Simple, artisan-style No Knead Sourdough Bread made with just 3 ingredients. Flour, salt and water. Full of flavour with a crispy, crusty, crackly crust and soft, chewy crumb. Great for sourdough beginners! Includes free printable sourdough baking schedules so you can see exactly how to make it work around your day!
If you're not a carb-lover then exit the building because we are going to be making (and eating) crispy, crusty, deeply golden, flavour-packed, completely irresistible No Knead Sourdough Bread. And we are going to make it with our very own homemade sourdough starter!
No commercial yeast is required for this recipe, so if you haven't brewed up your own little little jar of sourdough starter bread-making magic then go check out my post about how to do it now.
If you've previously been intimidated by sourdough starters and all they involve, don't worry because my recipe is really easy and involves no discarding and also no daily feedings once it's established.
Sourdough Starter Recipe Video
Like my starter recipe, this No Knead Sourdough Bread is stripped down and simplified as much as is possible. It is perfect for beginners. I'm even including some FREE printable sourdough schedules as examples for how you can make your baking fit easily around your day!
I'm making it as easy as I possibly can, because I believe that everybody deserves to be able to tear into and enjoy an unbelievably delicious, freshly baked artisan style loaf of sourdough bread.
Serve this delicious No Knead Sourdough Bread alongside homemade soups like my Red Lentil Soup with Lemon or my Vegan Potato Soup, stews like my Vegan Irish Stew, make delicious sandwiches, toast it, or slather it with vegan butter, and eat it with vegan cheese, olives and a side of red wine. Vegan French Toast or Vegan French Toast Casserole is rather fantastic when made with it too ;O)
What is different about sourdough bread?
Most leavened breads use commercial yeast to make the dough rise. Sourdough bread does not use commercial yeast. It is leavened with wild yeast and lactic acid bacteria that are first cultivated in a sourdough starter. A little bit of the starter is added to the dough when you make bread and the wild yeast and lactic acid bacteria naturally leaven the bread as they create carbon dioxide bubbles while feeding on the natural sugars in the flour.
Because of this sourdough bread takes much longer to ferment and rise than breads made with commercial yeast, and that is what produces its unique texture and flavour.
What is sourdough made of?
The ingredients list for this No Knead Sourdough Bread is pretty basic.
- Flour (preferably bread flour (strong flour in the UK) but I do have a hack if you only have all purpose flour - details to follow)
They are the only ingredients you need to make a loaf of artisan style sourdough bread, assuming you have an active sourdough starter which is also just made with flour and water. In case you missed it you can find my very easy recipe here.
Can you use all purpose flour for sourdough bread?
You can use all purpose flour to make sourdough bread but you won't get such a good result. It is at its very best when made with bread flour. You can tweak things a bit though to make results with all purpose flour better.
Bread flour works best because it has a higher protein content than all purpose flour. This gives the bread dough more strength. That means that you will get a better structure and a higher rise when using it than you will if you use all purpose flour.
Having said that, results will depend on where you are in the world too. Canadian all purpose flour has a higher protein content than American all purpose flour and British plain flour has an even lower protein content than both of them.
There is one way to give all purpose flour flour a protein boost though, and that's by adding some vital wheat gluten .
Vital wheat gluten is made from wheat flour which has been hydrated to activate the gluten, and then processed to remove everything but the gluten. It's what is used to make seitan recipes like my vegan roast.
By adding vital wheat gluten to all purpose flour you boost the protein/gluten content of your recipe, giving extra strength to your dough. This will give you better results when baking your No Knead Sourdough Bread or any other bread recipe.
Due to recent events, bread flour has been impossible to find anywhere locally, and although this No Knead Sourdough Bread recipe was ready to share, I hadn't photographed it. So in order to get the photos, I had no choice but to use all purpose flour. I added some vital wheat gluten and you can see it turned out really well. Not as well as it would have with bread flour though.
If you need to make this recipe with all purpose flour, you will find details of how much much vital wheat gluten to add in the recipe notes.
If however you don't have access to vital wheat gluten, a good trick is to reduce the hydration (water) in the recipe a little. Somewhere between 5% and 10% dependent on the recipe. Because this no knead sourdough recipe is a fairly low hydration one anyway to make it suitable for beginners, reducing by 5% should be sufficient.
What equipment do I need to make sourdough?
As for equipment, you can get away without anything special for this no knead sourdough bread recipe.
Here is what you need:
- a digital kitchen scale - Please don't use cups to measure when making bread or starter. Baking is a science and cup measurements are not accurate enough. In my recipes I will be asking you to weigh all of your ingredients, including the water. This scale is cheap and works well.
- a large mixing bowl - The bowl needs to have plenty of room for getting your hands in there to stretch and fold (more on that to come) and for the dough to expand and rise.
- rice flour, cornmeal, polenta or other coarse/gritty gluten-free flour - This isn't for actually making the bread. It's to ensure your dough doesn't stick to the banneton or other container/cloth you do the final rise in. Regular flour does not work well because it just absorbs the moisture from the dough and then sticks anyway. Rice flour, cornmeal, polenta and gluten-free flour are all slightly grainy and coarse and do not absorb moisture so well, hence they make for an easy release. If you are running low on rice flour, cornmeal or polenta though, you can mix them 50/50 with some rye or wholewheat flour to stretch them a bit further. Please don't think it will be ok and chance it without coarse flour. It is absolutely heartbreaking to put all your time and effort into making a lovely loaf of sourdough bread, only to have the shaped loaf stick just as you are trying to put it in the oven. If you've got rice (white or brown) in your pantry, and you have a blender, you can make your own rice flour in 2 minutes so there is no need to go out and buy it specially. Full instructions for making it follow a little further down!
