This is the easiest no knead sourdough recipe. It’s perfect for a beginner baker.
When I first made sourdough I had mixed results. With a bread that takes as long to make as sourdough does, mixed results isn’t a great outcome. I absolutely love the taste of sourdough and the idea that you can make delicious bread with just flour, water, and a little salt was too good to give up.
Scroll right to the bottom of the page to see my complete video of the process or click here to see it on Youtube.
There are so many recipes out there, some knead, some with no-knead, some with a stretch and fold. Which is the right one? If you’re a beginner it’s no wonder this can be overwhelming. After many trials and errors, I’ve made my own recipe of a sourdough that is easy to follow.
Over my time I have found that though the ingredients are important, the working of the dough and the resting/proofing of the dough play the biggest parts in the end result.
Take your time to feel your dough and gage what it’s doing. I’ll explain more below.
A quick note on flours: A strong flour can be helpful to create a nice sturdy loaf, like an unbleached high-grade flour. They have a higher protein level than plain flour.
Most wholemeal flour will have a high protein level too but using more wholemeal flour will give you a denser bread and more water can be added to the dough.
If you start with strong white flour for the first few breads and get used to the texture and feel of the dough you can feel if water needs to be added when adding wholemeal.
Before you start, you’ll need an active sourdough starter, I keep mine at 100% hydration.
I use a freshly fed starter. If I am starting the process in the morning, I’ll feed my starter 1:2:2 (1 part seed starter, 2 parts flour, 2 parts water). This will then double within 6 hours (or 8 hours max) and will need to be used when it is at its peak. After that the acid content is quite high in the starter and the results aren’t as good.
If I start the process the evening before, I’ll feed my starter 1:4:4 (1 part seed starter, 4 parts flour and 4 parts water). This is to slow down the rise of the starter so it doesn’t peak too early overnight.
To see how I make my starter, check out this post here.
Step by Step Sourdough
I will include an example of timings in these steps. These are only a guide.
Step 1 – Feed Your Starter (7am)
Take your sourdough starter and feed it in a fresh jar at a ratio of 1:2:2. This means 1 part starter, 2 parts fresh flour and 2 parts water. Measured in weight.
For this bread recipe you could measure out 65g starter, 130g flour and 130g water and mix this well in a clean jar. Leave it to rise in a warm but not too hot place.
If your starter is active enough it should double within 6-8 hours and then it’s ready to use. If it doesn’t double within that time, it’s either too cold or your starter just isn’t ready to bake with yet. Either way, don’t use it if it hasn’t properly doubled, or you’ll be disappointed.
Whatever starter you have left over can be fed fresh flour and water and placed back in the refrigerator ready for the next bake.
If you want to start your starter the evening before so you can start folding in the morning, feed your starter at 1:4:4 before you go to bed, cover the jar with a tea towel and keep it in a warm place overnight. For example, 20g seed starter, 80g flour and 80g water.
Step 2- Autolyse (Anytime. Start it alongside the starter, or even the night before. A long autolyse is awesome! It hydrates the gluten and makes the dough lovely and elastic. A bare minimum autolyse is an hour.)
In a large bowl, combine the water and the flour to start the autolyse stage. Simply mixing the flour with the water and allowing it to sit for a while will help develop the glutens in the flour.
Use wet hands to mix it into a rough dough, then cover the bowl with a plate and leave it to sit on the bench.
If you’re wanting to add any seeds, they can be added at this point too. I like adding pumpkin seeds, linseeds or poppy seeds to my bread for some variation.
Step 3: Add In The Doubled Starter and Salt (2pm)
Now it’s time to add in the salt and the doubled starter. Use wet hands to mix this in well and form a sticky mound of dough.
Tip the dough into a flat glass or ceramic tray and let it rest for 30 minutes before moving on to step 3. It will flatten out a bit.
Step 4: Start Coil Folds (2pm – 5pm)
I use a stretch and fold method to work my dough, in the form of a coil fold. You’ll need to fold your dough every 30 minutes for three hours to develop the gluten strands in the dough.
Using very wet hands, gently coax the sides up with your fingers and lift it up from the middle and back onto itself. Turn your tray and repeat on all sides. Do it as many times as needed for it form a ball. If the dough sticks too much to your hands, wet them again.
Repeat this every 30 minutes for three hours. (Watch the video below for a demonstration.)
Initially the dough will be very sticky and wet but after a few folds it will hold together more and become elastic. You should feel the improvement in elasticity as your folds go on.
This video is the coil folding in my Rustic Honey Oat Sourdough. It’s a much wetter dough than this basic recipe so more folds were needed for it to form a ball. Do as many as necessary.
Step 5: Bulk Ferment (5pm – 7/8pm)
After all your folds are done, leave the dough to sit and bulk ferment.
How long this takes depends on the warmth of your room. If my kitchen is too cold I place my bread in the oven that is off but has the light on.
Bulk fermenting here is super important! An under-proofed bread will be dense with randomly spaced big holes.
Your dough should bulk out by 50%. That does not mean it doubles. It merely bulks out by half the amount.
If your dough starts rising too much you risk over-proofing and it will weaken the gluten structure you’ve built up. This will result in a collapsed dough.
Bulk ferment can take between 1-4 hours, depending on the warmth of your room. It is normal for your dough to stretch back out and fill the dish again, but it should feel bouncier and fuller if touched with a wet finger.
Step 6: Shaping And Cold Proof (8pm til morning or longer. The cold proof can be as long as 20 hours)
Now it’s time for the shaping of the dough and the slow, cool ferment which is when your dough will proof in the refrigerator for anywhere between 8-20 hours.
