Heartlight Sour Dough Bread
This is the best recipe that I have found for making Sour Dough Bread. It is a method that I have developed over many years of much trial and error with ingredients, preparations etc. It is easy to bake a loaf a bread, a child with a Easybake oven can do that. To make Sourdough bread you rely on the artist in you to and why it is called artisan bread; it takes some time and effort, but you will be heartily rewarded. Sourdough does not mold, has a fantastic taste and delightful texture/crust, digested slowly and is tolerated well by gluten sensitives.
This bread is composed of three main ingredients flour, water and salt. You add a few 175-year-old bugs and you have a sourdough starter. There is no commercial yeast used in making this sourdough, it replicates a natural yeast called Candida milleri, and little baby microbes of bacterium called Lactobacillus sanfranciscensis that have survived since 1847. Wagon trains heading west carried and created sour dough starter across the country for making bread on the road. In that process they picked up bacterium strains from all parts of the country. Yeasts that were born in the wild west from wild winds and wild grains from across this land that took refuge on the flour bags in the Conestoga wagons creating this unique starter kept alive since 1847.
The most important ingredient that I not listed in the recipe is love. This bread recipe is infused with love; Love is patient; love is kind; all by design. To make good sourdough it must have this ingredient. One must be a nurturer, someone who needs you and knead them. One needs to be patient with the process and committed to caring for and feeding your starter on a regular basis to keep it healthy and vital. You need to use some or discard some once a week and then feed it and refrigerate. It still is active but slowed down. If it is in storage too long alcohol may form a thin layer on top, that means the bugs you need to be fed. The bugs eat simple sugars, they burp CO2 and shit alcohol; when swimming in their own shit, they stop burping… it is time shake it up, remove some and then feed. I either bake bread, make sour dough muffins, dry it out to send to friends for starter. I do not like to discard.
A baker’s dozen tips:
- Use unbleached “bread flour”, bread four has higher protein/gluten content
- Use some natural whole wheat flour for beneficial fiber, (it helps move the mail)
- Use a little Rye flour which helps to stimulate the starter
- Use natural unrefined sea salt with beneficial minerals and add salt at later step, it slows down the bugs replication initially.
- Use only un-chlorinated or bottled water or boil your water for 20 minutes, chlorine is bad mojo for bugs
- Use your oven with the light on and place resting dough and or levain in oven to double, keeps it about 80 degrees and no draft or bugs.
- Add some Potato flakes to the starter as friendly catalyst to encourage activity
- Mist the bread with water just prior to baking
- Preheated 500-degree oven
- Bake in Cast Iron Dutch Oven
- High Hydration water content (sticky dough); Dust with rice flour to prevent sticking to banneton
- Sharp razor for scoring
- Patience, it is a two-day process
- Activate sourdough starter.
- Autolyze: measure/weigh all ingredients (except salt) into a bowl. Mix well. Cover and rest dough for 2 hours.
- Bulk ferment: Add salt. Stretch and fold dough (with damp hands) every 45-60 minutes for 2-4 hours at room temperature. Keep dough covered.
- Pre-shape. Cover and rest the dough for 15 minutes on the bench.
- Final shape. Put dough into a floured banneton (or floured, cloth-lined bowl/tin). Cover dough with cloth. Cover with plastic and retard (refrigerate) for 8-12 hours (optional).
- If dough was refrigerated, bring to room temperature. Rise in banneton for 1-3 hours or until ready.
- Pre-heat oven, baking tray and roasting lid (or ceramic casserole dish including lid) for 1 hour before baking (500°F).
- Sprinkle the dough surface (base) with dusting flour. Turn out dough onto a sheet of baking paper. Spray lightly with water (if adding topping). Score bread. Spray lightly with water. Put bread in Dutch Oven with lid on. Bake at 500°F for 15 minutes (lid on).
- Uncover and Bake at 450°F for 15-30 minutes (lid off) until golden and cooked.
- Remove bread from the oven. Cool completely on a wire rack.
- Slice bread and serve.
- Store bread at room temperature (covered) or wrap and freeze (whole or sliced).
Step 1. Making the Levain (starter sponge)
The night before you make the levain, make sure to feed your sourdough starter. I usually add 1/3 cup bread flour, dash of rye and 1/3 cup water and mix it well.
¼ cup (40 grams) bread flour
¼ cup or (40 grams) wholegrain wheat flour
¼ cup (40 grams) sourdough
1/3 cup (80 grams) unchlorinated water
Mix all ingredients and put it into a tall see-through glass. Put an elastic band around the glass or mark the jar so you can monitor the growth of the levain
Cover the glass and put the levain somewhere warm. Preferably 77°F (in oven with light on is perfect)
When the levain has almost tripled go to the next step.
