- Hands-on time:
- 15 mins. to 20 mins.
- Baking time:
- 30 mins.
- Total time:
- 23 hrs 45 mins. to 23 hrs 50 mins.
- 2 loaves
This bread, with its mellow tang, is perfect for those who like their sourdough bread noticeably sour, but not mouth-puckeringly so. For extra-sour flavor, add 1/4 teaspoon sour salt (citric acid).
- 1) Combine the starter, water, and 3 cups of the flour. Beat vigorously for 1 minute.
- 2) Cover, and let rest at room temperature for 4 hours. Refrigerate overnight, for about 12 hours.
- 3) Add the remaining ingredients: 2 cups of flour, sugar, salt, and sour salt, if you're using it. Knead to form a smooth dough.
- 4) Allow the dough to rise in a covered bowl until it's relaxed, smoothed out, and risen. Depending on the vigor of your starter, it may become REALLY puffy, as pictured; or it may just rise a bit. This can take anywhere from 2 to 5 hours. Understand this: sourdough bread (especially sourdough without added yeast) is as much art as science; everyone's timetable will be different. So please allow yourself to go with the flow, and not treat this as an exact, to-the-minute process.
- 5) Gently divide the dough in half.
- 6) Gently shape the dough into two oval loaves, and place them on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover and let rise until very puffy, about 2 to 4 hours. Don't worry if the loaves spread more than they rise; they'll pick up once they hit the oven's heat. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 425°F.
- 7) Spray the loaves with lukewarm water.
- 8) Make two fairly deep diagonal slashes in each; a serrated bread knife, wielded firmly, works well here.
- 9) Bake the bread for 25 to 30 minutes, until it's a very deep golden brown. Remove it from the oven, and cool on a rack.
Tips from our bakers
- For a tasty loaf using commercial yeast (for faster rising), check out our recipe for Rustic Sourdough Bread.
- What makes the sour in sourdough bread? It's a combination of lactic and acetic acids, created as the dough rises and ferments. Refrigerating the dough encourages the production of more acetic than lactic acid; and acetic acid is much the tangier of the two. Thus, sourdough that's refrigerated before baking will have a more assertive sour flavor.
- Adding citric acid gives your bread an extra hit of "sour;" but don't be tempted to go beyond about 5/8 teaspoon in this recipe. A good rule of thumb for ultimate sourness, without too much deterioration of the crust and bread's structure, is 1/8 teaspoon sour salt for each cup of flour used.
- Depending on the thickness of your sourdough, you may need to add additional water or flour during the kneading stage. Your goal is a soft, elastic (but not sticky) dough.