The Best Beginner Sourdough Bread Recipe • The Prairie Homestead (2024)

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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.

The Best Beginner Sourdough Bread Recipe • The Prairie Homestead (1)

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.

(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.

The Best Beginner Sourdough Bread Recipe • The Prairie Homestead (2)

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’tneeda 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.

The Best Beginner Sourdough Bread Recipe • The Prairie Homestead (3)

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The Best Beginner Sourdough Bread Recipe

The Best Beginner Sourdough Bread Recipe • The Prairie Homestead (4)

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.

  • Author: Jill Winger
  • Yield: 1 loaf of bread 1x

Ingredients

  • ½ cup active sourdough starter (learn how to make sourdough starter)
  • 1 ¼ cup lukewarm water
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons fine sea salt (I use Redmond Salt*)

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, combine the starter and water.
  2. Stir in the flour, and then add the salt.
  3. Use a fork to mix everything together until it becomes stiff– then switch to your hands to bring the dough together in a rough ball (Remember: don’t overmix! This is supposed to be a no-knead-style wet dough.)
  4. Keep the rough dough in the bowl, cover it, and let sit for 30 minutes.
  5. After this resting time is complete, stretch and fold the dough a few times to form it into a ball.(See the video for a walk-through on how to do this.)
  6. Cover the dough with a clean dish towel and let it rise in a warm place overnight or until doubled in size (or about 8 hours). I like to make the dough before bed and leave it in my turned-off oven (I leave the oven light on) to rise overnight.
  7. The next morning (or after 8 hours), turn the dough out on your counter. Fold it over a couple of times to tighten it into a ball, then let sit for 15 minutes.
  8. After this resting period is complete, gently shape the dough into a ball once more place into a well-floured proofing basket or a bowl lined with a well-floured dish towel. Remember: don’t add too much flour and do not knead the dough!
  9. Cover and rise for 2-3 hours, or until doubled.
  10. Preheat the oven to 450°F.
  11. Sprinkle a thin layer of cornmeal in the bottom of a Dutch oven (optional, but this helps the bottom not to scorch).
  12. Tip the loaf out of the proofing basket onto a sheet of parchment. Lower the parchment into the Dutch oven.
  13. Place the lid on the pot and bake for 20 minutes.
  14. Remove the lid and bake for an additional 30 minutes, or until the loaf is deeply browned and crispy on top. (For a less crusty finish, bake for the entire time with the lid on.)
  15. Move to a cooling rack and allow the loaf to cool completely before slicing it.

Notes

*If you want to try out my favorite salt, for a limited time use my code HOMESTEAD to receive 15% off your entire order!

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!

What kind of flour can I use for my sourdough bread?

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. It far less finicky to use than Einkorn or whole wheat, and it will rise more consistently for your first attempts. 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 grinding your own flour with a mill like mine. Check out this post to learn all about grinding your own flour.

How can I better handle my super sticky dough?

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.

How can I make my sourdough loaves MORE sour?

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.

Do I REALLY have to cool the bread before eating it?

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.

How can I store my homemade sourdough bread?

This homestead sourdough loaf is best eaten within 48 hours (which is NOT a problem for my ravenous kids). 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.

Why didn’t my sourdough bread rise?

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.

Why did my loaf spread out?

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.

Can I make gluten-free sourdough bread?

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

The Best Beginner Sourdough Bread Recipe • The Prairie Homestead (5)

Other From-Scratch Recipes & Info You’ll Love

  • Homemade Tortilla Recipe
  • How to Make Biscuits From-Scratch
  • The Simplest Homemade Pasta
  • How to Make Butter
  • Homemade Peanut Butter Pie Recipe
  • The Tools I Recommend for Sourdough Breadmaking
The Best Beginner Sourdough Bread Recipe • The Prairie Homestead (2024)

FAQs

How to make the best tasting sourdough starter? ›

By discarding a portion of the starter and feeding it fresh flour and water, you help keep the bacteria and yeast balanced. It also helps maintain a milder flavor profile and prevents the starter from becoming overly sour. TIP: Collect the discard in a separate container in your fridge when you feed your starter.

What is the best flour to use for sourdough starter? ›

Over the past decade-plus of baking, I've tested all manner of flour from whole grain wheat to spelt to einkorn, and while they all do work, my preferred flour to use when creating a sourdough starter is whole grain rye flour and white flour (this can be all-purpose or high-protein bread flour).

