Saturday, March 19, 2011

Sensationally Tasty No-Knead Sourdough Bread: a tutorial

I've been trying, over the last few weeks, to find a satisfying compromise that marries the deliciousness of sourdough with the convenience of not having to knead said damn dough. Because, when I need to fit in bread baking two to three times a week, it is just easier if I can spend two lots of ten minutes on it, rather than trying to get the timing right for mixing, letting it rest, kneading, rising, shaping, rising, baking.

(The eating part is not complicated, though.)

So, following round after round of extremely tasty semi-scientific experimentation, I feel confident in presenting you with a tutorial for no-knead sourdough bread that has a delicious chewy crust as well as fabulous tangy flavour.

And - it's easy. Feel free to follow along with my simple step by step instructions. I make baking fun!*

You will need:
150g ready to use sourdough starter
750g flour - one kind or a mixture (eg 500g bread flour, 250g wholemeal)
10g fine salt
500ml water
More flour (added after first rise)
22cm x 13 cm (9 in x 5 in) loaf tin, greased

Before we start: some notes about ingredients
I only have one sourdough starter, which is a rye one made using 1 part rye flour to 1.5 parts water. Based on my experience, though, you should be able to substitute an equal quantity of any other kind of sourdough starter if you don't have rye to hand.

I normally use about 40-50% bread flour, because it gives good lift and helps to support the heavier wholemeal (regular wheat or spelt) that I use to make up the rest of flour weight. You can use either bread flour or wholemeal flour to stiffen the dough after the first rise.

I don't measure the quantity of flour that I add after the first rise, either; I just chuck it in until the dough looks and feels right. This is something I've learned over the course of a year or more of bread-baking, so I can't really describe it apart from to say that the dough will be stiff, difficult to mix, not at all batter-like, and not sticky. I hope that helps.

Don't be astonished either if the dough just seems to keep sucking up the flour; for example, on really humid days it sometimes seems like it takes twice as much flour as on a drier day.

You may want to filter your tap water as well; I have read that chlorinated water can be death to sourdough. Mind you on occasion I have used unfiltered water and everything has turned out just fine.

Can we get started already?
But of course.

1. Measure your flour(s) into a large, non-metallic bowl (avoids the metal reacting with the acids in the sourdough). Add the salt and stir thoroughly to distribute.

2. Measure your starter and your water into a large jug and give it a good stir.

3. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix thoroughly. You will end up with a shaggy sticky dough, like this:

4. First rise! Cover with cling wrap and leave to ferment for 12-15 hours at cool room temperature (too easy).

5. At the end of the first rise the dough should be bubbly and greatly increased in volume:

Give it a good stir to deflate it. It will be extremely sticky but much smoother than when you first mixed it.

6. Add in the extra flour, bit by bit, mixing well to incorporate each addition. You want to end up with a dough that is very stiff and hard to mix.

7. Even when stiff, this dough will be a bit softer than a normal dough, and consequently harder to shape, but it is also quite forgiving; so just scrape it out into your tin and smooth the top with a wet hand.

8. Second rise! Cover with cling wrap and let sit at cool room temperature for 2-3 hours.

The  dough might not seem to have risen very much (I would say mine normally rises about 30%? But that's just me eyeballing it) but fear not, there will be an awesome oven spring!

9. Half an hour before you will bake your bread, preheat the oven to 200C.

10. Stick the tin in the oven and bake for 60 minutes (if you have an oven that browns things readily, you may need to cover the top with foil before this time, so keep an eye on it). Check it by slipping it out of the tin; does it sound hollow on the bottom? If so, good, but no-knead breads are wetter than regular ones and take longer to cook. So stick a fine skewer into the thickest part; if it comes out with more than a hint of crumbs on it, pop the loaf back in the oven (with or without its tin) for another 10-15 minutes. I often end up cooking my loaves for about 80-85 minutes.

11. Allow to cool if you can before you enjoy your insanely tasty low-maintenance homemade sourdough bread!!



*with apologies to Strongbad.


  1. I absolutely have to try this. It looks delicious. Fresh bread still warm with butter! Heaven.

  2. My husband used to bake a lot of bread, he stopped for summer but I hope will return to it soon:)


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