- a very sharp knife (serrated ones tend to work best) or a razor blade (or a lame/grignette if you're lucky enough to have one) - for scoring your bread right before you bake it. As long as it is super, super sharp it will work. Sharp kitchen scissors will work in a snip (Sorry - couldn't resist the pun!). You need to score your bread so don't think you can skip this step. I'll go into why a bit later.
- water spray bottle - for spraying your surface, your tools and the dough. If you don't have one, have a bowl of water next to you at all times to dip your hands and tools into as you work. I find a spray bottle much easier though.
- dough scraper - Not absolutely essential but they are super cheap and so, so handy, not just for bread-making, but also when making pastry or any other dough. Sourdough can get sticky. A dough scraper allows you to handle the dough without getting a sticky mess on your hands, divide it easily when making multiple loaves/rolls, and also makes cleaning up your counter a breeze because you can scrape flour and dough remnants off quickly and easily.
- Preferably a Dutch Oven or a baking/pizza stone - But if you have neither of those don't worry! I give lots of alternative ideas a little further down under the heading "How to make No Knead Sourdough Bread without a Dutch Oven".
- A banneton (proving basket) if you have one or a bowl/colander and a clean lint free dish towel - Sourdough needs support once it's been shaped and is having its final rise. To provide this support once it is shaped, you place it either in a banneton (which is wicker or cane proofing basket like the one in my picture below), or you can use a bowl or colander lined with a VERY well dusted with course flour, clean dish towel.
Why use a Dutch oven?
Most home ovens don't do the best job of baking artisan style bread. Steam escapes from the oven too easily and heat escapes through the oven door when you open it to put your bread in.
By using a Dutch oven you create the perfect environment for baking sourdough. The temperature is kept consistent because the Dutch oven is scorching hot and holds the heat well and evenly. It's preheated before the bread goes in and when you open the oven door to put the bread into the oven the Dutch oven retains the heat so there is no (or very, very negligible) temperature drop.
A Dutch oven also has a heavy cast iron lid that traps every bit of steam escaping from the inside of the baking loaf. This steam stops a crust developing so quickly and so the oven spring (swelling and expansion of the loaf) is much, much better. Steam also helps develop a really crispy, crackly crust. It's the easiest and most foolproof way to bake sourdough.
The best Dutch Oven for bread
If you are looking to buy a Dutch Oven for bread baking (whether sourdough or regular yeast bread), I highly recommend this Lodge L8DD3 5 quart Dutch Oven.
The reason being, it works brilliantly at holding the heat and the steam in and you can use it upside down. Instead of having to lower your dough into a scorching hot and deep Dutch oven, you just have to place it on the upturned lid, then use the actual base of the Dutch oven as a kind of cloche over the top. The extra non-bread related bonus is that you can use the lid as a skillet too so it's truly multi-purpose piece of equipment.
I recently purchased one but before had been using my fancy, beautiful enameled red Dutch oven for baking sourdough, and although I got excellent results with it, over time the enamel is becoming stained from the very high heats and the burning flour remnants. With the pre-seasoned enamel-free black Lodge dutch oven you don't have to worry about that. And bonus, it's cheaper than enameled Dutch ovens and enables you to slide the loaf carefully onto the lid without losing any precious gas build up in the dough like you might if dropping it into a deeper Dutch oven. With good care it should last forever too.
It's not just good for sourdough either. Any yeasted bread (except super soft ones like brioche and challah) benefit from being cooked in a Dutch oven because it creates the perfect environment.
How to make Easy No Knead Sourdough Bread
I have really simplified this No Knead Sourdough Bread recipe to make it as straightforward as I possibly can.
Don't be alarmed by how long it takes. Although its simplified, this is sourdough. It cannot be rushed. Fermentation takes time. It is nearly all hands off time though. There is hardly any actual physical work and it is really easy to work it around your schedule. Sourdough is really flexible. And there is no kneading involved!
(For detailed measurements and instructions, see the printable recipe card).
Step 1 - Make the dough
Put the sourdough starter and the water into a bowl.
Mix together really well with a whisk or spatula.
Add the flour and the salt and mix it all together until you can't see any dry flour.
Step 2 - Autolyse
Sounds fancy but basically means "leave it alone". Cover the mixed up dough with a damp clean dish towel or a lid and leave it to rest for 1 hour.
After an hour it will look a bit like this:
Step 3 - Stretch and fold
Once the autolyse period is complete perform 3 sets of stretch and folds approximately one hour apart. Don't worry, this is easy, takes a couple of minutes each time, and full details of how to do it are given in the full recipe at the bottom. You can also watch this very short YouTube video showing the stretch and fold technique in action.
Each time you perform a set of stretch and folds you will see and feel the dough becoming smoother and more supple as you develop the gluten and the structure in a very gently way.
QUICK TIP - While doing the stretch and folds you do not have to be exact about the 1 hour resting time between. It's just a guide. If you have to go out it's ok to leave it for 2 hours or even 3 or for as little as 30 minutes between each one if you are short on time. The important thing is that you get them all in at some point in time.
Step 4 - Bulk fermentation
Once the last stretch and fold has been done, cover with a wet dish towel or a lid and leave on the kitchen counter for the remainder of the bulk fermentation. This is where the action happens and when the flavour, aeration and strength really develop.
During bulk fermentation the dough develops flavour through the process of fermentation and also strength through gluten formation which you help along by doing some stretch and folds.
The time the bulk fermentation takes is very dependent on environment and is something that you will need to be flexible about and use your intuition with. It will be slightly different for everyone.
QUICK TIP - You don't have to be a slave to your dough during bulk fermentation. If you're in the middle of it and want to go out and you think your dough might become ready while you're gone, just put it in the fridge until you get back, or even until the next day. Then remove it and carry on where you left off (bearing in mind that things do still progress in the fridge, just much, much slower than at room temperature.
