Foolproof 1:2:3 Beginner’s Sourdough Recipe

Congratulations! Your starter has matured and you’re ready to bake your first loaf of bread. Here’s a basic 1:2:3 recipe to get you started. 


As you’ve probably realized by now, making sourdough bread is not a simple process. It takes a  lot of time (almost 2 days), and there’s a lot of factors, steps and nuances involved in creating a really great loaf.

This recipe is as simple as it gets and I wrote it with my first time baking sourdough bread in mind. Most sourdough recipes are very jargon-heavy, I’ve included links to definitions of many of the terms in this post in case you get too lost.

Disclosure: Please note that this post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. This in no way impacts my recommendations.

Steps

Here are the basic steps in creating a sourdough loaf:

  1. Levain
  2. Autolyse
  3. Stretch and fold
  4. Bulk Ferment
  5. Pre-shape
  6. Shape
  7. Cold retard
  8. Score
  9. Bake

If you want to skip the explanations and go straight to the recipe, TLDR. However, my explanations aren’t too long and I really recommend perusing them. 

All sourdough recipes can generally be broken down into these 9 steps. It’s a long process that many bakers, more knowledgeable than you or I, have created and perfected for centuries. Each step is undertaken to promote a good rise, maintain gas bubbles that encourages a nice open structure, and builds tension in dough so it does not flatten out.

As you get more experienced you may subtract or even add (if you can imagine that), steps to this process. But for now, I recommend sticking to this frame work.

Formula

This bread is a simple 1:2:3 formula which is simply the ratio of STARTER:WATER:FLOUR, by weight not volume, in a recipe. This formula is incredibly easy to remember, and it can easily be scaled up or down depending on your needs.

Hydration Level

You’ll soon realize that hydration level is one of the most important factors in sourdough bread making. It affects the way your dough behaves, how easy it is to handle, it’s structure and the results of your final bake.

The reason this is a great recipe for beginners is its low hydration level, at ~71% hydration this dough is relatively easy to handle because it is not too slack and sticky.

Again, you’ll probably want to increase your hydration levels later on but this is a perfect place to start for your first loaf.

Phew – Now on to the recipe!

Equipment

Ingredients

Levain

QuantityIngredientBaker’s Percentage
40 gStarter50%
80 g Water100%
80 gFlour100%

Dough

QuantityIngredientBaker’s Percentage
600 gBread Flour100%
400 gWater66%
9 g Salt1.5%
200 g Levain 33%

Directions

Levain:

This process starts with a levain build. You’ll do this a few hours before you want to mix your dough together, as your starter needs to build up strength so it can make your dough rise. Mix ingredients for your levain into a container and put it aside until it has doubled in size, usually 4 hours in an ambient (70 F/ 21 C) kitchen

Autolyse:

2 or 3 hours after creating your levain, combine 350g of water and 600g of flour in a large mixing bowl, mix until fully combined, cover and set aside.

Dough Mix:

1 or 2 hours after autolyse, mix the levain, remaining 50 g of water and salt with the flour and water mixture.

Incorporate all of your ingredients together by performing a pinching motion on your dough, keep pinching until everything is well incorporated, once everything is mixed cover your mixture and set it aside for 30 minutes (this will make the next step easier).

Stretch and Fold:

Perform a series of stretch and folds to develop gluten and create strength in your dough.

Do this by pulling on one side of your dough (it should be very elastic), and folding it over unto the other side, like you are folding a piece of paper in half. Do this for 10 to 15 minutes until your dough is smooth and only slightly tacky, either in the bowl or kitchen counter.

This is done in place of kneading which knocks air out of dough. After this stage your dough should feel stretchy, smooth and feel strong.

Bulk Fermentation:

Once you’ve built enough strength in your dough to pass the windowpane stage, cover your dough with plastic wrap and proof in a nice warm place for 4 hours, this step is called bulk fermentation

Pre-shape:

After 4 hours, turn your dough out onto a clean surface, and sprinkle a little bit of flour on top. You can either create 1 big loaf, or divide the dough mix in 2 for small loaves.

