3-Ingredient Sourdough Bread Made with Flour, Water, Salt

Updated 04/26/20

See my book for an updated version of this recipe.

Every time I post a picture of a freshly baked sourdough loaf on social media, someone asks “Is the recipe on your blog?” Before I bake this weekend (that’s how I party) and post pics, I thought I better post the recipe here.

dating profile pic

On Twitter, I follow Joe Fitzmaurice, an Irish baker, who recently used a hashtag that sums up what I have written here: #EasyWhenYouKnowHow. I constantly refer to my blog for my own recipes. I forget them all. This one I have memorized, however. I could make it in my sleep. Sometimes at 5am, I do make it in my sleep. Although I list 27 steps down below, you can lump them together into a mere seven:

  1. Make a leaven
  2. Soak the flours
  3. Combine half the leaven with the soaked flours
  4. Turn dough during the bulk fermentation
  5. Shape dough
  6. Proof
  7. Bake

Sourdough Starter

Before you make your sourdough bread, you’ll need a starter. I have written posts on that herehere and here. For answers to the most frequently asked sourdough starter questions, go here.

Recommended Equipment and Books

I hate to tell people to buy more stuff. You may find some of these items at yard sales or secondhand stores. I saw piles of Dutch ovens at a huge antiques fair recently. You don’t need all (or really any) of this BUT I find using the proper equipment results in better loaves. I’ve included some basic items here for those of you with no baking experience.

  • Kitchen scale. I highly recommend you get your hands on a scale if you plan to undertake serious baking. I measure my flour in grams because weight can differ greatly from volume. If you don’t have a scale, you’ll find the approximate measurements in cups here.
  • Dutch oven. It’s probably wrong to love an inanimate object as much as I love my Dutch oven. Commercial ovens inject the interior with steam, which creates sourdough’s nice crust. You can replicate this environment with a Dutch oven. The moisture from your dough will generate steam inside the sealed Dutch oven. If you don’t have a Dutch oven, bake in loaf pans or on a baking stone or cookie sheet. Mine is huge—6 1/2 quarts. A smaller one will work—5 quarts or even 4.
  • Banneton baskets. I proof my loaves in these wicker-like spiral baskets. I had trouble tracking them down and they cost about $25 each (not cheap). I have two baskets, so when I make three loaves, I just use a towel-lined bowl sprinkled generously with flour to proof the third loaf. Works well.
  • Razor blade or lame. The razor blade for scoring changed my life. With a good score, the bread can expand more, resulting in a better rise. 
  • Dough scraper. Use this to clean your cutting board and to flip your dough around. If you have a limited budget, this is the one thing you might want to splurge on.
  • Silicone spatula. I use these to scrape down the very sticky sourdough starter. 

(Go here for making sourdough bread without the expensive equipment.)

This is based on Michael Pollan’s recipe from his fabulous book Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation. He bases his recipe on Chad Robertson’s in Tartine Bread. I love both of these books. The pictures in Tartine Bread really help you along BUT the recipe spans about 26 pages (and you thought my post was long!). Michael Pollan’s is about four pages. Tartine also offers many delicious variations, such as the coriander raisin bread pictured below. (Oops, I accidentally used cardamom in these loaves, which tasted great.)

cardamom raisin

Ingredients for Two Loaves

I often grind fresh flour for my bread. I use only about 20 percent freshly ground as it tends to make a dense loaf. If you use freshly ground flour, grind it immediately before using as the oils in the grain turn rancid quickly. That’s a blog post for another day…

For the leaven:

  • 100 grams whole wheat flour
  • 100 grams white flour
  • 200 grams warm water
  • 35 grams recently fed sourdough starter

For the sourdough:

  • 600 grams whole wheat flour
  • 200 grams white flour
  • 200 grams spelt or rye flour
  • 750 grams warm water (adjust as necessary)
  • 1/2 the leaven
  • 25 grams salt combined with an additional 50 grams warm water
This is actually freshly ground sorghum but you get the idea
This is actually freshly ground sorghum but you get the idea


Try to do the following as you work on your bread:

  • Take lots of notes
  • Smell and taste the dough at its various stages—the smell, taste and feel all serve as clues to the dough’s progress
Four stages of sourdough, beginning top right clockwise: bulk fermentation; leaven ready to use; formed loaf in banneton basket; baked loaf

1. Begin with active, fed sourdough starter. I usually feed mine twice before I bake, once first thing in the morning and later in the early afternoon. I then start my bread in the evening with my active starter. (Sometimes I will only feed the starter once before starting the bread.)