When it is ready it will have increased in volume by about 30% and look and feel like it has life in it. Instead of being just a mass like when you left it, it should be jiggly if you wiggle the bowl, domed slightly (not totally flat) and aerated, with a few big bubbles forming around the edges and maybe on the top.
If you look at the underneath and sides through the bottom of the bowl you should see it scattered with small bubbles.
Here is a picture of the bottom of one of my doughs at the end of bulk fermentation, in a clear, easy to see into container:
In my 21 °C (70 °F) kitchen the bulk fermentation (after stretching and folding has been completed) takes about 3 hours. If your kitchen is the same temperature then you should be able to follow along at a similar pace. If it's hotter then things will happen more quickly and if it's cooler then things will take longer.
Step 5 - Preshape
Once the bulk fermentation is finished it's time to gently pre-shape the dough. For the pre-shape you are simply and gently, getting your dough into a round ball shape, then letting the gluten relax again so that when you give it the final shape it's easier to get it into a good, smooth, taut shape. Once pre-shaped let it rest again for 30 minutes.
QUICK TIP - A lot of people freak out a bit and start adding too much flour when pre-shaping and final shaping. Sourdough dough is supposed to be a bit sticky. Even this recipe which is fairly low hydration (73%). Remember that if you make the dough too dry by adding lots of flour it won't stick together properly when you're shaping it which you need it to do, and it will also likely make your loaf of bread dense and heavy. And of course, if it’s too sticky, you're going to have a difficult situation which won't be fun. The balance is having a light dusting of flour on part of your surface and also rubbed into your hands, a dough scraper to help move the dough around, and also a part of your counter with no flour on it, because the dough sticking to it is a tool you can use to your advantage when shaping. More on that to come.
Step 6 - Cut some parchment paper and prepare your proofing basket (If you don't have a proofing basket don't worry. There's an easy alternative ... read on...).
Spray a proofing basket (banneton) with a fine spray of water, then dust it very, very liberally with coarse flour.
QUICK TIP - As a banneton is used and ages it becomes seasoned and you can get away with using less flour to coat it. When its new though use way more flour than you think you will need. You can always brush it off when you turn the bread out.
You don't ever need to wash the banneton. Once my loaf is in the oven I simply shake out the excess flour into my compost bin, then place the banneton on the stovetop to dry out with the heat from the oven. Then it gets stored in the cupboard until next time.
Don't use regular white flour for dusting the proofing basket. It absorbs moisture from the dough too well and will likely stick terribly. Instead use a course flour like rice flour, fine cornmeal, polenta or any other grainy gluten-free flour. They don't absorb moisture so well so are great at aiding a perfect release every-time. If you don't have much coarse flour, you can use a 50/50 mix of it and rye or wholewheat flour (I try not to use white flour at all because it always sticks a bit even mixed with the coarse flour).
QUICK TIP - Make your own rice flour in a couple of minutes! Simply pour some dried rice (white or brown) into a blender and blend on high until flour-like. Keep it in a sealed jar.
A proofing basket (banneton) is the perfect vessel for your shaped bread dough because it's porous material (cane or wicker), wicks away moisture helping to create a "skin" on the dough. That helps it keep its shape better when you tip it out later, and also helps make scoring easier.
Next cut a piece of parchment paper that will fit over your proofing basket/bowl with some excess to act as handles. You can leave it in a square shape or cut it a bit like this:
I put a dinner plate (thats bigger than my proofing basket) on the paper and draw around it with a pen or pencil, then cut it out with two "handles" extending out on each side. I like to do this because sometimes if you use a big square of it your loaf can end up with wavy marks around the edges from the creases in the paper. It's only aesthetic though so if that doesn't bother you then don't take the extra time to cut handles! Once you've cut the paper set it aside. You won't need it until you are ready to bake.
No proofing basket?
If you don't have a proofing basket (which most of you starting out won't and that's fine!), you can easily make do with regular kitchen items. Get yourself a clean, lint free dish towel (nothing fluffy, cotton or linen is good) and a round mixing bowl or colander. 2 to 2.5 quart/litre size or a little smaller is good. Don't use one much bigger. This will be your makeshift proofing basket.
Step 7 - Final shape
Shape the dough into a smooth, taut ball. Full directions as to how to do it are given in the full recipe below but this YouTube video also demonstrates it well. Do not under estimate the importance of shaping. It can make or break a loaf.
Once shaped put it seam side down into the well floured proofing basket.
Here is mine after final shaping:
Step 8 - Proof
Allow the dough to proof. The aim of this is for your dough to increase in volume by somewhere between 30% and 50% and be puffy, light and aerated, not a solid mass of dough. Don't allow it to double in size like you might with regular yeasted bread.
Use the "poke test" to determine when it's ready to bake. This doesn't work well with all doughs but does with this one.
How to do the poke test - Dip a finger into a bit of oil or water and stick it into the dough about half an inch deep. I like to do this right at the side near where it touches the basket because the dough tends to be a little drier there. When you remove your finger you are looking for the hole to fill slowly up to about half way. If it completely fills up the dough is not ready yet. Give it longer. If your finger mark stays there and doesn't fill in at all the dough is over-proofed. For details of what to do if you do accidentally over-proof your dough check further down under the heading "What happens if you overproof dough".
Here is my dough when it's finished proofing. It has increased in size, it's visibly puffy and there are large bubbles beginning to form around the edges and just under the surface. When I poke it near the side, close to the edge of the proofing basket my indent fills slowly to about half way.
Step 9 - Bake
Preheat your oven with the Dutch oven inside it. The hotter the better. 500 °F is good. Have your Dutch Oven inside the oven it as it preheats. (IMPORTANT - be sure to check the manufacturers instructions about the maximum heat it's safe to use it (and its lid at ). Let it all preheat for at least 45 minutes so everything is scorching hot. (If you don't have a Dutch Oven see my suggestions for alternatives below).
