Homemade Sourdough Bread, Step by Step | girlversusdough.com

Awwwwwwww man, you guys. This post. THIS BREAD. It’s been a very long time coming.

Remember when I said I wanted to make more basic bread recipes for all y’alls on here? Well, that was the push I needed to finally get my hands dirty in the sourdough bucket, if you will (that sounds so gross, actually. Pretend I never said that).

I don’t know what it was about the good ol’ sourdough that made me so nervous. Probably the same thing that makes me nervous to make things like macarons, cheesecakes and puff pastries — precision, energy and patience that may end up yielding an epic fail. BUT! Having now made the sourdough, I am here to tell you that it is, in fact, not scary at all and while yes, patience is required, truly I tell you it is one of the easiest breads I have made in my years of carbo-loading bread baking.

And if that’s not enough to convince you to drop everything and make yo’self some sourdough today (OK OK, you can have your coffee first), I have some nifty step-by-step photos for you, so it’s like we’re making sourdough together! Which would be my favorite thing, ever. REALLY. Please come over and let’s hang out and bake schtuff.

Here we go!

Homemade Sourdough Bread, Step by Step -- you'll never know how easy sourdough is to make at home until you try it! girlversusdough.com @girlversusdough

This loaf you see here is actually my third attempt at making sourdough — third time’s the charm in bread baking, I guess. My first attempt was with a recipe found in Betty Crocker’s The Big Book of Bread (love this book!) and at first I thought the recipe yielded a very bland bread when in fact, as I learned later by using an older starter in my second and third attempts (and using a recipe I found on The Kitchn), I probably just didn’t let the starter sit/feed for long enough. SO. Pro tip #1: Don’t be surprised if your very-new baby starter doesn’t yield a very “sourdough-y” tasting bread. In time, the flavor will get stronger and it will taste more and more like what you get at a bakery, a.k.a. that taste that compelled me and my husband to eat a whole loaf in one afternoon. No regrets.

Regardless, I found The Kitchn’s recipe to be easy to follow with simple ingredients and steps, and the loaf’s texture, crumb and crust were most like classic sourdough.

So here’s what you do:

Make sure you have:

1) A very large (2-quart) non-metal bowl (a ginormous mason jar or a glass/ceramic/plastic bowl works best)
2) A wooden spoon and,
3) If you’ve got one, a kitchen scale (no worries if you don’t have one! Measuring cups will do just dandy, though I do recommend getting a scale if you bake a lot, especially bread. Weighing flour helps majorly with yielding better results).

Be prepared to wait at least five days before you actually get to bake the sourdough. What I like about this recipe is that, as far as timing for the actual bake day, it’s very flexible — meaning I don’t have to get up at 2 a.m. to bake a loaf based on when I made the starter and such, ya know?

Homemade Sourdough Bread, Step by Step | girlversusdough.com

On the first day, combine 4 ounces of all-purpose flour (a.k.a. 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) and 4 ounces room temperature water (a.k.a. 1/2 cup, and preferably filtered) with a wooden spoon in the large, clean bowl or large mason jar until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap (or cover the mason jar with the lid left slightly ajar) and let it sit in a dark, warm-ish place (70 to 75 degrees F is ideal) for 24 hours. Hooray! You’ve started a starter.

Homemade Sourdough Bread, Step by Step | girlversusdough.com

On the second day, the starter should be slightly bubbly on top — but DO NOT FREAK OUT if it doesn’t. It will get there! Once again, add 4 ounces (3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) all-purpose flour and 4 ounces (1/2 cup) room temperature water to the starter and stir well with a wooden spoon until smooth. Cover the bowl or jar loosely and return it to that dark, warm-ish spot for another 24 hours.

Homemade Sourdough Bread, Step by Step | girlversusdough.com

On the third day, the starter should have some bubbles on the top, will have grown a wee bit in size, be slightly thicker and maybe even start having that sour-ish smell — again, DO NOT FREAK OUT if it doesn’t. Over time, these things will happen. Once again, add 4 ounces (3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) all-purpose flour and 4 ounces (1/2 cup) room temperature water to the starter and stir well with a wooden spoon until smooth. Cover the bowl or jar loosely and return it to that dark, warm-ish spot for another 24 hours.

Homemade Sourdough Bread, Step by Step | girlversusdough.com

On the fourth day, you should see quite a few bubbles on top and get a waft of something pungent, sour and vinegar-y from the starter. It should also have grown nearly double in size and feel a bit looser when you stir it. It may not look too different than it did yesterday (on Day 3), but the consistency should be looser and it should have a stronger smell — all indicators that you’ve got a healthy, happy starter. Once again, add 4 ounces (3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) all-purpose flour and 4 ounces (1/2 cup) room temperature water to the starter and stir well with a wooden spoon until smooth. Cover the bowl or jar loosely and return it to that dark, warm-ish spot for another 24 hours.

