Easy Introduction Beginner Sourdough Recipe.

After over a decade of baking sourdough I am still amazed every time I pull a loaf out of the oven. To me this is one of the most rewarding things you can do in the kitchen but be careful, before you know it you will be obsessed with sourdough!

Beginner sourdough recipe

While an introduction to sourdough can be a little overwhelming I wanted to share with you a simple beginner sourdough recipe to help you get started. Whether you’ve started your own starter using my guide or one of the many available online or if someone has gifted you some starter, there is no better time than now to get started baking.

Baking sourdough bread at home takes a lot of time and commitment but the hands on time is really not that much. It is also extremely rewarding and with some repetition, practice and guidance you can produce bread of a higher quality than many bakeries.

This introduction to sourdough recipe will encourage and assist you on your sourdough journey. Just remember, if you are not successful in your first few attempts do not give up! Baking is a craft and to really understand and be consistent you need a lot of repetition.

Before we get into the beginner sourdough recipe, I wanted to let you know that I have been baking sourdough breads for over a decade and I still learn new things all the time as well as make mistakes often. When I started in the bakery section of Rundles Restaurant during my apprenticeship my first batch of olive bread was such a disaster that the chef threw it out in front of me (while dropping some F*bombs) and basically told me I didn’t know what I was doing. I used this energy to really fuel myself to learn more about the craft of sourdough baking and become the baker I am today. After MANY failed attempts and countless hours reading (at that time there were very limited internet resources) I FINALLY had a great bake. The success of one great bake was enough to keep me going on this sourdough journey for over a decade.

Sourdough as a Lifestyle

Be forewarned, sourdough baking is addictive. It is a lifestyle, an obsession, a passion and for many a way of life. What used to be a weekend hobby for me quickly morphed into an absolute obsession and is now my full-time career. I was baking so much bread at one point on my days off that I had to start selling it at the farmers market through a good friends produce stand just to recover my overhead costs.

While this is a beginner sourdough recipe, I would like you to know that this is a huge topic and we are barely going to scratch the surface in this recipe. This recipe has been worked on and developed to help home bakers be successful and create a good tender crumb loaf with a crisp crust, shelf life and most importantly a great flavour.

About the Ingredients

Flour, water and salt. Thats it! While you can get fancy with inclusions and different types of flour, our beginner sourdough recipe has few ingredients. While you can sub the whole grain flour from this recipe and you can make your own flour blends I encourage you to try this recipe and make it several times before you start to make changes. Once you are comfortable you can make 1-2 changes at a time and track your results.

Flour

Flour selection is one of the biggest factors when baking a loaf of sourdough. There are literally thousands of beginner sourdough recipe guides, but until you understand your flour you will have trouble recreating them. For my Canadian readers we are in luck. We have beautifully strong flour and it is readily available. I suggest looking for a flour with a protein percentage of 11.5-13%. Canadian flour will absorb a little more water than softer European flours and in my opinion this is good news.

For the whole grain portion of your loaf, I highly recommend getting your hands on some fresh milled flour. If you are lucky enough to have your own flour mill, check out my guide to milling at home here.

Water

Water is often overlooked. Many bakeries have filters for their water and can adjust the temperature using digital programming. At home I always use a filter for my water and before I had a filter at home I used to leave my water out overnight. Most city water is treated and contains chloramine and chlorine in it. By leaving the water out much of this will dissipate and you will have a more successful bake. While I have used tap water MANY times successfully, it is worth it in my opinion to plan your bakes and filter the water.

Salt

I use sea salt for my baking. I have used Himalayan salt, sea salt, kosher salt and others but for me the cost of sea salt in bulk beats going to the store once a week and it saves me a lot of money through the year. If you have any baking supply stores near you, I suggest buying your salt in bulk. The one salt you should avoid is iodized table salt. I won’t get too much into why as this is meant to be an introduction to sourdough but do yourself a favour and grab some sea salt. It is full of minerals and will be better for you in the long run.

Sourdough Technique

Your sourdough technique is so important. Remember we are talking about very few ingredients and there is really no where to hide. If you are new to shaping I suggest sticking to one method. Eventually you can do two methods side by side and compare your results. Different doughs require different handlings. I know some bakers that don’t pre shape and others that swear by it. There really is no one right way and you can achieve great results following many guides. While this is a beginner sourdough recipe it is important thing is to keep notes, have fun and eat (or give-away) the mistakes.

