Over the years I have made many kinds of bread. But one of my favorite bread recipes is this sourdough recipe. While I enjoy getting my hands dirty in a loaf of bread, kneading has never been my favorite task. This recipe was the perfect solution.
What is sourdough dough and how did it come to be?
Sourdough bread is made from naturally fermented yeast. The bread itself consists mainly of only four ingredients: flour, water, salt, and the sourdough starter. Due to the occasional complications with keeping your own starter, sourdough has become much less common. It is also not as common as it used to be due to the ease of access to store-bought yeast. While you can now purchase a starter mix at the store, you can easily make your own at home.
Sourdough bread itself dates back, including through the middle ages when it was the primary bread type because of easy access to the raw materials (flour & water). In the past, a portion of the bread mix was set aside before baking for use the next day. This kept the yeast growing.
Sourdough also became quite common among the early pioneers that traveled west in search of gold and new lands. It was easy to make and was easy to bake in Dutch ovens and similar early cast ware that they used. Most sourdough bread is now considered ‘Artisan’ and shaped into round loaves.
Gluten, Sourdough, and Kneading
While there are many bread recipes out there that are considered gluten-free, this bread is not one of them. Gluten is important to most loaves of bread. It is how it gives the bread structure. The more kneading and working of the dough the more gluten that is formed. To achieve an optimal bread structure that is good for sandwiches and all-around eating you need to balance the kneading with a resting period. You can both underwork and overwork bread. If you underwork the bread, then it will not have the strength needed to hold the CO2 which is what causes the pockets in your bread. An overworked bread will have so much strength that it can’t create gas pockets and the bread will be very dense and chewy.
The nice thing with this sourdough bread is it takes no kneading. On the flip side of the coin because we are not putting in the manual effort to help the gluten form it takes way more time. In fact, this recipe will take you around 12-16 hours to complete before you throw it in the oven.
Ready to make bread? Let’s get started.
The beginning of any good sourdough recipe is going to be the starter. If you don’t have your own starter, you need to head on over here and learn how to make some. Now that you have your starter, there are just a few other things that you will need.
Flour – We prefer to purchase unbleached flour when possible. You can also use whole wheat flour for this recipe.
Salt – Any salt will do, but we use fine ground sea salt or pink Himalayan salt. I just like the flavor better.
Water – While your basic tap water will work, I have found that filtered water works better. And room temperature works even better than that.
Oil – This is totally optional, but in our oven, it helps give the crust a little more crunch and color. If your oven only heats from below this might be needed.
When making many recipes, including this one it is always best to combine your dry ingredients first. In this case, first, add your salt to a large mixing bowl. Remember the bread needs room to expand, so choose a large bowl. You also want one that can be covered, so you don’t dry your bread out during the extended rising time. Our bowls do not have covers, but a damp towel works well for us.
Once your flour is in the bowl, use the spoon to mix the flour and salt together. Next, add your starter and water. Now, this may sound crazy but flip your spoon over and use the handle to mix. The handle works as a bread hook and the dough does not get so stuck on it. Mix it together until it is just combined and still has little crumbs.
Now it’s time to get your hands dirty. Hand mix until the dough forms a smooth ball. This should not take more than a minute or so. You don’t need much, just bring it all together. The dough should not be overly sticky. If it is sticky, toss a little flour over the ball and turn it over so it’s coated. There should not be much dough on the bowl if any at all. Also, try to get all the seams tucked in neatly and facing the bottom of the bowl.
Cover the bowl with a damp towel, plastic wrap, or lid and place in a warm area overnight. I leave ours on top of the stove. It should have at least 8 hours to just rise. Once risen it should at least double. Don’t worry if it goes more than that.
After the first rise, punch down the dough and shape. I bake our bread in a 1.5QT Pyrex bread pan. You can also use a Dutch oven or baking stone. The Pyrex makes a neat loaf shape, which I think works best for sandwiches. As such my shaping is just lightly buttering or oiling the pan, dropping it in, and making sure it is level and all the way into the corners. Cover again with a damp towel.
Let rise for at least an hour. Since I use the Pyrex, I let it rise until the bread has come almost level with the top of the pan. As the time gets closer, I preheat our oven to 400-425 degrees. It’s a gas oven and takes a while to come to temperature, so around 30 minutes before baking. I want the oven nice and hot.
Before baking, slash the top a few times. This gives the bread a space to expand rather than popping out the side. Makes for a more uniform and neater-looking loaf. As I mentioned previously, our oven only heats from the bottom. To get a golden crust, I take a small amount of olive oil and rub it over the top using my fingers. I think this also helps the bread to rise evenly.
Bake the bread for 45 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches between 195 and 205 degrees. The crust should be golden brown. If during baking it starts to get dark, cover with foil. Once done, transfer to wire rack and allow to cool some before slicing.
Serve warm with butter or allow to fully cool and use as sandwich bread.
The taste of your sourdough will vary from batch to batch. This is from the natural version of the starter and how long it gets to ferment between batches.
Some people prefer a much thicker crust. To achieve these results, you can go with a higher oven temperature for the first 15 minutes. Or you can pre-heat your cooking vessel such as a Dutch oven.
If the opposite from above is true and your crust turned out too hard before the bread cools you can again cover with a dry towel. The steam trapped around the bread will help to soften the crust. Alternatively, you can soften by buttering the outside, albeit this method is much messier. Lastly, you can add in ingredients such as nuts and grains between the two proofs. Since you do not knead before the first proof, the items would be too heavy and all sink to the bottom. By adding between they should do ok and not hold back the rise as much. It may take more time for the second rise.
A sharp bread knife is important to get clean slices. Being that we live small, we opted to go with knives that have a sleeve to protect them and everyone’s hands. We have had this bread knife for two years now and it still works just as well as the day we bought it.
No-Knead Sourdough Bread Recipe
This sourdough recipe takes minimal ingredients and little time input and turns into a tasty sourdough bread that works well for sandwiches or dipping in a soup.
4 cups flour (all-purpose works fine)
2 tsp salt
3 tbsp olive oil
1 cup active (fed or unfed) sourdough starter
1 cup water (adjust up or down as needed)
- Combine flour and salt in a large bowl. Then add olive oil, starter, and water. Mix until just combined.
- Cover with a lid or a damp towel and allow to rise for at least 8 hours. The dough should at least double.
- Punch down and shape into desired loaf or pan. Cover again and allow to rest for at least another hour.
- Bake at 400-425 degrees F for around 45 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 195.
- Serve warm with butter, or allow to cool for better sandwich bread.
- Add any nuts, etc as desired during the shaping step before the second rise.
- Using the handle of a spoon works well as a dough hook.