Years ago I did sourdough for a spell but moved to other recipes, ending up at the no-knead school. All the talk about sourdough baking during the 2020-21 novel coronavirus-2019 pandemic, and pockets of time from working at home, led me to return.
King Arthur Flour has been my touchstone on sourdough this time out, and I recommend it for the basics and variations. On each recipe, explore its linked Perfect Your Technique blog post and Tips. Also search through Reviews and Questions, where for example I often find vegan and lower-fat options.
This is an adaptation of the king’s Do-Nothing Sourdough Bread, a no-knead 24-oz. loaf. While the ingredients and amounts are mostly similar, I’ve made it weekly at this point for 6 months, relying more on my marginalia than on the print-out.
As a no-knead style bread, with high moisture content, it should be baked in a lidded pot. Here are two variations.
- As a round rustic loaf, for the second rise shape the dough into a ball, place on a square of parchment paper and cover with the mixing bowl, inverted. The Dutch oven should go in the oven then preheat. Use the parchment paper as a sling to place in the hot Dutch oven to bake.
- Because this has become my go-to loaf, I’m using a standard-size nonstick loaf pan for consistent slices for toasting and sandwiches. That’s roughly 8.5 x 4.5 inches. It won’t fit in a round Dutch oven, so bake inside a lidded oval roaster. No need for parchment, but a light oiling is good insurance.
- 254 grams (2 1/4 cups) whole wheat flour
- 180 g (1 1/2 cups) unbleached flour
- 2 teaspoons vital wheat gluten powder
- 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
- 15 g (1 Tablespoon) sourdough starter, either unfed or fed
- 376g (1 2/3 cups) room-temperature water
- Mix the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
- Dissolve the starter into the water. Pour into the dry mix. Combine with a dough whisk, sturdy spoon or by hand, 2-3 minutes, leaving no dry flour. The dough will end up shaggy, a bit sticky and wet. No need to knead.
- Cover the bowl and let rise. That will be 12-14 hours in a 72-degree room and up to 16 hours in a 68-70-degree room. The dough will not quite double though have a modest dome. In a clear bowl some bubbles will be visible on the sides.
- Sprinkle a tablespoon of flour onto large prep board, spread it evenly with fingers or the back of a spoon into a rough 8-9-inch circle. Using a soft spatula or plastic baking scraper, gently tump the dough onto it. Lift and fold the dough on all four sides, twice, using the scraper or spatula if needed (video for technique). Tuck the dough into a ball, place on board and rest seam-side down 10 minutes, either uncovered or covered with the upside-down mixing bowl.
- Round loaf: With scraper or spatula or just fingers, stretch and fold the dough again, tuck into a ball shape and place on a square of parchment paper. Cover with inverted mixing bowl.
- Loaf pan: Lightly oil a nonstick standard size loaf pan. With scraper or spatula or just fingers, stretch and fold the dough again, ending with an oval shape. Place in greased nonstick pan. Cover loosely with a lightly oiled length of plastic wrap.
- Place Dutch oven or oval roaster and their lids in oven. Preheat to 475 degrees for 1 hour while the dough rises again. It will plump up by another third or so, not double.
- Slash the loaf with a good serrated knife (or lame) with 2-3 long cuts. Moving quickly but carefully — to avoid burns and also to not lose too much heat — with mitts move the pot out, remove its lid, place the round loaf on its parchment into the Dutch oven or place the loaf pan into the roaster, replace the lid and place in oven.
- Bake 20 minutes. Remove loaf from Dutch oven or roaster. Pull parchment from round loaf or remove rectangular loaf from pan, and place loaf on the baking stone or directly on oven rack; bake 10 minutes more to finish browning. A thermometer inserted in the middle should read 205 degrees. If not bake another 5 minutes.
- Remove the bread from the pan to a rack. Cool completely, at least 2 hours, before serving.
- A mixing bowl with a fitted lid is convenient, but plastic wrap works fine, too, to keep air out during the first rise. I’d advise against covering the dough’s first rise with a towel, though. While a wet dough, it shouldn’t lose that much moisture as a cloth would allow.
- Weighing the main ingredients in bread provides far more consistent and successful results. In recent years, reliable digital scales can be found for under $15. An analog spring scale is not accurate enough.
- The first rise (Step 3) can be done in the refrigerator as an overnight convenience. When ready to bake, set loaf on a counter for 3 hours, covered, where it can approach room temperature, then proceed with Step 4.
- Yes, that’s just a dab of sourdough starter. If your starter is active, unfed works very well here. When I make this loaf I use the rest of the discard for crumpets, an early treat on baking day.
- I leave a baking stone in on the bottom rack placed on the lowest level of the oven. Actually, I’ve used the same six quarry tiles (on a foil oven liner, crimped to fit for drips) since the late 1990s.
- For a great rye loaf: 180 g unbleached, 154 g whole wheat and 100 g rye flours. (In other words, make the whole wheat component partly rye flour.) Add into the dry mix, at Step 1, 1 Tablespoon caraway seed and 1 Tablespoon dill seed, OR 1-2 Tablespoons caraway. The rest of the prep is the same, but note the dough will be wetter, stickier and not rise as high.