Your Sourdough Starter

Whether you have created your own starter using my no discard guide, been gifted a sourdough starter or created one with one of the many recipes available this is your key to success, Often when trouble shooting for consulting jobs or with home bakers the root of the problem is the starter and how it is maintained.

While I store my sourdough starter on the counter you can keep yours in the fridge. If you use the fridge I suggest giving it 1-3 feeds before you mix your bread. Remember a healthy starter is your key to success here.

Sourdough Tools and Equipment

Like any hobby it is REALLY easy to get carried a way and over spend on a bunch of tools you don’t really need. When I first started I used an old ceramic mixing bowl, a ramen bowl lined with a kitchen towel, a knife and an old dutch oven. Over the years I have levelled up my game and now have a well equipped kitchen.

I have a list of products I recommend on my amazon storefront along with some recommended books. if you are serious about sourdough I recommend you invest in the following products:

  • A kitchen scale. Everyone measures a little differently. For consistency and to track your results a scale is a must. I personally don’t write or even bake any bread recipes that are not by weight. Even for a beginner sourdough recipe this is an essential tool.
  • Digital thermometer. I love the thermapen digital thermometer and its 3 second read results but any digital thermometer will work. To monitor fermentation and track your temps grab yourself a digital thermometer.
  • Glass Jars. While I recommend having 3 wide mouth jars for your sourdough it is not 100% necessary. I used plastic containers for years because I am clumsy and I have smashed a few jars of levin over the years. It is also extremely unpractical for any bakery to use glass due to weight, size and cost.
  • Rubber Spatula. While some bakers believe that your hands add flora and bacteria to the dough, I was a trained chef and just the thought of mixing the levain by hand with that big mess gives me anxiety.
  • Bannetons. While you can get by with a bowl I recommend looking for a breathable banneton to proof your dough. There are MANY companies out there and lately I have enjoyed using the wood pulp variety as its a sustainable material and durable.
  • Dutch oven. My dutch oven of choice is the Challenger Bread Pan. While this is more expensive in my experience testing over a dozen dutch ovens it is the best. That said you can get by with any dutch oven or combo cooker.
  • Bread Lame. While there are many fancy lames available on the market I use a cheap $7 lame that I have had for almost 10 years. Just make sure you replace the blade often. If you don’t have one you can also use a serrated knife to get started.

Beginner Sourdough Dough Schedule

To help simplify the process I have created some sourdough schedules. This schedule is meant to be used as a guideline but as we know the dough is boss so pay attention to your dough and let the schedule help.

Beginner Sourdough Dough schedule
In this schedule step 1, mix the levain is assuming you have a ripe and active levain.

Beginner Sourdough Recipe

Day 1:

Refresh Your Starter (Late morning or early afternoon)

If you have a healthy starter this shouldn’t;t be a problem. If your starter has been in the fridge you may need to do this twice.

  • 10g levain
  • 25g bread flour
  • 25g whole wheat
  • 50g water 26 degrees celcius

Mix the flour, water and liquid starter together until fully combined.  Let stand at room temperature 21C (70F) for 4-6 hours.

Build your levain (the night before you want to mix your dough):
  • 100 g bread flour
  • 20 g whole wheat flour
  • 120 g water
  • 20g liquid starter

Mix the flour, water and liquid starter together until fully combined.  Let stand at room temperature 18-21C (65-70F) for 10-12 hours.  

There are MANY ways to do this including much shorter feeding ratios but we will cover that in another post. Remember this is just an beginner sourdough recipe.

Note: There is an extra 35g of levain built into the feed above to act as a levain “buffer”. This is so that you can keep continue to perpetuate your levain.

For the Dough:

Final Dough:

  • 740 g bread flour
  • 130 g whole wheat flour or other whole grain flour
  • 650 g water
  • 20 g salt
  • 225 g liquid levain
  1. Add all ingredients, except 30g of water 26-27C (78-80F) and the levain into a large bowl. Mix until just combined and let the flour water mixture rest for 20 minutes.
  2. Add the levain to the bowl and mix with your hand until well just combined and let rest for 30-60 minutes. 
  3. Using your hand like a claw, pinch in the salt and remaining 30g of water. 
  4. Desired dough temperature – 26C/78F.
  5. Let the dough bulk ferment for 3 to 3.5 hours. 
  6. Give the dough 3 folds after 60, 90 and 120 min.  
  7. If the dough feels weak give it one more fold 30 minutes after the 3rd fold. 
  8. At the end of the bulk fermentation the dough should have risen significantly, be light and airy and be slightly domed.  
  9. Pre shape the dough into rounds and bench rest for 30 minutes.  
  10. Shape into boule or batard.  
  11. Leave the dough on the counter for 20 minutes and then place it into the fridge overnight. 
  12. The dough can stay in the fridge for 12-18 hours.  
  13. Preheat a dutch oven in your oven on the highest setting. 
  14. Flip the dough onto parchment and very carefully lower into the preheated dutch oven then immediately lower the oven temperature to 245C/470F
  15. Cook the bread for 35-40 minutes removing the lid to the dutch oven after 20 minutes. 
  16. When finished tap the bottom to see if it sounds hollow.  The bread should be light and look golden brown. 
  17. Allow the bread to cool for at least 60 minutes before slicing. 
Intro to sourdough

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Beginner Sourdough

Easy Introduction to Sourdough Recipe.

  • Author: Matthew James Duffy
  • Prep Time: 240
  • Cook Time: 40
  • Total Time: 4 hours 40 minutes
  • Yield: 2 loaves 1x
  • Category: Sourdough
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: Bread

Description

This introduction to sourdough recipe has a high amount of sourdough at almost 30% but is great for a quick homestyle loaf.  This loaf is crisp and thin with a great contrast of flavour between crust and crumb. 


Scale

Ingredients

For the Levain:

  • 100 g bread flour
  • 20 g whole wheat flour
  • 120 g water
  • 20 g levain

Final Dough:

  • 740 g bread flour
  • 130 g whole wheat flour or other whole grain flour
  • 650 g water
  • 20 g salt
  • 225 g liquid levain

Instructions

For the Levain:

  1. Mix the flour, water and liquid starter together until fully combined.  Let stand at room temperature 18-21C (65-70F) for 10-12 hours.  

For the Dough:

  1. Add all ingredients, but 30g of water 26-27C (78-80F) and the levain into a large bowl. Mix until just combined and let the flour water mixture rest for 30 minutes.
  2. Add the levain to the bowl and mix with your hand until well just combined and let rest for 30-60 minutes.
  3. Using your hand like a claw, pinch in the rest of the salt and remaining water. 
  4. Desired dough temperature – 26C/78F.
  5. Let the dough bulk ferment for 3 to 3.5 hours. 
  6. Give the dough 3 folds after 60, 90 and 120 min.  
  7. If the dough feels weak give it one more fold 30 minutes after the 3rd fold. 
  8. At the end of the bulk fermentation the dough should have risen significantly, be light and airy and be slightly domed.  
  9. Divide the dough according to your batch size.
  10. Pre shape the dough into rounds and bench rest for 30 minutes.  
  11. Shape into boule or batard.  
  12. Leave the dough on the counter for 20 minutes and then place it into the fridge overnight. 
  13. The dough can stay in the fridge for 12-18 hours.  
  14. Preheat a dutch oven in your oven on the highest setting. 
  15. Flip the dough onto parchment and very carefully lower into the preheated dutch oven then immediately lower the oven temperature to 245C/470F
  16. Cook the bread for 35-40 minutes removing the lid to the dutch oven after 20 minutes. 
  17. When finished tap the bottom to see if it sounds hollow.  The bread should be light and look golden brown. 
  18. Allow the bread to cool for at least 60 minutes before slicing. 

Keywords: Sourdough, beginner sourdough, baking sourdough

24 comments
    1. For the 3.5 hours bulk ferment … can i put it in my oven as I have a proofing function … temp range is 30 celsius up to 60 celsius …. what temp is best for bulk ferment … my first loaf the DDT was 22 celsius which i know was too low . thanks 😊

      1. Yes you can use your proofer setting. I would keep the bulk the same as the DDT for this (26C). Keep in mind when you start to change the amount of levain in the formula your bulk times an temps can change. I also favour a slightly cooler bulk for doughs with high quantity of whole grains.
        If you do have a final dough temp of 22C you can put it into your proofer at 26-28C and it should help bring the temp up quick.
        Hope this helps!

    2. First loaf was a success.. but need to improve the texture .. For the 3.5 hours bulk ferment … can i put it in my oven as I have a proofing function … temp range is 30 celsius up to 60 celsius …. what temp is best for bulk ferment … my first loaf the DDT was 22 celsius which i know was too low . thanks 😊

  1. Great to see your website.. I don’t have a professional dutch oven or a casserole large enough . So thinking of dividing this beginners sourdough recipe in to two loaves and using 2 8inch casserole dishes…. i assume this will be ok?