Turn out the dough by covering the top with parchment paper and a plate or cutting board, then flipping it over quickly and gently.
Score the bread with a lame, razor blade or very sharp knife.
As soon as it is scored, get it into the Dutch oven, then the oven quickly and bake. Part of the bake is done with the lid on so the steam improves oven spring, then part with the lid off to colour the bread and make it crispy and crusty.
- Make sure your sourdough starter is strong and healthy and use it at its peak.
- Weigh the ingredients with a digital kitchen scale. You will not be successful if you use cups to measure. They are not accurate enough.
- You might be tempted to switch out the flour to wholewheat but I don't recommend doing this until you've perfected a white loaf and then no more than 50% or it will likely be dense and heavy.
- It's best not to knead sourdough. It benefits from being treated gently. Stretching and folding is the way to go so that you develop gluten gently.
- After the bulk fermentation (the first rising period), don't punch the dough down like you might with regular yeast bread. We want to preserve that gas/bubble build up not destroy it.
- Don't add flour during the stretch and fold process. I suggest using a spray of water on hands and dough which will stop the dough sticking to you. Incorporating more flour will just create a dry, dense, heavy loaf.
- Don't dust your counter with too much flour when you shape your loaf. You need the dough to stick to the counter a bit to shape it successfully and you need the dough to be able to stick to itself too. If it's too floury it won't.
- Don't skip the pre-shape. It might seem unnecessary but it really does help the dough to "remember" the shape you want it to go in and helps with the much needed tension.
- To avoid sticking, dust your banneton or dish towel very, very liberally. With much more than you think you will need. You can always brush some off later.
- If at all possible use a Dutch Oven to bake the bread in and preheat it until it's scorching hot. This makes a massive difference to oven spring, crust and texture.
- Be sure to check the manufacturers instructions for your Dutch Oven or other baking vessel. I am suggesting you bake at 500°F. This is very hot and not all Dutch Ovens are able to take that heat. See my instructions in the notes for what to do if you can't bake that high.
- Score the bread.
- Practice, practice, practice! Good fermentation, sufficient dough strength, ending bulk fermentation at the right time, and a full proof are all steps required for a great loaf of bread. As you develop a sense for each of these, you'll really notice the difference.
- Don't rush and be patient.
- Wait until it's cool before you cut into it. It's hard but if you don't you will ruin your precious crumb and leftovers won't last as long.
How to make No Knead Sourdough Bread without a Dutch Oven
I recommend using a Dutch oven for baking this no knead sourdough bread if you can, because it's the easiest way to create the perfect environment for your bread. But I realize not everyone has one and it's perfectly possible to bake a good loaf without one. It just takes a bit of creativity.
Here are some ideas:
- Use a pizza/baking stone - These hold onto the heat and work really well. Preheat it in the oven so it is scorching hot when you add the bread. To get the bread on there you can either turn it out of the proofing basket onto parchment paper and slide it onto the stone while still on the paper, or use a small baking tray. Turn it upside down and dust the back of it really well with rice flour, cornmeal, semolina or some coarse wholewheat flour. Turn your loaf out of the proofing basket onto the floured surface of the baking tray back. Give it a bit of a slide around to make sure it moves around freely. Score it, then use the tray like a baker's peel to slide the loaf onto the scorching pizza stone. It sounds tricky but it's actually not too difficult. You will also need to introduce some steam to the oven so have a roasting pan on the shelf underneath the pizza stone. As soon as the loaf has hit the pizza stone, pour some boiling water from a kettle into the roasting pan and shut the door quickly. After 25 minutes of baking you can open the door and remove the pan of water.
- Use a pizza/baking stone with a bowl over the top - Same as above but as soon as the bread is on the stone cover it with an oven safe bowl or pan of some kind. By doing this you don't need to add a pan of water.
- Use a regular baking tray and a bowl or pan - Turn the loaf out onto a regular baking tray and cover it with a stainless steel mixing bowl, saucepan or casserole dish. Anything that's oven safe and that will help to keep steam inside.
- A clay pot, Pyrex dish, casserole dish, turkey roaster (I know most of us are vegan but you might have one from the old days), soup pot - Anything that's oven safe and has a lid and that the loaf will easily fit in (make sure there's room for expansion). If you can preheat it in the oven before adding the loaf even better. Use it in exactly the same way as I describe for the Dutch oven.
Why does sourdough bread need such a high heat to bake?
When it's put in the oven a loaf of bread has only about fifteen to twenty minutes to rise to its maximum capacity before the crust develops and stops it rising anymore. By giving it the highest heat possible you give the wild yeast and the carbon dioxide they produce the best possible chance to force the bread to increase in volume before that window of opportunity is up. This results in great oven spring which means the loaf swells up to maximum capacity and looks better, and also ensures that the crumb is light and fluffy.
Why is steam important?
I mentioned before that bread only has a fifteen to twenty minute window to rise and expand when put in the oven. Steam and the heat and moisture it creates, extend that window a little bit and enable the bread to rise much more quickly and higher. Steam raises the heat of the dough's surface quickly but also keeps it moist and flexible for longer. It also helps create a beautiful, golden colour because steam settling on the surface of the dough dissolves the natural sugars. Then once the steam evaporates those natural sugars caramelize, creating a deep, golden colour and a crispy, crackly, blistery crust.
Why stretch and fold bread dough instead of kneading?
Stretching and folding dough adds strength and develops the gluten in a much more gentle way than kneading.
During bulk fermentation which starts as soon as the dough is mixed, gas bubbles are building up in the dough. Stretching and folding enables you to develop the gluten in the dough and give it strength without removing that precious gas build up.
