Bread-Sourdough French

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Bread-Sourdough French 1

Sourdough French Bread

YOU WILL NEED for making this Sourdough French bread: 

  • Bowl of water to dip hands/scrapers into
  • Bowls to hold pre-measured flours, salt, water
  • Chef’s knife
  • Cooling Rack
  • Dutch Oven x 2 or Bread pans
  • Gram scale
  • Hand towel to drape over dough bowl
  • Hot pads
  • Knife, Utility knife or Lame to score top of loaf before baking
  • Mason Jar
  • Mixing bowl, glass/ceramic about 8 quarts
  • Parchment Paper, unbleached
  • Plinth for use in cob oven transferring of loaves to stones
  • Scrapers, Bowl and Bench
  • Thermometer, Food for testing doneness of bread
  • Thermometer, Infrared for oven
  • Turkey roaster bags x 2
  • Whisk
  • Wooden board for kneading dough just a bit
  • Wooden spoon
  • Yogurt cup, empty for measuring ingredients


  • Whole Wheat Flour, King Arthur’s Organic
  • All Purpose Unbleached Organic Flour, King Arthur’s
  • Purified Water
  • Sourdough Starter
  • Celtic Sea Salt
  • Corn meal to use on plinth (about 60 grams) if you decide to cook directly on the hot bricks of a cob oven
  • Rice Flour to heavily dust Banneton baskets (about 60 grams)
  • Optional: Herbs, Pesto, Olives, Cheese, Nuts



  •  25 grams Mature Starter
  • 70 grams Purified/Spring Water
  • 70 grams Organic All-Purpose Flour

The evening before you make bread, mix together 25 grams starter, 70 grams water (about 130 degrees) and 70 grams all-purpose flour in a Mason jar or small bowl. Cover the mixture with a clean towel and leave on the counter at room temperature. The mixture will be ready in 10-12 hours and will double or even triple in volume. (Note: During hot months, this can take 6-8 hours depending on the temperature of your kitchen. You can use ice water to slow this process in the summer. For best flavor longer fermentation times and older much loved/used starters are best. Ask around. There is always someone who would be honored to share some of their starter with you.)

For the Bread Dough (The next day): 

  • 725 grams Purified/Spring Water
  • 150 grams Levain (see above)
  • 200 grams Organic Whole Wheat Flour, Sprouted Spelt or Rye
  • 300 grams plus 500 grams Organic All-Purpose White Flour
  • 25 grams Celtic Sea Salt or Himalayan pink salt + 50 grams additional Purified/Spring Water

Building the Sourdough French:  

□Pour 725 grams of Purified Water into a large glass or ceramic mixing bowl. Drop a tablespoon of levain into the bowl and see if it floats.

If it floats, add the rest of the levain to the water and whisk to combine. If it doesn’t float, wait another hour and try again.

□Add 200 grams of Whole Wheat Flour and 300 grams of Organic All-Purpose Flour to the water mixture and combine with a dough whisk. I usually let this sit and autolyze while I clean up the dishes. Then. . .

□Add the remaining 500 grams of All-Purpose Flour and mix with your hands (it will be very sticky), making sure there are no dry clumps of flour. 

Note: The temperature of your water in relation to your ambient room temperature is very important. In the wintertime, it’s helpful to use warmer water and in the hottest months, ice water would be appropriate.

□Cover and continue the autolysis process (let sit) for 30 minutes.

□Knead in 25 grams Celtic Sea Salt and 50 grams of Purified/Spring Water and mix by hand until incorporated. It will be really sticky/tacky/wet and you may have to dip your hand into that bowl of extra water so that the dough doesn’t stick to your skin. Now. . .

□Cover the dough with a clean cloth and let rest for 30 minutes. 


Stretch and fold the dough. Tease up the edge of the dough with the bowl scraper or your hand (wetted) and pull up and over. Turn the bowl a quarter turn and repeat three more times for a total of four times. The goal with this stretching process is to align the gluten fibers turning it from wet flour into an elastic dough which will eventually bubble as the fermentation progresses.

□Place a clean cloth over the dough and let it sit for 30 minutes.

□Remove the towel. Stretch and fold the dough again pulling one corner up then turning the bowl like last time until all four corners are pulled/stretched and halfway flipped. This isn’t like when you turn a dough onto a board and knead it for 10 minutes. You hardly seem to manipulate this dough.

□Place a clean cloth over the dough and let sit for another 30 minutes.

□ At this point, you will notice big bubbles coming up from the dough from the fermentation process. Stretch and fold the dough again as before. If you are going to add anything to the bread (herbs, olives, nuts, etc), this is the time to do that. Lightly fold those things in.

□Let dough sit covered for another 30 minutes.

□Stretch and fold the dough one last time.  Lightly dust a wooden board or a clean counter top with flour. Turn the dough out onto the floured surface. The dough will be sticky, so it helps to have wet hands. Using a bench knife or a large chef’s knife cut the dough in half and make two rounds of dough.

□Cover with a clean cloth and let sit on the kneading board covered with a clean dry cloth for ONE HOUR. Just before your 60 minutes is up,

□Dust two brotforms with flour. If you don’t have a brotform, you can use a basket lined with a dishtowel. If doing this, make sure the dust the dishtowel heavily with flour. Don’t skimp on the flour your loaves will become difficult to remove when it’s time to bake them.

