Simple Sourdough Bread Recipe

Hone your sourdough bread making skills with these tips and homemade recipes, including making sourdough and rye bread starters.



"From No-Knead to Sourdough"

  • A freshly baked loaf of rye bread is ready to be eaten.
    Photo by Getty Images/Stockphoto
  • Active rye sourdough is ready to be turned into homemade bread.
    Photo by Getty Images/Stockphoto
  • A glass jar is perfect for holding sourdough starter.
    Photo by Getty Images/Stockphoto
  • Fresh-baked bread needs to cool before being sliced.
    Photo by Victoria Redhed Miller
  • Nothing beats the flavor of homemade bread.
    Photo by Victoria Redhed Miller
  • Homemade bread slathered with butter is perfect for breakfast, a snack, or as an accompaniment to supper.
    Photo by Getty Images/Stockphoto
  • "From No-Knead to Sourdough "
    Photo by New Society Publishers

For reasons I’ve never quite understood (having lived the first 45 years of my life in Seattle), I’ve always felt more at home in small towns. I was always drawn to traditional skills and crafts, always loved the idea of learning a trade or skill by means of an apprenticeship to a master and passing that on to someone else. And I’ve always leaned toward “old-fashioned” values and a simple life of hard work, outdoor chores, and hands-on learning, building, repairing, and restoring. So I suppose it’s no big surprise that in a world of kitchen machines and gadgets, I’m so enamored of the process of making bread with a few simple ingredients, mixing and kneading dough by hand, fermenting it in a cool corner of my kitchen, and then baking it in the high heat of a hand-built, wood-fired oven.

For me, making any kind of bread, in any kind of oven, is a deeply satisfying experience that never wears thin. My baking life continues to include simple, no-knead yeast breads, as well as those made with a pre-ferment. Still, having eventually pushed my way through my initial comfort zone, I discovered the seemingly unlimited variety of sourdough breads. Using the same starter culture I’ve maintained since 2010, kneading the dough by hand, and baking it the same way my pioneer ancestors did … well, let’s put it this way: If I were a cat, I’d be purring with contentment. It’s absolutely a labor of love. And it’s no Wonder.

You’ll use this starter in the following recipes for Yeasted Rye Bread and Sourdough Rye Bread. Be sure to allow at least 4 days for your starter to ferment before attempting the bread recipes.

  

Ingredients:

  • Medium-sized mixing bowl
  • 1-quart clear container with a lid (I like the dough-rising buckets from King Arthur Flour, which come in several sizes. A wide-mouth mason jar will work too, although I find a wider, shorter container makes it easier to add and mix ingredients.)
  • tepid spring water 
  • organic unbleached stone-ground bread or all-purpose flour 
  • organic stone-ground fine rye flour

Instructions:

Day 1:

  1. Pour 1⁄3 cup tepid spring water into a bowl.
  2. Stir in 1⁄3 cup organic unbleached stone-ground bread or all-purpose flour and 1⁄3 cup organic stone-ground fine rye flour. Stir until all the flour has been moistened. The dough will be tacky.
  3. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let stand at room temperature for 24 hours.

 Day 2:

  1. The culture will look much the same as on Day 1, although it may have risen slightly.
  2. Add 2 tablespoons tepid spring water, 1⁄3 cup organic unbleached stone-ground bread or all-purpose flour, and 1 tablespoon organic stone-ground whole-wheat flour.
  3. Stir to blend. If needed, knead briefly to incorporate all the flour.
  4. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let stand at room temperature for 24 hours.

 Day 3:

  1. Your culture will have expanded 11⁄2 to 2 times its original volume. You should see bubbles forming below the surface, and the smell will be slightly yeasty and fruity.
  2. Repeat feeding steps of Day 2; cover, and let stand at room temperature for 24 hours.

Day 4 and On:

Your levain may be ready to use any time in the next few days in the Yeasted Rye Bread or Sourdough Rye Bread recipes. When it’s ready, you’ll observe most or all of the following:

  • The surface of the culture looks dimpled or bubbly and may rise to a dome.
  • It smells like ripe, slightly sour fruit — and tastes tangy, like citrus fruit.
  • Cutting through with a paring knife shows air pockets trapped by gluten strands.

If it doesn’t already look like this, simply repeat Day 3 steps until
it does.

  1. Transfer the levain to a 1-quart container and put on the lid.
  2. Store the levain in the refrigerator and refresh once a week by following Day 2 steps.

 Excerpted with permission from Victoria Redhed Miller’s book From No-Knead to Sourdough, published by New Society Publishers.


 Tips

  • Use spring water if possible; bottled is fine. Avoid chlorinated water and distilled water.
  • Use organic, stone-ground flour for activating your starter.
  • Rye flour is added on the first day because it ferments quickly and has more enzymes and minerals than wheat flour, helping to get a new culture off to a strong start.
  • I recommend putting a lid on your starter container. The yeast and bacteria are already in there; there’s no need to use cheesecloth or anything else as a revolving door. Trust me on this.
  • The ingredient measurements aren’t critical. It’s easier, when doing this for the first time, to have the parameters defined, but don’t worry about it being exact. The main thing is to keep all the flour in the mix well hydrated.

 More Recipes from From No-Knead to Sourdough

From No-Knead to Sourdough

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