Ready for the best sourdough bread recipe?
Since sourdough bread is the healthiest bread there is, hopefully you'll all have loads of success with this tried-and-true sourdough bread recipe. Last week Lucinda gave a demonstration for our local WAPF chapter, and since she has experimented with sourdough bread extensively and has now perfected her recipe, we were all excited to have someone knowledgeable and experienced to learn from. I got to taste and see how light the inside turns out, and it has a nice crust that's chewy yet somehow also crispy.
This sourdough recipe makes an artisan-type, round loaf, but she's working on a sandwich bread in a loaf pan, and on her cinnamon roll recipe, too.
And get this, she's also perfected all sorts of other sourdough recipes for Sourdough Galore – English Muffins, Crackers, Pizza Crust, Pancakes, and Waffles. (She brought her sourdough crackers to the meeting so we could try them – they're really good!)
Lucinda has even agreed to answer your questions here in the comments as she's able, what a sweetheart. 🙂
First, why is a true sourdough bread the the very healthiest for us?
- Sourdough is a low-glycemic bread, so it's better for those with blood sugar issues! However, be sure to proceed carefully with this, try a little and see how you do. (Source)
- According to Rami Nagel, author of Cure Tooth Decay, sourdough is the healthiest bread there is. More information:
- Phosphorus in the diet (at least from grains) needs some type of calcium to bind to. This explains the synergistic combination of sourdough bread with cheese. Historically, the cultivation of grains usually accompanies the raising of dairy animals; high levels of calcium in the diet mitigates the mineral-depleting effects of phytic acid.
- Soaking grains and flour in an acid medium at very warm temperatures, as in the sourdough process, also activates phytase and reduces or even eliminates phytic acid.
- Another study showed almost complete elimination of phytic acid in whole wheat bread after eight hours of sourdough fermentation. (Source)
- The true sourdough method (no yeast used for rising) may even help break down much of the gluten, or at least decrease gluten intolerance. Many who can't tolerate grains are often able to eat a true sourdough bread without issues since it's so much easier to digest. Here's more information on this from Sarah, the Healthy Home Economist:
- While yeast is used almost universally for baking breads now, the skyrocketing cases of gluten intolerance and celiac disease are causing many to look backwards at how non-industrialized peoples consumed gluten containing breads with no digestive difficulty.
- One study that examined how celiacs tolerate true sourdough bread was conducted in Europe. 17 people suffering from celiac disease were given 2 grams of gluten containing bread risen with either baker’s yeast or a normal lactobacilli culture. 13 of the 17 showed negative changes in intestinal permeability consistent with celiac disease. 4 people did not show any negative changes. Then, the 17 study participants were given true sourdough bread risen with a special lactobacilli culture able to hydrolyze the 33-mer peptide which is the primary amino acid building block that causes an immune response in people with celiac disease. None showed any negative changes in their intestinal permeability after consuming the bread which was made up of 30% wheat flour and a mix of oat, millet, and buckwheat flours.
- These results showed that a bread biotechnology that uses selected lactobacilli, nontoxic flours, and a long fermentation time is a novel tool for decreasing the level of gluten intolerance in humans.
- Lastly, remember to keep in mind when you're buying a loaf of sourdough, to make sure there is no yeast listed in the ingredients so you know it's a true sourdough bread. A true sourdough bread is one that needs a long, natural rise. Make sure there are no funky ingredients in there, either. The only ingredients should be pronounceable and clearly recognizable. Preferably organic. I've seen some with just water, wheat flour, starter and sea salt, but others may also have apple cider vinegar too.
Lucinda's No-Knead BEST Sourdough Bread Recipe
I'll add my own comments in italics below from the notes I took as she was speaking. Note that there are lots of links below so you know exactly what ingredients and equipment to get and where you can find them.
Sourdough Baking Ingredients:
- 1 cup Sourdough starter* (starter info is below) – Get a starter from a friend or click here to start one yourself using this packet of sourdough starter.