Pull on the side of your dough closest to you and fold it towards the center, thinking of an envelop, pull both sides towards the center as well, and finally the top. Flip your dough over, use your hands to gently rotate and tuck the bottom of the dough.

The goal here is is to begin creating tension in your dough which will help it keep its structure for its final rise.

Let the dough rest on the counter uncovered for 30 minutes.

Place a kitchen towel in a bowl large enough to fit your dough mixture. Dust the kitchen towel liberally with more bread flour, and set aside

Shape:

Now it’s time to shape your loaf! Uncover your dough, and turn it over. Shape your dough by pulling and folding the side closest to you towards the middle, repeat this with the remaining sides.

Flip your dough, cup the side that is away from you and pull it towards you. Repeat this process 3 or 4 times. The more tension you create the better your dough will rise.

Pick up your dough gently, and place it seem-side up into your towel-lined bowl. Fold the edges of the towel to cover the bread and place inside your refrigerator overnight.

Ana Gabur, from @breadjourney has a great no nonsense demonstration on how to shape a boule which you can find here.

Cold Retard:

Wrap the kitchen towel around your dough and place it in the refrigerator to proof overnight (up to 24 hours sometimes more)

The cold makes yeast sluggish and slows down fermentation to avoid over proofing while the dough develops more flavor.

Bake:

Once you’re ready to bake, preheat your oven to 480 F/248 C, and place your Dutch oven inside. My home oven takes about 2 hours to reach the desired temperature.

Once your oven is ready, uncover your dough, and place a piece of parchment paper over the top of your bowl. Turn your dough over on your parchment, remove the kitchen towel.

If you don’t have a Dutch oven, you can bake using a pie plate covered with a glass bowl, or a preheated pizza stone covered with a metal bowl. I’ve tried both with satisfactory results.

Score:   

Using a sharp knife or razor blade, cut a large X (or any other design you’d like) on the top of your dough.

This is called scoring, a necessary step that creates a weak spot in your dough where moisture can evaporate and escape. Otherwise your bread will burst in different spots.

Bake:

Place your scored bread inside your preheated Dutch oven and bake covered for 25 minutes and uncovered for another 25 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 200 F and the crust reaches your desired color.

I usually bake my bread covered for 30 minutes and uncovered for 20 minutes for a thinner crust. Bake your bread depending on your preference.

Cool:

When your bake is done, remove bread from the Dutch oven and immediately place on top of a wire rack to cool completely before consuming. While that bread is incredibly tempting, if you cut it too soon it will be gummy and will eventually dry out.

Et voila!

You’ve successfully baked your first sourdough loaf. This dough creates a wonderfully soft bread with an open, spongey crumb and a light crispy crust. I know the process is long, but trust me once you take that first bite you’ll see that the time and effort you put into this bake was well worth it.

The great thing about baking is that each time you do it you learn something new, and this is just the first step into your sourdough journey. Once you have these basic steps down, branch out and play around with different types of flour, fillings, hydration levels and even by including more or less steps in your baking process. The most important thing is exercising your creativity, having fun and making something yummy.

If you enjoyed this recipe, please be sure to follow me on Instagram @MakeItDough for more sourdough and baking ideas. If you have questions feel free to DM me and remember to post a photo and tag me when you make this delicious loaf.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Annastasia says:

    I am using rye flour and tried measuring everything in grams like you’ve done. I have mixed my levain and autolyse and it seems as if it is too wet- it is not stretching as it should. Maybe it isn’t as mixed as it should be. I have sprinkled a bit more flour and am letting it sit a little while longer

    Like

    1. Are you using all rye flour or a mix of flours? Rye flour and bread flour have different levels of protein, and develop gluten in a different manner.

      Like

      1. Annastasia says:

        The wild yeast may have had some white and/or einkorn but the dough was just rye and a little einkorn for sprinkling- I read another recipe for rye where they allowed rest for 24-48 hours. This loaf has seemed to like that. I have just now placed it in the oven.

        Like

      2. Flour choice matters. Each grain has its own unique properties. Rye has a weaker gluten structure than wheat, so does einkorn, kamut, emmer etc. flour made with these grains should be treated different. These different properties should be accounted for when baking using these flours.

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