So, we’re going to fast-forward in time a bit to 10 days after you’ve made your sourdough starter.  You’ve kept it well-fed, it’s bubbled and fermented as it should and now smells rich and yeasty.  Now that you have the most important building block – it’s time to make your bread.

Unlike the Cheat’s Sourdough Bread which uses commercial yeast, this uses wild yeast, so it takes a little longer to make – but it’s that extra time that gives the bread its distinctive flavor, so don’t look at the recipe and think that there’s no way you can fit it into your schedule.  After all, the majority of bread-making consists of waiting for the dough to prove, right?  Start the process on a Friday night before you go to bed and by Saturday dinner, you’ll have a gorgeous loaf of tangy deliciousness.

Sourdough Bread

  • 1 cup sourdough starter
  • 250 g bread flour
  • a little more than a cup warm bottled water (about a cup and a tablespoon), body temperature
  • 300 g bread flour (if you want to make this a whole grain loaf, you can split this into 150 g whole grain bread flour and 150 g white bread flour)
  • 10 g salt
  • 3 Tbsp oil (I use olive oil but you can use canola if you like)

The first step is to make the sponge.  As I mentioned above, do this on a Friday night before you go to bed so that you can give it at 8-10 hours to ferment.  In a large bowl, weigh out the 250 g of bread flour and add to it the cup+ of warm water and the 1 cup of starter.  Give it a good stir to get rid of the lumps, then cover it with plastic wrap and let it sit on the counter to do its thing.

The next morning, you should have a bubbly batter that might even have a little froth on the top. 

sponge after a full night's fermentation

Like your starter, it will have thickened to the point of being a bit gloopy – perfect, this is exactly what you want.  To that, you’re going to add the 300 g of flour, salt and oil and mix as thoroughly as you can before tipping it onto the counter to knead.

I will go ahead and tell you now – when you first start working with this dough, it’s going to be horribly sticky and it won’t have that substantial feel you think a dough should have.  I promise you that, after the first minute-and-a-half to two minutes of kneading, it will suddenly start to come together — almost to the point of surprising you how quickly it changes. 

Knead the dough for 10 minutes – keep turning and stretching the dough to form the gluten that will give your bread the chewy interior you want.  And remember, while it’s nearly impossible to overknead the dough, it’s all too easy to under-knead it, so give it the full 10 minutes.  The dough will remain slightly tacky throughout the kneading – don’t add flour!  Yeast is a living thing, it needs the water in your dough, particularly this one since it takes longer to prove.

So, you’ve kneaded for 10 minutes and you have a nice, springy dough that passes the windowpane test.  Put it into an oiled bowl and let it rise until doubled.  While a commercial yeast will only take 90 minutes to two hours to do this, wild yeast takes a little longer – anywhere from 6-10 hours.  Punch the dough down, and let it rise a second time.  Unlike the first rise, this should only take about 2 hours.  Heat your oven to 500 – preferably using a bread stone – and add a rimmed cooking sheet or pie pan full of water to give you a steamy environment.  Put the bread on the stone and slash it across the top, then bake for 15 minutes before turning the heat down to 400 and baking another 25-30 minutes.  Now comes the hardest part – letting the bread cool completely before slicing!

the finished loaf - sooooo worth the wait!

One last thing … it is possible to make this during the work week.  Start your sponge the night before, as usual, and make your dough in the morning.  Then, instead of letting it do its first rise at room temperature, put it someplace cool (even in the fridge) – that will help slow down the rise so that you can return from work, punch it down, and let it have its second rise on the counter.  Then bake as usual and let it cool overnight.

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