I feel as though I’ve been searching for the perfect sourdough boule since starting with sourdough baking two years ago. When I realized last week I was super close, I got obsessed with perfecting it and made 5 loaves in 5 days. I’ve got it guys. Whew. Are you ready for this?
My preference for this loaf is all white flour. You can hear me ramble about and answer FAQ about sourdough here. I love me some whole wheat flour, but this loaf? It’s made for white. That being said, subbing half whole wheat still makes a lovely loaf! All this rambling to say…make it white first…you’ll love it.
What is a boule? A boule is a free form round-ish, artisan loaf of bread. I love the look and simplicity of them. It looks so beautiful.
What if you don’t have a dutch oven for baking? Thats okay! You can use any oven safe pot, minimum 1 gallon size. You’ll need this big for the loaf to fit. An oven safe pot means it can’t have any plastic or glass on it. I have a stainless steel pot that I use so I can bake two at a time. If the only “bad” part on your pot is the lid, try putting a metal cookie sheet on as the lid. The point of the dutch oven, is that it traps the steam as the bread dough expands/bakes in the oven, mimicking the steam injected industrial ovens.
There is some really broad rising times here. Just trust me here. The beauty of sourdough is it’s flexibility!
Basic Sourdough Boule
3-3 1/4 c organic, unbleached, white flour (can sub for up to half whole wheat, fresh ground included)
4 tbsp sugar or 2 tbsp honey (if using honey, add it into the wet, not dry ingredients)
1 1/2 tsp salt
3/4 c sourdough starter (fed in last 24-36 hours, but has doubled since you fed it)
1 c water
2 tbsp oil (I use olive)
Mix your 3 cups, sugar and salt together. In a quart jar I mix starter, water and oil. If using honey, make sure to add it in with the wet ingredients, not dry. Mix wet into dry. If using any amount of whole wheat in here, let it sit 20-30 minutes to “autolyze”. This makes sure that you don’t add too much flour and get a dry loaf, as the bran in whole wheat takes a bit to absorb water. Knead it for a few minutes, until it passes the window pane test. To windowpane, take a golf ball sized dough ball and stretch it out thin, to see if you can see light through the middle of it before the dough breaks. Return dough to the bowl, cover with a plate/lid/wet tea towel/beeswax wrap. If desperate, use plastic wrap. But I prefer not to have it in the house.
Let it sit 8-18 hours. Yes, this is a long period of time. It’s going to depend on how warm your house is. If your house is super warm, put it in the fridge after a couple hours. I prefer to mix this up late afternoon and let it sit all night. 18 hours is more of a tangy-sourdough taste, I usually aim for 12 hours, thats my favourite!
After 12 hours, scoop dough out onto a floured counter with your hands. Form a loaf by almost reverse kneading? Hard to explain…hmmmm, tuck the sides of the dough underneath in on itself until you’ve got a smooth tight loaf, it’ll take about 5-6 times. Dust the top of the loaf with flour. The flour helps with the pretty crusts we’re all trying to get. I like to use parchment as a “sling” for the dough, but this is optional. Set dough aside to rest (uncovered!) for 30 min-3 hours. I usually aim for about 1 1/2 hours. TI like what happens when I “support” the dough by propping it up, but this is optional. You pick. Some people have fancy baskets…I macgyver it. This allows the dough to rise up, and not flatten out if you skip supporting it. It won’t drastically flatten out, just a bit. Don’t you like my fancy kitchen?!
30 minutes before you want to bake, put your pot in the oven, and turn the oven onto 500F. Yep, 500F. When you’re just about ready to put the dough into the pot, get your sharpest knife, and you’re going to slash the top of the loaf. My preference is 3-5 horizontal/angular slashes. Slash deep. 3/4-1″ deep. This allows for the bread to expand without cracking the crust all over the place.
Take the pot out of the oven, lower the dough into the pot, put a lid on, and return to the oven.
Bake for 25 minutes, take the lid off, and then bake for another 5-15 minutes. Sourdough can be kinda hard to tell if it’s done, but an internal temp of 195F with an instant read thermometer tells you it’s done. Otherwise, it’s somewhat of a guessing game, and I go for the 15 minutes. I’m yet to over bake a loaf, only under bake. When it’s done, remove pot from the oven, Remove loaf from the pot and put on a cooling rack. Let sit minimum 15 minutes, preferably 30-60 minutes to allow the gluten structure to set up for you. This makes a nicer loaf!
Now slather it with butter and enjoy that loaf!