Sunday, November 20, 2011

The easiest sourdough bread recipe I know (NO KNEADING!) that many have asked me to share and it can be done with 100% whole wheat!

I wish I could claim this recipe as my own, but I cannot. I am not a sourdough bread maker guru. More like stumbling my way through successes and failures as I practice learning the true nature of my sourdough starter. This recipe comes from Jules at Stone Soup - Delicious Healthy Meals In Minutes. If you head over to her site (as I did today to grab the link for the recipe) you'll see a place to enter your email to receive updates. When you do this you'll get two of her e-cookbooks for free. Can't complain about that!


This is another one of those favorite "go to" recipes that I use time and time again and that I make for my family on a regular basis. These recipes aren't fancy, but they are good and when I'm a bit uninspired in the kitchen, not feeling good and overly tired, which has been true a lot lately, these are the dishes or items I find easiest to make and don't require a lot of thinking on my part.

I've decided that when it comes to sourdough baking, a lot of practice and not getting too hyped up if things don't turn out will lend to a much more peaceful kitchen. Unlike using yeast and white flour recipes where you can treat every recipe exactly the same, sourdough starters have a little mind of their own. Depending on the environment they are maintained in, how often they are fed (yep, just like pets, they really do need to be fed and watered preferably about 2 times a day), at what point after the feeding you choose to use the starter, how long you let your dough "sour" and what temperature it is in your home, you will get different results with your recipes. Now for some this sounds like a nightmare, but honestly it's not, it just teaches you flexibility and as you make more sourdough items you learn how to best use your starter.

What I love about this particular recipe is that it's so easy. Honestly, anyone who knows how to make a couple of measurements can quickly throw together the dough for this bread in about 5 minutes. About 8-12 hours later you should have a sticky mass of dough ready to be baked. No kneading ever needs to be done and out of the oven in 45 minutes you have an absolutely delicious, rustic loaf of bread with a crunchy exterior and a soft, slightly sour and a bit moist interior.

I've made this bread countless times over the last year since I first shared the recipe in this post. I probably make 2-3 loafs every week. While it's a little dense in comparison to standard sandwich bread, it still makes great open face sandwiches which I like to put under the oven broiler and melt the cheese and heat up any meat for a great lunch. My husband loves it for his breakfast sandwich he takes with him to work every morning. Even better is it to eat the bread still warm from the oven in big chunks with a nice slab of butter and a big bowl of soup. As it cools down, this is something we are doing more and more often. It's also great as toast for breakfast.


I have yet to encounter someone who really didn't like this recipe. I always try to tell people how easy it is to make as they look at the impressive end results, but they give me that look of "sure... easy for you, but not for me." No, really it's easy for EVERYONE, well everyone with a healthy sourdough starter! If you want to know how to make your own starter, it to isn't hard and only requires flour, water and a bit of patience. You can check out the post I wrote on how I do my stater here. Now lets get to that recipe and yes, this time I have the measurements by volume and not just weight (that's been a big request)! :-) Oh, and just to let anyone know who might be interested, I've also experimented with different ratios of flour and water. In the end I still think the recipe as it is is the best.

One final note on flour in this recipe.
I almost exclusively make this bread with 100% hard winter wheat. The original recipe actually calls for bread flour.  There's no doubt about it that the white bread flour will give you a very impressive loaf that will be considerably larger than the 100% whole wheat one and it will be a bread that would be great for sandwiches, however I prefer to stay away from white flour for the most part unless I am entertaining and then I might offer a variety of types of bread.  I have made this recipe with bread flour, all-purpose flour, hard winter wheat, soft white wheat, spelt, rye and a combinations of white and wheat. The only flour I don't recommend is rye, at least not 100% worth, even the white whole wheat flour works good, which is uncommon in bread making. The more whole wheat flour you add the denser the bread will be (the more white bread flour, the lighter), but again, I'm not talking about brick hard, it is a very soft bread, just denser than standard sandwich bread. If you have questions about flour feel free to email me.