Side note: If it doesn’t look or smell like you have a healthy, happy starter? Keep feeding it (as in, add the flour and water) for another day or two and see if it changes — if it doesn’t, something probably wasn’t fresh enough or the bowl and spoon weren’t clean enough, and you’ll have to start over (sad face emoji).

Homemade Sourdough Bread, Step by Step | girlversusdough.com

On the fifth day, hurrah! Your starter is ready to use! By now, the starter should have grown in size significantly (nearly doubled since Day 4) and it should be very loose and bubbly, almost frothy. It should also smell a little sour and vinegar-y, just like sourdough.

You can either use the starter to bake with it at this point, or maintain it until you’re ready to use it. My suggestion? Maintain it for another week or even two so you can strengthen that sourdough taste before you bake with it. You’ll get much better results in flavah if you exercise a little patience.

Homemade Sourdough Bread, Step by Step | girlversusdough.com

To maintain the starter from Day 5 and beyond, discard half of the starter and add 4 ounces (3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) flour and 4 ounces (1/2 cup) water to the starter. Stir it with a wooden spoon until smooth, scrape down the sides of the bowl and cover it loosely with plastic wrap or a lid left ajar. If you plan to use it within a few days, leave the starter in that dark, warm-ish place and, every 24 hours, discard half of it and feed it (a.k.a., add the flour and water). If it will be longer than a few days? Just cover the container tightly and refrigerate it. Once a week, take the starter out of the fridge, discard half of it (or use that half), and feed it. Leave it out on the kitchen counter for a few hours (or even overnight) so the yeast can recuperate before you re-cover it and put it back in the fridge. Capisce?

Now onto the baking!

In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the warm water and yeast called for in the recipe (which yields two sandwich loaves, by the by). Stir until the yeast is dissolved, then let it sit for a few minutes so the yeast can activate and get slightly foamy.

Homemade Sourdough Bread, Step by Step | girlversusdough.com

Add the starter, then stir it in until it’s mostly dissolved (it’s cool if there are a few stringy bits leftover. Yummmmm, stringy bits).

Homemade Sourdough Bread, Step by Step | girlversusdough.com

Homemade Sourdough Bread, Step by Step | girlversusdough.com

Add 4 cups of flour and the salt to the bowl and stir until a shaggy dough forms. Knead the dough — either in the stand mixer or by hand — until it’s soft, smooth, elastic and only slightly sticky.

Homemade Sourdough Bread, Step by Step | girlversusdough.com

Homemade Sourdough Bread, Step by Step | girlversusdough.com

Shape the dough into a ball and place it in a large, lightly greased bowl. Turn it once to coat the dough. Cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap or a thin towel and let it rise 1 1/2 to 2 hours until nearly doubled in size.

Homemade Sourdough Bread, Step by Step | girlversusdough.com

When the dough is doubled, punch it down to remove the excess air and divide it in half. Shape each piece into a smooth ball and place them on a lightly floured surface. Cover them with a thin towel or lightly greased plastic wrap and let them rest for 20 minutes.

Homemade Sourdough Bread, Step by Step | girlversusdough.com

Homemade Sourdough Bread, Step by Step | girlversusdough.com

Lightly grease two loaf pans. Shape each loaf into a sandwich loaf (see the recipe before for a link to a super-dee-duper tutorial!) and place each loaf in a prepared loaf pan. Cover the loaves with a thin towel or lightly greased plastic wrap and let them rise 1 1/2 to 2 hours until the dough just begins to peek out over the top of the pans. Pssst: Mine never quite made it there, but all was well in the end!

Homemade Sourdough Bread, Step by Step | girlversusdough.com

Heat the oven to 450 degrees F. Just before you place the loaves in the oven — and I mean JUST before, so they don’t deflate — slash the tops of the loaves a few times with a very sharp serrated knife. Immediately place the loaves on the center rack of the oven. Bake them for 10 minutes at 450 degrees F, then reduce the temperature to 400 degrees F and bake them for another 25 to 30 minutes, or until the loaves are a deep golden brown on top and sound hollow on the bottom when you tap them (here’s a video I made that shows you how that’s done).

Homemade Sourdough Bread, Step by Step | girlversusdough.com

Finally, remove the loaves from the pans and place them on a cooling rack to cool completely before slicing (torture of tortures, I know!).

Now that I’ve written you a novel on how to make sourdough bread, Imma stop here and let you get to baking. Because you’re going to do this! And you’re going to be great at it, I just know it. Just pretty please invite me over to taste test it/steal a loaf under my arm on my way out, kthanksbye.

