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The Easiest Sourdough Bread Recipe (Great For Beginners!)

Are you trying to hop on the sourdough bread trend? Welcome! Sourdough bread is such a wonderful skill to learn, and this beginner sourdough bread recipe will give you the confidence you need to stick with it until you are a seasoned veteran. This recipe doesn’t require any sets of stretch and folds or complicated instructions. It’s incredibly simple and you can follow along these easy steps with pictures. Delicious homemade sourdough bread is something anyone can learn, including YOU!

Side view of artisan beginner sourdough bread loaf

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What’s The Big Deal With Sourdough, Anyway?

If you are still in the learning stages of sourdough, it is a way of making bread that dates back hundreds of years. Sourdough is how people made bread before commercial yeast. This style of baking uses a natural fermentation process with a live fermented culture called sourdough starter. This natural fermentation creates a really delicious flavor, chewy texture, and also comes along with some cool health benefits. One of the best ones is that the slow fermentation process breaks down the gluten, making it much easier to digest than traditional yeast bread. Even some people with gluten sensitivities can handle sourdough bread! 

Benefits To Baking Your Own Bread At Home

Have you ever looked at the ingredients on a loaf of store-bought bread? Here’s an example of the ingredients in a loaf of bread from a popular brand:

Unbleached Enriched Flour (Wheat Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Water, Whole Wheat Flour, Honey, Wheat Gluten, Sugar, Wheat Bran, Contains 2% or Less of Each of the Following: Yeast, Salt, Cultured Wheat Flour, Soybean Oil, Calcium Sulfate, Distilled Monoglycerides, Monocalcium Phosphate, Ascorbic Acid, Enzymes, Soy Lecithin.

First of all I’m appalled that this bread has soybean oil in it, but that conversation is for another time. Did you know that bread only actually requires 4 ingredients? All it takes is flour, water, yeast (or sourdough starter) and salt. I’ll show you how anyone can make it in this beginner sourdough bread recipe.

Top view of a loaf of artisan style beginner sourdough bread

Making your own bread at home is so much healthier, and it’s an incredibly rewarding skill to learn. It is also a great way to reduce processed foods, artificial ingredients, and dependence on the grocery store. 

How To Make Your Own Sourdough Starter

If you don’t have your own sourdough starter, you can make your own with just flour and water! Or, if you know a friend that has some just ask them for a little bit. That would be the quickest route. Here’s a quick tutorial on how to make your own sourdough starter. It’s the exact tutorial I used to make my own starter about a year and a half ago. 

Top view of a glass jar of bubbly active sourdough starter

A few tips for sourdough starter:

  • It can take a week or two to have sourdough starter that is ready to make bread if you are making it yourself from scratch. 
  • You should store your sourdough starter in a glass, clean jar. I have this jar for my sourdough starter, and I love it! 
  • To maintain a healthy sourdough starter, feed it daily if it is on the counter, and weekly if you keep it in the fridge.

Common Sourdough Terms For Beginners

Sourdough comes along with it’s own language. Ok not really that complicated, but there are definitely some terms that everyone uses that can be confusing if you don’t know what they mean! I’ve got it all broken down here so you can make sense of all the terminology:

Sourdough Starter

A live culture made from flour and water. It contains wild yeasts, bacteria, and acid that can be used to ferment and raise bread. 

Sourdough Discard

The sourdough starter that is removed from the jar before feeding. You can throw it out, or us it in discard recipes. Technically, you don’t ever have to take starter out, but if you don’t you may end up with an overflowing amount which can be hard to feed enough, and keep strong and healthy. Some of my favorite discard recipes are tortillas crackers, and pizza dough.

Active Sourdough Starter

This is sourdough starter that has been fed 4-12 hours prior. It is bubbly, and has doubled in size since feeding. 

Bulk Fermentation

This is the first bulk of time that your bread will rise. This is an important step that should end with your dough doubling in size. You want your dough to rise enough, but not over ferment. Again, practice makes perfect! 

Stretch And Folds

This is a process literally stretching and folding while rotating the bread dough to strengthen it. It is included as an optional step in this recipe. 

Scoring

This is a step in sourdough bread making where you slice the top of the dough with a very sharp knife or razor blade (sometimes called a bread lame) right before it bakes. Scoring can be simple (like in this recipe), or it can get more complex with really beautiful designs. Not only does this make beautiful bread, but it actually helps with the oven rise as the score helps the bread to release steam and expand as it cooks. 