A couple of helpful tips.
The two pots I use for baking my bread in.
One of my helpful hints is down below in the recipe, but I wanted to also include a couple more. One of the fantastic things about making a recipe over and over is you can experiment quite a bit. Besides trying various flours, I've tried different size pots to bake my bread in. If you are looking for a taller bread that is more ideal for slicing and using for toast on an open face sandwich, then having the right size pot can be helpful. If the pot is too large the dough will flatten out some, especially the 100% whole wheat.  When I'm baking with all whole wheat or spelt I use my 8" wide (about 3" deep) pot with lid. This is the perfect size to allow the bread to fully expand width wise, while still gaining some nice height so it can be sliced well. When I use all bread flour my pot needs to be larger, because of how significantly larger the bread will rise when baking. For this I use my 10" wide (about 5" deep) pot with lid. For your first time making this recipe, use a large pot (cast iron works best) with a tight fitting lid. Then experiment with smaller pots if you have them. The type of pots I use are either a Lodge cast iron pot with lid or a Le Creuset pot also with a lid. Both work excellent, but with the all cast iron make sure to keep it well seasoned and put some semolina or cornmeal on the bottom before you place the dough in it to help keep the bread from sticking. The final tip is always let your oven preheat for an hour or so. The extra time lets not only the oven get hot, but then you are guaranteed to have a very hot pot as well. I have been disappointed on more than one occasion with my bread when I didn't let my pot get hot enough. No fun.

This bread is perfect for slicing, just a bit denser with a far crunchier exterior than sandwich bread.

What You'll Need
1 loaf of bread

3½ cups (487g/16.5oz) whole-wheat flour or unbleached bread flour
1 1/2 cups (300g/12oz) sourdough starter
2 cups + 1tbsp + 1 tsp (412g/15oz) water
2 teaspoons unrefined sea salt
(Salt: This is more than in the original recipe, but with the whole wheat flour I think it needs more salt, use 1 tsp for white flour and increase in the future if you want. You could easily use a whole tbsp. of salt when doing all whole wheat)
semolina or cornmeal, optional


Getting Started 
1.  In a very large bowl that can hold at least twice the amount of ingredients you measure out add all your ingredients. Mix them together with a spoon or your hand until you have a thick, sticky dough.

2. Cover the bowl with a lid or plastic wrap and set in a warm place (between 70° F - 80° F, if it's warmer the fermentation and rise will take place faster, so be prepared to bake sooner).
 
Risen dough has doubled in size.
3. Allow to rise/ferment for 8 to 12 hours. Overnight is great or make the dough first thing in the morning and bake it right before dinner.  

One hour before baking bread.
4. Place a large oven proof dish with a lid in the oven. Allow the oven to preheat at the highest temperature your oven will go (for me this is 550° F) for a solid hour before baking the bread. You aren't actually just waiting for the oven itself to heat up, but the pan too. I have found that 30 minutes is never long enough to get my pan as hot and my bread has suffered because of it. At an hour I'm guaranteed a hot oven and dish. 

30 minutes before baking... if you want... 
5. Helpful hint: This is a step you can omit and one I almost never do when I'm making the bread just for my family. In my opinion this step is more about the end presentation than it is about making a successful loaf of bread and actually when using 100% whole wheat it can be a bit messy of a step...


On a large non-terry towel spread a very decent amount of flour. The towel should quite literally be covered in a thin layer of flour. Scoop your risen dough out of the bowl and place in the middle of the flour. Sprinkle the top with flour and then fold over the edges of the dough to form a loaf. On either a second towel or if you still have enough flour on your current towel and the dough isn't sticking, turn your dough over so the rough edges are now facing down. Cover the dough with a towel and allow to set for 30 minutes until the oven is ready. 

