No-knead sourdough bread with a step-by-step recipe.
We all love a loaf of delicious, hand-crafted real bread, and it only gets better when it can be baked at home.
We are big on fermented foods and over the last couple of years, rice and rotis have been replaced most of the time with dosa and idli. It was only natural for me to get inclined to having sourdough bread to replace the regular bread. I have mentioned earlier how I have endeavoured the sourdough baking journey to introduce it to my daughter who is gluten intolerant. I slowly tried to customise it to make Indian dishes like roti, paratha as well with sourdough.
What is sourdough bread?
Sourdough bread is made by the fermentation of the dough with naturally occurring wild yeast and lactobacilli without adding any commercial or baker’s yeast. The lactic acid produced by lactobacilli gives it the sour taste. The sourdough bread has a chewy texture with a crisp crust. The flavour of the bread can range from mild to strong depending on the starter and how long the dough has been fermented. With just three ingredients - flour, water, and salt - this is about as natural it gets when it comes to baking bread. Sourdough bread is obviously healthier than regular bread which uses commercial yeast. The long fermentation of the grains during the process making the sourdough bread breaks down the phytic acid of the grains making it healthier and easily digestible. And the taste - once you fall in love with sourdough bread, you will never want to have a slice of bread that is not sourdough!
Baking a perfect no-knead sourdough bread
Baking a perfect loaf of sourdough bread comes with practice. The more you bake, the better it gets. I have researched, tried, and tested many ways of baking it, using several techniques over the last several months. This no-knead sourdough bread recipe here is something that works best for me. It is a no-knead recipe where the initial dough is mixed, stretched and folded, left to ferment over the counter first and then in the fridge, and then is baked.
We have put in so much love and care to build our starter and finally, it is active and bubbly. It's time to put it to good use and get baking.
The first step of baking the no-knead sourdough bread is to have a super active starter. Click here to see how to prepare your starter for baking. It is important to note that the time taken for the starter to activate depends on many factors. For example, the ambient temperature, the nature of the starter itself, etc. If your starter activates at a much faster rate, you can activate it the same day you are making the dough. Or, you can use either less starter or cold water to slow down the activation.
Baking a sourdough bread takes time - you have to give time to the dough to ferment. So, having a baking timeline that fits your schedule is the best way to achieve the perfect loaf of sourdough bread.
My schedule is this:
FRIDAY NIGHT: Take the starter from the fridge and feed it with flour and water. Leave it in a warm temperature overnight.
SATURDAY MORNING: Mix dough, stretch, and fold, bulk fermentation.
SATURDAY NIGHT: Cold fermentation in the fridge.
SUNDAY/MONDAY MORNING: Bake day.
Stretch and fold is a technique where you let the gluten of the dough develop. The sourdough dough has higher hydration when compared to regular bread dough and this technique works really well with this dough. As you do the stretch and fold on your dough, you will see how a sticky and sluggish dough turns into a well-formed dough. I perform a total of 6 stretches and folds spread 30 minutes apart.
Bulk fermentation is the first rise where you let the dough rise until it is almost double. I prefer not to do a bulk fermentation overnight as this may risk over-fermenting the dough. You can leave the dough to bulk ferment for 4-6 hours depending on how warm or cold it is. But I highly recommend going by the feel of the dough rather than the time when it comes to bulk fermentation. The dough should be roughly about doubled and will have a bubbly appearance. On warmer days, it takes less time and on cooler days, it will take more time. At the end of the bulk fermentation, your dough should be smooth, slightly bubbly and risen to about double.
Shaping the loaf and cold fermentation
Once the dough is bulk fermented, it needs to be shaped and put in the refrigerator for cold fermentation or cold retard. It is during this process that the sourdough bread gets the sour taste. You can either choose to let it cold ferment overnight or do a long cold ferment. Longer cold fermentation improves the taste, flavour, and texture of the bread to a great extent. I have left my dough in the refrigerator for as long as 4 days to cold ferment. Cold fermentation is also a great way to schedule your baking time according to your convenience. Always remember to take your dough out of the fridge after the oven and dutch oven is preheated. Score the cold dough and put it into a hot dutch oven creating steam. This will give it the best oven spring.
While a banneton is used to place the shaped dough, it is not essential. You can dust rice flour on a tea towel, place it in a bowl, and place the shaped dough into it. However, it is important to dust the banneton/tea towel well before placing the dough. Using rice flour for dusting works best for this.
Baking the no-knead sourdough bread in a dutch oven
Sourdough bread needs to be baked with some steam. Dutch ovens are the best to create the steam needed for baking sourdough bread. It is important to preheat your dutch oven before placing the dough into it. Cold dough straight from the refrigerator into a super-hot dutch oven creates the steam needed to give the best oven spring and colour. If you don’t have a dutch oven, you can place some water in an oven-safe pan and place it underneath the baking tray - although I have never tried this technique.
I have also seen that curing the bread in the oven once it is turned off helps in creating great crumbs. To do this, once the baking is done, turn off the oven, open the oven door and let the bread sit in it for 15-20 minutes. Also, remember to wait until the loaf cools down before cutting it. It is best to cut it after a couple of hours before cutting it.
Good fermentation, strong dough, the correct amount of bulk fermentation, good proofing are the steps needed to get a great loaf of sourdough bread. This may sound complex, but as you practice more and develop an understanding of how to execute these steps, you will taste the difference in every slice of bread.
How to stretch and fold
No-knead sourdough bread step-by-step recipe with photos
1. Mix the dough ingredients and let it sit at room temperature
2. Do the first set of stretch and fold
3. Round off the dough and let it sit for 30 minutes
4. Perform the second set of stretch and fold
5. The dough is slowly building strength
6. Let it sit for another 30 minutes
7. Continue the stretch and fold cycle to develop the dough
8. The dough after the final set of stretch and fold. now let it sit for bulk fermentation
9. Dough after bulk fermentation. Time to shape the dough
10. Dust the bench lightly with flour and turn the dough onto it
11. Pick one side of the dough and fold it to the center
12. Pick the other side and fold it to the center
13. Roll it to form a log
14. Place in a well-dusted banneton for cold fermentation
15. Flip the dough onto a baking sheet after cold fermentation
16. Score the dough using a blade or sharp knife
17. Place it carefully in the preheated dutch oven and put the dutch oven back into the oven
18. Initial bake with the lid on
19. Next, bake without the lid of the dutch oven. Then, let it cure in the turned-off oven
20. Cool it completely on a wire rack before slicing
Perfectly baked no-knead sourdough bread
How to make no-knead sourdough bread
MAKING THE DOUGH
STRETCH & FOLD
SHAPING THE DOUGH
BAKING THE SOURDOUGH BREAD