2. The night before you make your bread, in a glass or ceramic bowl, make a leaven (basically a giant starter). Combine 100 grams whole wheat flour, 100 grams white flour, 200 grams warm water and 35 grams fresh starter. Cover with a plate to prevent crust from forming on top and place in a warm spot.

3. Soak the flours for the dough at the same time as you make your leaven. In a large glass, ceramic or wooden bowl, combine 600 grams whole wheat flour, 200 grams white flour, 200 grams rye or spelt flour and 750 grams warm water. Cover tightly with a plate to prevent a crust from forming on top. (You don’t need to place this in a warm spot as with the leaven and it may dry out if you do.)

Pollan’s recipe calls for more water in this step—850 grams. I would suggest you start off with less and work your way up to more as you get more experienced at baking this. Even with the smaller amount of 750 grams of water, the very wet dough can freak new bakers out.

Good morning leaven
Good morning leaven (oops, it’s a little crusty on top…just scrape that off)

4. In the morning, combine 1/2 the leaven with the soaked grains. I use my hands to work everything in together. The remaining leaven is your new sourdough starter. The starter that you made your leaven with now goes into your discard jar along with all the other excess starter left over from feedings.

5. Combine 25 grams salt with 50 grams warm water and set aside.

6. Wait 20 minutes. Add salty water to dough and thoroughly mix it in with your hands. The bulk fermentation begins now so note the time.

7. Wait another 20 minutes. Turn the dough for the first time. Wet your hand, reach under to the bottom of the dough, pull it up and fold it over on itself. Turn the bowl 1/4 of a turn and repeat for a total of at least 4 turns. 

If you want to add seeds, nuts, olives or raisins, do that after the second turn of the dough.

Seeds: Fennel, sesame, sunflower and flax seeds are good choices. I use about 1 ½ cups total. Toast for 10 minutes in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Then, soak the seeds in about 1 cup warm water for 30 minutes before adding to dough. The seeds will absorb this water. If there is any remaining water, strain it out. Soaking plumps these up. They taste so good. Skip this step if you prefer though.

Nuts: Toast as with seeds until fragrant. You don’t need to soak nuts after toasting but chop whole ones into small pieces.

Olives: Chop into smaller pieces if whole.

Raisins: Soak 3 cups golden raisins in warm water for half an hour and strain before adding to the dough.

Coriander raisin dough after a few turns during bulk fermentation

8. Continue to turn your dough every 30 to 45 minutes.

9. End the bulk fermentation after 4 or 5 hours. My dough begins to break down around 5 hours so I rarely go past 4 1/2 hours. Your bulk fermentation may require more or less time, depending on your kitchen environment.

10. Generously flour a wooden cutting board or your counter top.

11. Dump dough onto work surface and halve into 2 blobs.

12. Sprinkle with flour and with your hands, rotate each blob gently while pushing the sides toward the bottom of the blob. Don’t work the dough any more than you need to in order to achieve this.

13. Cover with a towel and wait 20 minutes.

14. Sprinkle your work surface with more flour. With your dough scraper, flip a blob over. You’ll now shape your loaves. Pull gently on one end of the dough to form a rectangle. Fold the dough in half. Pull gently on the ends (i.e., not the folded side) to form a rectangle again. Fold over again. Turn the dough 90 degrees and repeat this folding. Now turn the dough diagonally. Make a rectangle, fold it. Make a rectangle in the opposite direction, fold it. Turn the dough 90 degrees and repeat this folding.

You have folded the dough a total of eight times. This creates a tight loaf and helps create a better rise. But be gentle! Don’t pop any air pockets. These are gold! The dough gets more difficult to fold as you continue to fold it. This is the trickiest part. Don’t worry, your bread will taste great 🙂

Formed coriander raisin loaf
Formed coriander raisin loaf

15. Sprinkle banneton baskets or cloth-lined bowls generously with flour. Place formed loaves in baskets, top side facing down. When you drop the loaf into the Dutch oven, the smooth side will face up. Cover the loaves with a cloth.

16. Proof the shaped loaves. I get the best results from an overnight cold proof in the refrigerator. This overnight proof gives you a break BUT you can proof now for two hours at room temperature and then bake as outlined in the next steps.

