long fermented artisan sourdough bread
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More than just a recipe, this is a tried-and-true method for making a long-fermented artisan sourdough bread that you’ll be proud to share with your family and friends!

Amazingly, you only need four ingredients: flour, water, sourdough starter, and salt.

*This post contains affiliate links. See my full disclosure

I originally made my starter with instructions from this post from King Arthur Flour: How to Make Your Own Sourdough Starter

I’ve maintained my sourdough starter for over 3 years now, and I find it so satisfying to make a loaf like this myself from home.

I’m going to show you how you step-by-step how you can do it too! I’ve also included a printable recipe card at the bottom of this post so you can save it and refer back to it again and again.

This process spans about 48 hours from start to finish, but don’t worry… for the majority of that time your dough will be in the fridge, and the hands-on portion is very manageable.

The long ferment is well worth the wait, though, as it makes for bread with incredible depth of flavor with minimal sourness, a thin, crackly crust, and a chewy and airy interior (not to mention added nutritional benefits).

You will start your dough the morning of day 1, and bake two mornings later. You won’t even touch the dough on day two. You can follow the time frame in this post exactly, or start a little earlier the morning of day 1 with the same time intervals.

To be frank, there are a lot of instructions here because every little step matters when you’re making a sourdough loaf. Don’t let that dissuade you from learning, though, because once you get the process down, you’ll be able to make a loaf without much thought (and more easily than you think!), and have an amazing new homemaking skill in your arsenal!

I always freeze what we don’t eat the day of baking so I have bread ready for another meal later on.

This versatile bread is perfect alongside dinner with butter or olive oil, or it makes for the best French toast or grilled panini sandwiches.

You can also use the finished bread dough as a delicious crust alternative for my Cast Iron Skillet Personal Pizzas!

Pin for later!

long-fermented artisan sourdough bread Pinterest image

Tools Needed

*This post contains affiliate links. See my full disclosure

scraper, banneton, and lame

Ingredients

  • 425 grams unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 300 grams ice water
  • 11-12 grams kosher or fine sea salt
  • 150 grams 100% hydration sourdough starter (this means it’s been fed with equal parts flour and water so it’s about the consistency of pancake batter)
  • Additional flour for dusting
  • Semolina flour for dusting (optional)
long fermented artisan sourdough bread
sourdough loaf close up

Directions

Learn on Skillshare

Step 1 (11am on day 1) – Feed Starter + Autolyse Flour & Water

Start by feeding your sourdough starter with 1 cup flour and 1 cup water. Let it sit to become active and bubbly before you add it to the dough later.

To start your dough, tare out your kitchen scale with a large bowl on top and weigh out your flour.

weigh ingredients with kitchen scale

Now don’t scoff at the thought of using a kitchen scale.

When I first started baking sourdough bread, I resisted weighing my ingredients.

But I’ve since learned that it’s actually easier to dump ingredients straight into my bowl while I’m weighing them instead of messing with measuring cups and spoons.

Plus accuracy is important here.

weigh flour

Now tare your scale again and slowly add the right amount of ice water.

weigh water

Remove your bowl from the scale, and mix the flour and water together until all the flour is absorbed.

stir until flour is absorbed

I use a table knife to mix because the dough sticks to it less than to a spoon.

dough ready for autolyse

Now you’re going to cover your bowl with the lid and stick it in the fridge for 6 hours.

cover dough

This rest time before the starter and salt are added is called an autolyse and will help your dough develop properly.

Here is the dough after the autolyse, ready for step 2:

dough after autolyse

Step 2 (5pm on day 1) – Add Salt & Sourdough Starter

At this point, your starter should be active and bubbly (almost foamy).

fed, bubbly sourdough starter

You’ll weigh out the 150 grams you need and save the rest of your starter for next time. I keep mine in the refrigerator since I don’t bake with it every day.

I like to weigh my salt in a separate little bowl and then sprinkle it over my autolysed dough, and then pour my starter over the top to help dissolve the salt.

add salt and starter to dough

Now use your fingers to poke the starter into the dough.

poke to incorporate starter

Then squeeze and work the dough with your hands to continue to incorporate everything.

squeeze with fingers until dough comes back together

Your dough will fall apart, and then come back together.

Step 3 (5:10pm-9:10pm on day 1) – Bulk Fermentation with Stretch-and-Folds

Now we are going to develop strength in the dough with three sets of stretch-and-folds.

