French Sourdough Bread from a powdered starter

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dairy free
Recipe photo
Hands-on time:
Baking time:
Total time:
Yield: 1 loaf

Recipe photo

The starter you've purchased will allow you to make tasty bread with excellent texture, consistently, without the demanding job of keeping a sourdough fed. Any sourdough will change over time, due to native bacteria being introduced into it; using the powdered starter allows you to achieve the same results, batch after batch. Once you've opened and used some of the starter packet, close it tightly and freeze the rest for up to 6 months.

Use the following procedure for this powdered starter:
Before starting your bread, think about the following variables: temperature, water, flour, and time. Let's examine these elements before we get started.

Temperature: If you're making the same bread recipe time after time, but getting different results, check that the temperature at which you keep your sponge (the initial mixture made from the powdered starter, flour and water) is consistent. There's not one exact optimum temperature that everyone will agree upon, because everyone doesn't like the same flavor in his or her bread. In general, try to keep your sponge between 70°F and 90°F. At cooler temperatures (65°F or below), the sponge will take longer to develop than the stated 18 to 20 hours, and won't develop as much acid flavor.

Water: If you have water that's heavily chlorinated, it will affect the flavor of the bread and the action of the sponge. Either use bottled water, or let the water sit in an open container for a day to let the chlorine dissipate.

Flour: Use only unbleached, unbromated flour. The protein level in King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour, or European-Style Artisan Bread Flour, is perfect for crusty, country-style breads.

Time: The hardest part of a recipe is, for us, stating a "rising" time. Just about everything you do while making bread can affect the rising time. Please be flexible and build enough time into your schedule to allow the dough to develop its optimum flavor and rise.

Sourdough Bread
This French Sourdough loaf is assertively sour; if you like San Francisco sourdough, this one's for you!

Finally, find the help you need for all of your sourdough baking at our Sourdough Essentials page.

French Sourdough Bread from a powdered starter

star rating (11) rate this recipe
dairy free
Hands-on time:
Baking time:
Total time: Overnight,
Yield: 1 loaf
Published: 01/01/2010

Ingredients

Sponge

Dough

Tips from our bakers

  • This is a basic recipe and a great one to use as a jumping-off point. Feel free to substitute some rye or whole wheat flour for some of the white flour; you may have to adjust the water a little because all flours absorb liquids at a different rate. Add chopped nuts, seeds, or herbs, or use the dough to make a stuffed fougasse - the possibilities are quite varied.
  • This amount of water called for in the dough is a guideline. You may need to add a tablespoon or two more in the winter, or use a little less in the summer. Flour can absorb water, or dry out. Use your sense of touch to tell you if you need to sprinkle a little water over the dough, or add a little flour. The dough should feel slightly tacky, firm, but soft enough to "relax."

Directions

Sponge

1) In a medium-sized mixing bowl, or in the bucket of your bread machine, mix the starter and the flour together. Mix in the water. Stir for several minutes to activate the gluten. (If you're using a bread machine for this step, cancel after about 6 minutes of kneading.)

2) Cover and set aside in a warm (70F to 90F) place for 18 to 20 hours. When ready, the sponge should have expanded by about one-third (or more), and developed bubbles and a pleasing aroma. You may do this step up to 7 days ahead, then refrigerate until ready to use the sponge. (If you want to enhance the sour flavor, substitute 1/2 cup rye or whole wheat flour for 1/2 cup of the unbleached all-purpose flour in your sponge.)

Dough

1) Add the flour to the sponge along with the water, salt and yeast. Stir to form a shaggy mass, then let the mixture sit for 20 to 30 minutes. (This resting period, called the autolyse, allows the flour to absorb the water before you start kneading; it will make kneading easier, and also help prevent you from adding too much flour to the dough.)

2) Turn the dough out onto a lightly greased work surface. (Using a lightly floured work surface is OK, but the idea is not to work too much flour into the dough. A dough that's slack and slightly sticky will produce a loaf with much better texture. Many people knead in too much flour, thinking the dough is too sticky to work with, then end up with dry or crumbly bread.) The dough starts out sticky, so a bench scraper is a handy tool. When the dough is kneaded enough, about 8 to 10 minutes by hand, 6 to 8 minutes in an electric mixer or bread machine, or about 90 seconds in a food processor, it will feel firm, slightly sticky, and elastic.