Banneton

This is a linen lined basket or bowl that is used for the final proofing. After shaping your dough into a nice ball, the banneton helps the bread dough hold it’s shape in the final proof before you score and bake it. 

Proofing

The final rise of your bread before baking.

Tips for Beginner Sourdough Bread Recipe

One of my best tips for learning sourdough is that practice makes perfect. The more you bake, the more you will get comfortable. There are lots of variables when it comes to sourdough bread, like strength of your starter, temperature of your house, and type of flour you are using. But don’t let these variables stress you out! As you make bread, you will start to learn your starter, your home, and your flour and get the recipe down perfectly. Don’t be afraid to experiment. 

Top view of beautiful sourdough homemade bread

Make sure your sourdough starter is very active when you are ready to mix your dough. This can really make or break the end result! 

Don’t get discouraged if your first loaf of sourdough bread isn’t perfect. It’s a process to learn, try and enjoy it!

Finding a warm spot in your kitchen can really help your bread rise. If I feel that my bread is not rising well, I like to put it in the oven and turn the light on. It adds just enough warmth to really help the bread dough rise. 

Ingredients for Beginner Sourdough Bread Recipe

Homemade sourdough bread only requires four ingredients that most people have in their kitchen! If you don’t have sourdough starter yet, it’s incredibly easy to make. 

Flour – I have used all purpose, bread flour, and whole wheat flour. Sometimes a combination! For the best results as you learn, I would suggest starting with all purpose flour or bread flour. 

Water – room temperature, filtered water is best. Tap water often has unwanted chemicals in it that may interfere with your loaf.

Active Sourdough starter – starter that has been fed 4 -12 hours prior, and is very bubbly and active. Ideally it has doubled in size. 

Salt – I prefer to use unrefined mineral salt, but any salt will work! 

Top view of two slices of homemade sourdough bread on a wooden cutting board

Other Tools You May Need

  • Large Glass Bowl
  • Kitchen Scale, or Measuring Cups & Spoons – A kitchen scale will give you the most accurate results, but I use measuring cups often and they work great. 
  • Plastic Wrap or Tea Towel
  • Dutch Oven – this will give the bread a nice crispy crust. If you don’t have a dutch oven, you can use a baking sheet or cast iron skillet. You may not get quite the same results though.  
  • Banneton or bowl for final proofing
  • ​Razor blade or bread lame

Beginner Sourdough Bread Recipe: Step By Step Instructions

Step One: Feed Your Sourdough Starter

Roughly 4-12 hours before you plan to mix your bread dough, feed your sourdough starter. I try to aim for feeding it on a 1-1-1 ratio, so equal amounts of flour and water as there is sourdough starter in my jar. So for example if I have about 1/2 cup of sourdough starter, I will add 1/2 cup of flour, and 1/2 cup of filtered water, and stir it well. 

In my personal experience, my sourdough starter is bubblier and very active closer to 12 hours after feeding. I have a sample baking schedule below so you can see how I like to do it, but as always experiment!

Step Two: Mix Your Bread Dough

Combine 3 cups of flour and 1 1/2 tsp salt in a large bowl. I prefer to use a glass bowl for this. Add 1/4 cup of active starter, and 1 to 1 1/2 cups of water. The amount of water will depend on how dry it is where you live, and what type of flour you are using. Start with 1 cup, and see how it mixes up. If it is too dry add a little bit more water until you have fully incorporated the flour and the dough is nice and sticky (but not too wet!). Practice makes perfect, after you have made bread a few times you will start to get a feel for how the dough should look.

Top view of freshly mixed sourdough bread dough in a glass bowl

Step 3: Cover & Ferment the Dough

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a tea towel. Place it in a warm place in your kitchen. 

Optional Step: One Set of Stretch & Folds

30 minutes into the bulk fermentation, you can do an optional set of stretch and folds. You absolutely don’t have to, but it’s really easy and it’s fun to get your hands a little dirty. You may need to wet your hands before working with the dough to prevent sticking. Recover, and allow the dough to bulk ferment until it has roughly doubled in size. This should take anywhere from 6 – 12 hours depending on how warm it is in your kitchen, and how strong your sourdough starter is. One trick I have learned is to place your bowl of dough in the oven, and turn on the light. This adds just enough warmth to hep it to rise really well a little bit faster.