17. After proofing the loaves, place the Dutch oven in the oven and heat at 500 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes. If you have refrigerated your loaves, remove the first one from the fridge before you turn on the oven. My Dutch oven is very large—6 1/2 quarts. A smaller one will do.

18. Pull the Dutch oven from the oven and remove the lid. Hold the basket above the pot. Drop in the loaf being careful not to burn yourself.

19. Score the loaf using a razor blade on a stick or a store-bought lame. I prefer the razor-blade-stick combo as the blade on the lame is not usually replaceable. Put the lid back on. Return the Dutch oven to the oven. 

20. Reduce the temperature to 450 degrees.

21.  After baking for 20 minutes, remove the lid. This is the moment of truth. Hopefully your dough has risen nicely. Before I peer inside, I ALWAYS feel a little anxious! I doubt this will go away…

If all goes well, you'll see a little puff of steam when you remove the lid and a nicely risen loaf
If all goes well, you’ll see a little puff of steam when you remove the lid and a nicely risen loaf

22. Bake another 23 to 25 minutes without the lid, until the crust of the bread has browned and caramelized.

23. Place baked loaf on cooling rack.

My students take their formed loaf home to bake


Another student loaf baked at home

24. If you did an overnight cold proof, pull the second loaf from refrigerator.

25. Place Dutch oven with lid on top back in the oven. Heat the oven to 500 degrees for 15 minutes.

26. Repeat steps 18 through 23.

27. Devour bread after it has cooled. Resist the temptation to tear into it. The bread continues to bake after you remove it from the oven.

student loaves
Loaves students worked on in class, which I baked the next morning; they insisted I score with my initials 😉

179 Replies to “3-Ingredient Sourdough Bread Made with Flour, Water, Salt”

  1. What are the quantities in cups/tsp/table etc. Not good with grams 🙁

    1. I will measure in cups when I bake again this week Karen and let you know. It will be an estimate. That would be great if you tried it with cups. People have baked this for thousands of years without digital scales. They probably didn’t have my OCD though 😉 By the way, for water, 100 grams = 100 ml.

      1. Hi ZWC!
        I’m wondering if you ever got around to trying this/measuring the recipe with cups & tablespoons? I’m keen to get on the sourdough breadmaking bandwagon (I just received a started from a great restaurant!) however I’m a bit wary to purchase kitchen scales until I know I will be regularly using them. Don’t need another kitchen appliance that sits in the corner cupboard, etc. Thanks in advance!

      2. Hi Jax. No I’m sorry I haven’t. And I just made bread on the weekend. The next time I bake, I’ll weigh it and then measure it. I understand your hesitation to buy a kitchen scale. I hate to tell people to buy more stuff!

      3. Thank you, thank you!

  2. Wow! This sure does seem like a lotta work but I’ll bet the results are more than worth it, right?

    1. Well, yes and no. You babysit it and the microbes do the work during the 4 to 5 hour bulk fermentation. Plus no kneading! When I used to knead bread with commercial yeast, I almost wanted to pass out, I’m such a weakling. It does take longer to produce a loaf though. You just have to plan ahead. If I want bread on Saturday, I make my leaven Thursday night. And, yes this is delicious!

      1. You had me at “no kneading”. 🙂

  3. Why do you soak the grain / flour? Does this do something to the gluten?

    1. Sorry I have been so slow to respond. I had to look this up because I forgot why I soak the flour…So, soaking softens the flour and results in a more voluminous loaf. I have made the bread a few times without soaking the flours the night before (I was too tired…) and it still turned out just fine. The bulk fermentation does result in less gluten from what I’ve read. Even people who can’t tolerate wheat tell me they can eat this bread. I think a lot of people who are gluten intolerant are actually bad bread intolerant. The commercial stuff isn’t prepared properly.

  4. AM, this is great! We are wanting to make sourdough bread with fresh ground flour, but the differences in hydration and texture have us stalled…we’ll give your method a try. One question I can’t seem to find answers to elsewhere: when using the dutch oven for baking, do you bake one loaf at a time? Is the other one ok sitting for the extra 1/2 hr? Or do you have 2 pots to cook them at the same time? Thanks!

    1. Hi sorry I am slow to respond! So I do bake one loaf at a time. I actually do own two large Dutch ovens (a neighbor gave me her very old, awesome family Dutch oven) but a very tiny oven so I can fit only one in there at a time. The other loaf is fine to sit for a while. I almost always do a cold proof in the refrigerator and I’ll put the second loaf out only after I have baked the first.