Because sourdough bread needs lots of time to ferment, a few quick stretches and folds are all that is necessary to help the gluten development along. The rest of the work is done by time and requires no effort from you at all.
Why score bread?
You might be wondering what "scoring" is and why it's so important.
A score is a cut made into the shaped dough with a lame, sharp knife or razor blade just as it is about to be put in the oven.
Scoring is important because it creates an intentional weak spot on the surface of the loaf. This weak spot gives the loaf room to expand as it puffs up and cooks through in the oven. By scoring you will get greater oven spring and your finished loaf will be lighter and airier. And it makes it look more professional too!
If you don't score your loaf, chances are you will have a bursting out situation on your hands. Usually it's on the bottom or the side. This isn't the end of the world but it can make your loaf look ugly and uneven and give you strangely shaped slices. By scoring you can control where the expansion happens, avoid ruptures and make your bread look pretty at the same time!
Scoring is really important but there are many other aspects that affect how your loaf will turn out too. These include everything from the ingredients you use, how much of each you use, shaping, fermentation, proofing and how much steam is present while baking etc. Great sourdough bread is a result of all of these things coming together and that is why making it is very much a learning process and why intuition, experience and judgement is so important.
What happens if you overproof dough?
You might be wondering how you know if your bread dough is over-proofed? After-all, it happens to the best of us from time to time.
If you do the "poke test" on your shaped loaf and the indent of your finger stays as it is in the dough and does not fill in at all, then your loaf is over-proofed. If it's very over-proofed it might also look very flat and not puffy and full of life, or it will have started to collapse in on itself. It will have lost all of its tension and be loose and floppy or in the worst case scenario be totally slack and soupy .
If it has over-proofed and looks flat, but it hasn't collapsed or become really loose and slack, try taking it out of the proofing basket and giving it a few stretch and folds. This will help redistribute any pockets of uneaten sugar and starch, give the wild yeast something to feed on and just might save the day. Let is rest for 10 minutes after stretching and folding, then shape and bake shortly afterwards. It won't result in as good a loaf as you would otherwise have had but it should hopefully be edible.
If your dough is floppy, soupy and lifeless the only chance of saving it is to pour it into a greased loaf pan and bake it while keeping everything crossed. It probably won't result in great bread but you might be able to use it to make a Vegan French Toast Casserole or for breadcrumbs or croutons.
Storage, Freezing & Reheating Tips
Storing No Knead Sourdough Bread - The most important thing to remember with regards to storing your bread, is to let it cool completely before cutting. I know that's hard when we're talking about a fresh from the oven, warm loaf of bread, but if you want it to keep well it's important.
As bread cools, the crumb firms up and dries a bit. If you cut the bread before this process has happened (while it's hot or even warm), the crumb will appear doughy and a bit gummy and it won't slice well. Let it cool properly and your slices will be fluffy and airy as they should be.
Also when you cut hot/warm bread you let the steam trapped inside, out rather than letting it dissipate and absorb naturally and slowly. This sets you up for drier bread later on.
Bread develops flavour as it cools too, especially in the case of sourdough and after all of the time and effort you put into making it, it's important you get the best flavour possible.
If my bread is uncut I like to store it in a paper bag because it preserves the crispy, crackly crust. Once it's cut though I like to keep it in a plastic bag so that the crumb doesn't get dry. I have a collection of old bread bags that I use again and again.
Sourdough tends to stay fresher a little longer than regular bread and is less inclined to mold because of its acidity.
Alway store bread at room temperature and never in the fridge. Why? Here's some (very basic) science .... When a loaf of bread is mixed and baked its crystalline starches breakdown and change. After baking these starches slowly revert back to their original crystallized state. That's what makes bread stale and become dry. Colder temperatures make this process happen more quickly so keeping bread in the fridge actually decreases the time it will stay fresh.
Freezing No Knead Sourdough Bread - The best way to store bread that you won't eat quickly is to freeze it. Sourdough bread freezes very well. Wrap it and store in the freezer for up to 3 months. Allow to defrost at room temperature overnight before using.
Reheating/refreshing No Knead Sourdough Bread - To refresh a previously frozen or older loaf of bread, set your oven to 325 °F (162°C) and pop the bread in the oven, directly on the rack. Cook it for 10 to 15 minutes and it will emerge good as new with a crackly, crispy crust and soft insides.
I recommend sticking to the recipe exactly at first until you have mastered it, then once you have you can have fun and make it your own. Here are some ideas:
Add mix-ins - Try blending different flours or including your favourite mix-in like dried fruit and nuts, vegan cheese, garlic, herbs or chocolate.
Experiment with retarding the dough - Increase flavour and sourness by retarding your dough in the fridge, either in the bulk ferment stage or after shaping.
Adjust the amount of sourdough starter - More starter speeds up the fermentation time and decreases flavour and less starter increases fermentation time and increases flavour.
Adjust the hydration - This No Knead Sourdough Bread recipe has a hydration of 73%. That's fairly low for sourdough but perfect for beginners because it makes it much easier to work with. A higher hydration (wetter) dough will produce lots of beautiful air pockets, giving your bread that gorgeous holey, open crumb that sourdough is well known for.
You can easily adjust this as you become more experienced just by adding more water when mixing up your dough.
To calculate the hydration level, you divide the amount of water in grams by the amount of flour in grams, making sure to include the weight of the flour and water in your starter.
So as an example, this recipe has 500 grams of flour, 350 grams of water and 110 grams of a starter which is 100% hydration. 100% hydration means that the starter has equal parts flour and water, so 110 grams of starter contains 55 grams of flour and 55 grams of water.
That means that there is a total of 405 grams of water and 555 grams of flour in this recipe. 405 /555 = 0.73 so this recipe has 73% hydration.
