To make sourdough bread, you’ll need a sourdough starter, flour, water, and salt. The key is in the fermentation process, which takes more time than traditional bread recipes, but is well worth the wait.

  1. Prepare the sourdough starter: Your sourdough starter, also known as the starter culture or simply “the mother,” is a fermented mixture of flour and water that contains a colony of microorganisms including wild yeast and lactobacilli. If you do not have a starter, you can make one yourself, though it takes about five days to a week.

  2. Mix the ingredients: Mix your flour, water, and starter in a large bowl until it forms a rough dough. Then, let the dough sit (autolyse) for about 30 minutes. After the dough has rested, add the salt.

  3. Knead and proof the dough: Knead the dough, then let it rise for about 4 to 24 hours, depending on your specific recipe and starter. This is the first proof.

  4. Shape the dough: After the dough has significantly inflated, gently shape it into a round loaf without deflating it too much.

  5. Second proof: Place the loaf on a floured surface, cover it with a cloth, and let it rise until it’s puffy but still retains its shape when poked (usually 1 to 3 hours).

  6. Preheat and bake: About 30 minutes before baking, preheat your oven and dutch oven (if using) to 500°F. Score the loaf, then carefully transfer it to the hot oven (reduce heat to 450°F). Bake for 20 minutes with the lid on, then another 30 to 40 minutes with the lid off, until the bread is deep brown and sounds hollow when tapped.

  7. Cool: Let the bread cool on a wire rack for at least an hour before slicing and enjoying!

Remember, sourdough is as much an art as it is a science. It may take a few tries to get it just right, but each loaf will be better than the last. There’s nothing like the satisfaction of making your own bread from scratch. Happy baking!