      The freshly ground flour has thrown me off too. I have used only 20 percent because it is very heavy. I read that a finer grind is less nutritious (the molecules aren’t destroyed as much) BUT I want my loaves to actually rise. So it’s a big balancing act. I also don’t want to use much white, but there’s the rise thing. I think I could continue to bake this once a week for the next 10 years and still learn something new every time!!! Happy baking and thanks for the comment 🙂

  5. Thanks so much for posting this!
    Perhaps you can help me. My biggest problem is bread collapses when I transfer to dutch oven. Does this mean I’ve let it over rise?

    1. Oh that happened to my last loaf Aggie. The loaves spread out and looked like Jabba the Hut 🙁 They were PBFs (partial bread failures) but they still tasted delicious.

      I think you may be on to something and they proofed too long. With my disappointing loaves, I think I let the bulk fermentation go a bit too long. I could feel from the dough that it was starting to kind of break down a bit–it seems to kind of reverse course when I let it go too long and become less billowy. Then I think I let the cold proof go too long. So the next time I bake, I’m going to stop the bulk fermentation earlier and also start my bread later in the day so it proofs less in the fridge overnight.

      I hope that helps. Please let me know! It would help me too 🙂

  6. […] si l’aventure vous intéresse, vous pouvez commencer ici pour le levain et ici pour le pain (en anglais) ou ici pour le levain et ici pour le pain (en […]

  7. […] HERE is the recipe I used as my basis. She recommended taking notes on the process, and here are a few of my trial and error findings: […]

  8. Nice post! I became inspired to try to bake again sourdough bread.
    How big are your Banneton baskets?

    1. Thanks for checking it out Claudia. My baskets are 9-inch. Happy baking 🙂

  9. why make double the amount of leaven? If I use 35 grams of the starter, I still have starter left, why do I need a new starter.

    1. Well you could feed the remaining starter after you remove 35 grams from it. If you double the leaven, you have essentially fed the starter and you use that as your new starter. So you can do it either way. When I keep my starter out on the counter I feed it every day, so when I make my leaven and use half, I have fed my starter its next meal. I hope that makes sense. It sounds kind of like a “who’s on first” thing 😉

  10. Never thought of using the dutch oven for sourdough loaves. Ingenious. What size banneton do you use for the round loaves?

    1. I love love love my Dutch oven. My baskets are 9-inch.

  11. Betsy Wright says: Reply

    I’ve LOVED having your instructions. More clear than most. AND I’ve followed carefully. But my dough is too wet to mess with as I begin fold process. OK to add a bit of flour now?

    1. Hi Betsy. The dough is VERY wet. Sprinkle LOTS of flour on your work surface when you dump it out of the bowl. That should help. The first couple of times I made this, I thought I had done something wrong, the dough was so wet. Then I piled on the flour when I got to the stage when I started forming the loaves. That made a huge difference. I hope that helps!

      1. I have the same problem but I don’t understand your answer. Like Betsy my problem is that the dough is to wet to fold. When I try the only effect is that all of the bubbles breaks and the dough shrinks down to nearly starting size. Should flour be added during the folding?

      2. The Zero-Waste Chef says:

        Hi Jules. It sounds like you need to stop the bulk fermentation sooner. If the bulk fermentation goes too long, the dough will break down. Let it go even longer and eventually your dough would revert to a leaven. I hope that helps. ~ Anne Marie

  12. When you say “recently fed starter” for making the leaven, what does that mean? How recently should it have been fed?

    1. Hi Sarah. I usually feed my starter in the morning and make my leaven at night, so I would say within 10 to 12 hours, maybe even fewer. You want the starter to be lively when you use it for the leaven. ~ Anne Marie

  13. AM when would you add the raisins? During the soaking of the grains or when you add the starter and salt water? Also, any tips on how to prevent the loaf from sticking to the Dutch oven? Thanks! I’ve made this 3 or 4 times and every time it tastes better than the last. Thank you for this recipe:)

