Hear me out: I know baking bread seems tedious. I thought the same thing for most of my life. My dad has been baking almost every day for the past 15 years, and for the first 13, it looked like sticky, messy sorcery to me: the flour everywhere; the steps of rising and proofing the dough and feeding the starter; the little rules that seemed to exist only to make things more difficult (do room temperature eggs really make that much of a difference over cold ones?). I didn’t get why it was worth all this work, especially when you can simply buy bread.  

But, after especially missing my dad's homemade bread one day, I decided to give making sourdough a try to see if I could tolerate the process myself. To my surprise, it was genuinely super easy, and the resulting loaf of bread definitely justified the (minimal) effort. So, after adapting a couple other recipes and tips from my dad, here's a super simple method to making your own sourdough. 

Norah Lee

First things first: if you want the easiest, most accessible route to making your own sourdough, buy a starter. Making one yourself is entirely doable, but if growing your own starter is what's keeping you from baking your own sourdough, I recommend buying one. You can get a ready-to-use starter delivered to you for under $10 from places like King Arthur Flour or Amazon, and your bread will turn out every bit as delicious as it would have if you had grown your own. 

With a starter ready to go, making a loaf of bread from start to finish is a breeze. 

Norah Lee

Step 1 - Combine Your Ingredients

For one simple loaf, you'll need:

4 cups flour (all-purpose or bread flour)

1/3 cup sourdough starter

385 ml of warm water

2 tsp salt

The night before you want the finished loaf:

In a large bowl, stir the starter into the water. Add the flour and salt, and combine with a wooden spoon until everything comes together into one ball of dough. Cover the bowl to rest.

Step 2 - Stretch The Dough

After the dough has rested for 20 minutes, uncover and stretch the dough upwards from the bowl as high as it will go, then fold it down onto itself. Do this one more time, wait 20 minutes, then do another set of stretches for a total of three times. Cover the bowl again and let it sit overnight, for about 12 hours.

Step 3 - Stretch Again

A little bit annoying, I know, but your bread is near. After the 12 hours have passed, and about 1 hour before you want to bake, preheat your oven to 450º Fahrenheit. Once it is preheated, stretch the dough upward and fold it down on itself twice more. On the second stretch, pull it completely out of the bowl and lower it onto a lightly greased or floured sheet of parchment paper. 

Norah Lee

Step 4 - Bake

There are a few methods to bake the bread, but use whatever you have and what's easiest for you—the results will turn out just as good! Anything that is oven-safe and has a lid will work: a dutch oven, a steel pot, even a baking sheet with a bowl over it will do just fine (if you do use a dutch oven or clay pot, leave it in the oven while it's preheating). Lift your dough using the parchment paper, and place it in your pot or sheet pan. Cover it and bake for 28 minutes. Then, take the lid off and bake for another 15 minutes until the crust is a deep brown, and you are done!

Norah Lee

Step 5 - Celebrate

Congrats! You now have a crispy, chewy homemade loaf of bread that you baked yourself! Admittedly, it took about 14 hours start to finish, but how much of that did you spend actually mixing or moving the dough? 15 minutes? Four ingredients, 15 minutes of work (plus some waiting), and you’re now officially on your way to baking greatness. 

Ryan Wakefield