Autolyze ( hydrating flour)
3 ¾ cups (675 grams) bread flour
½ cup (150 grams) whole wheat flour
2 cups (575 grams) water (reserve 50 grams of water for adding salt later)
To do the autolyze all we need to do is mix water and flour
Measure out all the flour in a bowl and all the water except 50 grams that we reserve for mixing in the levain and salt later. Mix it but don’t knead, just get all flour hydrated
Cover the flour water mix and leave it until your levain has at least doubled in size.
Mix the dough
Put the levain on top of the dough. Spread the salt over the top and add the reserved 50 grams of water
Mix it all very thoroughly. I usually use my fingers and push the levain through the dough and do some light stretch and folds. I keep repeating until I feel like it’s been mixed very well
Cover the dough and leave it to rest 30 minutes somewhere warm
It’s time for the bulk fermentation. During the fermentation we develop the doughs gluten and get air into the dough. With this dough 3 stretch and folds are usually enough
Wet your hands so that the dough doesn’t stick to your fingers
Grab the size of the dough furthest away from you with both hands. Grab a hold and stretch the dough upwards if it can go without breaking. Then fold the dough down towards yourself
Turn the bowl 180 degrees (a half turn)
Do another stretch and fold
Turn the bowl 90 degrees (a quarter turn)
Do another stretch and fold
Lastly you should turn the bowl 180 degrees (a half turn)
Repeat the last stretch and fold
You have now stretched and folded the dough from all four sides. Leave the dough to rest somewhere warm, covered, for another 30 minutes
Repeat this process two times more
After the third stretch and fold, I will do a windowpane test. Lift and edge of the dough and stretch it with your fingers. You should be able to make a thin membrane without the dough breaking. Look at the video in the article
If the dough still is not strong enough to pass the test, I do a 4th stretch and fold and repeat the test. Do this up to the 5th and 6th stretch and fold.
After the last stretch and fold you should leave the dough until it’s grown by 20-50% (usually 1½ hours)
First we are shaping the dough to build a gluten membrane on the top of the dough. This will help the oven spring during baking
Pour the dough unto an unfloured table and divide it in half. Put a sprinkle of flour on top of both
Grab a lump of dough and flip it using your bench scraper so that the floured side is now on the table top
Grab the part of the dough that us the furthest away from you. Stretch it and fold down in front of you
Repeat with the part that is right in front of you. Grab the dough with both hands and stretch it and fold it away from you. Repeat with the right and left sides of the dough
In a swift motion invite the dough so that the part you previously floured is now turned up
Put your bench scraper behind the dough and pull it towards yourself. I hold the scraper in my right hand and I guide the dough with my left. The front of the dough should be pulled underneath, and the top of the dough should tighten
Now put the scraper in front of the dough and push it forward while twisting, so that the scraper ends up behind the dough. You can now repeat the process in the previous step
Repeat until you have a nice round and taut boule (ball). Pop any big bubbles you see on the surface
Repeat with the other lump of dough. Let them rest 15 minutes under a cloth
Prepare the bannetons
Make a mixture of half bread flour and half rice flour
Put a dish towel in the bannetons. If you don’t have one, you can absolutely use a bowl with parchment paper.
Put some of the flour mixture in a strainer and flour the bannetons. It’s better to use too much than too little
We do the final shaping to make sure the dough is super strong
Take a boule and sprinkle it very lightly with flour on the top
Flip it using your bench scraper so that the floured side is against the table
Repeat the process from the preshaping
When you have finished the shaping, grab the boule with your scraper and invert it into the banneton. The bottom should be up
Repeat with the other boule and place it in the banneton
Sprinkle the dough liberally with rice flour and put the bannetons into separate bags. Make sure you get some air in there so that the plastic does not get into contact with the dough
Place in the fridge overnight
Heat the oven – next morning
Place Dutch oven in oven as well to get piping hot.. Turn the oven to 500°F. If it doesn’t go that high, put it to maximum. Heat the oven for at least an hour. We want the Dutch oven to be completely warmed through
Baking the bread
Take a banneton out of the fridge and let rest covered for a few hours on the counter
Put a piece of baking paper on top of your peel and put it on top of the banneton
Turn it over and carefully lift the banneton off the dough
Slash the dough using a super sharp knife or razor
Open the oven and move the dough to the Dutch oven
Spray the top of your dough lightly with your spray bottle
Put on the lid and close the oven
Bake for 15 minutes
Remove the lid so the bread can get some color. Turn the oven down to 450°F. I usually bake for another 20-25 minutes for this bread or until internal temp is 190°F. I love it when the crust gets dark and crunchy.
Remove the bread from the oven and let it cool on a wire rack until it is COMPLETELY cooled off.
Turn the oven back up to /500°F. When it is hot, repeat the procedure for the other bread.
Watch master breadmaker Sune at the Danish Bread Geek website:,
Origin of starter and instructions to activate: