Easy Overnight Sourdough Bread

No matter what the city’s marketing department may have led you to believe, you don’t actually have to go to San Francisco to get really delicious sourdough bread. In fact, all you really need is some patience and three ingredients—flour, water, and salt.

If you don’t have a sourdough starter yet, you can read how to make one here.  You can also ask your neighbors. In my experience, people with a starter handy are almost always willing to share.

This sourdough recipe requires very little work and almost no kneading, but you do need to plan ahead—for best results, you’ll want to let the dough rise overnight.

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup sourdough starter
  • 1 ½ cups lukewarm water
  • 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½  teaspoons salt

Directions

  1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together sourdough starter and lukewarm water.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix flour and salt. Then, add the dry ingredients to the water/starter mixture in the large bowl. Stir with a wooden spoon until the dough starts to come together.
  3. When stirring with the spoon becomes difficult, knead briefly in the bowl using well-floured hands until no dry flour remains and the dough has formed a rough ball.
  4. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough sit overnight or for about 12 hours (I have let mine sit for up to 18-20 hours and never had any issues).
  5. After twelve hours, the dough should have doubled in size. Dump the dough onto a well-floured surface and use your hands (also floured) to knead briefly, until the dough is smooth (it usually takes about a dozen turns).

Note, at this point, you can treat the dough like a standard loaf of bread—shape it into a loaf, put it in your loaf pan, allow it to rise, covered, until double in size, then bake at 375 degrees until the crust is lightly browned and the bread is cooked through (210 degrees). If you want the trademark crispy, browned crust, use the following method, inspired by this video from America’s Test Kitchen:

  1. Shape your dough into a ball, tucking the sides under the loaf and then lightly rolling it in a circle between your hands on the countertop to form a tight, round loaf.
  2. Place the loaf into a well-oiled dutch oven (we use a round enamel oven) and cover tightly with plastic wrap.
  3. Place the dutch in the center of your oven; do not turn the oven on.
  4. Place a pan (sheet pan, cake pan, pie pan, whatever’s handy) on a rack below the dutch oven and fill with several cups of boiling water. This creates a warm, humid environment for the second rise.
  5. Once your loaf has doubled in size (2-3 hours), pull the dutch oven out and remove the plastic wrap. Also, remove the pan of water from the oven and discard.
  6. I used parchment paper here, but I prefer to just use oil.

    Lightly flour the loaf’s surface and cut a slit or cross into the top to allow steam to vent. Then put the lid on the dutch oven.

  7. Place the dutch oven back in the center of the oven, then turn the oven to 425 degrees and set a timer for 30 minutes.
  8. After 30 minutes, remove the lid and let the bread continue to cook until the top is brown and crisp and the center is 210 degrees.
  9. Cool the bread thoroughly on a rack before slicing.

And that’s it! If the time commitment seems daunting, remember that you only have to actually work on the bread for a few minutes at a time. Then you get to walk away and let the starter do the work. You’ll end up with a delicious, slightly sour, crispy loaf of bread that goes great with everything.

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