There are so many sourdough bread recipes floating around the internet. How many do you need? I believe that one is enough, as long as it makes really good bread. Good bread is tasty on its own, but also versatile enough to lend itself to various add-ins and toppings. It puts the bakers’ skills to good use, but still is not difficult to make and uses great ingredients that are readily available. Good bread keeps you present in the process (no braindead automation!) and it brings you joy every step of the way. After four years of tinkering I am ready to say that I have found my perfect bread and I am ready to share it with you.
What makes this bread special
This bread was born to fill the need for compromise. You see, I love flavorful bread – rye and wholegrain are my favorite. That inebriating smell of a brown crust is magic to me and the dance of flavors – sweet and sour with a hint of nuttiness – is all I want. My husband’s tastes are completely different. To him the wholegrain loaf is dense, heavy and bitter. He much prefers the fluffy white loaves with shattery crust and an ethereal crumb that melts as you bite into it. I tried to find a halfway point, but a 50/50 loaf did not satisfy either of us. I kept tinkering with ratios and percentages, which will show in this post, but it was technique that finally made the most significant difference. The result is a loaf that is deeply flavorful, but also light and elegant. I really hope you like it!
If you prefer video recipes you can find a full, detailed video tutorial here.
Tools you will need
In my post here I wrote at length about all the various tools that I accumulated over the years. It is only natural that some of them will appear here, although I will make sure to offer alternatives. The tools that you will absolutely need are kitchen scales, two mixing bowls, a dough knife, a medium-fine sieve and proofing baskets. The additional tools that really help are a grain mill and a bread proofer. Now let’s begin!
Ingredients (for 2 loaves)
For the starter:
- 35 g mature starter at 100% hydration (I use a rye starter)
- 160 g bread flour
- 160 g water
For the dough:
- all of the starter
- 200 g wheat berries (or wholegrain flour if you don’t have a mill)
- 600 g bread flour
- 200 g boiling water
- 500 g + 10 g water at room temperature
- 17 g salt
In the morning:
First of all combine the ingredients for the starter and set the mixture to proof for 7 hours at 81F/27C. I use a proofer for this purpose, but you can keep the starter on the middle rack of a cold oven with the light turned on.
At the same time, mill your berries. I love these ones from Barton Springs Mill as the flavor and aroma are absolutely divine! If you do not have a mill like this you can just get whole-wheat flour from the store, such as the one from King Arthur Flour. Whichever path you go, you should end up with 200g of coarse whole-wheat flour. The freshly-milled one will taste better, but hey! we work with what we’ve got.
Sift the flour that you have and separate the bran. Place the bran in a small bowl, add the boiling water and cover for the next 8 hours. This step makes all the difference so make sure not to skip it!
In the afternoon:
When the starter had been proofing fo 5 hours, mix the dough for the autolyse stage. Combine the sifted flour, the bread flour and 500 g of water; cover and let it sit for two hours. An autolyse of this length will create silky, elastic dough that will be strong enough to lift the bran.
After two hours add the starter and mix thoroughly. I highly recommend the Rubaud method for this. Let the dough rest for 30 minutes either in the proofer at 81F/27C, or in the oven with a light on.
After 30 minutes add the salt, drizzle 10 g of water on top to dissolve and repeat the Rubaud mix. Let the dough rest for another 30 minutes.
An hour after you added the starter the bread is ready for the soaked bran. The video below shows you how to incorporate it.
Why all the sifting and soaking? Can I not just mix the wholegrain flour? You can, but that will be a different loaf.
You might have noticed that white-flour dough is stretchy and silky to the touch, while wholegrain dough is gritty and tears more easily. My method attempts to marry the white texture to the wholegrain aroma. The bran is added after the gluten is strengthened through autolyse, mixing and the addition of salt. Added this way the coarser particles do not sabotage texture. They are gently coated by the already strong dough. Other advantages of soaking bran are that it does not absorb moisture from your dough and also the hot water really unlocks an avalanche of flavor. The bread almost tastes as if there is sugar in it!
After you have incorporated the bran, place the dough in a clean bowl and let it proof for another 30 minutes. Do a coil fold as in the video below and then repeat three more times at 30-minute intervals.
After the fourth coil-fold let the dough proof for another 30 minuted before dividing and shaping. The video below shows how I perform this step.
Place the dough into proofing baskets and put it in the fridge for 10-12 hours.
There are different ways to bake the bread and I am working on an entry about it to show all the different effects, but for the purpose of this post I will show you the results of two different methods. This one was baked in the challenger pan with basic scoring. I baked it for 20 minutes at 440F/260C covered and then for 30 minutes at 420F/215C uncovered.
This second one was elaborately scored and baked on a baking steel with a pan of water underneath for the first 20 minutes. The times and temperatures are the same as above.
Here is the crumb of the second loaf:
I hope you enjoyed this recipe and will give it a try! I am sure you will fall in love with thee combination of texture and flavor.
33 thoughts on “My Best Sourdough Recipe”
Gorgeous as usual!
Thank you for your kind comment 🤗
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Absolutely fascinating read. I can’t wait to try out this new recipe. Soaking the bran is genius!
I hope you love it as much as I do!
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Thank you Anna for this post – the videos make it so easy to follow your recipe. Will try it as soon as my starter is mature. I just started a new one. Second loaf is beautiful as always!