What I've found is that when I use white bread flour instead of 100% whole wheat this step is far easier to do. The whole wheat dough is far, far stickier and can create some challenges if it starts to stick to the towel. It can certainly be done and it is how I did the whole wheat loaf that is in the pictures you see, it just may take a bit more patience or a lot of flour on the towel, like at least a cups or two. The biggest difference you'll see in the end result if you omit this step is that the bread won't crack in as dramatic of a way when baking and you won't have the pretty white flour on the top. You will still have a gorgeous loaf of bread either way and the taste will in no way be affected. 

Time to bake. 
6. Pull your hot dish out of the oven and sprinkle some cornmeal or semolina flour (about a tablespoon) on the bottom to help the bread easily come out at the end and also have a nice bottom. Pick up your loaf of bread in the towel and quickly dump it into the pan so that the original rough edges are now back on top. If you skipped this step then just scrape out the dough from the bowl directly into the dish. Place the lid back on top and put in oven. Bake for 30 minutes.

Before and after.
7. After the 30 minutes is done, turn the oven down to 400° F. Remove the lid from the dish and bake for an additional 15 minutes.

8. It's done! Pull bread out of pan or turn it over so bread drops out. Allow bread to cool for at least 30 minutes before trying to slice it. Enjoy! 



Sliced 100% whole wheat flour sourdough bread. 

 The picture below is one from when I originally posted this recipe. For this loaf I used 100% white bread flour. Although you can't tell this loaf is about 2" taller and wider than the whole wheat one, but with the same amount of ingredients.



42 comments:

  1. Awesome! Thanks SO much Therese! Now I just need to go get myself a cast iron pot... or can I use a regular enamel pot? The kind that is use for camping?
    Also, I LOVE stonesoup!! I've been following for a while now and saw that recipe for sourdough bread. Thanks again!

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  3. VERY good bread. Finally a recipe that works and is a true sourdough with no added yeast. My children are enjoying it with marrow and butter right now as I type. Thank you!

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  4. Awesome Kirsten, I'm glad it turned out for you! I just got done baking a loaf about 30 minutes ago too!

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  5. Hey! I am getting ready to try this out. I bought myself a cast-iron enambled pot for my birthday. SO excited to finally use it. It looks a little shallow to me, but its what you recommended for one loaf. Prayerfully it will come out good enough! I'll let you know how it goes :o)

    Oh, I wanted to ask you want kind of scale you use to measure out your stuff. I am thinking of getting one to see if there's much of a difference. Figure its about time for me to get one!

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    1. Hi Maryllyn, This is the scale I use: http://www.amazon.com/OXO-Grips-Stainless-Pull-Out-Display/dp/B000WJMTNA/ref=sr_1_7?ie=UTF8&qid=1332938104&sr=8-7

      It was a gift from my mom. It works great. My brother and mom have the same on too.

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  6. Thank you for the recipe! It turned out delicious! So easy to make and so good for you! I will be making it again soon!

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  7. Thanks so much Annie and I'm glad you enjoyed the bread!

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  8. Mine did not turn out. Not sure what I did wrong but the dough was soupy. :-(

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    1. Did you use the metric our volume measurements? I may need to retry the volume ones. I only ever use the metric ones myself. If it's really warm it can cause the dough to become soupy too. Often with my wheat it can be very, very sticky and instead of folding it over with flour 30 minutes before putting it in the oven I skip that step and just dump it in the pan directly. You don't get as pretty of a top, but it still rises very nicely.

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    2. For some reason every time I try to respond it keeps deleting my message. Sorry! Are you using metric or volume measurements. I always make this using metric, perhaps I need to retry the volume and make sure everything is aok. Also, if using wheat I have found that sometimes the dough can be very, very sticky or even soupy (if it's fermented in a warm room, like above 85 degrees F). When this happens I simply forgo the last step where you fold the dough over with flour about 30 minutes before it goes in the oven. Instead I just dump it directly into the pot as soon as it's hot and ready to go.