    1. Hi Adriana. Add the raisins after the second turn and your fingers to squish them through the dough. Also, soak the raisins for 30 minutes before you add them. The raisin bread is SO good–better than cake! I haven’t had much trouble with the loaves sticking to the Dutch oven. I think once a small area on the bottom of the loaf stuck and I tore the bread when I forced it out 🙁 The raisins do stick a little bit. You might have a few little burnt spots on your pot. You could try oiling your pot I suppose. I haven’t tried that. If you do, will you please let me know how it goes? I’m happy to hear your loaves are turning out well. Thanks for checking out the post 🙂

      1. Thank you so much, I will!

  14. I have been playing with your sourdough for a couple weeks now. I love the chemical change that happens when I add the salt water to the dough. I wasn’t sure from your instructions, though: When I add the salt water, do I let it sit on top of the dough? Or work it slightly in? Or work it thoroughly in? I had been working it thoroughly in, but now am thinking that kills the bubbles, so maybe you intended to wait the 20 minutes after pouring the salt in, and then mix it in as part of the turning.

    1. Hi Lynne. I love that change too. I find baking this way fascinating. When you add the salty water to the dough, mix it in thoroughly with your hands, then wait 20 minutes and make your first turn. Thanks for letting me know about this. I’ll go update the instructions right now.

  15. […] followed the process used by the Zero Waste Chef but using flours I had at home (a white bread […]

  16. Jenny Ludmer says: Reply

    Thanks so much for the recipe and inspiring me to take more steps towards a plastic-free life! Can you suggest a way to store a loaf? My husband swears by the plastic bag for this need.

    1. Thanks for checking out my blog, Jenny. In Cooked, Michael Pollan says to store the bread in paper, not plastic. So you can try telling your husband that but he may not take Pollan’s word as gospel like I do 😉 However, sourdough does stay fresh longer than bread made with commercial yeast. I used to bake with commercial yeast and the bread was delicious but it was stale the next day. This is fresh much longer, I would say up to a week. I store it in cloth produce bags I made (most of them are cotton) and they do the trick. I also freeze the bread in them. We eat the bread pretty quickly, usually before it goes stale though.

      1. Using cloth bags is an excellent idea!

  17. Hi AM, I have been loving your bread recipe and have tried several variations with mix-ins:

    Chopped dates & chopped walnuts (favorite!!)
    Dried cranberries, pepitas & rolled oats (other favorite!!)
    Raisins (dark & golden), chopped walnuts & pecans, cinnamon

    I feel like I have died and gone to heaven, This is what bread should be Of course, the original is more airy and sooooo good. The ones I did with mix-ins were more dense and there were less air bubbles, but I guess that’s to be expected? When did you add the raisins to your raisin coriander loaf? I split the dough in two after the second turn during bulk fermentation so I could add the different mix-ins and have 4 varieties to sample (I made 2 batches of dough so that way I used up all the leaven, and I saved some starter from the night before).

    I’m thinking of gifting these for Christmas, perhaps splitting the dough in thirds or fourths to make mini boules…any advice?

    Also, I get a rise out of the bread but it could probably be better (I bake it on an aluminum cookie sheet lined with parchment and sprinkled with cornmeal, 450F for about 20 min and then turn off oven, crack door and leave for another 5 min). All I have is a stainless steel dutch oven and I had a beautiful loaf get stuck…it came out eventually thank goodness but I avoid it now. (I totally coated the bottom in cornmeal but it spread to the sides and got stuck there.)

    How deep should I make my slashes on top and should they cover the whole top area or just the middle…does it matter?

    Thanks for everything you do!!

  18. Amanda Pelle says: Reply

    Hi, I found your post really helpful! I recently watched Pollen’s Cooked and am inspired to start up sourdough cooking again. After re-reading my Tartine cookbook and feeling overwhelmed, I found your website and am feeling slightly more up for it. My sticking point is the time it requires me to be home as I have 2 toddlers and we do a fair amount of running around. Any chance you have a write-up of approximate times of when you do all your leaven-making/bulk-rise/proofing? I like the idea of the overnight proof because I am assuming I can start the bulk fermentation in the afternoon when my kids are home napping, but then when do you make your leaven? I don’t think I’m dedicated enough to get up at 5am to start the process…Any input is appreciated. Thanks!

