Sourdough for Beginners

I baked my first sourdough bread from scratch a few years ago at a local sourdough for beginners class under the live advice of the trainer. The results were great – excellent bread and a sourdough starter jar as a bonus.

After repeating the process a few times, I can tell you that patience and practice is the key to both main processes – creating the sourdough starter and baking sourdough bread. Yes, I have to admit that in the beginning, the process was more difficult because I did not have some of the necessary tools in my kitchen. For the first times you bake, an easy sourdough bread recipe like this is a good place to start.

Baking Tools

Even if you are a beginner or the kitchen is a workplace, you can and, I recommend you to start this process as a pro-baker. Is very important to have the right baking tools that will help you get through this process easier.

A must have is the proofing basket, a dough scraper and of course a kitchen scale. You can check the full bread baking tools list on our baking equipment store.

Sourdough Bread Ingredients

Knowing the Baker’s Language

If you are new to sourdough baking, the following points are useful to know. However, you can check our full baking glossary terms which will guide you through.

Autolysis

Autolysis (also called Autolyse or delayed salt method) is the process when the dough does the hard work. This const in mixing flour and water and leaving the dough for one hour to kneads for you. Delaying the salt allows the gluten to grow, resulting in a flexible and rich in aromatic gases pockets dough. Adding the salt after autolyze, the dough contact and get more strength and elasticity.

Leaven

Leaven (French term Levain) is made at the beginning of every baking process. Is obtained by mixing your sourdough starter with flour and water and leaving to maturate a few hours. The enzymatic activity starts, and yeast eats sugar from the flour producing CO2, resulting in an airy dough.

Weights & Temerature

In all the processes of baking sourdough bread, there are tow more important ingredients: weights and temperature. That’s why, at least until everything becomes a routine, is wise to have a kitchen scale and an instant thermometer.

Creating the Leaven

The sourdough leaven creating process is the same as feeding your sourdough starter and can start early in the morning or one night before depending when you plan to start baking. Is important to plan your time to feed your starter twice before setting the leaven. Also, the maturation time for the leaven depends on the amount of starter you use in the mixture and, if left too long can affect the taste of the bread.
Baking tomorrow evening:
Feed the starter tonight, tomorrow morning and created the leaven in the afternoon.
Baking tomorrow morning:
Feed your starter today in the morning, late tonight and set the leaven tomorrow morning.

Sourdough Leaven Mixed with wooden spoon
Sourdough Leaven

Sourdough for Beginners Step by Step

Set the Leaven

Mix 40g mature sourdough starter (100% hydration), 30g water @ room temperature, 15g strong white bread flour, and 15g fine wholegrain spelt flour in a mixing bowl or a clean jar. Allow the leaven to mature for 3-4 hours at room temperature (ideal 23-24°C).

Autolyse

Pour 390-415 g water (28-30°C) into the leaven bowl. Add 150 g wholegrain spelt flour and 350 g strong white bread flour and stir everything using your hands. Cover the bowl and let it rest for an hour somewhere warm.

Add salt

After autolyse is complete, measure the required amount of salt and add it over the dough. Use your fingers to pinch the dough until your dough become tighten and harder to pinch.

Bulk Fermentation

At this moment you will do the first stretch and folds sets. Between sets, cover the dough bowl and leave to rest for 30 minutes. Wet your hands in a bowl of warm water to prevent sticking, then push your fingers between the bowl side and the dough and grab the underside of the dough. Stretch it up high and fold it completely over to the opposite side of the dough in the bowl. Repeat the process, rotating the bowl, 4-8 times in every set. After the last set, let the dough rest until its volume increase by a third and show some bubbles on top. Bulk fermentation can take about 60-90 minutes. For more precision tracking, is better if you can use a mixing bowl with measurements marks.

First Shaping

Take the dough out of the bowl on a well-floured surface. Use the dough scraper to fold the dough from different sides and push it from different angles. If the dough becomes sticky, dip your hands and the scrapper in flour. After this folds and pulls set the dough’s gluten needs to rest and eliminate the tension accumulated.

Lightly flour the dough and let it relax for 20-25 minutes on your workbench, without covering it.

Final Shape

Flour well your banneton proving basket to avoid sticking. In the beginning, you can use more flour than necessary. Ideally is to make a 50/50 mixture of white flour and rice flour.

Flour the dough and the work surface around. Use the dough scraper to loosen the dough from the surface and flip it over so that the floured top is now down on the floured work surface.

Grasp the left and right sides of the dough and stretch them away from each other, fold one side over toward the other and repeat with the other side.

Then, grab the top of the circle and stretch away from your body and fold down and over all the way to the bottom of the resting dough. You’ll now have a tight package that resembles a letter.

If the dough still feels loose, tighten it up a little with the dough scraper, as you did in the first shaping, before lifting it over in the proving basket so that it will lie with folds uppermost.

Proof

Basket Proving

Cold Proving

Bake

Conclusion

This sourdough for beginners recipe is the primary method for every future recipe you will make.

Taste

Sourdough for Beginners

Prep Time5 hrs
Cook Time31 mins
Total Time5 hrs 31 mins
Course: Bread
Servings: 1 loaf

Ingredients

For the Leaven

  • 40 g mature starter
  • 30 g water at 30°C
  • 15 g white bread flour
  • 15 g wholegrain spelt flour

For the Bread Dough

  • 150 g wholegrain spelt flour 30%
  • 350 g white bread flour 70%
  • 375-425 g water at 30°C 75-85%
  • 10 g fine sea salt 2%
  • 100 g leaven

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