Basic Sourdough Process and Loaf Recipe

sourdough process with flour, water and sourdough starter
Sourdough flow chart

This is my basic sourdough process and loaf recipe. The recipe can be adapted with different flours or by additions to the dough, such as cheese, seeds or herbs.

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Make the leaven and feed the starter

The leaven (or levain) is your sourdough starter + flour + water

Mix the leaven:

  • 3 ounces (90 g) starter (reserve the rest of your starter to feed so you can use if for future baking!)
  • 9 ounces water (260 g)
  • 6 ounces bread flour (180 g)
  • 2.5 ounce whole wheat flour (70 g)

Leave the mixture at room temperature or refrigerator until very bubbly.

Feed the reserved starter ( so you can use it for future baking):

Mix about 3 ounces starter with 3 ounces water and 3 ounces whole wheat flour in another clean container. Put it back into the refrigerator. It can say in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it again. I feed mine about once per week.

What is the purpose of making the leaven? Why can’t I just use my starter right out of the container?

  • Making a leaven helps the yeast become more active because you are feeding them again with flour and water, which will help your bread rise more.
  • The leaven and starter usually have a different flour/water ratio (depending on the recipe)
  • You could just use your starter directly as a leaven if it is in the correct flour/water ratio that the recipe calls for.

Make the dough

  • leaven (from above – the 3 oz starter, 9 oz water, 6 oz bread flour and 2.5 ounce whole wheat flour mixture)
  • 10.5 ounces bread flour (300 g)
  • 4 ounces water (110 g)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt (10 g)

Next, mix the above ingredients together to make the dough. There is no need to knead the dough with a stand mixer or by hand. Every few hours, gently stretch the dough. I like to use a large plastic container like one of these below because you can do the whole sourdough process in there without having to wash multiple bowls.

Once the ingredients are mixed together, leave the dough at room temperature (4-12 hours) or in the refrigerator (24-72 hours) until billowy and elastic. Stretch and fold the dough about 2-8 times (depending on your schedule) by pulling up the edges of the dough and folding inward.

Shape the the dough

Then, shape the dough into a tight ball. Then fold it 4 times to create a seam at the bottom. Let the dough rest on the counter seam side down for about 20 minutes. Then, lightly flour a kitchen towel in a bowl. Place the loaf seam side up into the bowl, dust with flour and cover with the towel.

Put the loaf in the refrigerator for 12- 48 hours.

Bake the loaf!

Preheat your oven to 500 °F. If you use a dutch oven to bake, preheat that as well.

While the oven is preheating, take your loaf out of the refrigerator and leave it at room temperature for 10-20 minutes. If you press the loaf lightly with your finger, the indent shouldn’t refill immediately. It should take a second or two. This means your loaf is ready to bake.

Once the dutch oven and oven are heated, very quickly remove the dutch oven. Slash your loaf across the top with a sharp knife, lame or razor blade (be careful!). Do not worry too much about the slash; it is more important to get your loaf in the dutch oven while it is hot!

Transfer the loaf to the dutch oven, cover it and put it into the oven. Bake (with the cover) at 500 °F for 20-25 minutes. Then, remove the cover and bake at 450 °F until golden brown (~20-30 more minutes).

Remove the dutch oven and loaf and let cool on a rack for at least 1 hour. If you cut the loaf while it is hot, the inside will be gummy.

Hope you enjoy this basic sourdough process and loaf recipe! If you try it, let me know in the comments! Happy baking!

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