    1. Hi Amanda, I’m glad you’re going to try again. I haven’t added times to this. Tomorrow I am going to make the dough. So, I usually make the leaven at night pretty late, around 8 or 9pm (that’s late for me…), then I will start the dough in the morning, around 7am or maybe 8am. I’m done by 2pm and then I wake up at 5am to bake the next day (usually). The last couple of times I made bread, I finished the dough early (by 1pm or so), did the cold proof in the fridge until about 8pm and baked that night. I love the cold proof. Not only does my bread turn out better but it buys me a bit of breathing space. I can put the dough away for a while. I hope that helps! Oh another thing, take lots of notes! Then you will figure out what times work best. Everyone’s kitchen is different. Enjoy! ~ Anne Marie

      1. Hello Anne Marie, I successfully got my starter going and am in the process of planning my baking schedule. Are there any steps that can be “paused” in between; or do they all have to immediately follow one another?

        I put together a spreadsheet to help me envision the timing + planning, in case it helps anyone else: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/13SnzQyaproT_a7sIA1OeXl7bEq3yjc8bjJ0C6ywVCCA/edit?usp=sharing

  19. […] this point, I followed this bread recipe, which contained primarily whole-wheat and rye flour. A small amount of all-purpose […]

  20. […] used different versions, but for starters I would suggest you check out Anne Marie’s (the Zero Waste Chef). Check out her other incredible, helpful, and sometimes edible posts, […]

  21. What size dutch oven works well? Is 6 quart too big?

    1. Six quart will work. Mine is a 6 3/4 quart oval.

  22. Vickie Szymanski says: Reply

    I have tried to bake this bread 3 times now. It continues to be disk in shape, not a nice dome shape. I have read and read about others having this but I am not sure what I am doing wrong. Is this what is referenced as poor “oven spring.” Please advise.

    1. Hi Vickie. I think you’re right. It sounds like poor oven spring. I baked the (near) perfect loaf several months ago and it has evaded me ever since. My bread is still very good and way better than my first several attempts, but it always turns out a bit different and now that I’ve baked that really good loaf, I’m a little ruined 🙁 But I keep trying. I suggest you take lots of notes while you bake. Also, you may want to add more white flour. I also find that rye flour makes a more vigorous starter. So you may want to add more rye and a little less whole wheat to your bread. How long do you let the bulk fermentation last? I had been letting it go way too long at first and my loaves suffered. If you can get your hands on Michael Pollan’s book Cooked or Chad Robertson’s Tartine, those will help too. I hope this helps. ~ Anne Marie

      1. Vickie Szymanski says:

        Thank you for writing back. I was using Pollan’s recipe the first 2 times. Then went to Chad’s. Bulk ferment varies from 4 to 6 hours. I used Chad’s 1st book’s recipe and Pollan’s book recipe. Oh well. By the way, I wrote on the crackers section about adding cheese. Turns out all preferred the sharp cheddar addition over the parm. The crackers disappear.

      2. You’re welcome. I love the cheese idea. Thanks for the update about the sharp cheddar. My kids (and I) would love that.

  23. […] Esto lo leí en Cooked de Michael Pollan, tenéis una adaptación de su adaptación del Tartine bread de Chad Robertson aquí ↩ […]

  24. […] recipe I use is my own modified and tweaked version of Zero Waste Chef’s recipe (found HERE), which itself is taken from Chad Robertson’s Tartine Country Loaf recipe (found HERE). If […]

  25. Matthew Harrison says: Reply

    Hello there, like a lot of folks here I just finished watching and reading “Cooked” and my wife and I already have starter going, it’s gonna’ get its first feeding today! I see this is a blog post from literally years ago, so I hope maybe you get alerts when a new person comments 😉

    All we have to cook with is a cast iron pan. We’re not in a position to be purchasing cast iron anything else right now either unfortunately. Our oven strikes me as a good one though, it heats fast and whenever I open the door to check something, I get blasted with hot, moist air, which leads me to think that it seals nicely. Will we get a proper crust and all if we can’t cover our loaf? Also I wonder if we need to cook at a different temperature for the same reason…

    Thanks much in advance!

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Hi sorry for the slow response. I LOVED the book and the show. Michael Pollan is my hero…

      I know other bakers who don’t use a cast iron lid. I would just try it (which you may have by now). At worst, I imagine you’ll get a crust that’s a little pale. You are not the first person to ask me this. I really have to try baking with the lid off to see what happens. Enjoy your bread baking adventure 🙂

  26. 🙁 Made this twice and turned out poorly both times. Disappointing. Flat blobs of unshapeable glop, even using slightly less water than the recipe called for. I’m a novice, and I’m sure a baker with some experience would know right away what I’ve done wrong. I’ll have to find a recipe for ‘easier’ sourdough.

