I was one of many who took up the long-postponed hobby of sourdough baking in early 2020. Though my starter has gone through some fits and starts in the intervening time, it has been fun to share loaves with friends – and to learn quite a bit along the way. This traditional sourdough recipe is an amalgam of several basic sourdough recipes that I’ve tried, and it’s the one my family has christened their favorite.Jump to Recipe
I wouldn’t call this traditional sourdough a “beginner” recipe. It does require some kneading, and you need to have a good relationship with your starter before you can successfully bake this bread. (I.e. you need to understand how fast it doubles in size, and it needs to be fully active.) But, if you’ve already had success with a yeast-assisted sourdough, and you feel like you’ve mastered no-knead sourdough, you’re ready to try this traditional sourdough bread recipe.
Over the past few months, I’ve realized that sourdough is less a hobby and more a lifestyle. You need to be in tune with your starter and figure out its schedule before you will have success making bread. I’ve found the resources on the King Arthur Baking website to be incredibly helpful as I’ve learned more about the sourdough baking process. They have excellent step-by-step instructions on how to make your own starter, how to keep your starter alive, and so much more. This isn’t sponsored; I simply want to share with you some of the resources that have been helpful in my own sourdough journey.
One important point before we get to the ingredients: bread requires specificity. All of the units in the recipe card are listed in grams – not in cups or tablespoons – because we need to carefully balance the ingredients in this bread. You will need a food scale. It is worth the investment. If you ever watched the Magic School Bus, you know that baking is chemistry – and never more than with sourdough.
Ingredients for traditional sourdough bread
- Active sourdough starter. Your starter needs to double in size within 6-12 hours in order to provide adequate rise for this bread. Start the process of baking this bread when your starter is at its peak height. For an efficient rise on your final loaf, I recommend feeding your starter 2-3 times during the 36 hours leading up to making your official dough.
- Neutral oil (I prefer avocado oil)
- Bread flour
- Kosher salt
- Farina (also known as Cream of Wheat cereal ) – for transferring your loaf if you are using a pizza stone. You can substitute cornmeal or omit entirely.
This recipe was originally published in autumn 2021, as part of my Bookish Bakes series – inspired by the book Les Miserables, by Victor Hugo. If you’d like to see the other books on that list you can check out my affiliate page on Bookshop.org; note that I would earn a small commission should you choose to make a purchase.
Traditional sourdough timeline – an oversimplified summary
This sourdough recipe involves a lot of time passively rising, which can be tricky to coordinate – especially your first time baking it. Following is the schedule I tend to follow if baking this bread on a weekend. Note that all rising times are relative – base your actions more on the dough’s ability to double in size, not just on the clock.
3pm on Day 1
Feed your sourdough starter for the final time before baking. Hopefully you fed your starter 2-3 times during the previous 36 hours to ensure it’s at peak activity.
9pm on Day 1
Combine initial ingredients and let rest.
9:45pm on Day 1
Mix in salt and knead. Transfer to a clean bowl and let rise.
7:00am on Day 2
Slice dough in half. Transfer to a floured container.
7:30am on Day 2
Preheat oven with baking implement inside.
7:45am on Day 2
Score dough and carefully transfer to baking implement. Bake.
8:45am on Day 2
Remove bread from oven and allow to cool.
9:45am on Day 2
Slice and serve.
How to make traditional sourdough bread
Start by combine all ingredients except for the salt in a large bowl. Use your hands to thoroughly mix and slightly knead this dough. Allow it to rest for 45 minutes before mixing in the salt. Then, knead for 1 minute.
The big rise – Place your dough in a bowl and allow it to rest for 6-12 hours, depending on your kitchen temperature and your dough’s rate of rise. You will be ready to move to the next step when the dough has doubled in size. For this step, I usually put my dough inside my oven and turn the the light on. This keeps the temperature consistent (with no drafts) around 80 degrees F – perfect conditions for natural yeast action. I usually let this rise happen overnight or while I’m at work.
Once dough has doubled in size, place it on a clean surface (a silicone mat or a slightly floured countertop, to avoid sticking). Slice dough in half. Form each half into a ball, either by lifting and folding or by using a bench scraper to tuck the edges to the center.
Once your dough is a satisfactory shape, place it in a floured banneton or in a bowl lined with a thoroughly-floured tea towel. Allow it to rest at room temperature or warmer for 30 minutes.
