Easy Sourdough Artisan Bread

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Ever since I grew a sourdough starter two years ago, I’ve wanted to make a really good loaf of artisan bread with it. Although I waxed poetic about a sourdough loaf I made shortly after beginning to bake with sourdough, I realize now that the reason I thought it was so great was because it didn’t look like the disaster from the previous week.

I wanted a better crust, bigger holes inside, and easier preparation- one similar to my super Easy Artisan Bread which bakes in an enameled cast iron pot.

I should clarify here that by easy I mean a simple, everyday kind of sourdough loaf that uses cups to measure, few steps, and very little science involved. If you’d like to get really into sourdough – which can quickly become complicated and, well, overwhelming to me, I’ve found Northwest Sourdough to be very thorough and not too hard to follow. {smile}

Since my first “success” two years ago, I have been searching for a technique that produced a loaf that was all the things I desired. So I was happy to find a great recipe from Gina at Homejoys a few months ago that I have adapted to be easier for me, use my enameled pot, and consistently turn out good loaves.

Look at that crust! That’s bread-beauty right there, isn’t it? Blistered and cracked and bubbly.

Yeah, getting all giddy about bread crust is kinda silly, isn’t it? Kinda like doin’ a dance in the kitchen when the eggs don’t stick in a cast iron pan. I really am about the simple things around here, I guess.

The sliced loaf pictured above was made with whole wheat bread flour (verses the previous loaf, which was made with whole wheat white flour), so the crust isn’t quite as lovely, but still passes the test. And the interior is full of holes, chewy, and with just a touch of sourness.

Since sourdough is best when it’s used weekly (or every two weeks), this bread has supplanted my favorite Easy Artisan Bread recipe in our weekly repertoire.

The timing of sourdough was hard for me to figure out in the beginning. For this loaf, I usually try to feed my starter the night before I want to bake, and then in the morning I start the bread and let it rise until early afternoon before baking (and cooling) it in time for dinner.

I have also rushed it when I’ve forgotten the starter the night before (what- you’re shocked?) by feeding it right when I get up in the morning and letting it sit until it’s bubbly (a couple hours) and then proceeding with the recipe. The bread doesn’t have quite the optimum time to cool, but we like it warm anyway, so a bit of squished crumb is OK with us.

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Easy Sourdough Artisan Bread

  • 3 c. flour (white whole wheat, whole wheat, unbleached, or a combo)
  • 1-1/4 c. water (may need less if your starter is “wetter”- mine is a 100% hydration starter, fed an equal ratio of flour to water)
  • 3/4 c. active sourdough starter
  • 1 Tb. honey
  • 1-1/2 tsp. salt
  1. Mix all ingredients together in the bowl of a stand mixer just until combined and then let sit for 15 minutes.
  2. Using a dough hook, knead for 5 minutes.
  3. Transfer to a medium-sized bowl, lightly coated with oil. Cover with plastic and let rise for 3 hours, turning and folding the dough once or twice.
  4. Remove dough, turn and fold again, and place it back in the bowl, seam-side up. Let rise for another 2 hours.
  5. After the second rise, place a square of parchment on a cookie sheet and gently shape the dough into a ball or oval (using lots of flour, as the dough is moist) and set on the parchment. Make sure there’s a good coating of flour on the top, as this will make slicing the top later easier.
  6. Set an enameled, cast iron dutch oven into a cold oven and turn heat to 450 degrees (alternately, use a baking stone), and set the timer for 40 minutes.
  7. When the timer goes off, slash the top of the loaf with a serrated knife (in 2-3 places) and transfer it to the hot pot by holding the edges of the parchment (or stone).
  8. Replace the hot lid and bake for 12-13 minutes. Remove the lid and continue baking for another 13-14 minutes, until golden brown (if using a stone, Gina at Homejoys uses an old roaster lid to cover her loaves to get a similar result!).
  9. Remove to a wire rack to cool at least 30 minutes before cutting.

Makes 1 loaf

And here’s my slicing tip to easily slice through crusty artisan bread: use an electric knife! Try it- it works like a charm and even cuts through warm breads without squishing them down like regular knives do.

