Your First Classic Sourdough Loaf

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Your First Classic Sourdough Loaf

Henry Hunter
A Sourdough Odyssey: Welcoming a New Initiate
Welcome, dear apprentice, to the world of sourdough bread baking, a realm where flour, water, salt, yeast, and time intertwine to create something truly magical. As you stand on the threshold of this ancient art, you are not just learning to bake bread; you are being inducted into a fraternity of artisans, a fellowship of flavor crafters who have been nurturing loaves for centuries.
Your first step in this odyssey is to christen your sourdough starter. This living, breathing entity is more than just a mixture of flour and water; it's a companion on your culinary journey. Name it with affection, for it will be your closest ally in the kitchen. Let’s call it 'Aurora,' a beacon in the dawn of your baking voyage.
In the world of sourdough bread, the clock, scales, and measuring cups are mere guides; your true compass is your intuition. You'll learn to listen to Aurora, understanding when she's hungry and needs feeding, when she's vivacious and ready to leaven. Your hands will become attuned to the dough, feeling when it needs a gentle stretch, a rest, or to be shaped into its final form.
Embrace the fact that every loaf tells its own story. Sourdough is not just a recipe but a relationship, a dance between baker, dough, and environment. The same recipe will whisper different secrets in the heat of summer and the chill of winter. You'll learn to adjust, adapt, and, most importantly, to trust your senses.
As you embark on this journey, remember that each loaf you bake is a reflection of your care, your environment, and the unique character of Aurora. Celebrate the victories, learn from the loaves that challenge you, and always bake with joy. Welcome to the fraternity of sourdough bakers, a world where every loaf enriches your story and connects you to the timeless tradition of bread-making. Remember, wet hands for sticky dough. May your oven always be warm and your crusts golden! Now let's get started.
Prep Time 15 hours
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 15 hours 45 minutes
Course Bread
Cuisine American
Servings 15 Slices
Calories 187 kcal


  • Large Mixing Bowl: For combining and resting the dough.
  • Kitchen Scale: For precise measurement of ingredients (optional but recommended).
  • Measuring Cups and Spoons: For measuring ingredients if not using a scale.
  • Dough Scraper: To handle and shape the dough.
  • Banneton Basket or Bowl: Lined with a cloth for the second rise (optional).
  • Parchment Paper: To easily transfer the dough to the baking vessel.
  • Dutch Oven or Heavy Baking Tray: For baking the bread.
  • Sharp Knife or Lame: For scoring the dough.
  • Wire Rack: For cooling the bread after baking.


  • Bread Flour: 500 g 4 cups
  • Water: 375 mL about 1½ cups (75% hydration)
  • Sourdough Starter: 100 g approximately ⅓ cup + 1½ tablespoons, assuming the starter is 100% hydration. (20% Inoculation)
  • Sea Salt: 10 g 1¾ teaspoons (2%)


  • Mixing for Autolyse: In a large bowl, begin by combining the water, and sourdough starter until well combined. Then add the bread flour. Stir until they form a shaggy mass without any dry spots, ensuring all the flour is hydrated. Cover the bowl and let it rest for 45 minutes. This period is known as the autolyse, where the natural enzymes and yeast start working, enhancing the dough’s extensibility and elasticity.
  • Adding Salt: After the rest, sprinkle sea salt over the dough. With damp hands, gently press the salt into the dough, folding it over itself to incorporate the salt evenly.
  • Rubaud Method Mixing: (see video) Now, employ the Rubaud method to mix your dough. Using this technique, mix for about 10 minutes. You’ll notice the dough becoming smoother and the salt crystals dissolving – these are tactile cues indicating sufficient mixing. Cover and let it rest again for 45 minutes.
  • First Stretch and Fold: Perform the first stretch and fold by lifting one side of the dough and folding it over onto itself. Rotate the bowl 90 degrees and repeat this process until you’ve folded the dough over from each side and flipped it upside down. Cover and let it rest for another 45 minutes.
  • Second Stretch and Fold: Repeat the stretch and fold process, ensuring even development of the gluten network. Let the dough rest for an additional 45 minutes.
  • Assessing Dough Strength: By now, the dough should feel smooth, elastic, and extensible. If it doesn’t appear strong enough, perform another stretch and fold, followed by a rest period.
  • Pre-Shaping: Gently turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface, allowing gravity to help release it from the bowl. Stretch the dough into a rectangle. Fold the bottom third up, then fold the left corner to the center, followed by the right corner. Finally, fold the top down like closing an envelope. Fold the top corners towards the center, then roll it up jelly roll style to form a round loaf. This pre-shape communicates the desired final shape to the dough, whether a boule or a batard.
  • Final Shaping and Banneton: For the final shaping, create tension in the dough and place it seam-side up in a banneton. Cover with a shower cap or plastic bag.
  • Cold Bulk Fermentation: Transfer the banneton to the refrigerator for the bulk fermentation. This slow fermentation will develop flavor and structure in the dough.
  • Preheating and Scoring:
  • Preheat the Oven: The next morning, remove the dough from the refrigerator. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit (230 degrees Celsius) with the Dutch oven inside for at least 30 minutes. During this time, place your banneton in the freezer; this firms up the dough’s surface, making it easier to score.
  • Scoring the Dough: Once the oven is preheated, remove the banneton from the freezer. Carefully transfer the dough onto a piece of parchment paper. Using a lame or sharp knife, make your primary slash and any decorative slashes as desired. The contrast in temperature will not affect the dough significantly but will provide a better surface for scoring.
  • Baking the Bread:
  • Initial Bake with Lid On: Carefully transfer the dough into the preheated Dutch oven using the parchment paper. Cover with the lid and bake for 22 minutes. This initial covered baking creates steam, which helps in developing a nice crust.
  • Final Bake for Crust Development: After 22 minutes, remove the lid from the Dutch oven. Continue baking for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, or until the bread is golden brown and the internal temperature reaches 200 degrees Fahrenheit (93 degrees Celsius). This final stage of baking without the lid allows the crust to develop fully.
  • Cooling:
  • Cooling the Bread: Carefully remove the bread from the Dutch oven and place it on a wire rack to cool completely. Resist the temptation to slice into it immediately; cooling is crucial as it allows the bread’s interior to set properly.
  • Enjoy Your Creation:
  • Congratulations! You’ve just baked your first sourdough loaf. The joy of slicing into a loaf that you’ve nurtured and baked yourself is incomparable. Enjoy the fruits of your labor, one slice at a time



Starter Consistency: Ensure your sourdough starter is active and bubbly for the best results.
Flour Variations: Feel free to experiment with different types of flour, like whole wheat or rye, for unique flavors.
Hydration: Adjust the water amount slightly depending on the flour’s absorption.
Scoring: Before baking, score the top of the loaf with a sharp knife to allow for expansion.
Congratulations on taking your first step into the world of sourdough baking! This recipe is a wonderful introduction to the nuances of natural yeast and the joy of creating bread from scratch. Remember, sourdough baking is as much an art as it is a science; each loaf tells a story of patience, care, and the unique character of your starter.
Happy baking!

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