We want to treat the dough gently from here on out so we don’t deflate it as it ferments and aerates.

Wet your fingers so they don’t stick to the dough. Slide your fingers underneath the dough. Pull the dough upwards…

first stretch

and then fold it over itself to the opposite side of the bowl.

first fold

Turn your bowl slightly, grab underneath, gently stretch and fold again.

second stretch
second fold

And one more time.

third stretch
third fold
dough after first set of stretch-and-folds

Cover your dough loosely with your lid and let it sit on the counter for 30 minutes. (If your house is colder than 72°F, put the bowl in your oven with the oven light on for a little extra warmth.)

Your first set of stretch-and-folds is done! You will repeat this process for two more sets.

So in total, bulk fermentation will last for 4 hours. You’ll do three sets of stretch-and-folds spaced 30 minutes apart (do more if you feel like your dough hasn’t gained any more resistance), then let your dough continue to sit for the remainder of the 4 hours.

When bulk fermentation is done, your dough should have increased in volume by at least a third, formed a convex shape around the edges even after it has rested, and look smooth and strong.

dough at the end of bulk fermentation

If you feel like your dough hasn’t changed enough, you can let it sit even another hour longer.

Step 4 (9:10pm on day 1 to day 3) – Retard in Refrigerator

This is the easy step: cover your dough and place in the refrigerator over night, through day and night two, and you’ll be ready to shape your loaf in the morning on day 3.

The fridge is slowing, or retarding, the process so we can get that long ferment time as the dough continues to develop.

Step 5 (9am on day 3) – Shaping & Proofing

Now that you’ve reached the morning of day 3, it’s time to turn out your dough and form your loaf.

(P.S. This is the time you would use it to make pizza!)

dough ready to turn out

Lightly flour your counter and use your dough scraper to gently encourage the dough out of the bowl in one mass (don’t deflate it).

turn out dough on lightly floured surface

Now you need to preshape your loaf. A round loaf is called a boule (pronounced BOO-l).

Pull the edges of the dough onto itself to form a ball shape.

preshape

Now flip it over and move it to a part of your counter that is not floured.

Cup your hands around the top of the ball and gently pull the dough a couple inches toward yourself against the countertop.

Here’s my one-handed attempt as I snap a photo at the same time.

push gently against table to tighten skin

Give the ball a quarter turn and pull against the counter toward yourself again.

Gently pop any large air bubbles that appear on the surface of your loaf.

Repeat until the skin on the top of the loaf is smooth and tight. Don’t go too far, though, or your boule will begin to tear.

dough after preshaping

Cover your loaf with a flour sack towel and let it rest for 10 minutes.

cover with tea towel and let rest

Your loaf will probably relax after resting, so flip your loaf right side down and repeat the shaping process: ends in, flip over, pull against countertop to tighten skin.

Proper shaping will ensure that your loaf will hold it’s shape even after proofing.

dough after final shaping

Use a fine mesh strainer to generously flour your banneton (or a bowl lined with a flour sack towel). You’ll want plenty so your loaf doesn’t stick.

dust banneton with flour

Now place your boule top side down in the banneton.

invert loaf into banneton

Cover again with a tea towel and let it proof (rise) for at least 2 hours until it has filled the banneton.

Again, if your house is less than 72°F, you can set your covered banneton in the oven with the light on for more warmth.

after proofing

When proofing is almost done, preheat your oven to 475°F (make sure your dough isn’t in there while you preheat!).

Once the oven is comes to temperature, place your Dutch oven inside so it can preheat for 10 minutes.

Step 6 (after about 2 hours proof time on day 3) – Score & Bake

Once proofing is done and your Dutch oven is almost done preheating, place a large square of parchment paper on your counter top.

Dust your boule with flour (I like semolina for a crunchier bottom crust), and then gently pour your loaf out onto your parchment paper. (Sorry, no pictures for this part.)

If the top of your loaf has too much flour, use your hands to gently rub it around/off.

Trim some of the excess parchment from around the loaf so it doesn’t burn, but leave enough to grab onto.

Remove your preheated Dutch oven from your oven, and working swiftly, use your lame to slash your loaf.

turn dough out onto parchment paper, trim parchment, and score with lame

Confidence is key when scoring, and the score line will enable your bread to expand in the oven.

I found this video extremely helpful: How to Score a Loaf of Bread

Carefully transfer your boule into your Dutch oven, cover with the lid and bake for 20 minutes. (Your Dutch oven will trap the steam and help your bread to rise to it’s full potential.)