Homemade Sourdough Bread, Step by Step | girlversusdough.com

Sourdough Bread
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yields: 2 9-by-5-inch loaves
 
Ingredients
For the starter –
  • All-purpose flour
  • Water (preferably filtered)
  • 2-quart glass or plastic container (not metal)
  • Scale (optional, but preferred)
  • Wooden mixing spoon
  • Plastic wrap or container lid
For the bread –
  • 1¼ cups warm water (about 115 degrees F)
  • 1½ teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 2 cups sourdough starter
  • 4 to 4½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 scant tablespoon salt
Directions
For the starter –
  1. Day 1: Make the starter. Combine 4 ounces (3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) flour and 4 ounces (1/2 cup) water in the 2-quart container. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Cover loosely with plastic wrap or container lid, left ajar. Let sit in a consistently warm place (70 to 75 degrees F) for 24 hours.
  2. Day 2: Feed the starter. The starter should have a few bubbles on the surface (if not, no worries! It’ll get there). Add 4 ounces (3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) flour and 4 ounces (1/2 cup) water to the batter in the container. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Cover loosely with plastic wrap or container lid, left ajar. Let sit in a consistently warm place (70 to 75 degrees F) for 24 hours.
  3. Day 3: Feed the starter. The starter should have some bubbles on the top, have grown a bit in size and have a bit of a sour smell (again, if not yet, no worries!). It should also be slightly thicker in consistency. Add 4 ounces (3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) flour and 4 ounces (1/2 cup) water to the batter in the container. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Cover loosely with plastic wrap or container lid, left ajar. Let sit in a consistently warm place (70 to 75 degrees F) for 24 hours.
  4. Day 4: Feed the starter. At this point, you should be seeing quite a few bubbles on the top and smell a pungent, sour, vinegar-y smell. It should also have grown in size (nearly double) and feel a bit looser when you stir it. It may not look that different from Day 3, but the consistency should be looser and it should have a stronger smell – those are your biggest indicators that it’s working. Add 4 ounces (3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) flour and 4 ounces (1/2 cup) water to the batter in the container. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Cover loosely with plastic wrap or container lid, left ajar. Let sit in a consistently warm place (70 to 75 degrees F) for 24 hours.
  5. Day 5: Starter is ready to use. At this point, the sourdough starter should have grown in size significantly (nearly doubled in bulk since Day 4), and it should be very loose and bubbly, almost frothy. It should also smell like sourdough – a little sour and vinegar-y. You can either use it for your recipe at this point, or maintain it.
  6. To Maintain Your Starter (Day 5 and Beyond): If you’re not planning to use the starter right away, discard half of the starter, then add 4 ounces (3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) flour and 4 ounces (1/2 cup) water to the batter in the container. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Cover loosely with plastic wrap or container lid, left ajar.
  7. If you plan to use the starter within the next few days, you can leave it out in a consistently warm place (70 to 75 degrees F) and, every 24 hours, discard half and feed it. If it will be longer than a few days, cover the container tightly and refrigerate it. Once a week, take the starter out of the fridge, discard half (or use it), and feed it. Leave it out on the counter for a few hours (or overnight) so the yeast can recuperate before re-covering it and putting it back in the fridge.
For the bread –
  1. In a large bowl or bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine warm water and yeast. Stir to dissolve yeast, then let sit 5 minutes so yeast can fully dissolve.
  2. Add sourdough starter; stir until well combined and starter is mostly dissolved (there may be a few stringy bits left, and that’s OK).
  3. Add 4 cups flour and salt to the bowl. Stir until combined and a shaggy dough forms. Use dough hook attachment to knead dough on low speed 8 to 10 minutes, adding more flour as needed until a soft, smooth, elastic and only slightly sticky dough forms; OR, turn out shaggy dough on a lightly floured surface and knead by hand 10 to 15 minutes, adding more flour as needed until a soft, smooth, elastic and only slightly sticky dough forms.
  4. Shape dough into a ball and place in a large, lightly oiled bowl; turn to coat dough in oil. Cover loosely with plastic wrap or a tea towel and let rise in a warm place 1 ½ to 2 hours until doubled.
  5. Punch down risen dough. Divide in two, then shape each piece into a ball. Place dough on a lightly floured surface. Cover with a tea towel and let rest 20 minutes.
  6. Lightly grease two 9-by-5-inch loaf pans. Shape each ball of dough into a sandwich loaf (see an excellent how-to here). Place each loaf in prepared loaf pans. Cover with a tea towel and let rise 1 ½ to 2 ½ hours until dough just begins to peek out over the top of the loaf pans (mine never made it quite this far after 2 ½ hours, but all was well).
  7. Heat oven to 450 degrees F. Just before placing loaves in the oven, slash the tops a few times with a very sharp serrated knife. Immediately place loaves on center rack of oven and close the door. Bake 10 minutes at 450 degrees F, then reduce oven temperature to 400 degrees F. Bake another 25 to 30 minutes until loaves are deep golden brown on top and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.
  8. Remove loaves from pans and transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.
  9. NOTE: Prep time does not include the 5 days it takes to make the starter. Just FYI.
 

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

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