An everyday sourdough loaf

everyday sourdough

A few months ago, I wrote a post about how music taught me to bake bread. Since that time, sourdough baking has wormed its way into our everyday life. I bake bread two or three times a week; sometimes I’ll include sourdough in pancakes, crackers, tortillas, pie crust, or even cake. Partially it’s thanks to my son, who absolutely loves bread and wakes up almost every morning asking for it; partially it’s because it’s just so fun! I find bread especially satisfying to make because, at the root, it’s a very simple product: just flour, water, and salt (and your wild yeast). Watching these few ingredients transform into a delicious, nutritious loaf is one of life’s little pleasures. And once you start exploring different types of flours and grains, you realize that there are so many possibilities even with these limited ingredients! However, today’s recipe is for a simple, ordinary, everyday sourdough loaf. It’s versatile (I love it smeared with peanut butter or as a base for fancier toast toppings), and it uses ingredients I normally have stocked in my kitchen.

But before we get on to the recipe, I wanted to answer one of the questions I get fairly often: “How do you fit sourdough bread baking into your day, especially with a little kid?” When you first start baking with sourdough, admittedly it can seem a little overwhelming. Recipes look complicated, and the time schedule seems restricting. But I actually think that making bread is one of the most doable baking hobbies you can undertake with a small child. The actual hands-on time is quite small:

  • Preparing the starter (2 minutes)
  • Mixing the loaf (5-10 minutes)
  • Folding the loaf (less than 1 minute per fold)
  • Shaping the loaf (5 minutes)
  • Scoring and baking the loaf (about an hour, though most of this time is just waiting for the bread to bake)

I usually plan my bakes on days when I know I’ll be around home, but I’m also a big believer in not letting a bread’s schedule run your life. So here are some things to keep in mind when fitting bread-baking into a busy day.

  1. Temperature plays a huge factor in rising times. Warmer temperature: faster rise; cooler temperature: slower rise. I do most of my bulk-proofing in a cozy little corner of my kitchen, and I know a typical loaf like the recipe below takes about 3.5-4 hours to bulk ferment. If I want to slow this down, I’ll put the loaf in a cooler part of the house to ferment. You can also play around with refrigeration for part of the bulk fermentation; it’s not something I do often but I know many bakers use this method successfully. On the flip side, if you find your loaf is sluggish, try moving it somewhere warmer (the oven with the light on is a good place), or try mixing your loaf with slightly warmer water. You don’t want to get your dough too warm, though — somewhere around 78-82F is a pretty happy place.
  2. It’s not a big deal if you miss a fold. There are often times when an appointment runs late and I don’t get the planned number of folds in/fold at the schedule I intended. No biggie. As long as your dough is strong and fermented enough by the end of bulk fermentation, you and your bread will be fine.
  3. Bake often. Familiarity aids speed. I use my starter fairly often, so I have a daily routine of feeding and am familiar with its fermentation schedule. This helps me know approximately when it’ll be ready to use and my rising times are pretty consistent because my starter is healthy. Plus, baking often helps me be able to judge more accurately how fermentation is progressing and whether I need to manipulate it depending on that day’s schedule.

OK, enough talking and on to the recipe!

This is a basic everyday loaf I’ve been playing around with for a few weeks. I wanted a versatile bread with a decent amount of whole grains for flavor and nutrition. At 30% whole wheat, this bread is hearty but still quite soft and light, thanks to a decent amount of water and a touch of oil and honey. It’s stays fresh for several days and makes some fine toast. I’ve used different types of whole wheat with this formula — red fife, stoneground, sprouted — and they have all worked fine (you may need to adjust the water amount to suit your flour). It’s an everyday loaf; use what you have lying around!

Other news:
I was honored to be interviewed for a Reader’s Digest article about smartphone photography for Instagram. Check out the article for some of my everyday tricks, plus advice from some actual photographers!

everyday sourdough - crumb

everyday sourdough - half

everyday sourdough - boule

An everyday sourdough loaf

Makes one ~750g loaf


  • 260g Bread/AP flour — I usually use a mixture, but a slightly higher amount of bread (70%)
  • 111g Whole Wheat flour (30%)
  • 304g Water — reserve about 50g for mixing (82%)
  • 67g Mature, Ripe Levain @ 100% hydration (18%)
  • 8g Salt (2.2%)
  • 15g olive oil (4%)
  • 15g honey (4%)