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      I had at least a couple of unwieldy blobs when I first started baking this. I don’t think I actually cried but early on I made LOTS of dough that left both me and the bread completely deflated 🙁 Use TONS of flour on your work surface. I use less water than the original recipe because it’s produces a shockingly wet dough. Also you may want to try ending the bulk fermentation sooner. It may be fermenting quickly in your kitchen. If the bulk fermentation goes too long, the dough starts to break down into an unmanageable mess. If you do try again, you could also cut this recipe in half and try just one loaf. Good luck in your quest for a good loaf 🙂

  27. Hi! How do I know when bulk fermentation process is done?? I am worried I will let it go too long and ruin my first loaf!!

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Hi Austin. I ruined several batches at the beginning by taking the bulk fermentation too far. When you are just starting out, I would suggest going by the clock. So let it go between 4 and 5 hours. After you’ve done it a few times, you’ll know how the dough should feel. I would also take a pic on your phone when you start the bulk fermentation. When it has risen a decent amount (maybe double or not quite) and you hit four hours or a little more, you can stop. I wish I had a better answer, like when it looks like x, do y. I would also suggest you take notes while you work on it so you can figure out what works and what doesn’t. You’ll notice the dough changing. Around the second or third turn of the dough, it should start to feel stretchy. When it’s ready, it will be billowy and have some large air bubbles in it here and there (maybe 1/2 inch diameter or more). Not a ton (although if you get a ton, I am jealous). You’ll know it has gone too far if you see the gluten strands kind of falling apart and the bubbles collapsing. By then, it’s too late, so I know this isn’t the most helpful information. I hope this helps. It’s a bit of a rambling answer. I sound like a bit of a witch casting spells… Remember what Michael Pollan says, even bad bread tastes pretty good! Good luck! ~ Anne Marie

      1. Thanks so much for your reply. I am at a crossroads here as I am at the 4 hour mark of my bulk fermentation and my dough is still quite sticky and stretchy, with not too many bubbles formed. I guess I will leave it for another 30mins for now and see how that goes. Hopefully all goes well!

      2. The Zero-Waste Chef says:

        You’re welcome. The dough is shockingly sticky! Use tons of flour when you dump it out. That was something else I learned the hard way. I don’t get tons of bubbles. If you have some, that’s a good sign.

  28. Hi AM, This is my second time trying this bread. The first time, I attributed my dense loaf to an immature starter. The second time around, my starter was doubling in hours, so I’m sure it was matured. I don’t think that the bulk fermentation process is working out, and it doesn’t really feel like much is happening, and it doesn’t rise much then or in the final proof. My bulk fermentation process takes place at normal room temperature, about 20C. The loaf comes out with a burnt bottom, and is very dense. Any thoughts??

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Hi Matthew. Your kitchen may be a little cool. How long did you let the bulk fermentation go? Maybe you need to wait a little longer. Also, what kind of flour do you use? I would love to say I use 0% white but I seem to need it to get a better rise. As for the burnt bottom, how did the rest of the loaf look? Was it also very brown? I’ve had a loaf stick to the bottom of my pot a couple of times and burn. I don’t know why this happened. It has been very rare. Oh and do you do a cold proof? I found this made a big difference in my bread. There are so many variables at play. If it’s any consolation, I made many, may dud loaves at first. I hope your next attempt works out better. ~ Anne Marie

  29. I’m a novice. What is a recently fed sour dough starter? Do I buy it? Sorry to sound so dumb.

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      It’s not a dumb question at all. When you make a sourdough starter, you have to “feed” it fresh flour and water, ideally daily. That keeps it healthy and vigorous enough to make your bread rise. When you make the bread, you want to use starter you’ve recently fed. Here is a post with more info on that: https://zerowastechef.com/2017/04/11/prevent-sourdough-starter-taking-life/ I hope that helps. I found this all very confusing at first. Once you’ve done it a few times, you get the hang of it.

  30. I’m making your sourdough bread recipe for the first time today (just started the bulk fermentation and so far everything looks great!). There’s just one thing that I’m confused by, if you could please help! When I made the sourdough leaven, using 35 grams of my starter, why do we make so much and then only use half? You say the other half now becomes my “new” starter, but using your 40 grams each flour/water recipe for daily feedings I still had more than enough original starter leftover. The majority of this is now going to just end up in my discard jar in the fridge (which I’ll use, thanks to your delicious recipes for this!) but would it make more sense next time to just reduce the leaven by half??? Thank you!

