Here’s A Totally Stress-Free, Beginner-Friendly Guide To Baking Sourdough Bread

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But first, here are a few things I want to mention:

-I’m not a professional baker. I have no idea about the science behind baking bread, and until very recently, I never baked often. I’m telling you this because you shouldn’t consider the following a professional guide. Consider it your average beginner’s tutorial, written by a fellow novice baker. Do I make sourdough to rival Tartine’s famous loaves? Abbbbbsolutely not. But I’ve practiced enough to make bread that tastes pretty damn delicious, which is good enough for me.

-You’ll find tons of sourdough recipes online with slightly different instructions, but these steps will work for just about any recipe you’re following. Just make sure to use the designated types and amounts of flour, water, and starter.

-If you’re looking for a recipe to get you started, my absolute favorite has been Claire Saffitz’s sourdough recipe from New York Times cooking. The Perfect Loaf also has a great beginner’s sourdough recipe as does food blog Alexandra Cooks.

After the dough has rested for one hour, it’s time to begin the stretch-and-folds. Wet your hands, reach underneath the dough, grab a portion of it and gently stretch it upwards until you feel resistance. Fold it over so it covers the other side of the dough. Rotate the bowl 90 degrees and perform the same motion, then another 90 degrees, and a final 90 degrees until you’ve folded the dough four times. That’s your first set of stretch-and-folds.

Hannah Loewentheil/BuzzFeed

Lightly flour a countertop and gently pour the dough out from the bowl, moving carefully so you don’t pop the air pockets. If your recipe yields two loaves, now is the time to slice the dough in half. Then, flour your hands and shape the dough into a tidy ball. You don’t want to work the dough any more than is necessary. Cover the ball(s) of dough with a dish towel and let rest for 30 minutes.

Hannah Loewentheil/BuzzFeed

While the dough rests, line two baskets or glass bowls with a dish towel. Sprinkle the dish towels with flour.

It’s now time to proof (aka rest) the dough one final time. Wrap the bowl in plastic wrap, seal it with a clip, and transfer to the fridge where the dough will rest for one or two nights. This is an exercise in patience but it’s SO worth the wait. I tried making bread after just a few hours of proofing, but it tasted so much better and tangier after proofing in the fridge for at least 12 hours.

Hannah Loewentheil/BuzzFeed

Next, turn the oven down to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Return the loaf to the oven, this time uncovered, for about 30 minutes or until the exterior is very brown and crispy. Transfer to a baking rack to let the loaf cool completely. This is the hardest part of all, but resist the urge to slice into the loaf until it has cooled for at least an hour.

Hannah Loewentheil/BuzzFeed

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