What is the secret to sourdough bread? ›

The secret to sourdough is simple: water. The more water you add to your dough will affect how open the crumb (bigger holes and softer texture) will be once it's baked.

What do bakers have to do for sourdough starter every day? ›

Maintaining A Sourdough Starter:

Leaving it out on the counter, it will need to be fed equal parts water and flour every 12-24 hours. Warmer homes or frequent baking will require more frequent feeding (around every 12 hours), while colder homes every 24 hours. What is this?

What are three top tips when making sourdough starter? ›

Tip No.
  1. only feed your starter after it is ripened. ...
  2. keep your feeding ratio small. ...
  3. if you don't wanna feed your starter everyday, you can keep it in the refrigerator.
Mar 10, 2024

Do you have to discard sourdough starter every time you feed it? ›

Do I have to discard my sourdough starter? It would be best if you discarded some portion of your starter each time you feed it unless you want to continue to let it grow. Eventually, you need to discard the used “food” (flour and water) that's been used to sustain your starter during the last fermentation period.

How soon after feeding sourdough starter can I use it? ›

*Do not try baking with your starter right after feeding it. Allow time for it to grow and feast on the flour before using it. Starters are usually ready to bake with around 4-12 hours after a feeding depending on the amount you feed your starter. The larger the feeding, the more time it needs to ferment.

Can I use tap water for sourdough starter? ›

*If making sourdough is new for you, do not be discouraged if you starter takes longer to get active than mine – stick with it, it will happen! *Tap water is usually fine, if you are not sure, use boiled and cooled water, you can use it at room temperature or cool; do not use distilled water.

How many days until sourdough starter is ready? ›

The general rule of thumb is that it takes about 10-14 days to develop a starter strong enough to rise a loaf. Experienced sourdough aficionados may be able to bake with a new starter in as few as five days. And, for less experienced bakers who struggle with the process, it may take up to 30 days.

What makes sourdough taste better? ›

Keep the dough temperature lower: Lactic acid bacteria are most active in the higher temperatures of the mid 80s-90sºF. Keeping the dough in the 76-78º F range will still ferment and produce bacteria but will encourage lactic acid bacteria instead of acetic acid bacteria resulting in a more mild flavored loaf.

Why do you put vinegar in sourdough bread? ›

In fact the acidity is a dough conditioner that softens the texture of whole grains and makes the bread more pliable. Hack: apple cider vinegar. I often add about a tablespoon of ACV to bread as a dough conditioner.

Why add honey to sourdough bread recipe? ›

Some of the benefits to adding honey to sourdough are:
  1. reduce sour flavor in the bread.
  2. decrease time of bulk ferment.
  3. improved texture and more tender crumb.
  4. improved browning of crust.
Nov 23, 2021

Should I stir my sourdough starter between feedings? ›

stir your starter in between feedings - try stirring it twice in between feedings and really give it a chance to get oxygen into the mix. This will help to activate your starter without too much effort.

How often should you change your sourdough starter jar? ›

I keep my starter jar very clean by scraping down the sides and wiping the rim every time I feed it, so I transfer it to a clean jar once every few weeks. If you keep a very messy starter jar you may want to transfer it to a clean jar more frequently. The only thing that can really kill your starter is mold.

Why do you discard half of your sourdough starter? ›

In order to allow your starter to grow and flourish, you need to "refresh" it with fresh flour and water. Discarding some first allows you to add this fresh food, whilst maintaining your starter at a manageable size.

How do you increase the flavor of sourdough starter? ›

HOW TO MAKE A MORE SOUR SOURDOUGH
  1. Maintain your starter at a lower hydration level. This means using a higher ratio of flour to water. ...
  2. Use whole-grain flours, which the acid-producing bacteria love.
  3. Keep the hooch or brown liquid layer that forms on a hungry sourdough starter instead of pouring it off.

How do you enrich sourdough starter? ›

Combine flour, water, and levain in a 2:2:1 ratio, aiming for a DDT of 78˚F. Cover and let sit at room temperature until doubled in volume, which should take 4 to 6h with a healthy starter. Move to the fridge for up to 14 days and repeat.

What is best to feed sourdough starter? ›

In my experience, it's best to feed your main jar of starter with the same flour it's made of. For white flour starters, use unbleached all purpose flour or bread flour. These flours are inexpensive, easy to find, and reliable for starter growth. For whole wheat starters, use whole wheat flour.

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