This is linked to Pennywise Platter.

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Comments

  1. Anonymous says

    “Transfer to a medium-sized bowl, lightly coated with oil. Cover with plastic and let rise for 3 hours, turning and folding the dough once or twice.” Could you explain when you turn and fold once or twice? It seems like you are saying turn and fold during the 3 hour rise and I’ve never heard of messing with the dough during the rise. This looks like it would be delicious. Thanks for sharing.

    • says

      I just gently lift and fold the dough under itself at the 1 and 2 hour marks (often I don’t remember, though, which is why I said once or twice!). You could try it without doing this- I’ve read that it gives more of the hole-pockets because you’re introducing more air into the dough. Don’t think it’s critical to anything, though.

      All the no-knead breads warn against touching the dough, but I really haven’t had luck with those recipes for sourdough, this one I have, so I stick with what worked for me. :-)

  2. Gina says

    Jami-
    No wonder you were dancing in your kitchen! Your loaves are absolutely beautiful!!!! I know the excitement of finally finding a recipe that works for you! Thanks for sharing your technique – and for linking to my blog!
    Gina

  3. says

    HELP!! lol …. I’m so confused.
    What is the starter? Is the recipe above for the starter? Do I make that and then let it sit overnight? forgive me for sounding dumb … I’m just a little lost. I would love to understand though … I want to make this bread. Also, part two of my confusion … when you say …
    “When the timer goes off, slice the top of the loaf with a serrated knife and transfer it to the hot pot by holding the edges of the parchment (or stone).”
    Has it been cooking for 40 mins? when you do this? Thanks :) Tammy

    • Jami says

      Sorry to confuse you, Tammy! A sourdough starter is a blend of water and flour that has been left to ferment enough to grow natural, airborne yeast. There are numerous tutorials online of ways to grow your own starter or you can buy a bit of starter. I linked to the one I used at Heavenly Homemakers above (in the first sentence I link to my original post, which goes into more detail and provides the link to the HH blog) and I’ve kept mine alive for a couple of years using the tips I wrote about in my sourdough tips post.

      You will need to grow your starter and use it for things like pancakes and waffles at first until it’s really active. Then try it with a loaf. It needs to be active to make it, so yes, leave the starter out overnight after feeding before making this loaf.

      As for the cooking – the pot heats up empty in the oven before slicing the top of the loaf and then adding the loaf to the hot pan (hence the need for the parchment – you don’t want to touch the hot pan), covering the pan and cooking 15 min. before uncovering. This creates an environment to capture the steam from the loaf and make that great crust and is the same cooking technique that I use for my Easy Artisan Bread recipe (yeast) – which you may want to try while you wait to grow your starter. It’s super easy and creates a wonderful loaf, too. :)

  4. says

    Thank you!!! I found your starter link afterwards and am going to start that today!! :) So what do you do with the part you slice off? Discard it? Or do you just slice it but leave the sliced part on top? ugh sorry to be so difficult …

    • Rachel says

      I believe she means to score the loaf – slash it across the top right before you throw it in the oven. This allowes the dough you’ve just exposed to rise up and spread out. It’s scary the first few times.

  5. Katrina says

    How large a cast iron pot do you use? I have a four quart and the dough spread out acros the bottom when I put it in, so it ended up being kind of a flat loaf? I think it’s too big?

    • says

      I have a 6-qt actually, Katrina. And sometimes my loaves are flatter, too, than the one pictured – I find it had to do with my sourdough (how active, if it’s doubling in 6 hours or less…) and the type of flour I use. It’s always flatter when it’s more whole wheat, sigh. :)

      • Katrina says

        Thanks, I used one cup of white whole wheat and thought that might have been it. It was delicious though, and my family is thrilled :) and, as best evidence, the loaf is gone!

  6. Jillilan says

    This recipe is great I finally have found a whole wheat sourdough recipe I wan’t to make over and over. I replaced some water with whey since I had it and it was great. Thanks

  7. Naomi says

    “The sliced loaf pictured above was made with whole wheat bread flour (verses the previous loaf, which was made with whole wheat white flour)”

    Just wondering what you mean by these flours. Bread flour is usually the store-bought stuff made with white flour. I’m kind of thinking that by “whole wheat white flour” you might mean white whole wheat as opposed to red whole wheat, but how would one make whole wheat flour into “bread flour”? And do you mill your own wheat berries?

