Prep Time
15 Minutes

Cook Time
30 Minutes

Total Time
45 Minutes

Bakers Hydration Caculator


  • All purpose Flour 100% 431 1,293
  • Water 70% 302 906
  • After Autolyze Salt 2% 9 27
  • Additional water 5% 22 66
  • Total Dough 850 2,550
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Feed the starter
About eight hours before you are ready to mix the dough, prepare your starter. a. This recipe assumes that you have starter that you have either made, gotten from a friend, or purchased (it’s best not to purchase it, which is a waste of money). b. I feed my starter the night before by adding 200 grams of flour and 160 grams of water to 50 grams of my old starter

Step 1 – Initial Mixing
In a large bowl, mix flour, water, and starter until all the ingredients are incorporated into a shaggy dough. a. Note that if you are more familiar with making bread with commercial yeast, this will seem like a stick mess rather than dough. That’s the way it should be. If you keep your hands wet, the dough won’t stick as much.

Step 2 – Autolyse
Let the dough sit for 40 minutes. a. This is the autolyze period, which allows the flour to hydrate and to stimulate gluten development b. After 40 minutes, mix in the salt and remaining water. Make sure you get it mixed in well.

Step 3 – Stretch and Fold
After you have mixed in the salt and water, rest the dough for 40 minutes. Then you stretch and fold the dough. a. I pick up an edge of the dough and pull it out as far as I can then fold it over the top. b. Then I pick another edge about a quarter of the way around the bowl and repeat this stretch on fold. c. I do this a total of four times.

More Stretch and Fold
Repeat the stretch and fold in step 4 three more times for a total of four stretch and folds at forty-minute intervals. a. I cover the bowl with a shower cap or wet tea towel to keep it from drying out. b. Sometimes I only do this three times total

Step 4 – Bulk Proof
After the last stretch and fold, let the dough rise for about eight hours. This is the bulk proof

a. Depending on temperature and other environmental variables, it may take more or less eight hours. It is better to not let it proof long enough than to let it proof to long. If you let it go too long, the dough will deflate and not bake well.
b. During this period, the dough will at least double in size, but the real test is when you see big bubbles forming on the surface. When you have these, you should be good to go.

Step 5 – Shape the Boules
Now is the time to shape your dough into a boule or, if you are making multiple loaves, boules

a. Pour dough onto a flat surface

i. I use my granite counter, which I disinfect with a hydrogen peroxide solution. ii. I do not flour the surface. It will be sticky, but you don’t want to get flour inside the dough as the raw flour will not bake and leave streaks in your bread.

b. Divide the dough

i. If you are making multiple boules, it is at this point that you divide the dough. If you want to be precise, weigh it—I just eyeball it.

ii. Tip: Use a bench knife to work the dough. I use one to both divide the dough and to shape the boules

c. Shape the dough

i. After you’ve divided the dough, spread each loaf into a flat square.

ii. Take a corner of the square and pull it over to the center.  Do this with each corner.

iii. Now use flour and you bench knife to shape the boule. I sprinkle flour (a lot of flour) around the perimeter and using my bench knife and my hand begin working flour under the bread while pushing and turning it into the shape of a boule.

iv. Do not fold the dough anymore—you do not want flour to get inside the dough

d. Prepare the bannetons

i. Flour each banneton. I use ample amounts. Not only do I coat the dough thoroughly, but I also coat the banneton

ii. Place dough in banneton

Step 6 – Final Proof
For the final proof, I put the boules in the refrigerator. a. I usually proof the boules for at least eight hours, but sometimes up to 36 hours before baking. b. If I’m in a hurry, I will proof them at room temperature, but the dough is hard to work with and the results, in my experience, are not as good

Step 7 – Pre-heat the Oven and the Dutch Ovens
Heat the oven to 500° Fahrenheit (260° Celsius). a. I bake my bread in Dutch Ovens. I have two Staub 22 enameled Dutch ovens that I really like. I heat them in the oven (with the lids on) as it is heating. b. I’ve also used clay cloches and a Lodge combo cooker, both of which work well.

