Easy Sourdough Bread
I started making my own sourdough bread recently. While I have been fascinated for a long time, I always felt intimidated by the process. However, when a good friend of mine inspired me to finally try it out, I quickly got hooked. It is not only incredibly delicious, but also easy and a much healthier and better quality alternative to store bought breads. My kids love sourdough and its the best feeling knowing that I’m in complete control of what is in it. That’s thing about sourdough; is that it simply water + flour + salt + some sourdough starter culture. And its fun to mix up the flour ratios and add different seeds to it.
The sourdough starter is a mix of water + flour that have naturally fermented into a live culture. This starter culture not only helps the sourdough bread rise and become fluffy, but it also helps break down and predigest the grain and gluten – making it easier to digest and with more bioavailable nutrients that can support, rather than damage, your gut. This is why some people who are gluten sensitive and don’t tolerate commercial breads very well, have no digestive symptoms when eating good quality sourdough bread.
Below I have listed how to make your own sourdough starter culture as well as how to make the actual bread once your live starter culture is ready.
Sourdough Bread Recipe
There are video instructions for this exact recipe on my Instagram account in the saved the highlights. @reginabarkernutrition.
- 520 gm room temperature filtered water
- 15 gm (1 tablespoon) fine sea salt
- 175 gm (3/4 cup) active sourdough starter that’s been fed at 4-6 hours prior to baking and is bubbly and has risen well.
- 100 gm rye flour
- 200 gm wholemeal flour
- 450 gm plain wheat flour
- Optional: add 50-70 gm of mixed seeds (poppy/sesame/sunflower/chia/pumpkin seeds)
- Combine water and sourdough starter and stir gently.
- Add flour, salt + seeds (if using) and mix it all together for a few minutes using a spoon or your hands.
- Once the dough is well combined, cover with cling wrap or a wet tea towel and leave to rest at room temperature for 10-16 hours depending on the temperature in your kitchen. If your house is cool you can leave it longer, but if you’re in a hot climate, I’d stick with 6-8 hours so you don’t prove it for too long (this can result in a brick-like bread as well)
- After the dough has rested at room temperature, gently take the dough onto a lightly floured surface and fold the dough over itself using your hands. Wet your hands to better manage the stickiness of the dough. Resist the urge to add more flour as this will likely result in flat, brick-like bread. Now place the dough back in your bowl and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before baking (or overnight if you prefer baking in the morning).
- Preheat oven to 240C (460F) and line a dutch oven with non stick parchment paper.
- Remove your dough from the fridge and shape it into a nice round ball (wet hands make it easier!)
- Once oven is ready, place your round dough in the dutch oven – cover with the lid and bake for 30 mins at 240C. After 30 mins remove the lid and lower heat to 220C (430F) and bake for an additional 20-30 mins (depends on your oven so keep an eye on it). Remove bread and pop it out of the dutch oven to cool on a cooling rack. The bottom should sound hollow when tapped. Leave to cool for 20 mins before cutting into it.
(from left) The sourdough right after combining all the ingredients — The sourdough after resting and rising — the sourdough right before doing in the oven
Making Sourdough Starter
Sourdough starters can be tricky. I have tried and failed several times and have found that rye flour is by far the easiest to get going and maintain. I therefore recommend using a combination of rye and wholemeal/plain flour as the rye has more wild bacteria, which helps get a solid active starter. Make sure you use high quality flours for your starter in the beginning especially – organic + unbleached flours are best, and if you can get a stone ground flour, even better!
When first starting a sourdough starter, you want to start with
- 50 gm flour (an equal(ish) mix of rye and wholewheat/wheat)
- 50 gm room temp filtered water (make sure it has no chlorine as this will kill the organisms you’re trying to cultivate)
Combine in glass jar and cover with a small cloth or loose lid, and leave for 48 hours. After 48 hrs, take out 50 gm of the starter and discard the rest. Transfer the 50 gm of starter you’re keeping to a clean glass jar and feed it:
- 50 gm flour (mix rye/wheat)
- 50 gm filtered water
Your sourdough starter may start to have visible signs of bubbles and rising, but if not, don’t worry. Just keep on feeding it and wait. Day 3 you want to keep 50 gm starter and discard the rest. Then feed it again as per previous day:
- 50 gm flour (mix rye/wheat)
- 50 gm water
Cover with cloth and leave at room temperature for 24 hrs until the next morning.
Repeat day 4 + 5
The starter likely getting active now and you want to start building up the quantities so you have enough for baking once its ready. This time, keep 75 gm if the starter culture and discard the rest. Now up the quantities for feeding:
- 75 gm flour (mix rye/wheat)
- 75 gm water
Day 6 – 7 the starter is likely visibly bubbly and rising. Once you suspect your starter might be ready (usually somewhere between 5-8 days), you can do a float test (see below). If its not yet there, don’t worry but keep feeding and discarding as per instructions for day 4-5…
A note on discarding. Your discard sourdough can be saved in the fridge and made into pancakes, crackers and pizza base. A quick google search for sourdough discard recipes will give you lots of ideas and its a great way to reduce food waste.
If you already have a starter that has been refrigerated, activate it by feeding it 24 hours before you want to bake.
If you have a starter thats been in the fridge, activate it by taking it out of the fridge and feeding it as per instructions below. If you only have a small amount of starter, you can double the quantities listed below, the general rule of thumb is that you always do equal parts in gram of water and flour. Wait until your starter is bubbly and starts rising. If it’s been refrigerated for a while, this may take a couple days. Once you suspect its ready, do a float test.
If you do not intend to bake for a while, place your starter in the fridge and feed once per week to keep it alive. There are different methods to keep a starter alive if you’re doing away or traveling. Google has tricks for freezing and dehydrating… I haven’t done either yet, so can’t advise what works best.
Feeding your sourdough starter:
- 75 gm flour (mix rye/whole wheat)
- 75 gm water
Cover with cloth and leave for 24 hrs at room temp.
Fill a jar or glass with room temperature water and drop a spoonful of your sourdough starter into the water. If your starter floats, its ready to bake. If it drops to the bottom, its not yet ready and will likely need another feeding and be left to rise.