Baking sourdough is probably easier than you think. Yes, it takes practice, patience, and time, but so does anything worth doing! Some people have seen my bread and remarked that perhaps I have a lot of time on my hands or “it must be nice to have time to do that.” It is not that I have so much time on my hands, it is more that I choose to make time for the things I value. Some people make time to watch loads of TV, go out with friends, or work after hours. I choose to bake beautiful artisan overnight sourdough bread. It does take time to cultivate a skill which is exactly what baking sourdough is. Not just anyone can grab a recipe and begin, this skill takes a little research, practice, and a few supplies (like a starter). Before we get into the nitty-gritty of sourdough technique, I will leave you with this: If you want to know what you value, look at how you spend your spare moments. Proper and beautiful things do take time and you have the time to do things in this way. As Charlotte Mason once said:
“Anything Worth Doing is Worth Doing Well”
This overnight sourdough recipe is so simple that you will probably have it memorized after only a few attempts. I have tried quite a few recipes and this is the one I go back to every time. If this recipe is too simple or plain for you, check out my Roasted Garlic and Rosemary Sourdough Bread or my Cranberry Walnut Sourdough Loaf.
Before the recipe, let’s review a few of the sourdough principles:
A note on sourdough starter: be sure you have an active, bubbly starter before you bake! You can read more about how to achieve this below
Because we are using natural yeast (starter), we need to develop our own gluten over time. That is why sourdough takes much longer than a commercially yeasted bread. You can develop gluten in a number of ways:
- Using an active starter
- Stretching and folding dough
- Not over-proving
- Using bread flour and rye
- Properly shaping dough before the bulk ferment
As you are working with your dough, pay attention to the elasticity. When gluten is developed properly, the dough will easily stretch (almost like taffy), but when gluten is not developed, the dough will be a wet blob without elasticity.
When I was first baking sourdough I foolishly omitted salt for a long time. I thought salt was unnecessary and would make the bread unhealthy. Later, I learned that salt is vital for flavor and for keeping your bread from molding too soon.
At a minimum you should be using unbleached bread flour, it is up to you if you want to use organic or not. Flour is a lot like eggs: until you taste really delicious free-range eggs, you don’t know what you are missing! Similarly, if you have been using bleached all purpose flour, your bread will taste fine but if you want it to taste great, you can level up your flour game. I am also a big fan of rye flour, so get your hands on some to feed your starter and your bread.
Super Simple Overnight Sourdough Bread
- 300 g active rye sourdough starter
- 600 g warm water
- 900 g organic unbleached bread flour
- 20 g kosher salt or whatever salt you have!
The Day Before
- Measure and sift flour into a large bowl
- Measure and add starter and water into a separate bowl and mix
- When the starter has mostly dissolved into the water, pour the mixture into the large flour bowl and mix for about 20 seconds
- When the flour is mostly incorporated with the water, cover and rest for 30 minutes (this is the autolyse)
- While your dough is resting, chop off just the end of the garlic head and drizzle with olive oil in a small roasting dish with a lid
- Cover and roast your garlic at 400 degrees F for about 30 minutes until brown and very fragrant
- Thoroughly rinse and roughly chop rosemary
- When the garlic is done, allow it to cool for a few minutes before removing the roasted garlic from its skin
- Add your salt, roasted garlic, and rosemary to the dough and use your hands to incorporate all the ingredients by kneading
- Once the ingredients are evenly distributed, cover your dough with a moist towel (or clean shower cap which is what I like to use)
- For the next hour, stretch and fold your dough every 15 minutes
- For two hours after that, stretch and fold your dough every 30 minutes
- After the stretch and folds and don, cover and allow to bulk ferment for 4 hours or until doubled in size
- Turn out the dough onto a clean work surface and pre-shape into two large balls or four small ones. Allow to rest for 15-20 minutes
- Shape into loaves and transfer into a floured banneton or colander lined with a floured tea towel
- Cover and place in the fridge for 8-10 hours
- Preheat your oven and baker with lid to 500 degrees F
- When you are ready to bake, gently turn your dough out, seam side down, onto baking paper
- Score your dough as you like and using the baking paper, lift the dough into the preheated baker and cover with the lid. Place inside the oven
- Repeat this with the second loaf (or loaves)
- Bake covered loaves in the oven for 25 minutes
- Remove lids after 25 minutes and allow to bake for another 10 minutes or until the loaf reaches the color you like. I like to strive for a dark caramel but try not to burn the ears!
- Pull out your loaf once it reaches your desired color and allow it to cool for at least 1-2 hours before slicing