    • says

      Yes, Naomi, sorry for the confusion – I did mean white whole wheat. As for the WW bread flour, our local bulk food store (WinCo) sells it. It’s hard red wheat, but seems to be a finer grain than the regular WW sold in the bin next to it, though the proteins are about the same. It seems to make a lighter loaf than regular hard red WW. No, I don’t own a grain mill. I’ve thought of it, but can’t justify the expense as we’ve been eating less bread over the last few years. :)

  8. says

    Thank you so much for sharing this recipe! I followed the steps last night and we have a GORGEOUS sourdough loaf!

    Jamie Oliver’s Sourdough starter recipe worked well for me, but his bread recipe? flop. King Arthur Flour Extra Tangy Sourdough recipe spread but didn’t rise for me. After these repeated flops, it is so exciting to *finally* have a presentable, edible loaf!! Thank you again for this recipe!

    xxo!

  9. says

    Thank you so much for sharing this recipe! I followed the steps last night and we have a GORGEOUS sourdough loaf!

    Jamie Oliver’s Sourdough starter recipe worked well for me, but his bread recipe? flop. King Arthur Flour Extra Tangy Sourdough recipe spread but didn’t rise for me. After these repeated flops, it is so exciting to *finally* have a presentable, edible loaf!! Thank you again for this recipe!

    xxo!

  10. Janelle says

    Am I supposed to drop the parchment in the pot too? Now that i read it i’m thinking yes, but too late I already slid the dough off into the pot for now… We’ll see it it works. It smells amazing:-)

    • says

      You can still do it, Rebekah – in fact I’ve read people who think the ONLY way to make bread is by hand! You just have to have strong arms for stirring. :) Stir until it’s all incorporated and then a bit more and continue with the recipe.

  11. Rachael says

    This is such a great blog!!! Really makes me hungry just reading and looking at the pictures : ) I recently baked my first loaf of bread and it was incredible!!! I used a starter my friend told me about. It’s from Sourdough’s International and now I have to spread the word! I loved it. Definitely going to order more when it comes the time.

  12. Suzanne says

    Wow– this made an amazing loaf of bread! My sourdough starter was pretty new– just ten days old– so I knew I was taking a risk. But following these directions, the bread rose beautifully. Thanks so much.

  13. Merryn says

    Made this recipe for the first time today, having messed around with limited success with other recipes after being given starter a few months ago; this came out absolutely perfect! I used all unbleached white flour this time, will try wholewheat next time.

    My one issue was with the parchment; it stuck to the bottom crust of the loaf and was very hard to peel off. I expect more flour when forming the loaf would remedy this (minor) problem.

    Thanks for the great recipe, and I look forward to more great things from your blog! So excited that I found you!

    • says

      So glad to read this, Merryn! I usually don’t have a problem with the parchment sticking – maybe try greasing it with some olive oil in addition to flour next time? Happy to have you reading!!

  14. christine says

    I love your artisan easy breads I have a guestion about hand kneading after second rise my dough has a lot of bubbles in it I hand kneaded theeae out should I left them in lol thanks help

    • says

      Glad you like the easy bread, Christine! Sounds like it’s working well if you have lots of bubbles. :) I don’t knead these breads, just a gentle shaping into a ball. Is that what you were asking?

  15. christine says

    Thank you so much Jami you are an amazingly talented lady god blessed you with a lot of special gifts and you really need a store and bake shop combo all your post bring so much joy to my life you have helped revive a mom and that was exactly what I was asking you haha I kneaded all the bubbles out of my dough lol but the flavor is amazing so I’m on my next batch thanks again and god bless youand your family

  16. Rhg says

    When you say you use a 100% hydration starter, do you mean equal flour and water by weight or by volume? Elsewhere you mention feeding your starter with equal 1/2c flour and 1/2c water, however, when I looked up hydration it said to calculate it by weight?

