12 April 2012

Sourdough Boule

If you're a frequent reader of this blog, you know that I love to bake. After buying Pete Reinhart's Artisan Bread Every Day, I started playing around with a variety of recipes (mostly for ciabatta and pizza dough) and found that it's very easy to make a great-tasting bread. It really is. It gets easier with a stand mixer, a good oven, a baking stone, and lots of patience, but it's NOT difficult.

Sourdough bread, however, had escaped me for the longest time. I tried to create my own, but apparently there isn't enough viable wild yeast floating around my kitchen to really get it going. That, or I simply suck at making sourdough from scratch. No matter - I purchased some wild starter from Breadtopia, and a few days later, I had my own so-called "mother starter" (at least that's what Reinhart calls it). This thing is incredibly resilient and came alive less than 12 hours after its first "feeding" (addition of water and flour), even after spending a week in the mail on the way to Austin. I keep it in the fridge perpetually and will feed it every week or so, or whenever it gets a little low.

The first recipe I decided to try out was a simple sourdough boule. It is incredibly easy to make, provided you have the necessary equipment: a baking stone, a pizza peel, and a banneton. You don't really need the banneton, but it does help in forming a pretty loaf.

Sourdough Boule

10.5 oz (300g) bread flour
7.25 oz (200g) water at 110 degrees F (43 degrees C)
1.75 oz (50g) sourdough starter
1/8 oz (5g) kosher salt

Add the water and starter to a large bowl. Break up the starter. Add the remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly with your hands or a wooden spoon. You can also do this in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment if you prefer. Lightly flour a work surface. Turn the dough onto the work surface and stretch and fold once. Place in a clean, lightly-floured bowl. Cover with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and let rest for one hour at room temperature.

After an hour, turn the dough back out on the work surface and do another stretch and fold. Place back in the floured bowl and let rest, covered, another hour. After an hour, turn the dough out onto the work surface and do one final stretch and fold, forming a ball from the dough. Lightly flour your banneton. If you don't have one, a bowl lined with a clean, lint-free towel will do the trick. Place your dough ball, seam-side up, in the banneton. At this point you need to place the banneton in the fridge overnight, but it needs to be airtight. A large plastic bag will work, or you can put the banneton in a larger bowl and just cover the top of the bowl with plastic wrap. If you're using a bowl with the towel, just fold the towel on top of the dough and cover with the plastic.

The next day, turn your oven to 450 degrees with your baking stone in the middle and a pan that can take a hit of hot water (such as a cast iron pan or an old, crappy metal pan you don't care about anymore) in the bottom of the oven. Turn the dough out onto a floured pizza peel (or the back of a sheet pan covered with parchment paper). Lightly cover with plastic wrap or a clean towel and let rest for two hours.

After two hours, score the top of the loaf lightly with a sharp knife. Slide the bread onto the baking stone (with the parchment paper if not using a pizza peel). Immediately add about a half cup of hot water to the pan at the bottom of the oven. Close the door and wait for three minutes. Next, place an oven-safe bowl over the loaf. Bake another 15 minutes, then remove the bowl and bake the final 20 minutes. The loaf should be a rich brown and sound hollow if thumped on the bottom.

Let cool on a cooling rack for at least 30 minutes before slicing and serving. And try not to eat the whole damn thing in one sitting.

Note: If your sourdough starter isn't super potent, it's fine to add about a teaspoon of instant yeast to the dough to improve its proofing.


  1. I meant to, but never did, ask you where you got that "banneton" from, and are they just called that? A brief browse of Amazon turned up some metal bread-basket type things but nothing like this - I like it a lot.

    1. I think I bought it at Amazon. Or maybe Sur la Table, a kitchen store. They are just called that, as far as I know, and you'd want the wood one, not metal. The one I have:


    2. Ah grand - must have been searching Amazon.fr only I guess - I end up with results like this: www.amazon.fr/Banneton-baguette-osier-ajouré-tissu/dp/B00692J7GG/

      Thanks for the link - it's just the sort of thing I'm after because I'm really impressed by your loaf above - looks delicious!