  1. Mix together the flours and water (reserve 50g for mixing later) and autolyse (rest) for 1-3 hours, covered with a tea towel.
  2. Add the mature starter and about half the reserved water and mix until the starter is incorporated. Rest for 20 minutes.
  3. Add the salt and pinch in. If the dough feels like it can handle it, add in the remaining reserved water and mix to combine. Add the oil and honey and pinch in to combine thoroughly. If you did a long autolyse, the dough should be decently strong at this point and you shouldn’t need to mix too much (maybe 1-2 minutes). If it feels weak, do a couple minutes of stretch and fold or slap and fold so the dough is moderately developed. It will continue to strengthen through bulk so it doesn’t need to be smooth at this point. Transfer the dough to a clean and lightly oiled container and cover with a clean tea towel.
  4. Bulk ferment in a warm place for 3-4 hours with stretch and folds every half hour for the first 1-2 hours. If after the second set of folds the dough seems quite strong, skip the last two folds and let the dough sit for the rest of bulk. Bulk fermentation is done when the dough has increased by 30-50%, you can see fermentation bubbles along the bottom and sides of the container, and the edges are domed where the dough meets the container.
  5. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and gently preshape into a round. Cover with a bowl or lightly oiled plastic and let rest for about 30 minutes.
  6. Prepare your basket (or other proofing vessel) by lining with a lint-free linen/cotton tea towel or lightly dusting with rice flour. Lightly flour your work surface and the rested round. Flip your preshaped round and shape as desired (boule or batard). Transfer to the prepared proofing container, cover with plastic, and refrigerate for 10-14 hours (or overnight).
  7. An hour before baking, preheat your oven to 500F (550 if it goes that high). You can bake this loaf in a Dutch oven (which you should preheat with the oven), or use your preferred method of steaming. (I bake my loaves on a pizza stone and cover them with a large foil roasting pan for the steaming portion of baking.) At this point, I also like to uncover my loaf (i.e. remove the plastic, but keep it refrigerated). This dries out the surface a little which I find makes scoring easier.
  8. When the oven is ready, invert your loaf onto a piece of parchment on a pizza peel. Score as desired, then transfer to the oven and immediately lower the temperature to 500F. Bake with steam (or covered) at 500F for 20 minutes, then lower the heat to 450F and bake for another 5 minutes. Remove the cover / steam pan and bake for another 15-25 minutes at 450F until your desired doneness, rotating a couple times for even baking. When finished, the crust should be nicely browned and the loaf should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.
  9. Transfer to a wire rack and cool for at least an hour before cutting.

35 thoughts on “An everyday sourdough loaf

  1. This recipe worked very well for me! I’m a beginner, and the dough was great to work with. I used a regular baking sheet with a large pot over the bread for the first 25 min. Thanks!

    1. Hooray! I’m SO glad to hear that! I make a variation on this loaf pretty much every week. Definitely a family favorite!

  2. I started this recipe yesterday, with the intention to get the loaves (I doubled the recipe) shaped and ready to proof overnight. The dough seemed very slack all day and never doubled in volume or bubbled up. I don’t think it was very warm or that the temp stayed consistent while bulk fermenting. I put it in the fridge after proofing at room temp 5 hours, so it’s been fermenting for a total of 15 hrs… now I’m bringing it to room temp to shape.

    Should I now cold proof it another 10-14 hrs? (Puts my bake around 8pm?)

    1. Hi Amy! It’s hard for me to say without seeing your dough; and personally I’ve never tried a double cold ferment on this recipe. If it were me I’d probably just proof at room temp and bake when they’re ready. As for the slackness/inactivity of the dough, it sounds like maybe your starter wasn’t quite active enough or there was too much water for your flour. I’d try backing off about 5-10% of water next time and keep your dough in a warmish spot (the oven with the pilot light on works well). If the dough won’t keep its shape this time around, you can always pop it in a loaf tin and bake it off like that. Hope this helps!

  3. I’ve made this several times now and love the complex flavor as well as its texture! I’ve also been adding a few ounces of flax seeds and cooked wheat berries, to great effect. This whole post is great 😀

  4. I have King Arthur AP and Bob’s dark rye on hand, can I use mostly AP and sub the rye for the whole wheat? Will changing the flours affect the recipe structurally or only the flavor?
    I’ got a starter from a friend which I have inconsistently maintained ( weekly but tend to miss every other day. I use a levain for baking ) but it is alive and well.
    I am afraid I may not have the bread making gene, I have tried *many* times with the Tartine recipe and while it usually turns out edible and sometimes delicious, it never rises to sandwich size and the dough is too lax – sometimes impossible to shape and I have to dump it in a pan, other times it’s firm enough to use the bread bowl and cloche but it quickly spreads out too much. It is NEVER firm enough to hold any shape like the web videos and never rises as high as the videos.
    Is it possible for a starter to be a weakling that will never get strong? Is the answer to feed it twice a day? This is
    depressing because I love bread and dough so much.