For more information on hydration and how it affects your bread, have a look at Sourdough Hydration Explained. It explains hydration in the clearest and most approachable way I've seen.
Let's get real about baking sourdough
Before you go off to bake old-fashioned, artisan style, no knead sourdough bread like a boss, I do want to get real for a moment and tell you what most other sourdough read recipes out there don't.
Making sourdough bread is very much a learning process. It's not as simple as following the recipe exactly and pulling a great loaf of bread out of the oven, and I don't want you to go into it with unreal expectations.
I'll be honest. Chances are, your first loaf won't be fantastic. Baking sourdough, even this simplified No knead Sourdough Bread, is not like making a regular yeasted bread. There are lots of factors that go into the fermentation process and creating a successful loaf, like having a really active and strong starter at it's peak of activity, developing great gluten-structure, shaping and creating enough surface tension, picking the perfect moment to shape and bake, what you bake it in, how much steam there is and even your oven and the temperature you bake at.
The whole sourdough process is very different for everyone because it relies on so many factors, including handling and environment. Much more so than yeast breads. So although I can guide you and give you a rough idea of what to expect and how long each stage will take, it is impossible to be exact. That's where intuition, experience and judgement comes in. And you only get that by practicing.
I'm not telling you this to put you off, but rather so you know that with sourdough baking you really need to be open to learning and in tune with your dough and the bread baking process. You also need to be patient and persistent. Failures will happen along with way and with that comes even more satisfaction when you nail it! And that's why sourdough bread baking is one of the most rewarding things you can do in the kitchen.
Free printable sourdough bread baking schedules
Don't think when making this no knead sourdough bread recipe that you need to be absolutely accurate with your timings and do each stage at exactly the right time. The whole sourdough process is very flexible.
Once you know the basics you can easily make your sourdough bread baking fit around your schedule. You don't have to be a slave to the dough! There are lots of ways to manipulate how long sourdough will take to ferment and rise, so that you can fit it into your day.
You only need to be around during the hands on time and that is very minimal and very flexible. Most of the time your dough is doing all of the work with no help form you at all.
Miss a stretch and fold? Don't worry. Just do it when you can. Need to rush out? Pop the dough in the fridge (either at the bulk ferment stage or after shaping) until you get back and pick up where you left off.
I have prepared some free printable sourdough baking schedules that might be useful when you are first starting out so that you can see how to fit your sourdough bread baking around your day:
Hungry For More?
If you enjoyed this No Knead Sourdough Bread and are looking for more bread recipes you might enjoy my:
- No Knead Focaccia Bread
- Easy Whole Wheat Bread
- Easy Flatbread Recipe
- Quick & Easy Homemade Pita Breads
- Yeast-Free Spelt Bread
- English Muffins
No Knead Sourdough BreadAuthor:
The only way to get accurate and consistent results is to weigh your ingredients with a digital scale.
- 110 grams / 3.9 oz / ½ packed cup sourdough starter (100% hydration) , must have been fed and be at its peak. See recipe notes if you aren't sure if yours is 100% hydration
- 350 g / 12.3 oz (weight oz and not fl oz) / 1⅓ cup + 2 tablespoons / 12 fl oz water , room temperature
- 500 g / 17.5 oz / 4 cups bread flour , see notes if you only have all purpose flour * Also see notes if you are measuring with cups.
- 10 g / 1¾ teaspoon fine salt
- Put a large bowl on a digital scale and add the sourdough starter and the water, taring the scale in between each addition. Whisk or mix them together really well until the lumps of starter are broken up and the water looks milky and frothy.
- Add the flour and the salt. Mix it all together really well with a spatula, a wooden spoon or clean hands until you can no longer see any dry flour. Make sure you scrape right down into the bottom of the bowl and along the sides so every little bit is incorporated. Then cover the bowl with a lid or a damp clean dish towel (run it under the tap and wring it out) and leave on the counter for about 1 hour.
- Now it's time to stretch and fold the dough. Get a spray bottle of water (straight from the tap is fine) or a bowl of water big enough to fit your hands in and have it next to you on the counter. We will be doing 3 sets of stretch and folds. Don't worry this is much easier than kneading and only takes a minute or two!
- SET 1 - Place your bowl of dough in front of you on the counter. Uncover it. Spray the top of the dough with a fine mist of water, or wet your hands and rub them over it quickly, then spray or dip your dominant hand in the water so it is wet (you can use both hands if you prefer - I try to only use one when handling dough so I always have a clean one). With the dough still in the bowl (you don't need to take it out), cup your hand under and grab the dough from the side directly opposite you. Pull the dough up, stretching it gently and slightly out and upwards, then fold it over onto itself towards your body. Then turn the bowl a quarter of a turn, grab the dough on the side farthest from you, stretch it out gently and fold it over on itself. Work your way all around the dough until you have done this 10 times. You will notice that it gets a little tighter and more ball like as you go. Turn the ball of dough upside down so it's smooth side up, spritz lightly with water (or rub with a wet hand), cover and leave again for 1 hour. Watch this really short Youtube video showing the stretch and fold technique in action. A NOTE RE THE STRETCH AND FOLDS - While doing the stretch and folds you do not have to be exact about the resting time between. An hour between each is just a guide. If you have to go out it's ok to leave one for 2 hours or even 3 or for as little as 30 minutes . The important thing is that you get them all in at some point but give the dough some time to relax between each one.
- SET 2 - Now that your dough has relaxed it's time to do another round of stretch and folds like you did before but this time you only need to do 6. You should feel a difference in the dough this time. It will be noticeably more elastic. When finished turn the ball of dough upside down so it's smooth side up, spritz lightly with water (or rub with a wet hand), cover and leave again for 1 hour.
