This was a great revelation to find out that the no-knead method for bread works wonderfully for homemade sourdough too. Sourdough can often be harder to knead because it is a softer, sticker dough so avoiding this step makes it oh-so-easy.
When you don’t knead the bread, you use long rising times to do the work for you. The long rise time is exactly what sourdough yeasts needs to leaven the bread fully. This also gives the beneficial bacteria in the sourdough culture time to develop their full sour flavor. However, you need to start this bread the day before you want to eat it!
Finally (and then I promise to stop gushing), something about this baking method in the hot dutch oven also prevents the sourdough loaf from splitting on the sides like so many of my other attempts. You don’t even need to slash the top! It just rises into a beautiful loaf with a crackled top, a thick crust and a chewy interior. You will feel really proud of yourself!
A 6-8 quart Dutch Oven (cast iron pot with a lid) or any oven-safe bakeware with heat-proof lid (like ceramic or glass bakeware). If it has plastic handles or lids, it is probably not safe to use with the high baking times.
Makes: 1 large loaf (the size of two regular sandwich loaves)
4 C. unbleached white flour
2 C. whole wheat flour (or whole wheat pastry flour)
1 Tb. salt
2 C. water
1 C. homemade sourdough starter (active and at room temperature)
- Pull your sourdough starter out of the fridge and feed it a few times before using it in this recipe to make sure that it is really active.
- Whisk the sourdough starter and the water in a large glass or ceramic bowl. Add the salt and the flours and mix with a large spoon, using your hands as needed to mix well. The dough should be slightly sticky. Add a touch more water or flour if needed to get the sticky but firm dough consistency.
- Cover the bowl with a tea towel. Let sit overnight at room temperature for 12-18 hours. I usually do 14-15 hours or whenever is convenient.
- Generously flour a cutting board and your hands. Turn the dough onto the board and shape into a rough ball. Turn the edges under towards the bottom and repeat until you have a somewhat smooth ball with a seam on the bottom.
- Generously sprinkle flour on a clean tea towel. Place the shaped loaf, seam-side down, on the floured tea towel. Sprinkle more flour on the top of the loaf and fold up the sides of the towel around the loaf. Let rest for 2 hours.
- After the dough has rested for 1 1/2 hours, place the dutch oven (with the lid on) in the cold oven. Preheat it to 425 degrees. When it has come to temperature, take out the hot dutch oven and remove the lid. Uncover the dough. Place your hand underneath the tea towel to hold the dough. Bravely flip the dough into the dutch oven so that it is seam side up. If you did not flip it evenly, not to worry. Simply shake the pan (using hot mitts) to recenter the dough. Place the lid on it and bake for 40-45 minutes. Remove the lid and bake 5-10 minutes more until it is nicely browned but not too brown.
- Remove from the pan. Tap the bottom to see if a hollow drum sound is achieved or test the temperature by inserting a temperature gauge in sideways to the loaf. It should read 200 degrees. Let it cool on a cooling rack for about an hour before cutting into it.
- I keep two sourdough starters in my fridge. One I like for its leavening power and the other for its sour flavor. I used 1/2 C. of each to make the 1 C. of starter needed. Some sourdough breads warn against using two different cultures in one loaf, but I find it works well.
- If you keep your starters in the fridge, pull them out a day or two before you start your bread. Feed them once or twice before you use the starter in the recipe to make sure it is really active.
- It doesn’t have to look perfect! Your dough does not need to be a uniform ball and you do not need to flip it evenly. The uneven seams on the bottom will produce a beautiful and unique design on the top when it is baked.
- Make sure to carefully select your dutch oven or baking vessel. It should have tall sides to allow for the bread to drastically rise and the diameter should be about the same size as the rising loaf in the tea towel.
- If you don’t have a lot of mouths to feed, you will probably need to freeze half of this bread for later, because it makes a very large loaf. Wrap in freezer paper or plastic wrap and place in a plastic bag. To unfreeze, remove from the fridge and let sit out overnight.
- I like the balance of whole wheat in the bread, but if you like a more hearty loaf, use half whole wheat and half white flour or as much whole wheat as you like. The water amounts may change so just add water slowly until the right consistency is reached.
- If you would like to make 100% spelt bread use 2 C. whole grain spelt and 4 C. unbleached white spelt. However, only add 1 1/2 C. of water or just enough to get the consistency is right. Spelt flour requires a lot less water. If you use the full 2 C. of water in the original recipe, you will need to add at least 2 more cups of spelt flour and you will end up with a very large loaf!