3) Place the dough in a greased bowl, turning to cover all sides, cover the bowl, and set it in a warm place (though not above 90°F). Don't try to rush the dough by raising it at a temperature above 90°; the best bread rises slowly, so give the dough time. After an hour, and again at the 2-hour mark, gently deflate it and fold it over a few times to redistribute the yeast and oxygen, and dispel some of the carbon dioxide. In 2 to 3 hours the dough should have almost doubled.

Shaping

Turn the dough out onto a lightly greased work surface. Divide the dough in half, and form each half into a round. Let the dough rest for 20 minutes or so, covered; then form the pieces into whatever shapes you prefer-round, oval or baguette. Raising your loaves in a couche, banneton or linen cloth will help them achieve a thick, chewy crust. If you don't have any of these, use a linen (or other smooth-not terry cloth) dishtowel to line a round bowl. Heavily flour the forms you're using, place the shaped loaves in them seam-side up, and cover. Let the loaves rise for 2 or more hours; the dough should have almost doubled. Note: If you want really big holes in your loaves and loads of flavor, dust them with flour, cover, and refrigerate overnight (without letting them rise first).

Baking

1) Preheat your oven to 475°F for 30 minutes. If your loaves have been refrigerated, remove them from the fridge, and let them rest, still covered, at room temperature, while you preheat your oven, about 30 minutes. Once the loaves have come to room temperature, turn them out onto a floured baker's peel (if you have a baking stone in your oven), or onto lightly floured baking sheets. For risen, unrefrigerated loaves, turn them out the same way (onto a peel or pan).

2) Slash the loaves several times using a lame, sharp knife or razor blade. Just before placing the loaves in the oven, spritz them several times with water.

3) Put the loaves into the oven, spritz with water after 30 seconds, and again at 1 minute and 2 minutes. Turn the oven temperature down to 450°F and bake for 18 to 25 minutes. Be sure the bread is baked through, and the crust well browned. The bread should feel firm and sound hollow when tapped, and its internal temperature should read 195°F on an instant-read thermometer. Much of the flavor is concentrated in a deep brown crust, so don't be afraid to bake it till it's good and dark. (Note: a sourdough bread will never become as dark as a non-sourdough, so use your instant-read thermometer to gauge its doneness; take the bread out when it's between 195°F and 205°F.)

4) Remove the bread from the oven. Now tilt your head close, and listen: as the bread cools, you should hear it crackle. This is the sound of a good loaf. It's hard not to tear off a piece right away, but the bread is still baking and developing flavor as it cools - it really will taste better after an hour of cooling.