Place your Dutch oven and/or a pizza stone in oven and preheat to 450 degrees F. (If you don’t have either of these implements, you can absolutely bake this on a baking sheet. However, if doing so, you don’t need to preheat your baking sheet. Dutch ovens and pizza stones are made of thicker material and will transfer heat better to the metal if they are preheated along with the oven.
Once the oven is preheated and at least 30 minutes have passed, turn your dough out onto parchment paper (if placing in Dutch oven). If you are transferring your bread onto a pizza stone, I recommend covering a pizza peel with farina (also known as Cream of Wheat cereal; you can substitute cornmeal) and placing your bread atop this surface. Then, you can easily slide your dough onto the hot pizza stone, just like the fancy pizza restaurants. The farina will give the bread a nice crunchy bottom surface and it will make it easier to move your bread from one surface to another.
Score the dough using a serrated knife and transfer the bread to your preheated cooking implement of choice. If you are baking your bread in a covered Dutch oven, transfer the entire sheet of parchment paper (complete with dough) and gently set the dough into the hot Dutch oven. Hopefully your parchment is long enough that some hangs over the sides, leading to easier removal when your bread finishes baking.
Reduce the oven temperature to 400 degrees F. If baking in a Dutch oven, leave the lid on for 20 minutes. Then, remove the lid and bake for an additional 40 minutes. If you are baking on a pizza stone, allow the bread for an uninterrupted 60 minutes.
Once the bread has baked, remove it from the oven and allow it to cool on a wire rack for at least 1 hour before slicing and serving. I know, this is the hardest part! Your kitchen will smell amazing but you still can’t eat your bread. But, I promise – the wait is worth it. This traditional sourdough needs that cooling time to set up. If you slice the bread while it’s too hot, you’ll compromise the structural integrity of your loaf – and you’ll be sad.
“But wait!” you may ask. “This recipe makes two loaves! How do I bake them both at once?” Be creative! My oven doesn’t fit both a pizza stone and a Dutch oven at the same time. I’ve seen no ill effects from baking the loaves sequentially – it seems to be fairly forgiving during that final rise. You could also use a baking sheet for one loaf and one of the aforementioned methods for the other.
However you end up making this dough, I would love to hear how it turns out for you! Please, leave a message in the comments below or tag photos of your beautiful boules with @WhiskAverseBaking. If you aren’t quite ready for the challenge of traditional sourdough, you can always click the “Pin Recipe” button below to save this for later.
Traditional Sourdough Bread
- Dutch oven and/or pizza stone
- 200 g active sourdough starter 7 oz
- 350 g water 1 ½ cups
- 30 g avocado oil 3 tablespoons
- 660 g bread flour 4 ½ cups
- 10 g kosher salt 1 teaspoon
- ½ cup Farina/cream of wheat for sprinkling on pizza stone (can substitute cornmeal)
- Combine all ingredients except for the salt in a large bowl. Use your hands to thoroughly mix and slightly knead.
- Allow to rest for 45 minutes before mixing in salt. Knead for 1 minute.
- Place dough in a bowl and allow to rest for 6-12 hours, depending on your kitchen temperature. You will be ready to move to the next step when the dough has doubled in size.
- Once dough has doubled, place on a clean surface (silicone or slightly floured, to avoid sticking). Slice dough in half. Form each half into a ball, either by lifting and folding or by using a bench scraper to tuck the edges to the center.
- Once your dough is a satisfactory shape, place it in a floured banneton or in a bowl lined with a thoroughly-floured tea towel. Allow it to rest at room temperature or warmer for 30 minutes.
- Place your dutch oven and/or a pizza stone in oven and preheat to 450 degrees F.
- Once the oven is preheated and at least 30 minutes have passed, turn your bread dough out onto parchment paper (if placing in dutch oven) or a pizza peel/parchment covered with farina (if moving to a pizza stone).
- Score the bread using a bread knife, and place the bread on the hot pizza stone or into the Dutch oven. Reduce oven heat to 400 degrees F.
- For Dutch oven bread: bake, covered for 20 minutes. Then, carefully remove the lid and bake uncovered for an additional 40 minutes.
- For pizza stone bread: bake for 60 minutes.
- Once bread has baked, remove from oven and allow to cool on a wire rack for at least 1 hour before slicing and serving.