I’m really glad you liked it! Let me know how your bread turns out 🤗
Hi Anna, my bread was not a big success but the taste was superb. I used 90% wheat flour T65 and 10% spelt T110. My starter was still very young. It was built half from wheat flour T65 and half rye flour (from berrie I grind and sifted). I did not bake any sourdough bread since months and I noticed how fast one can loose the habit to manipulate a dough. Very interesting experience. I kept the bran from the rye berries and mixed it as in your recipe. I will give this recipe another try with a more mature starter. Keep following you here & on FB. Have a nice week! Warm and safe regards from Belgium.
Hello Anna, I love your bread and the way you explain and show various steps. I have one question though. For the dough you listed 200 g boiling water for the wholegrain flour and 500g + 10 g for bread flour but in a paragraph describing a step of adding water to bread flour there is “Combine the sifted flour, the bread flour and 525 g of water; cover and let it sit for two hours” I have been working to improve my technique and I know that more water is more hydration and it can be challenging at times. If don’t mind please make it clear 500 + 10 or 525 + 10. Thank you and best regards, Halina
I an sorry. It should have said 500g. I rectified that. Thank you for pointing that out and I hope the recipe works well for you 💕
Thank you for correcting. I will be baking tomorrow and let’s hope for the best. Have a good weekend. Best, Halina
Anna, sifting King Arthur Whole Wheat flour doesn’t seem to yield any bran. Can I use, say, Bob’s Red Mill Wheat Bran? If so, how much bran and how much whole wheat flour?
Hi Peter! I suspect your sieve isn’t tight enough. There should definitely be bran to shift out. To answer your question, you can use 100g of bran to 100g of KAF but then use white stoneground flour instead pf wholegrain. I hope this helps!
Thanks. I thought my sieve was pretty fine but it only yielded a minuscule amount of slightly darker material. I’ll try it with the bran.
Thanks for all the info. Keep up the beautiful work!
I read the entire post again in the hopes that I would find a recommendation for a specific bread flour. What is the protein percentage in your bread flour and can you recommend a specific brand?
My favorite bread flour is King Arthur’s Bread Flour or their Sir Galahad. I’m sorry it was not in the post 😔 I will include it.
I love this recipe! What would happen if I added the salt to the soaked bran, near the end, instead of adding them at different times? Is there a reason for that?
I’m just trying to avoid staying up so late at night!
Hi Jane and thank you for your great question! The salt strengthens the gluten ties and you want the dough to be strong when you add the bran. Unfortunately, it is not a quick process. Best, Anna
Hi Anna, thank you for sharing your wonderful recipe. You mentioned toward the end you baked your second loaf on a baking steel with a pan of water underneath for 20 minutes. Will there be a difference in outcome if I baked my loaf in a steel pot with lid covered for 20 minutes to steam it? Thank you.
Hi and thank you for reading my post 😊 In theory a closed pot should work even better because it traps more steam! I just suggest that after the 20 min you take the loaf out of the pot for the final stage, so it browns all over
Hey Anna, I tried this lovely bread for several times. And my skills are growing. On your advice I used 10% less water because of the T65. I promised to let you know, and I can tell you my bread is lovely now. The taste is great. But there’s one loss. My husband and I don’t want to eat other bread 🙂 Thank you for sharing and your advice. Warm greetings.
Thank you Mary for the update! Falling in love with your bread is a truly special feeling. 😊
I was intrigued by your process for this bread. I have been a long time sourdough bread maker. I have one question, however. When taking the bread from the refrigerator I assume you let it come to room temp and final rise before baking. Those details are not included in your recipe.
Thank you for your kind comment. 😊 I do not let the dough come to room temperature. I score right away and then bake. Hope that helps!
I will try that because the rise was almost too much-bread deflated when scored. The loaves came out well, chewy and airy. I will try again to perfect your method. It’s great to get ideas from someone passionate about bread baking. Thank you for the reply
I am new to baking sourdough. I read in your recipe that one of the ways to bake sourdough is to put the bread in a pot with lid in the oven. This is something new that I am reading for the first time. What is the purpose for putting the bread in a closed pot? Can you bake sourdough by putting it directly in the oven? By the way, I am so impressed by your scoring techniques. They are all so beautiful. I hope to be able to achieve it some day. Thank you in advance for your response.
Thank you so much for reading my post and for your kind words! Baking in a covered pot allows you to trap the steam which facilitates the Maillard reaction, whereby the crust sort of caramelizes – turns brown and crisp. Commercial bread ovens have steam injectors for this but us home bakers have to improvise. You can definitely bake your bread uncovered but the result will be a paler, tougher crust.
Good luck with your baking!
Thank you so much for your videos and blog posts. Would it be ok if I skip the bran? I don’t really want to use the bran.
You sure can skip it 🤗 The flavor will be more subdued.
Hi! Thank for posting this recipe— I can’t wait to try it! Silly question: the mature SD starter that I’m using— should it be freshly fed or does it not matter?
It works best if it was fed about 5-8 hours before
Thank you for sharing! Also, thank you for reminding me to check out Barton Springs Mill again. Excellent flours (I discovered when pandemic bakers bought all the store flour!)
They are amazing! Glad you love them too.
Hi Anna, Does it matter when the water is added to the 500 g of water is added to the rest of the flour, so that the autolyse goes for 7 hours instead of 2? I like to set things up all at the same time in the morning and then go away until the 7 hours are up. Your recipe is my ‘go to’ for making sourdough bread and I’m loving it!