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    3. I see this is an older thread, so I don't know what will be seen...LOL I, also, had a 'soupy' dough, so when I turned it out onto the counter (didn't have a proper towel, so used LOTS of flour!) I folded it
      over several times, incorperating enough flour to be able to work with it. I guess it was really more of a very gentle kneading, perhaps?? It still was a very 'loose' dough, but I managed to get it into my pot, and it baked wonderfully. Just an FYI...:)

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    4. Hi Rebecca, it can be an extremely soft dough. In my experience the warmer the kitchen or the longer it ferments the softer the dough. One thing you can do it skip the kneading step, which really is kind of shaping the dough more than anything else, and dump the dough directly into the pot. I often do this. When the dough is extremely soft putting the it on a cloth is almost essential to easily get it into a pot. Glad it still worked out for you. I love this recipe and make it several times a week! It's too easy not to.

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  9. I place my bread on an over-sized piece of parchment paper (leave the sides long enough to lift the raised dough)to rise. This makes it easier to get the dough into the hot pan without it deflating. Some of the paper sticks out the sides, but it has never been a problem, even in a very hot oven.

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    1. Interesting Corri. I've never thought of using parchment. Thanks for sharing!

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  10. I'm so excited to try this! I've converted some of my new sourdough starter to whole wheat and have had the hardest time finding a recipe that didn't have eggs, milk or yeast added. Like you, I prefer the keep cooking until you find what works/ stumbling while baking method. Great post! Glad I found you!

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  11. Would it be possible to bake this as a free form loaf on a baking stone instead of in a pot with a lid?

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    1. Hi Megan, this recipe really wouldn't work well as a free form bread, the moisture content is too high. It's that extra moisture that creates the crunchy crust on the exterior of the bread. Most likely if you tried to free form it you'd end up with a bread that was about an inch thick. It's needs walls to help create volume. Sorry!

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  12. Therese, I made this and it turned out beautifully! Oh my goodness, you've changed my world of bread baking! One thing. I didn't have an 8" cast iron pot. I only had a 12" so I put in an 8" glass bowl into my larger cast iron pot and baked it in there. It turned out great!

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    1. Really good idea Diana! Never thought of using a glass bowl. This is definitely one of the easiest sourdough bread recipes I know. I've just been working on some new recipes, that are still simple, but taste oh so good! I've yet to have good success with a regular knead and rise loaf bread, but I'm determine to master it. My starter is still suffering a bit from a hard summer of it not getting nearly enough attention! Glad your bread turned out!

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  13. Hi
    Have you ever tried using spelt or other non wheat grain flours to make sour dough bread and /or the starter dough? I'd be interested to know if any of these work.

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    1. HI Charlotte! Yes I have made sourdough with spelt and it works decently. I haven't made a bread like the one is this post with any other grains though. Spelt, I believe, can also be used to make a starter, but if I was going to go for the typical wheat I'd go with rye flour instead. It is an excellent flour for starter. You may try mixing rye flour and spelt together and see what type of results you get. You'll get bread of some sort, just may be denser than what you see in my pictures, however still great for soup. I haven't had rye flour on hand for a while, but should add it back into my baking soon. Beyond those flours I haven't experimented with sourdough and other grains, although it's been on my list to try buckwheat at some point. If you do try alternative flours, please send me a line about your results. I'd be very curious to know how it goes.

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  14. (I didn't mean to be anonymous, just didn't understand the profile options; I'm Charlotte from England)

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  15. Is the pot that you use 2 Qts.? It's difficult to find the size in inches, they generally give the size in quarts. Would you be able to give the depth of the pot? Thanks :-)

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    1. Hi Sarah, yes it is a 2qt. pot. This is the one I use for the smaller size: http://www.lodgemfg.com/seasoned-cast-iron/dutch-ovens/serving-pot-with-iron-cover-L2SP3

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    2. I'm wondering if the starter works just as well if you make enough to do 4 loaves? Is there a recipe that you can bake in loaf pans, to do 4 at a time in the oven? I'm feeding a family of 10 and would like to make this more practical. Thanks :-)