Step 8 – Bake the Bread
I bake my bread right out of the refrigerator. a. Take the dough out of the refrigerator and the Dutch oven out of the oven. b. Turn the dough out of the banneton into the Dutch oven being careful not to burn yourself. I turn the banneton over and shake the dough into my hand (my hands are big enough to do this) and then drop the dough into the Dutch oven. I have to be careful to let the dough unstick from the banneton on its own accord. This can take a minute and is why I use a lot of flour before I put the dough in the banneton c. After I drop the dough into the Dutch oven, I slash an X across the top. I have a lame, but a sharp knife will also work. This is another reason I like proofing in the refrigerator—I find that I get a much better slash on cold dough. d. Bake for 30 minutes with the lid on.

Step 9 – Cool the Bread
I let the bread cool on a rack before I slice it. Please note: I have put links to Amazon for some of the equipment I use. I am not endorsing these products. Rather, I simply believe that it is useful to have an idea of what I’m using. Additionally, I enjoy reading the comments people have about these products. Often times you can get interesting tips or get help deciding if its the right product for the way you bake. Do not take my word for it. I don’t always make the best decisions. My Staub Dutch ovens are wonderful, for example, but I think there are cheaper alternatives that would do as good a job. The Lodge combo cooker, for instance

Disclaimer: Whilst we hope the information provided is helpful and informative, we cannot guarantee that all details will be 100% accurate.  There are many schools of thought and conflicting ideas on many of the sourdough processes and methods.  This site is simply meant as a broad guide to baking sourdough, and is not a scientific reference.

Also, please forgive the mixed US and UK spellings throughout. We have a team from various countries working on this site.This site may contain affiliate links. 

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A special sharp knife, or tool which holds a razor blade, in a curved or straight manner. You use it to score the dough before baking.

Dutch Oven

A Dutch Oven is generally understood to be a covered earthenware or cast-iron container for cooking casseroles. They are ideal for bread as they can accommodate bread dough and be covered to help generate the steamy environment requiredto encourage the dough to rise. Enamel roasters with a lid, covered pyrex dishes, or even a flat tray with a bowl over the top of the dough, are equally effective.

Bakers’ Percentages

Sometimes called baker’s math, this is a method to express the different ingredients as a percentage of the total amount of flour. It makes scaling a recipe or building a recipe very easy once you know the total weight of the flour, and also allows you to know the ‘hydration’ of your dough.

Example: If you build your dough with 1000 gram flour, 670-grams water, 20-gram salt, and 8-gram yeast. According to bakers percentages, that will be 100% flour (the amount of flour is always 100%), 67% water, 2% salt, and 0.8% yeast.
You divide the amount of the different ingredients with the amount of flour.

Banneton / Brotform / Proofing Basket

A type of basket or container used to provide structure for shaped loaves of bread during proofing. Banneton baskets are also known as ‘Brotform’ or ‘proofing baskets’. It is normally used for doughs that are too soft or wet to maintain their shape while rising. They come in a range of sizes and shapes. Look for ones that fit the size of loaves you want to bake.

They are often made of natural rattan, or wood fiber. You can also use any container lined with a well-floured tea towel.

Oven Spring

The final burst of expansion of dough upon being introduced to a hot oven and where the yeast activity is increased during the first few minutes. At approximately 60C/140ºF degrees the yeast is killed off, but up until that point, dough can expand in the oven in the first phase of baking if it’s not over-fermented and still has dough strength. Many factors can impact oven spring including the length of fermentation, gluten development, and the hydration of the dough.


An alternative to traditional kneading used to develop gluten. The process is performed periodically in the bowl throughout the bulk fermentation. Take a side of the dough and gently stretch it up and over, to fold it upon itself, rotate the dough 90º, and repeat, then turn the bowl 45º and the same stretch and fold. Once all four corners of the dough have been stretched and folded, gluten development and a smooth, elastic dough are underway. Also, see ‘Folding’ and ‘Coil Folds’.