After 20 minutes, lower the heat to 450°F, remove the lid, and continue to bake until your loaf is a deep golden color. This could take more than 15 minutes. Just watch it.

sourdough bread in Dutch oven

Remove to a cooling rack right away, and let it cool almost completely before slicing. The interior will continue to bake through as it sits.

sourdough bread on cooling rack

Just look at that crackly, blistered crust.

sourdough bread closer up

At this point you can use as you like or freeze.

Now excuse me while I eat half the loaf in the form of buttered toast. There’s nothing quite like fresh sourdough bread from scratch. Delicious!

slice of sourdough bread with an open crumb
Yield: 1 Large Loaf

Long-Fermented Artisan Sourdough Bread

long fermented artisan sourdough bread

You'll love this from-scratch sourdough artisan loaf with a chewy interior, incredible depth of flavor with minimal sourness, a thin, crackly crust, and a chewy, airy interior!

Prep Time 50 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Additional Time 1 day 23 hours
Total Time 2 days 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • 425 grams unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 300 grams ice water
  • 11-12 grams kosher salt or fine sea salt
  • 150 grams 100% hydration sourdough starter
  • Additional flour for dusting
  • Semolina flour for dusting (optional)

Instructions

  1. (11am on day 1) Feed sourdough starter at this point, if needed, and set aside. Tare out your kitchen scale with a large bowl on top and weigh out your flour. Tare out your scale and slowly add the correct amount of ice water. Mix flour and water together until all the dry flour is absorbed. Cover bowl with a lid and refrigerate for 6 hours.
  2. (5pm on day 1) Weigh out salt and sprinkle over dough. At this point your starter should be active and bubbly (almost foamy). Weigh out 150 grams of starter. Add starter to your dough over your salt. Use your fingers to poke the starter into the dough. Squeeze and work the dough until it comes back together.
  3. (5:10pm-9:10pm on day 1) Wet your fingers so they don't stick to the dough. Slide your fingers underneath the dough, pull the dough gently upwards, and then fold it over itself to the opposite side of the bowl. This is called a "stretch-and-fold." Turn your bowl slightly, and do another stretch-and-fold. Turn the bowl again and do one more. Cover your dough loosely with your lid and let it rest on the counter for 30 minutes (or in your oven with the light on if your house is less than 72 degrees F). Repeat this process for two more sets of stretch-and-folds spaced 30 minutes apart. Then let your dough rest for the remainder of the 4 hours (or longer, if needed). Place the lid on your dough and refrigerate until the morning of day 3.
  4. (9am on day 3) Lightly flour your counter and use a dough scraper to gently encourage the dough out of the bowl in one mass. Don't deflate the dough. Pull the edges of the dough onto itself to form a ball shape. Flip it over gently and place on your counter in an area with no flour. Cup your hands around the top of the ball and gently pull the dough a couple inches toward yourself against the countertop. Give the ball a quarter turn and pull against the counter toward yourself again. Gently pop any large air bubbles that appear on the surface of your loaf. Repeat until the skin on the top of the loaf is smooth and tight. Don't go too far, though, or your boule will begin to tear. Cover your loaf with a flour sack towel and let it rest for 10 minutes. Flip your dough top side down, and repeat the shaping process one more time: ends in, flip over, pull against the counter to tighten the skin.
  5. Use a fine mesh strainer to generously flour your banneton (or a bowl lined with a flour sack towel). Place your boule top side down in the banneton. Cover again with a flour sack towel and let it proof (rise) for 2 hours or just until it has filled the banneton (in the oven with the light on, if needed).
  6. When proofing is almost done, preheat your oven to 475 degrees F (make sure dough isn't in there) and then place your Dutch oven in there to preheat for 10 minutes.
  7. Place a large square of parchment paper on your countertop. Dust your boule with flour or semolina flour and gently pour your loaf out onto your parchment paper. Rub any excess flour on the top of your loaf around to evenly distribute it. Trim the excess parchment paper from around your loaf leaving only enough to grab onto. Remove your Dutch oven from the oven and open the lid. Use a lame to slash your loaf. Transfer the loaf into the Dutch oven, cover with the lid, and bake for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, lower the temperature to 450 degrees and remove the lid. Continue to bake until your loaf is a deep golden color. Remove to a cooling rack and allow it to cool completely before slicing.

Notes

Start the dough two mornings before the day you intend to bake the loaf.


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