – The “Stretch and Fold” Technique
11:43 – Pre-Shape Stage
13:37 – Final Shaping
16:44 – Getting Ready to Bake
18:29 – How to Score Your Sourdough Bread Loaves
21:01 – How to Bake Sourdough Bread
23:43 – The Taste Test
Sourdough bread is a labor of love
Sourdough baking is increasingly popular, but extremely time-consuming. Baking sourdough is a fun and tasty way to explore bread making and learn about the science of cooking, if you’re willing to go through the many steps.
Questions about sourdough bread to discuss on Ohlelo:
- What are your favorite sourdough tips and tricks?
- Do you agree/disagree with the advice Owens gives about sourdough?
- How do you like to eat your sourdough bread?
- What other baking experiments do you want to try?
- Which are your favorite pieces of equipment for making sourdough, and where do you purchase them?
- What’s the number one thing people new to sourdough baking should know?
- What did you wish you knew when you started baking sourdough bread?
Check out Food52’s YouTube channel for more great tips.