Reviews

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  • star rating 01/28/2015
  • AnnFromAlabama from KAF Community
  • I have been looking for a reasonable recipe for San Francisco style Sourdough bread off and on for years and just found a web site that mentioned King Arthur sourdough. My bread just cooled enough to taste and I must say it is definitely worth the effort. Since I have my own starter I didn't have to buy any, but in order to give the recipe every chance I just took a tablespoon of my starter instead of the powder and started from there. Since I had only a tablespoon of starter in the sponge I let it sit out for almost 20 hours to get a vigorous bubbling and rise of the sponge. My only problem with the dough was the high moisture content and stickiness. Since I couldn't get the loaves to hold their form while rising, I ended up baking them in a covered casseroles in a 375 oven since my casserole dishes have glass tops. I did make a few Kaiser style rolls, forming ropes of dough and tying them in knots, those I baked in individual sized covered casseroles. All of the bread came out of the oven well risen with a crispy dark golden brown crust. It is very fragrant with a perfect crumb and mild sourdough flavor. Wonderful. I would recommend this recipe with reservations. Even though the directions are excellent, it is not for a beginning baker. Next time I make this bread I will try increasing the amount of flour I use.
  • star rating 11/14/2014
  • alleygirl1 from KAF Community
  • >My first attempt at this recipe. As with other comments I too had issue with the rise. One loaf 1in and the other 1.2 in. I thought I followed the direction. What is the average rise? Very dense bread. Did have the sour taste. Not sure if will make again. I would recommend the recipe as a learning curve.
    I'm sorry you had difficulty getting this bread to rise properly. We'd love to help you troubleshoot this recipe if you'd like to give us a call at the Baker's Hotline: 855-371-2253. Barb@KAF
  • star rating 03/03/2013
  • Smfw000000 from KAF Community
  • Good bread, nice texture and crust. My only problem was with the Note under Baking. The second time I made the recipe, I decided I'd like big holes in the bread, so I put them in the fridge, as instructed. The next morning the baguettes were flat! They sat out all day and just barely rose up, so I baked them anyway. Not one hole and very dense - a super waste of time and effort! I still recommend this recipe - just don't go for the holes, unless you like your bread flat and dense!
    Hmm, sounds like something went off-kilter somewhere along the line. Please call our hotline if you would like to troubleshoot. MJR
  • star rating 06/12/2011
  • Mhanson3 from KAF Community
  • First, they're not kidding that the package is small! It's only a bit larger than a sugar packet. The starter buboes up within a day, and the bread was very good. I didn't get as much rise as I would have liked, though. 1/4 tsp doesn't seem like enough yeast to me. The initial rise took around four hours, and the loafs didn't proof much - after two hours they had not even doubled. Resulted in a pretty dense loaf, but the flavor was spot-on.
  • star rating 04/06/2011
  • salmonrvr from KAF Community
  • Is it that I am at an altitude of 6200 feet? One cup of water to two cups of flour has no moistness whatsoever. I end up adding an additional cup of water. For step two: three cups of flour to a scant amount of water? No chance that would work. What's the deal?
    It may indeed be your altitude. The following link will take you to our high altitude baking page. I hope you find it helpful:http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes2008/high-altitude-baking.html The other thing that could be affecting you is the way you are measuring your flour. We suggest that you use this method: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipe/measuring-flour.html I hope this is helpful. ~Amy
  • star rating 03/21/2011
  • dkky2007 from KAF Community
  • I really like the taste of the bread from this recipe. Today, I really had the best results with the dough rising as described. However, when I move the loaves from the banneton and the couche, the dough goes rather flat. Is this normal? How can this be minimized? The bread still tastes very good, but the loaves seem rather flat.
    Thank you for trying this recipe. If you loaves are going flat, they may be proofing too long. Normally, you should be able to roll the loaves onto your parchment or peel to load onto your stone. When you press the loaf with your finger, it should spring back at you. If not, it may have over risen. It will not be able to expand in the oven and remain quite flat. Elisabeth
  • star rating 02/10/2010
  • Marianne from Allendale, NJ
  • This is my husband's favorite bread. I've made it with some whole wheat flour (1 cup) as well as with some bread flour (1 cup) to replace an equal amount of all purpose flour. The bread is a very pleasant springy / spongy consistency and not overly sour. My son does not like sourdough bread, but loves this recipe.
  • star rating 01/22/2010
  • Jennie McE from Norfolk, VA
  • I've tried this twice now and everything goes perfectly until the moment I open the oven door to spritz it the first time in the oven. At that point the bread collapses to look like it hasn't risen quite enough. The bread doesn't become compact, it just drops about 1/2 inch and doesn't have the air like I know it's supposed to have. It never recovers after that initial drop. The flavor is still good. I'm about to make it without spritzing but I love the crust that comes with the extra moisture, not to mention I feel like I'm wasting the ingredients.
    It sounds like if the bread is rising well right up until it hits the oven, then collapsing, that the second rise is a bit too long. Try holding back on the final rise by 15-20 minutes and see if that doesn't help keep the bread's structure.
  • 11/09/2009
  • Philipp' from Malmo(with 2 dots), Sweden
  • I also had a long thin snake and a nearly flat pancake result from my efforts with this. I will try again. I suspect the amount of yeast is way too small. One can't rely on the sourdough to do it all. Otherwise, the sourdough DID rise as promised. I made enough to use again, keeping some in the refrigerator, and some in the freezer (in case of thermo-nuclear war).
  • 08/23/2009
  • Jacqueline from Boston
  • I tried this for the first time starting two days ago. Everything was fine until I used the refrigerator rise. Both loaves sunk and never recovered. I tried baking them anyway and ended up with tasty but tough, flat loaves. I'll make some croutons. What happened? I followed the instructions exactly. Started another batch and I'll bake it without the slow refrigerated rise, but I'm learning and it would help to know what went wrong.
    It sounds as though you might have overrisen the dough. Next time, try reducing the time on the counter while waiting for the oven to preheat. Molly @ KAF Thanks.
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