Crunchy, chewy, sourdough bread, with only a few simple steps this may be the easiest simple sourdough boule you have ever made!
What’s not to love about a simple sourdough boule? It’s crunchy, chewy, and just begging for some butter. After years of trying off and on, I have a loaf that I am truly happy with. It’s delicious and oh so simple to whip up.
This is the moment I’ve been waiting for. My journey with sourdough has had its ups and downs, lots and lots of downs. My first starter was beautiful, it made tasty bread even if those craggy holes were elusive. It made lots of tasty muffins, biscuits, cakes, and pancakes but sadly it died at the hands of a fire extinguisher in Mexico in the chow hall kitchen of the school where I was a missionary.
My second starter was gifted to me by a sweet woman who is a missionary at another school for the Deaf. That one lasted a while. It even traveled back to the States with me. My parents who I was living with at the time weren’t fans so sourdough and I forgot to feed it, so it met its end too.
My new starter was given to me by a local bakery. Sadly that one died from starvation on the counter too.
Finally, I was living back on my own and I bought a new starter. This one was from Simple Life by Kels. I heard about her from Kate of Venison for Dinner. You’ve got to love the world of Instagram which is where I found Kate.
Kate was making awesome bread with her starter from Kels, so I went ahead and ordered one too. The big difference is that this starter is a “natural yeast” starter. When it comes down to it, a sourdough starter lives on your counter and a natural yeast starter lives in the fridge. You only take it out the day before you want to bake.
If you want to try your hands at making your own starter here is a simple guide to get you started!
Why Natural Yeast is Easier
- Less sour taste
- Low maintenance
- Fewer feedings
Keeping my starter in the fridge has done a 180 with my baking. I honestly love the bread I have been baking.
This recipe uses a large amount of starter for two reasons; one makes a less sour loaf, and two it has a shorter rise time. While I do believe that long rise times are good for your gut health, the approximate twelve-hour rise still makes for a healthy loaf.
I’ve made it countless times the past year and a half, changing it a bit until I found a loaf that suited my personal preference.
If you have always wanted to be a lazy baker this may be the recipe you have been looking for. I’m all about lazy which in this case equals simple. The directions for the recipe are the same whether you are using a natural yeast starter or a sourdough starter.
Simple Sourdough Boule
You start with your dry ingredients, mix the flour, salt, and sugar in a large bowl. Then you add your wet ingredients, the active starter, water, and oil. You gently mix and leave it on the counter for at least 20 minutes or up to an hour. This is the “autolyze”. It gives the flour a chance to absorb all of the flour. If you are adding any wheat flour this set is essential, otherwise, you may end up with dry, crumbly bread.
After the autolyze, see if the dough is still too wet, if it is, add the remaining 1/4 – 1/2 cup of flour. Gently knead a few times in the bowl. Cover the bowl with a damp flour sack towel or lid, then walk away. If you have time every hour or so you can “stretch and fold” the dough. It’s not an essential step but it does build a stronger structure.
This is the beauty of sourdough, you can walk away and forget it for several hours. You can go to work, take the kids out, whatever you need to get done unless it is a really hot day, you can ignore your dough for about 12 hours.
Once the dough has nicely risen, turn out on a lightly floured counter. Gently flatten it, then fold all four sides in on each other and flip over seam side down. This is the bench rest. If you want to increase the air pockets, gently poke the dough all over with your fingers. Leave it for about 10 minutes. The bench rest helps build a better structure.
With lightly floured hands, shape the loaf by tucking the sides of the dough under itself until you have a smooth, tight ball.
If you have a bread proving basket, awesome! If not line a bowl with a thin flour sack tea towel and generously sprinkle the towel with flour. Gently place your loaf seam side up in the basket. Leave uncovered to rise for 1-3 hours. I usually let mine rise for about 1 1/2 hours. It really depends on how warm your house is. You want to rise till it as almost, but not quite doubled in size. You can also let the dough rise in the fridge.
Preheat the oven to for at least 30 minutes before you are going to bake at 500ºF.
After it has risen, carefully turn the loaf out onto a sheet of parchment paper. If needed use a pastry brush to brush off some of the excess flour. Cut a few ½ to 1 inch deep slashes into the loaf. It releases steam to allow the loaf to have a better rise, plus it makes the bread look pretty. You can use a sharp knife or a bread lame. I’ve done both.
Gently lower your bread into a dutch oven if you have one, cast iron skillet, or a pizza stone. Cover if using a dutch oven and place in the oven. Lower to temperature to 450ºF. Bake for 25 minutes, then uncovered and bake for an additional 20-25 minutes, or until the bread reaches an internal temperature of 200ºF.
Put the loaves on a wire rack to cool and wait for at least an hour before cutting. I know that it is torture but it really is worth it. The bread has a better structure if you have patience. If you really can’t wait, double the recipe and bake two, one for cutting into right away and one for eating once cool.
Now that that is taken care of, here’s the actual recipe.
Simple Sourdough Boule
Yield 1 loaf
Crunchy, chewy, sourdough bread, with only a few simple steps this may be the easiest simple sourdough boule you have ever made.
- 3 - 3 1/2 cups unbleached flour (you can sub whole wheat or spelt)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons unrefined salt
- 1 1/2 cup water
- 1 cup active starter (sourdough or natural yeast)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon coconut sugar (or other unrefined sugar)
- Mix 3 cups of flour, salt, and sugar together in a bowl.
- Mix the water and oil in the jar with your stater. Shake it up and pour it into the dry ingredients.
- Stir with your hands or a Danish dough whisk until just mixed. Don't add the remaining flour yet. Cover and let rest for at least 20 minutes. If the dough is still too wet, add the remaining flour starting with 1/4 cup and up to 1/2 cup.
- Cover with a damp towel or lid. Let sit for 8 to 12 hours. (If you want it tangier you can go longer.)
- Every hour or so if you feel like it, stretch and fold the dough.
- Scrap the dough onto a lightly floured surface.
- Flatten the bread, fold in the sides like an envelope. Flip it over seam side down and let sit for about 10 minutes. (Can skip this step, but it does create a better structure.)
- Form a tight loaf by tucking the side of the bread underneath itself several times.
- Put seam side up in a prooving basket or a bowl lined with a flour sack towel and dusted with flour.
- Leave uncovered to rise for about 1 1/2 hours until almost doubled in size. This can take more or less time depending on the temperature of your house.
- 30 minutes before you are ready to bake turn the oven on to 500º.
- Once the dough has risen turn out onto a piece of parchment paper. Make at least one deep slash in the dough 3/4 -1 inch deep.
- Gently lower into a dutch oven or other oven-safe covered pot. Place the lid on and stick it in the oven.
- Reduce the temperature to 450º. Bake for 25 minutes.
- Uncover and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes or until the bread has an internal temperature of 200º.
- Put on a wire rack to cool. Wait for an hour (or at least 30 minutes) for the bread to cool.