The Best Beginner Sourdough Bread Recipe

 Learn how to make a simple homemade sourdough bread recipe in your very own kitchen. This is a homestead-version of sourdough bread, which is a non-fussy technique that will not require complicated measurements or instructions. This recipe is perfect for people (like me) who like a simple, hearty loaf that doesn’t require tons of effort and time.

beginner sourdough bread recipe

Sourdough bread feels like the ultimate in homestead baking.

But it gave me FITS for years… In fact, there was a time when I just quit trying because I was so frustrated with my flat loaves, dry loaves, hard loaves, and the list goes on…. (And if you know me at all, it takes a LOT to make me quit…)

Then one day? It just clicked. Hallelujah. 

However, just because homemade sourdough bread has a learning curve doesn’t mean you have to make as many mistakes as I did– and by the time you finish reading this post, you’ll be able to finally do this sourdough thing with confidence!

The One Thing I Don’t Like About my Cookbook

I’m 99.9% happy with the Prairie Homestead Cookbook that published last year (and I’d better be… considering how many edits it underwent!). That being said, there is ONE thing that I really wish I could change in my cookbook.

I wish I had included this simple beginner sourdough bread recipe in it.

And I know you do too, judging by alllll the emails I’ve received. 😉

But we’re doing the next best thing– you’re getting it today instead. (And if you have my Heritage Cooking Crash Course, it will likely look familiar, as it’s the same recipe that is included in there.)

Watch Me Make This Simple Sourdough Bread

In case you’re a visual learner like I am, here is the entire step-by-step process caught on video.

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(Keep scrolling for the printable recipe version. —>)

What Makes Sourdough Different than Regular Bread?

There are many things that set sourdough bread apart from traditional yeast breads (by the way, here’s my super easy versatile yeast bread dough recipe). First off, sourdough bread dough is much wetter and stickier. Wetter is better.

You also don’t really knead sourdough– instead you’ll bring it together with a spoon until it’s mostly combined and then ignore it.

However, the biggest thing that sets sourdough apart from traditional breads is that sourdough doesn’t need yeast. Instead, you generate your OWN wild yeast, aka a sourdough starter with flour and water. This starter is a fermented food that can be used to make tasty sourdough bread, sourdough cinnamon rolls, sourdough brownies, and more. (And contrary to popular belief, sourdough doesn’t have to be extremely sour tasting– you can absolutely adjust the tang in your DIY loaves.)

The Key to Success: The Starter

Before you can successfully make sourdough bread, you will need an active and healthy sourdough starter. (You can learn how to make a sourdough starter in this post through a printable recipe or a video)

Here is how I define an active/healthy sourdough starter:

  • It should double in size within 4-6 hours of each feeding
  • It should be full of bubbles and “grow” up the sides of your jar
  • If you place a teaspoon of the starter in a cup of cool water, it should float on top of the water

Keep in mind: It takes about two weeks for a sourdough starter to be mature enough to leaven (rise) a loaf of bread. But the wait is worth it– promise.

best beginner sourdough bread recipe

Sourdough Bread: The Equipment

You do NOT need a bakery full of fancy equipment to make sourdough bread, however, there are a few tools that will make the process easier:

A large bowl. You need a large bowl for the dough. Since it rises overnight (and has the potentially to rise considerably depending on how active your starter is), you’ll want to use a bowl that’s tall enough to avoid overflowing and the subsequent mess. I LOVE this handcrafted stoneware mixing bowl for mixing up bread dough.

Dough scraper. This is a super handy little tool that can help you get scrape the dough out of the original large bowl without deflating it and ruining those precious air bubbles in the dough. If you don’t want to get a dough scraper, you can use a stiff spatula instead.

Bench Knife. While you don’t need a bench knife for making sourdough, it makes the process easier, especially for higher-hydration doughs. Plus this one is handcrafted and makes you feel like a sourdough rockstar.

Proofing basket. A proofing basket helps support the shape of the sourdough loaf during the final rise before baking. This awesome bread bakery set includes both a dough scraper and a proofing basket. If you don’t want to get proofing baskets, simply line a 9-inch bowl or colander with a tea towel that you’ve generously dusted with flour. That’ll work in a pinch.

A Dutch oven. In my opinion, a dutch oven is an important kitchen tool for any home. I also think that a Dutch oven does the very best job of baking sourdough loaves and producing and mimics the environment of a brick oven by steaming the dough as it bakes. This helps your homemade sourdough bread end up with a crusty outside and a soft center.

If you really don’t want to use a Dutch oven for this recipe, you can bake your loaf on a cookie sheet or baking stone instead. However, the crust of your finished sourdough will be different.

Go here for the full list of tools I recommend for sourdough bread baking.

sourdough bread for beginners

Sourdough Bread: Your Questions Answered

I get plenty of questions about making homemade sourdough bread, so I’ve put together the most common sourdough questions and my answers. Feel free to ask me more questions in the comments section below!

You can make sourdough bread with many different types of flour, however, if you’re brand new to sourdough, I recommend using all-purpose flour. You can venture into the fancier flours once you get the hang of a simple loaf.

If and when you want to go more fancy, you’ll want to use hard white wheat berries.

If you’re struggling with your dough sticking to everything, try dipping your hands in a bowl of cool water before you work it. It’s tempting to keep adding more flour to the dough, but fight the urge. A wetter, stickier dough, while more difficult to handle, produces less dry or crumbly loaves.

However, I’ve been receiving comments and messages saying that their dough is turning out just too sticky to even handle, in which case you may need to add more flour to your dough.

I get it, I love the tangy taste of a super sour sourdough. There are a few ways to get a more sour sourdough loaf:

  1. When you feed your sourdough starter, use a higher ratio of flour to water.
  2. Use whole-grain flours to feed your starter, since the sour-producing bacterias seems to love them.
  3. If your sourdough starter produces a brown liquid layer (aka the hooch) on the top, mix it back into the starter instead of pouring it off.
  4. Use cool water and allow your dough to rise in a cooler location. This will extend the souring/rise time and produce a more sour loaf.

I know, I know. It’s cruel, isn’t it?

Even though your kitchen now smells divine, try to resist cutting into your new homemade sourdough bread until it completely cools to room temperature.

The reason your bread must cool completely is because it is still baking and developing the texture as it cools. This is when the crumb is setting. If you cut open your bread when it is still hot, you will squish it and the crumb will be crushed, not to mention it’ll dry out faster in storage.

This homestead sourdough loaf is best eaten within 48 hours. I store it at room temperature in a basic Ziploc bag, but you can get special bread bags or bread boxes, too. I love these vintage bread boxes, and this one’s pretty cool because it has a cutting board on top! You can also store your bread in a beeswax bread wrap.

If you don’t think you can eat the sourdough loaf within 48 hours, you can freeze the leftovers. Simply wrap it in plastic wrap and it will keep in the freezer for up to 2 months.

Don’t worry– it happens to the best of us. When sourdough bread dough doesn’t rise, it’s usually because the starter you used wasn’t active enough. To remedy this problem, make sure you’re using recently fed, active starter with lots of bubbles. Also, next time try using warm (not hot) water when you mix up the dough and rising it in a warmer location. If your bread doesn’t rise properly, you can always use the loaf to make breadcrumbs.

Doughs that contain a lot of moisture tend to spread more than dryer doughs, so that could be the culprit. You also might try a few more rounds of stretching and folding next time to help develop the tension in the dough a bit more.

You can, however, it’s not a skill that is in my wheelhouse. I would recommend checking out this recipe from King Arthur flour.

sourdough bread for beginners

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