    1. Hi Pam!

      Substituting all rye for the whole wheat will definitely change the structure and flavor. Rye is low in gluten and ferments faster, so you’d likely end up with a denser and more sour end product using this formula.

      I wouldn’t give up on your bread baking! It sounds like you may be overhydrating your flour — try lowering the amount of water you use by 10-15% and see if that helps. The Tartine formula is great, but is actually very difficult and not the best place to start if you’re new to bread-baking.

      Also, I’d definitely spend some time feeding your starter twice a day at room temperature. It sounds like your starter is alive but it’ll give you the most predictable results if it’s very active and well-fed. Make sure it’s at least doubling within 8 hours before trying to bake bread; otherwise, it’s probably not active enough to give you a decent loaf.

      Hope that helps!

  5. Hi Ruth! I’m on day 6 of making my own sourdough starter. And am going through this sourdough recipe to try out for my first sourdough! Would like to know in the recipe, could I ask what does this mean – “67g Mature, Ripe Levain @ 100% hydration”. Does it mean 67g of the mature sourdough starter I would have or is it a mixture of sourdough starter and flour before I start this recipe? I’m sorry I’m really new at this.

  6. Hi! I baked this today and it is delicious!! Thank you!
    It is not pretty though. I don’t know if I can figure out how to send a photo, but I did take one. The final dough was very wet and did not have a beautiful shape before baking. My attempt at scoring did not stand the baking process. What can I improve here? Thinking of starting another loaf today.

    1. Hi! It sounds like either your starter was not active enough or your flour could not handle the amount of water. I would first make sure you’re using a starter that is at its peak. Then try lowering the water by 10-15%. Every brand of flour is different and it’s always better to err on the side of too little water than too much — you can always add more water later!

  7. I have been making diff breads for a long time. I would like to try your loaf. Question: after placing shaped loaf in the Benetton, does it sit outside to rise? Will it rise in the refrigerator? Does it need to sit out before going into oven?

    1. If your bread is well fermented it can go straight to the refrigerator and be baked straight from there as well!

  8. Wow! This loaf is just delicious! Baked it yesterday afternoon and nearly all gone already. Will be baking it again, and again! Thanks for the recipe!

  9. I loved this bread! I usually cook mine at 500 and then 450 but I tried the 550 with this loaf. It did burn the bottom just a tiny bit so I will probably keep it at 500. Cheap apartment ovens aren’t that accurate.
    Also, it my first time adding honey and olive oil!

  10. I lost track of time during bulk and think it over proofed. Became super slack and unworkable when I turned it out. Let it proof in the fridge overnight, and wasn’t sure what to do about it so I turned it into a focaccia instead. Still a sourdough rookie, but it tastes great!

  11. is it possible to do a second rise at room temp instead of a cold ferment? If so how long would it take and what signs would i be looking for?

    1. Yes, you can do it at room temp — I would look for the loaf to pass the “poke test.” Time will depend on the ambient temperature, activity of your starter, and how much you let the dough rise before shaping, but I’d start checking around an hour. For easier scoring, I sometimes pop the loaf in the fridge while preheating the oven to make it a little easier to handle.

  12. Hi Ruth,

    If I wanted to 1.5X or 2X your recipe how would it affect the cook time? Will I need to add more time at each phase of baking? If so, how much? Thanks!

    1. If you’re making one bigger loaf, it’ll likely take longer to bake! I’d bake it covered for the same amount of time in the recipe, but just watch it at the end and add an extra 5-10 minutes if needed. Hard to give an exact timing.

  13. I baked this adding about 1/2 tbs of fresh cut rosemary. If made as described you’re looking at 82% hydration which is really high, especially for new bakers, to work with. This may have been an issue for some of the bakers who’ve commented above. The loaf is on the smallish size and baked more quickly than my larger loaves. It also browns quite effectively, perhaps on account of the oil in the dough. Be careful not to burn. I only used 30g of the reserved H2O (77% hydration) and could have probably cut this to 15 or even just gone with the 254 (total less 50g mentioned in recipe). Good rise, crumb and moist texture but the crust was still substantially thick and crispy. Baked 20 min covered at 500F, 30 mins uncovered at 450F, 20 min cool in open oven.

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