- 19 ounces well or spring water—from faucet or room temp, NON-chlorinated water. If you use reverse osmosis water like we do (to remove Fluoride, chlorine, pharmaceutical residue, pesticide toxins, etc.), then Lucinda said to just add some mineral drops to it like these Concentrace drops. This may be why my sourdough bread hasn't been successful in the past, because I was using dead RO water! By the way, if we had it to do over, we'd buy this water filter system instead. You can read more about water filtering here. NOTE: A commenter named John (see his comment below – #32 right now, but that may change as new comments come in) had some different viewpoints to share on a few ideas in this post that you may want to check out.
- 9 ounces whole wheat flour, freshly ground if possible, but you may want to sift out big pieces of the bran. Measure flour with a kitchen scale for best results. Lucinda uses whole wheat, which you can get here, but I like using alternative grains when I can, such as spelt. She said this is fine, but it may take a little more, go by how it feels. (She said not to use Rye, though, as she hasn't had good luck with it. Which is too bad since according to Rami in this article, that's the best grain to use in sourdough to break down the most anti-nutrients…) I'm growing my starter now with spelt, so I'll keep you posted. Spelt is another type of wheat, but more traditional and tends to not cause problems in some who are sensitive to regular wheat. Although, the sourdough process itself helps minimize those issues as well, as mentioned above. Read more about using alternative grains here. If you're not planning to grind it fresh, you can get whole spelt flour here. If you DO plan to grind it yourself, you can get spelt berries here or einkorn berries here. And here's the grain mill I use and more about why I love this one. (Is that enough links for you?!) Remember I haven't done this successfully yet, so you may want to follow Lucinda's instructions exactly to be sure you'll have good luck!
- 16 ounces unbleached, un-enriched all-purpose white flour – Lucinda uses Natural Way Mills Gold n White Flour—available from Country Life www.clnf.org and UNFI www.unfi.com, or click here for the kind I use. You could also use this einkorn all-purpose flour.
- 2 1/2 teaspoons finely ground sea salt
- In a large glass, ceramic, or wooden mixing bowl (no metal bowls), break up 1 cup Sourdough Starter in 19 ounces water.
- Add 9 ounces Whole Wheat Flour and mix with wooden spoon.
- Add 16 ounces unbleached, unenriched all-purpose flour and 2½ teaspoons salt.
- Mix together. Dough should be very thick and the last bit of flour should be a bit difficult to work in.
- Cover the bowl, and let sit for 6 to 8 hours, then refrigerate dough for 24 to 48 hours. (I have left it for up to two weeks, but it does not raise quite as nice after that long—still tastes great, though!) Lucinda says that sourdough is very forgiving, much more so than yeast breads, as far as timing. If you have to leave for a while, just stick it into the fridge and continue when you're home.
- Remove dough from refrigerator. Allow to warm up for 1 to 2 hours.
- Scrape dough onto floured surface. (Lucinda uses this baking couche since she bakes bread a lot and it wastes less flour since you just fold it up and reuse it each time, and it's easier for clean-up, too.)
- Fold envelope style 3 to 6 times. (Bring one side up, push into the middle, bring another side up, push into the middle, repeat as you go around the four sides of the dough.) You don't want to work the dough too much, Lucinda said, “Remember this is a no-knead recipe after all.”
- Place in proofing basket for 2 hours. (Click here for the Brotform proofing basket Lucinda uses.) From Lucinda: “Don't let it over-rise, it overworks the yeast! If it's rising too fast, put it in the fridge, it gives it a rest, but it won't fall. Slowing down is sourdough's best friend.” Also from Lucinda: “Do not use soap on this basket and only handwash, and as a matter of fact, I only wash mine rarely in order to utilize the bacteria from the air to make the dough healthier.”
- Preheat oven and 5 quart cast iron dutch oven with lid to 450 degrees F. for 25 minutes.
- Carefully remove dutch oven from pre-heated oven and drop dough into the ungreased pan. If you desire, you can make slashes with a serrated knife. (If, like me, you have trouble dropping the dough in the pan, you can invert it onto parchment paper, make the slashes, and then use the paper to lower the dough into the pan.) Cover with lid and place back into the oven. Bake for 35 minutes. Remove lid, lower oven temp to 400 degrees F., and bake for 20 minutes.