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Hi Jolene, I hope your bread turned out really well. So I have started doing this a little differently since I wrote the bread post. I used to feed my small starter a few times before making the leaven, at which point I would add what was left of my little starter in the discard pile. Then I would use half of the fresh leaven as my new starter. But it’s a lot of starter. So now I just keep feeding my little starter in the background, even when I’m making a leaven. Then I make a leaven half as big as in the post and use the whole thing up in the bread. If you use your whole leaven and you don’t have a starter, you’re in trouble (which I think someone on social media told me she had done once…). So yes, just make half the leaven and use it all and keep your little starter going. ~ Anne Marie

  31. Love your blog!! I’m wondering how you store your bread after you bake it? What keeps it the freshest? Bread box, wax wrap, paper bag? The question is all in an effort to stop relying on ziploc bags!

    1. Ooo! someone asked the question already, I just found… got the answer I was looking for!! Thanks for all you do on here! So inspiring!

      1. The Zero-Waste Chef says:

        My pleasure Chelsea. I’m glad you found the info you needed. ~ Anne Marie

    2. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Hi Chelsea, I get this question often. I make sourdough bread and it keeps longer than bread made with commercial yeast. I store it in a cloth produce bag at room temperature. Sometimes I freeze it whole (also in a cloth bag). I find it dries out if I slice it before freezing. I think a wax wrap would also work well. I have a few but they are too small for bread. ~ Anne Marie

  32. […] Linking through several gravitars, lead me this site , The Zero Waste Chef(Link)https://zerowastechef.com/2015/09/17/sourdough-bread/ […]

  33. I finally made my first two loaves today following your instructions! I have yet to do the taste test (will be done in the morning) I was so nervous during the process until I took the lid off in the oven and the loaf had risen perfectly and looked so great already. The moment of total pride and joy after many hours!
    I do not have a dutch oven so I actually used my tagine – which I think (at least until my taste test tomorrow) could be an option to get more use out of the tagine if you have one. Instead of proofing baskets I used my wok and a colander with kitchen towels inside. But something I really want to invest in asap is the kitchen scale and a dough scraper! I really think those two tools will make the process a lot smoother.

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Hi Matilda, Thanks for the feedback. I’m happy to hear your bread turned out well. Someone asked me recently if she could use a tagine to bake her bread. Now I know! I am always nervous right before I remove the lid! I don’t think that feeling will ever go away! I like my baskets but they certainly aren’t necessary. I love my dough scraper and scale though. I use them constantly, daily for the scraper. Enjoy your baking adventures 🙂 ~ Anne Marie

  34. Hi Anne Marie! I’m a huge fan. I’ve been making your/MP’s sourdough for about three months now (I’ve also made our ginger beer, mead, crackers, and I have my eye on your sorbet). I’ve gotten pretty good at it and my results always have a good rise, a great taste, and a great look. I’m curious if you could give a little more detail on steps 12 and 14. I’ve looked up countless other sources for sourdough and have approximated what you mean from those but I would love to get your version just right.

    Hope it’s not too much of a hassle. Thanks so much!

    1. Oops! Your* ginger beer etc

  35. Lois B Hansen says: Reply

    Is there a text only version of this recipe somewhere?

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Hi Lois. Sorry, this is the only post with the recipe. ~ Anne Marie

  36. Hi there! I am gathering supplies to get started on this recipe. I was curious what size Banneton basket and Dutch oven you use? Should they be the same size? I have found a variety of sizes on amazon.

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Hi Julie. My round banneton baskets are 9 inches. I haven’t tried using 8 inch ones, but wish I had one. My Dutch oven is very large (6.5 quarts). You don’t need one this big. I do love it though. Happy baking 🙂 ~ Anne Marie

  37. Kristin Brinner says: Reply

    I have made several loaves successfully – thank you for the wonderful recipe! I have a question though about the temp of the dough after a cold proof before popping it in the dutch oven. I have been letting the loaves warm up to close to room temp before putting them in the oven, but they definitely rise a bit while sitting out (for an hour or two). Is that how you do it? I just tried letting it warm for only about 45 minutes before baking, and it’s taking longer to bake. What is your preferred method?