Crusty Artisan Sourdough Bread

Crusty Artisan Sourdough Bread

Does anyone else feel that bread-making can just be therapeutic sometimes?! My kids have been sick this week, with new teeth coming in they always get these crazy, horrible fevers. Yesterday I think they slept, and watched more shows than they have in their whole 2-year old lives combined. 

When I have crazy weeks, or if the temperatures are going to be colder like they have been this week, or just when I crave bread (which is always), this crusty artisan bread is what hits the spot. It’s fun and easy to make, and my husband always tells me this is the “Best-EVER” sourdough bread recipe. 

Plus, it has all kinds of health benefits because of the fact that it is sourdough. If you haven’t seen those, you can refer back to my post on how to make sourdough starter from scratch, which has all kinds of bonus information about sourdough bread in general and answers a lot of FAQ’s about sourdough. 

Here’s a quick snippet of the health benefits: 

  1. Polyphenols – Sourdough starter and sourdough bread are fermented to collect natural yeasts which are already in the air. Sourdough has something called polyphenols in it, which are a type of compounds found in plant based foods and whole grains. These polyphenols are thought to help neutralize free radicals in your body, and even potentially help reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and inflammation! Who knew?! 
  1. Gluten – The fermentation process also helps to break down the gluten in the bread, so that it is easier on your digestive system to eat! People with gluten sensitivities are more likely to be able to tolerate sourdough bread as opposed to other types of breads because of this. 
  1. Blood Sugar – Big spikes in blood sugar after eating bread comes from eating things like refined sugar & refined processed wheat. Sourdough bread has a lower glycemic load & index than white or even whole wheat non-fermented breads, so it won’t cause the same spike in blood sugars the way that eating other breads will. 
  1. Natural preservatives – Sourdough bread also has natural preservatives in it, which means that it will naturally keep longer on the shelf without growing mold on it. In this way it performs better than other homemade yeast breads made with instant yeast. 

The other thing I want to share with you is about the texture of sourdough bread dough. While a lot of people weigh out their flour and water in grams, I like to rely on the softness, hydration and feel of the dough. Of course I use basic measurements, but I won’t typically weigh everything out to exact measurements. There are a few reasons for this, mainly because I feel it adds to the artistry of bread-making. The other, most practical reason is because even with weighed ingredients, there are still many variables at play with sourdough. The texture of the dough will change depending on the temperature in your home, how hydrated your starter was, and so on. So, paying attention to the texture and the feel of the dough at its various stages will allow you to come out with the best bread and learning these tricks will make you a more experienced sourdough baker in my opinion! 

Artisan sourdough (mid-bake).

TEXTURE – WHAT TO LOOK FOR 

So, what do I look for in the perfect bread texture? When the dough is first mixed, the texture should be quite sticky and wet. After the 30 minute rest, also referred to as the “autolease,” the dough absorbs a bit more of the water and will be noticeably more handle-able.

After you have stretched and folded the dough several times, I look for bread that is very soft, light and airy in feel. It should also have plenty of bubbles. If the dough feels dense or hard to shape, there is too much flour in it and not enough water. If the dough doesn’t have many bubbles, your starter was likely not mature enough to make bread yet.

Another thing to look for is dough that, after shaping does not hold its form. By the time you get your dough into the banneton basket, your dough should have enough structure to hold its form. If you remove your dough from the banneton basket and the dough sprawls & flattens, the gluten in your bread was not developed enough and you probably needed to do more stretch & folds. Either that, or the dough was over-proofed (meaning left in the banneton to ferment for too long) and had already reached it’s peak rise and was starting to deflate.

In any of these scenarios, you can still proceed & bake your bread. Most likely, it will be delicious. That’s the great thing about sourdough – even if you don’t make the most perfect, beautiful loaf – it will most likely taste great and still be quite edible. Trust me, our family has eaten many-a-failed sourdough loaf while I was creating this recipe and no-one has ever complained. 🙂

So let’s get started! 

CRUSTY ARTISAN SOURDOUGH BREAD RECIPE

Prep Time1 HR
Cook Time55 MIN
Total Time15 HRS (*includes rising & fermentation)

Note: This recipe was updated on 5/10/22. It is always my goal to share the very best recipes I have, and after months of experimenting with and learning about sourdough I have updated this recipe to reflect my new, best recommended methods for making an artisan sourdough loaf. I hope you enjoy!

INGREDIENTS: 

  • 3 cups unbleached bread flour 
  • 1 cup lukewarm water
  • 1/2 cup active sourdough starter
  • 1 tsp salt 

PROCESS TO MAKE THE BREAD 

There are 10 steps in making this artisan bread: 

  1. Feed your sourdough starter 4-8 hours before you plan to make bread (depending on the temperature of your home). When your starter is bubbly and has risen to double or more in size, it is ready to use.
  2. Mix all ingredients together, until the flour is fully incorporated and pulling away from the sides of the bowl. 
  3. Cover with a tea towel and let rest for 30 minutes.
  4. Wet your hands, and leaving the dough in the bowl, stretch each side of the dough and fold it in toward the center. Repeat 2x around each side of the dough. Re-cover and place back on the counter. Do this once per hour for 6-8 hours, ensuring to wet your hands each time to continue introducing hydration to your dough.
  5. Lightly flour a clean surface and pour the dough onto it. Do one more round of stretch and folds, then shape the bread into a round loaf.
  6. Spritz with water, then lightly flour a bowl or banneton proofing basket. Dust the top of the loaf with flour, and turn the dough over, placing the dough (with the bottom of the loaf facing upwards) into the bowl. Cover and let refrigerate for anywhere from 6-24 hours.
    1. Note: This step is called “bulk fermentation”, and this is where the sourdough loaf will get it’s rich, tangy flavor. The longer it is fermented, the richer the taste will be. You don’t want to leave it in for TOO long, because it can over-proof and your bread can turn out flat. But if the dough is fermenting in the refrigerator, this process happens slowly, and you should be safe to ferment for as long as you wish within this timeframe.
  7. When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Place a Dutch oven, or any oven-safe pan with a tight lid into the oven (just make sure there is enough vertical room for the bread to rise).
  8. Meanwhile, spray parchment paper with cooking spray. Flip the dough onto the parchment paper so that the top is now facing upwards. Using a bread lame (or the sharpest knife or razor blade you have), slash through the top of the dough. This is where the bread will expand when it’s rising in the oven. 
  9. Carrying the dough on the parchment paper, lay it into the dutch oven and cover with the lid.
  10. Bake for 20 minutes at 425 degrees F. Then turn down the heat to 400 degrees F., remove the lid and bake for 35-40 more minutes.   

Allow the bread to cool, then slice in and enjoy!

I hope you enjoy this delicious bread!

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5 responses to “Crusty Artisan Sourdough Bread”

  1. […] The simple benefit of using whole wheat berries is this: all of the natural, nutritional value in the food is preserved and can be eaten together in the percentages and quantities they grew in! When you eat 100% whole, fresh ground flour in bread you are eating the most nutritionally dense kind of bread. Make it sourdough and you get all of the benefits of the fermented grains too (health benefits of sourdough are listed in my article here)!   […]

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