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    3. Hi Sarah, sorry for the delay in responding!!! I have many times doubled and tripled this recipe. If you haven't already tried making it, the bread could go further than you think. It's denser than sandwich bread and far more filling. One thing I do regularly is use my larger pot, I believe it's a 4 quart one and double this recipe. This works great for our family. I also make a bunch of loaves over the course of a couple of days and then stick the extra in the freezer. As far as making bread is a loaf pan, this is not the right recipe, but there certainly are plenty of recipes that work well for loaf pans. Check out GNOWFGLINS (http://gnowfglins.com/ecourse/classes/sourdough) for her sourdough e-book which is filled with a variety of recipes. I also like the website The Fresh Loaf (thefreshloaf.com, try this link too http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/6878/whats-your-favorite-ourdough-book). This is a book I've also just started trying to use and it's filled with a ton of different bread recipes (http://www.amazon.com/Classic-Sourdoughs-Revised-Bakers-Handbook/dp/1607740079/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1351684230&sr=8-1&keywords=sourdough+cookbook). The recipes are with white flour, but I am hoping to transfer some of what I learn from it to making whole sourdough bread. What it ends up coming down to is a good of a starter you have. Hope that helps!

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  16. Thank you so much. I have tried doing sourdough before and it was a flop. The starter was really strange. This recipe is perfect! I can't wait to start it!

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  17. Hey! just a little tip from baker to baker, id go check out sourdoughs international for some bada** sourdough starter. i got the san francisco and OMG way good, came out great.

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    1. I Rechael, I have thought of trying some other starters. My friend has a starter from Alaska I believe that's been going for over 200 years! Thanks for your thoughts!

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  18. michelle p. from waMarch 12, 2013 at 1:08 AM

    Just a quick question....Does your starter need to be at its peak to start this recipe...like fed a few hours before or can it be after some time has passed in the day?

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    1. Having your starter at it's peak is always best, but you can get away with it being fed within that last 8 - 12 hours. The bread may not rise as much, but it should turn out pretty well. Experiment and see what results you have. This is a more flexible recipe than most risen breads.

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    2. michelle p. from waMarch 12, 2013 at 12:10 PM

      Thank you!

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  19. I made this with hard red wheat berries and is was GREAT and SO easy.
    You mentioned soft white wheat in the post. Have you made this using 100% freshly ground soft white wheat berries? If so did it turn out or was it too crumbly?
    Thank you.

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    1. Glad to hear it turned out for you. I love this bread. I have used all kinds of different flour and generally had good success. The soft white wheat berries do work. I don't recall the bread being overly crumbly. I now make this bread with 100% spelt and love it. I also converted my sourdough starter to all spelt. It works very well. I'm finding that spelt works better for bread in general.

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  20. is the 'button' of the lid not going to melt at 550 degrees? Creuset says up to 450 is possible...

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    1. Hi, my creuset says it goes to 500 and I have never had a problem with it at that temperature. If I am using my Lodge dutch oven than I go to 550. Hope that helps.

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  21. This turned out exceptionally well! Did not get the same height as yours, but the flavor and texture are spot on. Doing this with my daughter as part of a 3rd grade science fair experiment, comparing a starter initially begun with pineapple juice to one begun with and completed with water. The first try was with the pineapple juice starter, and it was great. We'll make a loaf using the water-only starter tomorrow.

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    1. Glad it turned out for you! Hope round 2 went well too.

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  22. I have tried making this a few times and find that the inside of the bread takes on this weird kind of 'sticky' texture - any ideas?

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  23. Hi There was about to give up on making bread til I found this recipe it is SUPER please could you tell me if you double up the mixture do you double up the baking time too???

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    1. I would guess that you split the dough in half and do two loaves at the same baking time. The surface-volume ratio can make things tricky if you make a bigger loaf.

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