Bulk Ferment

Most loaves have two fermenting cycles. One before and one after the loaves are formed. Bulk fermentation is the first cycle, with a long fermentation period of the dough after the initial mixing of flour, water, starter, and salt and often comes during and after a period of kneading or ‘stretch and folds’.During this stage we are aiming to create dough strength, structure and flavor. The dough should feel alive, strong, airy, spongy and the surface shouldn’t feel sticky.

The bulk fermentation generally takes place at room temperature, unless otherwise noted in the recipe and is a longer period of time (4 -12 hours) than the final proofing period. This step may be referred to as the first prove or first rising. Acetic acid, an organic acid is produced by bacteria in the sourdough culture during the fermentation process. The presence of acetic acid helps to gives sourdough its characteristic acidic tang. The warmer the environment, the faster the development of the dough will be

Window Pane

The window pane test is one of the best ways to tell if you’ve sufficiently stretched and folded your bread dough. Pull a small piece of the dough and using both hands and your fingers stretch the dough very thin if it holds its shape without tearing the gluten is well-developed and your dough is ready to be pre-shaped, shaped and rest for it’s final prove.

Starter / Starter Culture / Sourdough Starter

A mixture of flour and water used to leaven bread that contains bacteria, yeast, and organic acids. Made either by inoculating with an established colony of bacteria or by capturing wild bacteria and yeasts over a longer period. Sometimes also called Leaven / Levain.



Autolyse (pronounced auto-lees) is a process in which a portion of (or total) water and flour in a bread recipe are gently pre-blended and set to rest for a period of time.

This resting period gives the dough special processing characteristics and improves the overall quality of the baked goods.

During autolyse process, several events can occur in the pre-mixed water/flour mixture:

  1. Continued flour hydration. Water molecules work their way into damaged starch, intact starch granules and proteins.
  2. Protein bonds continue to develop as a consequence of adding water, creating more gluten strands without mechanical work. This leads to better gluten structure and gas retention.
  3. Flour enzymes (mainly proteases) acquire time to adapt and work on the gluten by breaking down protein bonds.Protease activity is higher at low pH (acidic conditions). This is why autolysed doughs that contain yeast or pre-ferments (e.g. poolish) often experience greater protease activity. Such doughs are more extensible, weaker, softer and show less resistance to deformation than autolyzed non-fermented doughs.2
  4. Finally, as a result, the dough feels less sticky and very smooth after the autolyse.

As a general rule, the longer the autolyse time:

  • The shorter the dough mixing time (less mechanical development of gluten-forming proteins in needed). This means less energy consumption during mixing.
  • The shorter the dough stability duration
  • The less tolerance to overmixing. Breakdown is more pronounced once peak (maximum strength) is attained.
  • The smaller the P value in the alveograph test
  • The more extensible and less elastic the dough becomes at the end of autolysis
  • The better the sheetability and machining of dough during lamination of croissants
  • The easier and faster the dough expands during oven spring (better volume)
  • The lower the need for dough conditioners
  • The better the flavor and aroma of the finished product
Leaven/Levain/Sourdough Starter
  1. A substance, in this case a wild yeast starter, that is used in sourdough baking to make dough rise.
  2. Some methods of baking, such as ‘Tartine Method’ require a sourdough leavening agent be made from a sourdough ‘mother culture’ (aka your Starter). This technique is often employed to boost the yeast activity of the sourdough starter by feeding a small amount of starter a larger quantity of flour and water. For instance, if a recipe calls for 1 cup of sourdough starter, a leaven can be prepared 8-12 hours before the dough will be mixed by combining 1 Tablespoon of sourdough starter with ½ cup flour and a scant ½ cup of water. This leaven can then be used as the sourdough starter and will be quite active come baking time.
  1. cause (dough or bread) to rise by adding leaven.