□Now it’s time to shape the dough into a boule.  Round the dough into a ball by picking up the edges and scrunching it together like you are making a little purse. Then, gather the ball and place the pinched edge downward so that the smooth side faces up in the brotform.

□For the Final Rise: Cover the dough loosely with a clean dish towel and allow the brotforms to sit at room temp for another hour, then lightly tuck dish towel on top of the dough and place in refrigerator.

□After the dough has been in the fridge for 12 hours (or the next morning), place each of the bowls with dough into a large cellophane or Turkey roasting bag. This keeps your dough from drying out and from absorbing flavors from foods in the refrigerator.

□After placing loaves in the large plastic bags the loaves will remain in the fridge for another 24 hours for a total of 35-40 hours.


Prepare the Dutch Oven: Place a Dutch Oven with a lid in a cold oven. Preheat the oven to 500°F with your pot inside for one hour.

□Pull a loaf out from the refrigerator. Lightly dust the top (which is actually the bottom) with Rice Flour or Corn Meal.

□Gently flip the loaf out onto Parchment Paper. You now score/slash the with a razor or lame. It seems to work better by angling the knife at 45 degrees to make the cuts. The scoring prevents bursting of the crust in weird places and look really nice too.

□Carefully remove the hot pot from the oven, slide the loaf into the pot.

□Pour 2 Tablespoons of Purified Water onto the boule and place the lid back onto the pot and place in the oven. Be very careful. The pot is very hot!

Bake for 20 minutes with the lid on then carefully remove the lid (again, be careful because it’s very hot and steam may poof out),

□Reduce the temperature to 465°F and bake for another 10-15 minutes until the bread is golden brown on top. Note: You can also test for doneness with an instant read thermometer. If you put the thermometer in the middle of the loaf and it reads 190°-210°F it has been fully cooked. Some sources say that if the temperature gets to be over 200 that it will be overdone and to dry so I try to shoot for 190.

□Remove the loaf of bread from the pot and allow the bread to cool for at least one hour. The bread will continue baking during this time.

□For your second loaf (if you don’t have 2 Dutch ovens and are not using any baking pans), you will return the pot to the hot oven and raise the temperature back up to 500° and let it heat up for 15 minutes before removing your second loaf from the refrigerator and repeating the process. 

Notes: Because all ovens vary/ you will definitely want to purchase an inexpensive oven thermometer and place it in the back to make sure that your oven temperature is consistent accurate.

Helpful Links and References and Equipment for Making Sourdough French Bread:

GLOSSARY for Sourdough French Bread Baking:

Autolyse is the method where the flour and water in a bread or baked-good recipe are first mixed together, and then rested for a period of time. This helps make exceptionally extensible dough and produces a product with improved volume, color, flavor and a more open-crumb texture.

Boule, from the French for “ball”, is a traditional shape of French bread, resembling a squashed ball. It is a rustic loaf shape that can be made of any type of flour. A boule can be leavened with commercial yeast, chemical leavening, or even wild yeast sourdough.

Brotform Banneton Rattan bread dish: Proofing basket. Generally called a brotform, brotformen or banneton, these bread molds are used for the rising of the dough. The basket coils and flour dusting provide a beautiful shape and decor for a traditional hearth loaf.

Gluten is a protein. Bread flour does not contain large amounts of protein (approx. between 10.5 – 13%) but it is very important for the bread making process. When flour is mixed with water, the gluten swells to form a continuous network of fine strands. This network forms the structure of bread dough and makes it elastic and extensible.

Lame (Knife for cutting bread before baking) A double-sided blade used to slash the tops of bread loaves in artisan baking. A lame is used to score (also called slashing or docking) bread just before the bread is placed in the oven. Proper scoring allows the baker to control exactly where his or her breads will open or bloom.

Levain A French word for a natural leaven mixed to a dough-like consistency. A levain is made by adding flour and water or just flour to a “chef”. This process is referred to as “building” or “elaborating” the next stage of the leaven. A levain or levain bread dough is generally fermented at cool temperatures.

Sourdough starter: The primary difference between making bread with a sourdough starter and making bread with the direct or straight yeast method (the method familiar to most home cooks) is that starter breads require much more time to prepare, but the flavor and texture of the bread is almost impossible to achieve with other leavening methods. Sourdough breads feature a chewy crust, open crumb, a moderately dense texture, and a slightly sour flavor and aroma that are very pleasing. The initial fermentation of the starter and the subsequent rising time of the dough contribute to the lengthier process.

Notes: Started at 10 am 3/9/19. Put dough into fridge for cold ferment at 4 pm that day. Room temperature was 75 degrees.

More Helpful Links and References for Sourdough French Bread:

Fermented sourdough bread can often be tolerated by those with gluten sensitivities and can be a good first bread to try after you’ve been avoiding grains for a long period of time.

The process of slow fermentation allows the bacteria to break down the carbohydrates and gluten and also neutralizes the phytic acid, making it easier for the body to digest. And, sourdough bread contains healthy resistant starch and doesn’t raise blood glucose levels as much as conventional wheat bread.