- Remove and cool bread on a cooling rack. Wait at least 45 minutes before slicing.
*Sourdough Starter Notes:
Start with an active starter from a friend, OR you can click here to start one yourself using this packet of sourdough starter.
I make my sourdough starter very thick. I like to store it in a 1 quart, wide mouth jar. That way I can see that it is developing the tiny air bubbles throughout after I feed it. I do not measure anything when I feed my sourdough. I just add whole wheat flour and a little well water and stir with a sturdy wooden spoon. If it is not thick enough, I add more flour. If it is too thick, I add a little more water. The starter should be so thick that it holds its shape and does not flatten out when you stop stirring. As it raises, it will become thinner. Healthy sourdough starter should rise to double within 12 hours after feeding. I like to feed my sourdough about 8 hours before I am ready to start bread in winter and 5 to 6 hours before in summer. The starter only needs to be fed every 24 hours if you are leaving it out on the counter. If you are building up starter and want to build it faster, you can feed it every 12 hours. When you need a break from the starter and from making bread, you can refrigerate it, making sure to feed it at least every 2 weeks. If you are storing for longer periods of time, discard half of the starter and feed every two weeks. You can use the “discarded” starter for pancake, waffles, English muffins, or crackers. (Click here for those recipes!)
Quick-view Sourdough Shopping:
- Brotform basket for proofing
- Parchment paper, unbleached
- Baker's Couche—flax cloth for folding dough or proofing oblong loaves
- 5 quart cast iron Dutch Oven with lid
- Flour storage containers
- Kitchen scale—flour measurements are most accurate when weighed
- Non-reactive Bread Bowl—can be glass, ceramic, or wood (no metal bowls)
- Sturdy wooden spoon—best to have a thick handle as this bread dough can be hard to stir
- 1 quart wide mouth glass jar with plastic lids for starter
- Cooling racks
Sourdough Baking Ingredients (I copied the info from above to make it easy to find here.)
- Sourdough starter from a friend or click here to start one yourself using this packet of sourdough starter.
- Well or spring water—faucet or room temp, NON-chlorinated water. If you use reverse osmosis water like we do (to remove Fluoride, chlorine, pharmaceutical residue, pesticide toxins, etc.), then Lucinda said to just add some mineral drops to it like these Concentrace drops. This may be why my sourdough bread hasn't been successful in the past, because I was using dead RO water! By the way, if we had it to do over, we'd buy this water filtering system instead. You can read more about water filtering here.
- Whole wheat flour, freshly ground if possible, but you may want to sift out big pieces of the bran. Lucinda uses whole wheat, which you can get here, but I like using alternative grains when I can, such as spelt. She said this is fine, but it may take a little more, go by how it feels. (Again, she said not to use Rye.)
- Unbleached, un-enriched all-purpose white flour – Lucinda uses Natural Way Mills Gold n White Flour—available from Country Life www.clnf.org and UNFI www.unfi.com, or click here for the kind I use. You could also try this einkorn all-purpose flour.
- Finely ground sea salt
Thanks for this recipe, Lucinda, I'm honored to have the Best Sourdough Bread Recipe from you here on my site! 🙂
I asked Lucinda to tell us a little about herself:
I grew up baking yeast bread starting from as far back as I can remember. I was blessed to grow up in a family that believed in making their own food. We lived on a farm and even had our own milk cow. When I was a little older, we moved to Togo, West Africa, where I got to eat wonderful European style artisan breads baked in clay ovens. I also got to do a lot of experimenting with making different types of yeast bread. I started playing with sourdough recipes in the late 90's after falling in love with the sourdough bread from Zingerman's Bakery. My bread was ok, but it never had that chewy crumb I wanted. Later in the early 2000's I tried again for a couple of years, but no matter what I did, the bread still wasn't right. Finally early last year, I decided to get some starter from a friend and try again, this time with a no-knead version. Finally the bread had the chewy crumb I was after! I spent the last year and a half experimenting with the recipe to get the bread I have today.