Step 4: Preheat the Oven

Once the dough has roughly doubled in size, it is ready for the next step. Get ready by preheating your oven to 450 with the dutch oven you plan to use inside the oven.  Preheating the dutch oven helps with achieving that nice crispy crust!

Step 5: Shape & Final Proof

While your oven is preheating, you are going to shape your loaf and allow it a second rise / final proof. To shape your dough, remove it from the bowl onto a floured work surface. Here are the steps to create a nice, round loaf:

1. Spread the dough out on the counter or cutting board in a rectangular shape

Top view of sourdough bread dough spread out in a rectangular shape on a wooden cutting board

2. Fold the dough in 3rds (the long way), and then fold the other half back on top of the first half. If you find the dough is sticking, use a bench scraper to help fold.

Step one of shaping a sourdough loaf, fold it in thirds on a cutting board

3. Rotate the dough and roll it up the opposite direction. 

Step 2 of forming a sourdough loaf, rolled up dough on cutting board

4. Tuck the ends underneath, spinning it gently as you go until the entire surface is round and flat.

Top view of rounded shaped sourdough bread dough

For the final proof, you wan to protect the round shape you just created. For this you can either use parchment paper and a bowl (my preferred strategy), or you can use a cloth-lined banneton basket.

Parchment Paper: For this step, you are going to sprinkle a piece of parchment paper with flour. Move the dough onto the parchment paper, and place the parchment paper into a bowl. Cover it with a tea towel. 

Cloth-lined banneton: Sprinkle the seam side of the liner with flour, and place your loaf smooth side down into banneton. You will need to flip the dough ball over to protect the smooth side on the towel. 

Let the dough rest  30 minutes – 1 hour, or until it is puffy. It does not need to double in size. I have found that often 30 minutes is enough for my bread. 

Note: Some people choose to do this final proof in the fridge to make scoring easier. I don’t usually do this though and have never had any issues!

Step 6: Score & Bake

If you utilized step one above, your dough is ready for the next step without moving it. If you used a banneton, prepare a piece of parchment paper on the counter and sprinkle it with a little flour. Flip your bread dough out of the banneton onto the parchment paper.  Dust the bread dough with a little more flour, and smooth it out with your hands. Using a sharp knife, razor blade, or bread lame, make a large slash down the center (or slightly off center) of the dough. You want at least one large score (2-3 inches long) to allow the bread to expand, and you can add smaller “aesthetic” scores if you want. 

Remove the hot dutch oven from the oven. Place the parchment paper and bread dough into the dutch oven, and cover with the lid.

Bake for 20 minutes with the lid on, then carefully remove the lid and bake for 20 more minutes.

Step 7: Cool & Devour

Remove the dutch oven, and take the bread out of the dutch oven right away. It should be golden brown and have a nice round shape! I like to grab the parchment paper and pull it out that way to avoid burning my hands. Allow the bread to cool on a wire rack for at least an hour (it really helps with the final texture if you can be patient!). 

Try not to eat it all at once, it’s that good :). 

Hands holding a cut open loaf of sourdough bread showing the crumb

Beginner Sourdough Bread Recipe

This beginner sourdough bread recipe is simple and will give you the confidence you need to stick with sourdough! Learn everything you need to know to create a crusty artisan loaf.
Print Recipe
Prep Time:30 minutes
Cook Time:38 minutes
Additional Time:12 hours
Total Time:13 hours 8 minutes

Equipment

  • 1 Glass Bowl
  • Measuring Cups / Spoons
  • Plastic Wrap Or Tea Towel
  • 1 Dutch Oven
  • 1 Bowl or Banneton For final proofing
  • 1 Razor blade or bread lame

Ingredients

  • 3 cups Flour All purpose or bread flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1/4 cup Active sourdough starter
  • 1 1/2 cup Filtered water

Instructions

Feed Your Sourdough Starter

  • Roughly 4-12 hours before you plan to mix bread dough, feed your starter. I usually aim for a 1-1-1 ratio (sourdough starter-flour-water).