You’ll need some sort of basket or bowl for the dough to hold its shape while it proofs. I use a traditional banneton basket lined with a floured towel. Whatever you use, flour it well so the dough doesn’t stick.
Tip your dough out carefully on a very lightly floured work surface and gently form it into a rectangle. Take care at this shaping stage to not squash the dough too much and lose all the gases that have been forming.
Here is a video of my shaping.
The ‘Stitching’ where I grab little bits of dough from each side to create a seam, and the rolling of the dough towards me on the bench help to create surface tension in the dough.
Place the dough in your basket with the smooth side facing down. Place it in the refrigerator, covered with a damp tea towel.
Step 7: Baking Day
Fast forward at least 8 hours later and it’s time to get baking! Preheat your oven to about 230 C fan-bake /446°F (or 250°C/482°F if using a convection oven), as well preheating a large pot with a lid. If you have a dutch oven that’s perfect to use, but I used to use a large stainless steel soup pot with a lid.
Tip your dough out onto some baking paper if you’re lowering it into a large pot (so you don’t burn your hands!) or flour a Dutch oven pot well and tip your dough into that. Now slash it. It doesn’t really matter how you slash or score it, your bread just needs somewhere for air to escape. I use a razor blade for this job.
Then place the bread in the preheated pot and pop in the oven, with the lid on for 20-35 minutes for its covered bake. Capturing the steam inside the pot is what helps create that delicious, iconic sourdough crust. I found that my stainless steel soup pot needed the 35 minutes covered bake, while my cast iron dutch oven trapped the heat much better so only needs a 20 minute covered bake.
After the covered bake is done, remove the lid and place back in the oven for 15-20 minutes to brown up the crust.
Now here’s the hardest part: let the sourdough cool before cutting it. The reason for this is because if you cut a sourdough too early it has a tendency of being a little ‘gluey’ in texture. The steam needs time to escape the bread first. It will make it a lot easier to cut too.
The Easiest No Knead Sourdough Recipe
- 460 grams strong white flour
- 330 ml water
- 1 tsp salt
- 150 grams Fed active starter (at 100% hydration, doubled within 6-8 hours) See notes on starter below
To make 150g worth of active starter: take your sourdough starter and feed it in a fresh jar at a ratio of 1:2:2. This means 1 part starter, 2 parts fresh flour and 2 parts water. Measured in weight. To mix the starter for this recipe you can measure out 65g seed starter, 130g flour and 130g water and mix this well in a clean jar. Leave it to rise in a warm place. If your starter is active enough it should double within 6-8 hours and then it's ready to use.Whatever starter you have left over can be fed fresh flour and water and placed back in the refrigerator ready for the next bake. If you want to start your starter the evening before so you can start folding in the morning, feed your starter at 1:4:4 before you go to bed, cover the jar with a tea towel and keep it in a warm place overnight. For example, 20g seed starter, 80g flour and 80g water.
- Start this anytime, for a bare minimum of an hour. The longer the better though so start it alongside the feeding of your starter if you can.
- In a large bowl, combine the 460g flour and the 330g water to start the autolyse stage. Simply mixing the flour with the water and allowing it to sit for a while will help develop the glutens in the flour. Use wet hands to mix it into a rough dough, then cover the bowl with a plate and leave it to sit on the bench.
- Add the doubled sourdough starter and the salt to the autolysed dough and combine together using wet hands. It will form a sticky dough. Place it in a flatter glass or ceramic dish.
- Over the next three hours, stretch and fold this dough every 30 minutes, using a coil fold (see video.) Always use wet hands. It is normal for your dough to stretch back out after each fold.
- Now leave the dough on the bench to sit for another 1-4 hours until it has bulked out by 50%. Cover the dish with a plate to stop the dough drying out. This step is very important. Underproofed dough is very dense.
- Line a banneton basket (or other bowl) with a towel and flour it well.
- Tip your dough out carefully on a very lightly floured work surface and gently form it into a rectangle. Take care at this shaping stage to not squash the dough too much and lose all the gases that have been forming. Watch the short video above on shaping to see how to shape as written instructions are very hard to decipher. I have tried to explain them here: Take the bottom third of the dough and fold it up so it meets the middle. Take the right bottom side of the dough and fold it to meet the middle. Then take the left bottom side of the dough and fold it to meet the middle. Then take the top third of the dough and bring it down to meet the bottom. Now you have a sort of ball shape. Now you can stitch it grabbing a little bit of dough from the top left and a little from the top right and bring them together to meet in the middle. Carry on doing this down the length of the dough. When you get the bottom, grab a flap of dough and carry it up over top of the stitched dough to meet at the top. This will again create a sort of ball. Now gently grab this ball and roll it gently towards you on the bench. This will create some surface tension. All the while, take care not to de-gas your dough too much. Place in the floured bowel or basket, smooth side down.
- Cover with a floured tea towel and place in the refrigerator for 8-20 hours.
- Heat oven and cast iron pot at 230 C fan-bake /446°F (or 250°C/482°F if using a convection oven).
- Flour the bottom of the pot or baking paper. Flip the dough out of the basket and brush with flour (flour is optional). Score the dough using a razor blade or very sharp knife.
- Bake in the pot covered with the lid for 20- 35 minutes.I find that cast iron pots hold the heat very well and don’t need quite as long as a stainless steel pot. Remove the lid and bake uncovered for 15-20 minutes more depending on your preference.
- Let the sourdough cool before slicing.
Have you made this? Tag me and let me know! @home_grown_happinessnz