- SET 3 - Now one more round of stretch and folds. Do 6 more. You will notice that the dough feels different. Smoother and tauter. A little tougher to stretch and fold.
- When finished turn the ball of dough upside down so it's smooth side up, spritz lightly with water (or rub with a wet hand), cover and leave on the counter to bulk ferment. The time the bulk fermentation takes is very dependent on environment and is something that you will need to be flexible about and use your intuition with. It will be slightly different for everyone. As a guide though, in my kitchen which is at about 21 °C (70 °F) the bulk fermentation (after stretching and folding has been completed) takes about 3 hours. If your kitchen is the same temperature then you should be able to follow along at a similar pace. If it’s hotter then things will happen more quickly and if it’s cooler then it will take longer.The dough is ready when it has increased in volume by about 30% and looks and feels like it has life in it. Instead of being just a mass like when you left it, it should be a bit jiggly and aerated, with some few big bubbles forming around the edges and maybe under the surface on the top. The edges where the dough meets the sides of the bowl should be slightly domed. If you look at the underneath and sides through the bottom of the bowl you should see it scattered with bubbles.
- Once the bulk fermentation is finished it’s time to gently pre-shape the dough. At no point should you punch your dough down like you might with regular yeasted bread! We need to preserve as much of the gas build-up as we can by treating it gently. Dust the counter with a light dusting of flour, and dust the the top of the dough in your bowl with a light dust too, then remove the dough from the bowl really gently so it falls dusty flour side down. Don’t knock all of the air out of it or tear it. A bowl scraper is really handy for doing this or just use a damp hand to get it under it and release it gently. Once the dough is out and on the floured surface, gently grab a piece of the dough furthest from you and pull it up and into the middle. Keep doing this all around until you have a rough ball shape, using a bench scraper to unstick it underneath as and when you need to. You might need to work around the dough more than once to get it into the rough ball. Once it's in a rough ball shape gently flip it over so it's seam side down, smooth side up. A bench scraper is invaluable when doing this and makes it really easy. Place your now empty mixing bowl upside down and over the dough ball and leave it to rest for 30 minutes.
- While you are waiting prepare your proofing basket and cut your parchment paper. If you don’t have a proofing basket don’t worry, I give an easy alternative. Spray the proofing basket (banneton) with a fine spray of water, then dust it very, very liberally with a coarse flour like rice flour, cornmeal, polenta or other gluten free flour, or a 50/50 mix of any of those and wholewheat or rye flour. (See my post above for how to make your own rice flour if you have some rice in your pantry - It takes 2 minutes!). Don't use regular all purpose flour or bread flour because it absorbs the moisture from the dough and will stick terribly in the proofing basket. If you don’t have a proofing basket you can easily make do with regular kitchen items. Get yourself a clean, lint free dish towel. Nothing fluffy. Cotton or linen is good. Lay it out on the counter and dust it really, really, ridiculously liberally with rice flour, cornmeal, polenta or gluten-free flour, or a 50/50 mix of any of those and wholewheat or rye flour. You can never have too much and it’s easy to brush the excess off your loaf later so don’t worry about what it will look like when you turn the bread out. Once the towel is covered in flour, lift it carefully and nestle it flour side up into a round mixing bowl or colander. 2 to 2.5 quart/litre size or a little smaller is good. Don’t use one much bigger. This will be your makeshift proofing basket.
- Then cut a piece of parchment paper that will fit over your proofing basket/bowl with some excess to act as handles. This is what you will use to move your dough into the Dutch oven (or other baking vessel). I put a dinner plate (thats bigger than my proofing basket) on the paper and draw around it with a pen or pencil, then cut it out with two “handles” extending out on each side (there's a photo in my post above). I like to do this because sometimes if you use a big square of it your loaf can end up with wavy marks around the edges from the creases in the paper. It’s only aesthetic though so if that doesn’t bother you then don’t take the extra time to cut handles. Once you’ve cut the paper set it aside. You won’t need it until you are ready to bake.
- Once the 30 minute rest time is up it's time to do the final shape. Dust your work surface with a light dusting of flour and keep a portion of your counter flour free. It's important not to use too much flour. There should be some stickiness to the dough because we will be using that to our advantage when we shape it, and you need the dough to be able to stick to itself when shaping. Turn the dough ball upside down. A bench scraper is ideal for getting under it to move it around like this. Gently pull the edges up and pinch them down in the middle all around, think of it like a clock and work your way all around it. This creates tension on the underneath and outside of the dough and also makes a ball shape. Once you've gone all the way around flip it over again so the bottom /smooth side is up and so that the dough is on the part of the counter with no, or barely any flour.Dust your hands with some flour to keep them from sticking but avoid using too much. If your hands do start to stick, slide them along the counter to gather a light dusting of flour before continuing.Cup your hands around the side of the dough ball farthest from you so that your little fingers are touching the counter (there's a picture of my hands doing this in the post above) and pull the dough gently towards you across the surface. As you pull, the resistance of the dough sticking slightly to the counter, and the cupping of your hands around it will encourage the dough to ball up cleanly and create surface tension. As you pull you will see the surface becoming tauter. Rotate the dough and do this in a few different directions until you have a smooth taut ball. Good surface tension is really important to stop your ball of dough spreading out like a pancake when you bake it. Here is a short YouTube video that shows this tension pull technique.
- Once in a taut ball shape, put it very gently, seam side UP into the well floured proofing basket. A bench scraper slid underneath, makes it really easy to lift the dough and invert it quickly and easily. Once it's nestled in there, if you aren’t sure about how well you shaped it, you can pull the edges at the seam upwards and inwards gently to create even more tension, pinching the seam together with your fingers.