Mix Your Bread Dough

  • Combine flour and salt in a large glass bowl. Mix together
  • Add sourdough starter and mix until just combined.
  • Add the water, starting with 1 cup. If your dough is too dry, continue adding up to 1/2 cup more. The amount of water you need depends on how dry it is where you live, and the type of flour you are using.

Cover & Ferment The Dough

  • Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a tea towel, and put it somewhere warm in your kitchen.
  • Optional: One Set of Stretch & Folds. 30 minutes into the bulk fermentation, you can do an optional set of stretch an folds. You don't have to do this, but it's really fun and not too difficult.
  • Recover the dough, and allow it to bulk ferment for anywhere from 6-12 hours until it has roughly doubled in size. One trick you can use if your dough doesn't seem to be rising, is to put it in the oven and turn the light on.

Preheat The Oven

  • Once your dough has doubled in size, preheat the oven to 450. Put the dutch oven you plan to bake with inside the oven when you preheat it!

Shape & Final Proof

  • While your oven is preheating, you are going to shape your loaf and allow it to have a second rise.
  • Spread the dough out on the counter or cutting board in a rectangular shape
  • Fold the dough in 3rds (the long way), and then fold the other half back on top of the first half. If you find the dough is sticking, use a bench scraper to help fold.
  • Rotate the dough and roll it up the opposite direction. 
  • Tuck the ends underneath, spinning it gently as you go until the entire surface is round and flat.
  • Now you want to protect the shape you just created for the final proof. For this you can use a parchment lined bowl, or a banneton with a cloth linen.
  • Parchment Paper: For this step, you are going to sprinkle a piece of parchment paper with flour. Move the dough onto the parchment paper, and place the parchment paper into a bowl. Cover it with a tea towel. 
  • Cloth-lined banneton: Sprinkle the seam side of the liner with flour, and place your loaf smooth side down into banneton. You will need to flip the dough ball over to protect the smooth side on the towel. 
  • Let the dough rest  30 minutes – 1 hour, or until it is puffy. It does not need to double in size. I have found that often 30 minutes is enough for my bread. 

Score & Bake

  • Prepare a piece of parchment paper and sprinkle it with flour (skip this step if you used parchment paper in a bowl).
  • Flip your bread dough out of the banneton onto the parchment paper.
  • Dust the bread dough with a little more flour, and smooth it out with your hands.
  • Using a sharp knife or a bread lame, make a large slash down the center (or slightly off center) of the dough. You want at least one large score (2-3 inches long) to allow the bread to expand, and you can add smaller “aesthetic” scores if you want. 
  • Remove the hot dutch oven from the heated oven. Place the parchment paper and bread dough into the dutch oven, and cover with the lid.
  • Bake for 20 minutes with the lid on, then carefully remove the lid and bake for 20 more minutes.

Cool & Enjoy!

  • Remove the dutch oven, and take the bread out of the dutch oven right away. It should be golden brown and have a nice round shape! I like to grab the parchment paper and pull it out that way to avoid burning my hands. Allow the bread to cool on a wire rack for at least an hour (it really helps with the final texture if you can be patient!). 
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: beginner sourdough recipe, sourdough
Servings: 1 Loaf

Sample Baking Schedule For Beginner Sourdough Bread

Depending on if you would like to bake your fresh bread in the evening or morning, here are two different baking schedules that you can try. 

Night Baking:

8pm: Feed Sourdough Starter

Next Day

8am: Mix Bread Dough

8:30am: Stretch & Folds

6:30pm: Preheat oven, final proofing / resting time

7:00pm: Bake Bread

Morning Baking

8:00am Feed Sourdough Starter

8:00pm Mix Bread Dough

8:30pm: Stretch & Folds

Next Day

7:00am: Preheat oven, final proofing /resting time

7:30am: Bake Bread

Two images of artisan beginner sourdough bread loaf, with text that says "beginner sourdough bread"

Storing Sourdough Bread

Keep your fresh sourdough bread in an airtight container. It should last about a week (if you can resist eating the whole thing before then!). 

There you have it. I hope you try this simple beginner sourdough bread recipe. And no matter what, I hope that if you take anything away from this recipe and post I hope it’s the message DON’T GIVE UP! If your first attempt isn’t perfect, try again. Trust me, the sourdough journey is worth it and it can be incredibly rewarding to bake your own delicious bread at home. 

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