January 18, 2021

Sourdough Bread for “First-Timers”

Loaf of sourdough bread on a cutting board

I have officially joined the bandwagon of sourdough bread bakers. Each year I have food goals. Food goals are recipes that I have always wanted to try and perfect. One year it was apple pie. Another year it was pastry crust. In 2019 it was pickles, and last year it was fermenting and sauerkraut. Let 2021 be the year of sourdough bread. I resisted for 8 months during the pandemic, but it just keeps going, and my husband bought me a sourdough bread kit and some starter for Christmas, so I was off the races.

To make this recipe, you need a sourdough starter. You can buy it at Food Building in Northeast Minneapolis from Baker’s Field Flour and Bread. It comes in a plastic tub, and you should add some Baker’s Field Heritage Bread Flour to your cart to feed it (yes, it is like a pet). You can also have it sent to you by Amanda Paa at HeartBeet Kitchen for $12. She has some great sourdough bread-making videos online. Amanda is very down to earth and approachable and takes some of the fear out of baking bread. If you want to try creating a starter yourself, and you can, I suggest this recipe and method from our friends at Sunrise Flour Mill. They produce amazing Heritage Wheat, Rye, and bread flours from Midwest Farmers. I got my starter in a packet. It had been freeze-dried, and I reconstituted it and started feeding it. It was 5 days of care and feeding before I had enough to make a loaf of bread.

Sourdough Bread | Stephanie Hansen

Before you make sourdough bread, you also need a vessel for it to rise in. As part of my “bread-making gift,” I got an 8-inch oval Banneton, which is just a fancy name for a bread rising basket. It has a linen liner that you flour before placing your final loaf in it. My kit also came with a dough scraper. I love this tool. It makes quick work of cleaning flour off your counters and can be used in a bowl to lift sticky dough as you prepare for kneading, folding, and turning. There are also fancy dough hooks for stirring the flour and water and starter (I used a spatula), and you really do need a super sharp knife or razor blade for creating slits in your dough to vent steam before baking. I love this bread baking starter kit from Sunrise Flour Mill, or there is this $20 kit from Amazon.

I probably should have watched a video, but it didn’t occur to me, so I googled “sourdough bread recipe” and was off. Making the bread was actually easy, but there are many steps, and it takes pretty much a whole day, which is perfect if you are working from home in the pandemic. I set my timer on my phone for all the steps. My kitchen and home tend to be cold, so I sometimes needed to give it longer when doing the rise. The optimal temperature for rising bread is 75 degrees. On my second loaf, I had less time so I heated my oven to 200 and turned it off, and put my dough bowl in the oven to stay warmer for a final rise. You can also leave the oven light on if you have one (keep the oven off) and stow your dough inside for the rise time.

sourdough bread resting in a banneton

How do you know when your bread has risen or proofed enough? Try this finger trick. Give your dough a gentle but assertive poke. If the dough springs quickly back, let it rise a bit more. If the dough springs back slowly, like it’s waking up and your poke hole leaves a small indentation, it’s ready to go.

I have now watched my share of sourdough bread videos, and many of them talk about the turning and the folding method while proofing for developing gluten strands to create a more open crumb.  Because I didn’t watch the video, I kneaded the bread the old-fashioned way. With the heel of my hand, I pushed the bread down and away from me and folded it over the top of itself, and kept doing that until it seemed mixed and the right supple texture for bread dough. For the fold and turn in the recipe below you fold the dough like a business envelope. This folding method gives a more open crumb. I think it is fair to say this recipe is pretty forgiving and a great place for a beginner to start.

Loaf of sourdough bread on a cutting board

Sourdough Bread for Beginners

The recipe is adapted from a King Arthur Sourdough Bread Recipe and makes 1 8-inch boule or an 8-inch oval loaf. Plan ahead if you don't have an active sourdough starter—it will take 5-7 days of feeding to have your starter ready to go.


  • 2/3 cups sourdough starter
  • 2 cups Heritage Wheat bread flour (if using premium all-purpose flour, use 1 and 2/3 cups Premium white flour and add ¼ cup 100% Whole wheat flour.  (Different types of flour retain more water)
  • 3/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon room-temperature water
  • 1 teaspoon salt


  1. Combine the starter, flour, and water in a large bowl and mix well until all of the flour is moistened and the dough has formed a cohesive mass. Add extra water or flour if needed (a little at a time) to create a soft, tacky dough.
  2. Cover the dough with a kitchen towel and let it rest for 20 minutes. This rest allows the flour to absorb the water, which starts the dough’s gluten formation and makes it easier to knead.
  3. After the rest, add the salt and knead the dough until it’s smooth and supple, though still somewhat soft and tacky to the touch.
  4. Place the dough back in the bowl, cover, and let it rise for 1 hour.
  5. Give the dough a fold: Turn it out onto a floured surface and, using a scraper or wet hands, fold it like a business letter upon itself. Turn the dough 90 degrees towards you, gently flatten it a bit, and repeat the fold.
  6. Return the dough to the bowl, cover, and let it rise for another hour.
  7. At the end of the rise, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface.
  8. Gently shape into a round and cover with a kitchen towel.
  9. Let rest for 20 more minutes.
  10. After this rest, shape the loaves into a tight round or oval by folding the dough over onto itself and placing the seam side down in your Banneton that has the liner floured.
  11. Cover and let rise in a warm spot (70-75 degrees) until light and airy, about 2 to 2 1/2 hours.
  12. About 30 minutes before the bread is ready to bake, place a small empty cast-iron skillet on the bottom rack of the oven and preheat the oven to 450.
  13. When the loaf has risen, gently turn it out onto parchment paper.  Slide the parchment directly onto a baking sheet.
  14. Pour 1 cup of boiling water (I microwave it in a coffee cup for three minutes) into the cast iron pan. Be sure to wear good oven mitts to prevent the steam from burning you when you pour the water into the pan.
  15. Bake the bread until it’s crusty and golden, about 35 to 40 minutes. Remove the loaves from the oven and cool.

Check out all my baking recipes here.

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