    1. Thanks for your kind words.
      This recipe is for two loaves of bread and you could scale it however you want really. The key to the dutch oven is that it traps steam and has thermal mass. You could either put a lid or add a pan with steam to the oven when baking.
      You can also look for a cheap lodge combo cooker used or online. Hope this helps!

  2. My starter is doing well and performing as you state. Day 4 the starter doubled in size. It will be day six tomorrow so will then follow your recipe! hadn’t noticed your recipe is for 2 loaves so thanks for pointing that out. I will half the quantities. Have found a large casserole and lid since my last comment. So ready to bake!

  3. Hey Matt,

    I’m a little confused by a few things to these sourdough recipes….

    Is “liquid starter” the same thing as your final levain after it’s stand for 10-12 hour?

    When you say “Add all ingredients, but 30g of water 26-27C (78-80F)” Presumably those ingredients are the….

    740 g bread flour
    130 g whole wheat flour or other whole grain flour
    650 g water
    20 g salt
    225 g liquid levain

    Finally, when you say “but 30g of water 26-27C (78-80F)”, is that 650 g minus 30g? Or in addition too?

    I full acknowledge that this is likely my inability to interrupt this, but if you could help add some clarity, I’d like to….rise to the occasion and use your recipe!

    1. Hey Gary,
      I refer to it as a liquid starter because of the starters hydration. I suggest a 100% hydration starter for this formula but you could also use a stiff starter. This would change your overall formula hydration.

      When I say add all ingredients to the bowl I am referring to the total water minus 30grams. I keep a little back to mix in the salt with. You can keep 20-50g back but I do recommend you keep some as it is helpful when mixing in your salt.

      Hope this helps!

  4. Hi Matt,
    Could you give a schedule example for this recipe. I’m having trouble getting the timing down so it’s not over proofing the levain or the bulk rise overnight. Thanks!

    1. Hey Alison,
      Absolutely and thanks for the great feedback. I’ve just finished writing my second sourdough recipe and took a more comprehensive approach with a schedule and detailed times. I will try to update this recipe to reflect the same format ASAP. In the meantime if you email me I would be happy to send you back a quick schedule to help guide your baking.

  5. Do you bring bring the dough up to room temperature before baking? Or can you put them straight into the oven from the fridge?

    1. I put them straight into the oven. If notice the dough does not seem ready you can allow it to sit for 30-120 minutes before baking.

  6. Hi Matthew, your videos are so helpful.
    I have been using 3 kgs flour in a mixer with a dough hook for some time with varied results, using, usually 100% organic flours @ 12.5 % protein, occasionally 13. How long do you recommend approximately the dough be mixed in the mixer after the levain has been added ?
    Cheers
    Anne

    1. Hey Anne,
      Thanks for that! I am planning on updating this recipe over the holidays with a bit more detail.
      For mixing there are a few factors. The flour as you mentioned and the hydration. Typically a higher hydration dough will require
      a longer mixing time. Dough’s will also benefit from a small period of rest. While most bakeries only rest during the autolyse period at home it’s possible to stop and let the dough rest in the mixer for 5-10 minutes (if you are only mixing one batch).
      I look and listen for signs of gluten development. The dough will start to “clean up” meaning it will stick to itself and pull from the sides of the mixer. You will also notice a sound it makes as the gluten develops.
      Finally I have been planning on writing at guide to machine mixing over the holidays when I have the time.
      Hope this helps,
      MJD

    1. Hey Andrew,
      This can be baked the same day. For ambient proofing you will want to leave the shaped loaf out for 2-3 hours (depending on your environment and dough temps) before baking. Keep in mind it is easier to handle the dough when it has been cold fermented.
      MJD

  7. Hi!
    I’ve been following you on Instagram and love your videos. I feel like I’m finally ready to try your method, but I’m confused about 1 thing— when does the dough go into the banneton? After the bulk ferment, right? So bulk ferment, preshape, banneton, bench rest, fridge; or bulk ferment, preshape, bench rest, banneton, fridge?
    Thank you!

    1. Hey Rebecca,
      The dough goes into the banneton after the final shaping.
      Bulk ferment, preshape, final shape, banneton, fridge (usually I leave out for 20-50 min before fridge).
      MJD

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