This long fermented sourdough is very low maintenance and adaptable to your schedule. The flavor is complex and sour, but not too overpowering. The schedule is super flexible, especially if you are very busy and not home all day to tend to your dough. I use this low maintenance sourdough method frequently when I am very busy. These past couple months, I was busy going back to the office occasionally as well as wedding planning, and this method helped me fit sourdough into my schedule instead of the other way around.
Refrigerator temperature for long fermented sourdough
The key to this recipe is to refrigerate your levain and dough throughout the whole process (except while mixing it and a few stretch and folds) at a very cool temperature. I’ve noticed my built-in thermometer on my refrigerator is not that accurate, so I highly recommend using a separate thermometer (I use this thermometer). The shelf where I keep my dough in the refrigerator is about 33 °F in the back and 37 °F in the very front. The middle of the shelf is about 36 °F. When I measure the dough directly, it is about 36 °F. If your refrigerator is much warmer than this, you’ll need to shorten the times in the recipe otherwise the dough might overproof. For more information about adapting the baking schedule to your needs, check out this earlier post.
Flour and equipment notes
Recently, I’ve been using a little bit of whole durum flour from Central Milling in my loaves because I really like the flavor, but you can definitely just use bread flour.
For my loaves, I used Artisan Baker’s Craft Plus, Whole Durum and Hard White Whole Wheat. I really like their flours because they are very fresh, but other brands should work well too.
I bake all of my loaves in Dutch ovens or my Emile Henry bread pot. This method helps capture the steam while baking. For a full list of my favorite baking equipment, click here.
I hope you enjoy this long fermented and low maintenance sourdough method.
Long Fermented and Low Maintenance Sourdough
- Dutch oven
- kitchen scale
- bowl or banneton
Leaven (Levain) Ingredients
- 185 g sourdough starter active (bubbly)
- 510 g water
- 145 g whole wheat flour
- 340 g bread flour I used Central Milling's Artisan Bakers Craft Plus
- 345 g water
- 380 g bread flour I used Central Milling's Artisan Bakers Craft Plus
- 225 g whole durum flour or bread flour use bread flour if you don't have whole durum
- 16 g salt
- rice flour (for dusting) optional
Make the leaven (or levain)
- In a large mixing bowl or container like this one, weigh out the sourdough starter using your kitchen scale.
- Then, add 510 g water, 145 g whole wheat flour and 340 g bread flour. Mix well with a spatula or spoon to combine.
- Cover the mixture and refrigerate it for about 48 hours (at about 37 °F). After this time, you should see some bubbles.
Mix the dough
- After about 48 hours, add the remaining bread flour and whole durum (if using) to the levain. Add about 315 grams of water, holding back about 30 g. Mix by hand gently until thoroughly mixed. If it seems dry, add the remaining 30 g of water and mix by hand again. Cover, and let rest at room temperature for 45 min.
- Then, add the salt, Mix well to combine. Cover, and let rest for half an hour.
- Then, perform one set of stretch and folds by gently lifting up the sides of the dough and folding toward the middle of the dough. Cover, and let rest for another 30 minutes.
- After 30 minutes of resting, stretch and fold the dough again. Cover, then refrigerate it overnight or for about 48- 72 hours at about 36-37 °F. The dough will be increased in size, soft and billowy. Yours might take longer or shorter time depending on the temperature of your refrigerator.
Shape the dough
- Remove the dough from the container onto the counter. Divide the dough into two or three pieces ( two large loaves or three smaller loaves). A slightly damp counter will prevent the dough from sticking.
- Form each piece of dough into a taut ball by gently pulling the dough underneath (see video). Then rest each dough ball seam-side down on the counter for 20 minutes.
- Next, transfer each loaf into bowls or bannetons lined with kitchen towels. It helps to dust the kitchen towels with flour (rice flour works well). The loaves will be seam-side up in the bannetons or bowls. Dust the loaves with flour, and cover with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap.
- Refrigerate the shaped loaves for 10-48 hours. If your dough was in the refrigerator before shaping for closer to 72 hours, then proof it after shaping for a shorter time (around 10-24 hours). The total time my dough was in the refrigerator (before shaping and after shaping) was about 83 hours ( plus 48 hours for levain).
Bake the loaves
- Preheat your oven and Dutch oven to 500°F. I usually preheat for at least 20 minutes after it reaches 500 °F to make sure it is thoroughly heated.
- Remove a shaped loaf from the refrigerator and slash the dough across the top to allow steam to escape during baking. Transfer to the Dutch oven, cover and bake for 25 minutes.
- After 25 minutes, decrease the oven temperature to 450 °F and uncover the Dutch oven. Bake for another 20-40 minutes or until golden brown. Repeat for the other loaves.
- Allow the bread to cool for a few hours, then slice and eat!