- Allow the dough to proof. The aim of this is for your dough to increase in volume by about 30% to 50% and be visibly puffy and aerated, not a solid mass of dough. You will probably also see some large bubbles beginning to form around the edges and just under the surface. Don’t allow it to double in size like you might with regular yeasted bread. You have two choices for how to go about proofing:Leave it on the counter – You can cover the dough with a damp clean dish towel and leave it to proof on the counter. The time it takes is very much environment and temperature dependent but it will likely be somewhere between 2 to 4 hours. At a room temperature of about 21°C (70 °F) my dough takes about 2 ½ to 3 hours.Retard in the fridge – Or you can put it in a sealed plastic bag (an old bread bag is good for this) and put it in the fridge overnight and continue the process the next day, either in the morning, afternoon or evening. This is again temperature dependent and the time you can get away with leaving it will depend on how cold your fridge is and how warm the dough was when it went in there, so the first time you do this I advise timing it so it goes in there just before you go to bed, and getting up early to check on it. Once you've done it once you'll have a better idea. With mine I can get away with leaving it for up to 48 hours but my fridge is pretty cold.
- If you leave it on the counter, use the “poke test” to determine when it’s ready to bake. This doesn’t work well with all doughs but does with this one. Dip a finger in a bit of oil or water and stick it into the dough about half an inch. I like to do this at the side near where it touches the basket because the dough tends to be a little drier and less sticky there. When you remove your finger you are looking for the hole to fill slowly up to about half way. If it completely fills up the dough is not ready yet. Give it longer. If your finger mark stays there and doesn’t fill in at all the dough is over-proofed. If you refrigerate it, the “poke test” isn’t so reliable while the dough is cold. Depending on the temperature of your fridge, it might be ready to bake in the morning or it might need some time out at room temperature. If it is well risen and looks aerated and not solid, perhaps with some bubbles forming on the surface then it’s ready. If it hasn’t increased in volume and looks like a solid mass then leave it on the counter to warm up and become aerated and puffy looking. Once it’s at room temperature you can use the “poke test” as described above.
- About an hour before you think your dough will be proofed, preheat your oven to 500°F (260 °C). It it doesn’t go that hot 450 or 475 °F will do, the hotter the better though. Have your Dutch Oven inside the oven it as it preheats. (IMPORTANT – be sure to check the manufacturers instructions about the maximum heat it’s safe to use it (and its lid at ) Some enameled Dutch ovens can only safely go to 450°F. Let it all preheat for 45 minutes to an hour so everything is scorching hot. (If you don’t have a Dutch Oven see my suggestions for alternatives in the recipe notes).Once the oven has preheated and your dough passes the poke test, place the piece of parchment paper you prepared earlier centered on the top of the banneton and lay a dinner plate or a cutting board on top. Lift it all up and quickly and smoothly flip it over so that the proofing basket ends up on top. Put it back down on the counter and carefully lift off the basket. If you used a bowl and dish towel, do the same and remove the bowl, then very carefully peel back the towel.
- Score the bread with a lame, razor blade or very sharp knife (a serrated knife works best).If you have nothing suitable you can cut it by snipping with a sharp pair of kitchen scissors. I like to dip my lame into some water before I do this as I find it gives a cleaner cut. You can do just one straight cut across the middle, or a cross shape, or you can get fancy with any number of designs. When scoring you need to be quick and deliberate and cut about ½ an inch deep. If the blade drags don't worry as the untidy edge tends to smooth out while it bakes.
- As soon as it is scored, take the lid off your scorching hot Dutch oven, lift your loaf using the paper as handles, and drop it very gently and carefully in. I always lay an oven mitt across the top of the lid after I've taken it off, as a reminder that it's hot. It's all too easy to reach out and grab it without thinking and give yourself a nasty burn. As soon as the bread is in put the lid back on and bake with the lid on for 25 minutes. After that time remove the lid, turn the oven down to 450 ° F (232 °C) and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes or until deeply golden and crusty to your liking.
- Remove the loaf carefully from the Dutch oven. Use the paper as handles to lift it out, but be careful because it can get a bit brittle and tear. Place on a wire rack to cool. It's best for the crumb (and to make cutting easier) to leave it until completely cool before cutting, but if you really can't wait that long leave it at least 30 minutes.
- Use a pizza/baking stone – These hold onto the heat and work really well. Preheat it in the oven so it is scorching hot when you add the bread. To get the bread on there you can either turn it out of the proofing basket onto parchment paper and slide it onto the stone while still on the paper, or use a small baking tray. Turn it upside down and dust the back of it really well with rice flour, cornmeal, semolina or some coarse wholewheat flour. Turn your loaf out of the proofing basket onto the floured surface of the baking tray back. Give it a bit of a slide around to make sure it moves around freely. Score it, then use the tray like a baker’s peel to slide the loaf onto the scorching pizza stone. It sounds tricky but it’s actually not too difficult. You will also need to introduce some steam to the oven so have a roasting pan on the shelf underneath the pizza stone. As soon as the loaf has hit the pizza stone, pour some boiling water from a kettle into the roasting pan and shut the door quickly. After 25 minutes of baking you can open the door and remove the pan of water.
- Use a pizza/baking stone with a bowl over the top – Same as above but as soon as the bread is on the stone cover it with an oven safe bowl or pan of some kind. By doing this you don’t need to add a pan of water.
- Use a regular baking tray and a bowl or pan – Turn the loaf out onto a regular baking tray and cover it with a stainless steel mixing bowl, saucepan or casserole dish. Anything that’s oven safe and that will help to keep steam inside.
- A clay pot, Pyrex dish, casserole dish, turkey roaster (I know most of us are vegan but you might have one from the old days), soup pot – Anything that’s oven safe and has a lid and that the loaf will easily fit in (make sure there’s room for expansion). If you can preheat it in the oven before adding the loaf even better. Use it in exactly the same way as I describe for the Dutch oven.