    • says

      I’m not an expert when it comes to sourdough, Rhg – I calculate by volume because I don’t have an accurate scale. My understanding is equal amounts of flour to water is a 100% starter. Use weight if you have that capability!

      • says

        I had the same question, Jamie– about measuring by weight vs. volume. You’ve answered part of it for me… and my question now is, how do you fill your measuring cup?

        A 100% starter is made of equal parts of flour and water, measured by weight– it’s figured by weight because the amount of flour in a measuring cup varies tremendously, depending on how a person fills the cup (scooping vs. pouring it into the cup or putting it in by spoonfuls, whether they level it with a knife or tap it, whether they sift the flour first… and so on. So professional bakers measure by weight, because 250 grams of flour is always 250 grams of flour… it’s reproduceable by anyone, anywhere.

        Your starter is probably somewhat more than a 100% hydration, because it sounds like your dough is pretty wet, and also in my experience it pretty much always takes more than a cup of flour to equal the weight of a cup of water.

        Anyway, I’m really looking forward to trying your recipe… sounds like a lot of people have had good luck with it, and that’s pretty impressive! I’ve been making sourdough bread for about a year now, using just whole wheat, but I’ve been measuring by weight, and also keeping my starters at lower hydration (i.e., more flour and less water). Right now, when I store my starter in the fridge, I keep it at 50 or 60% hydration, and it’s s quite firm… almost like Playdoh. From what I’ve been reading (and it seems to work), having less water in a refrigerated starter allows the starter to survive longer in the fridge, between feedings..

        Then when I take it out to feed it before a bake, I increase the hydration to 100%, which means it can rise faster (because it’s easier for the yeast and bacteria beasties to move through a thick mud, than through a stiff dough, or at least, that’s my best guess). I think that’s why wetter doughs tend to rise better than drier, stiffer ones.

        I’ve been looking at a lot of articles online, in the past year; here’s a more in-depth discussion about measuring: http://www.sourdoughhome.com/index.php?content=measureit

        P.S. I’m not associated with Sourdough Home’s website; also, the website I listed with my email address is actually for my artwork, so you don’t need to go to it (unless you like to look at paintings, that is ;).

        Thanks for all your efforts!

        Holly

        • says

          Well, Holly, you are much more detailed than I am! :)
          To be honest, I just do not have the time or patience for weighing and measuring exact hydration for my starter. I do much more ‘by sight’ type of cooking and the recipes I post are the ones that aren’t too finicky, if you know what I mean. I do keep my starter at a lower hydration while it’s in the fridge, too, using roughly 2/3 water to 1 cup flour. My starter has survived for more than 4 years – even with months of neglect – so it’s pretty hearty stuff! You can see my tips and guide for sourdough – the easy, non-sciencey way, obviously – here: http://www.anoregoncottage.com/grow-keep-use-sourdough-starter/

          But, to answer your question, I use a scoop-and-measure for flour, so yes – probably more by weight than the water. If I see it’s thicker than I want, I just dump in more water – and that’s basically how I roll. ;)

  17. says

    I made this yesterday as my first loaf of sourdough. My neighbor had brought me some starter because she knew I liked baking bread. I worried about it the whole time, but in the end it was beautiful and delicious. My family demolished it and asked me to bake it again today! Great recipe!

  18. skip says

    To make it easier, do the final rise in the lidded pot you are going to bake in, wrapped in a plastic bag… Then bake in a cold oven, no pre-heat….. After slashing your loaf, spray or sprinkle some water on the dough, put the lid on and slide it in the oven…. Set temp to 450, after a half hour, remove the lid and reduce temp to 425 and let it go another 20 mins….. If your loaf sticks, next time lightly grease and flour the pot….

    • says

      Thanks, Skip, for the tip! I have tried that with some loaves and it does work, though the bread didn’t seem to rise as well for me doing it that way. I’ll have to try it again!

  19. Sarah says

    Is it important to let it finish the 2nd rise, THEN turn on the oven for 40 mins, giving the dough another 40 mins to rise? Or can you go straight into the oven right after the 2nd rise?

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