The problem with JavaScript developers is that they all bake bread. —Jenn Schiffer

About a year ago, I received a gift card to King Arthur Flour. My Twitter timeline had plenty of folks discussing bread-making, as it appeared to be en vouge among JavaScript developers for some reason.

I decided to try my hand at making some bread, and have made a loaf or two every week for the last year. This is my recipe for sourdough bread, along with plenty of tips I’ve learned in the process.

This recipe is based on the King Arthur Artisan Sourdough Bread Made With Stiff Starter. This make about enough bread for 2 people to have a slice for breakfast for 5 days. For us, this means breakfast.

The Steps

This recipe takes about 48 hours from start to finish. I recently received Flour Water Salt Yeast as a gift and realize this technique might be a bit weird.

I use the T- and T+ notation to indicate time before and time after you bake the bread. T-0 is the second you put the bread in the oven.

This recipe assume that you have a wet sourdough starter in the fridge. I started with the King Arthur Sourdough Starter about a year ago.

  1. T-48 hours: Remove liquid starter from the fridge. Feed it.
  2. T-36 hours: Create stiff starter
  3. T-24 hours: Initial mix, first proofing, refridgeration
  4. T-1 hour: Removal from fridge, prepare to bake
  5. T-0: Put bread in the oven
  6. T+30 minutes: Remove lid from dutch oven
  7. T+48 minutes: Turn off oven
  8. T+3 hours: Eat!

Let’s break down each step in depth and cover some of the steps.

T-48 hours: Wake up the starter

I keep my starter in the fridge throughout the week so that I don’t have to feed it daily. Keeping a starter in the fridge allows it to hibernate.

We need to wake it up out of its hibernation period. 48 hours before the bread goes in the oven, I remove the starter from the fridge and feed it. For me, this is Friday night when I come home from work.

To feed it, add equal parts flour and lukewarm water from the faucet. Leave it out on the kitchen counter overnight.

For my starter, this is usually about 70g of flour and 70g of water. I use all-purpose flour for the feeding.

T-36 hours: Create stiff starter

After experimenting a bit, I really like the level of sour that a stiff starter based recipe provides. 36 hours before the bread goes in the oven, it’s time to make the stiff starter.

For my stiff starer, I use equal parts liquid starter and flour by volume. This is usually about 1/2 cup of each. If doing equal parts by weight, you’ll need a bit more liquid starter than flour to achieve the correct consistency.

The best consistency is something that holds together but can have its seams smooshed together. This means you should be able to achieve a smooth surface on the entire mixture.

I usually end up with about a baseball-sized amount of stiff starter and put it in a 1-quart Pyrex, coating with a little olive oil before adding.

Leave this on the counter throughout the day. It will continue to rise and make a nice little dome.

T-24 hours: Mix it, proof it, fold it, chill it

Here is where I’ve been experimenting the most as of late, but I’ll cover my usual course here. I stick to the King Arthur recipe more or less.

This requires the following:

  • 470g of bread flour
  • 330g of room temperature water
  • 80g of stiff starter
  • ~5g of salt (usually just a little more than a teaspoon)

The mix is done as the following:

  1. Add the water to your bowl
  2. Tear up the stiff starter and add to the water. Mix a little bit to get the stiff starter to break down
  3. Add the flour
  4. Add the salt
  5. Mix a bit in the bowl, dump onto a surface to knead
  6. Knead for 2-4 minutes until the mixture begins to smooth out

Next, I let this rest for 30 minutes covered in plastic wrap.

After that time has passed, empty the contents of the bowl onto a surface to lightly knead a bit more. Then, add the bread to a lightly-oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise.

To do so, I put the bowl in the oven at ~100°F for 75 minutes.

After that, I will fold the bread once per hour another 2-3 times.

This step is the perfect thing to do while binge-watching something on Netflix or doing some chores around the house.

After folding it, add the bread to a lightly-floured brotform fold-side up and cover with plastic wrap. Put this in the fridge.

T-1 hour: Remove from fridge, prepare the oven

About an hour before beginning to bake, remove the bread from the oven. Immediately place in the dutch oven, fold side down. The bread will slowly come to room temperature.

I prefer the 24-hour refridgeration period because it lets a great sour flavor develop. I’ve found that if the bread is not covered in plastic wrap at each step of the way, the 24-hour wait time will cause the dough to dry out.

About 15 minutes before the bake is set to start, I preheat the oven to 450°F.

T-0: Put the bread in the oven

Before putting the bread in the oven, I’ll do 2 things.

  1. Add moisture to the dutch oven
  2. Cut the loaf using a lame

To add moisture, fill a spray bottle with water and spray into the dutch oven liberally.

Then, use the lame to make a simple cross pattern in the top of the loaf.

From there, add the cover to the top of the dutch oven and put in the center of the oven. Set a timer for 30 minutes.

T+30 minutes: Remove lid of the dutch oven

At exactly 30 minutes, it’s time to remove the lid from the dutch oven. When removing the lid, you should see a bread that has risen substantially but looks underdone.

After removing the lid, throw it back in the oven. Set a timer for 18 minutes.

T+48 minutes: Turn the oven off

After 18 minutes or so, I’ll turn the oven off. At this point, the bread is technically done but we’ll want to wait a bit longer.

I prefer the crust to maintain a crispness. The best thing I’ve found to allow for that is to let the bread slowly come back down to room temperature. Removing it from the oven cools the bread too quickly, so I just leave it in the oven with the door cracked.

Set a timer for 3 hours or so.

T+3 hours: Eat!

After having cooled for about 3 hours and come back down to room temperature, the bread will be ready to eat. If done correctly, you’ll have a crisp crust with a nice open crumb and a pungent sour taste.