Natural sourdough starter & Dutch Oven Sourdough Bread


Anyone who knows me knows that I am a HUGE fan of GREAT bread, and all things that involve home made artisan loaves. (This past summer I even started my own back yard bread oven.) Theres nothing quite like a loaf of bread made with a home grown sourdough starter. If you don’t have one you can choose from a variety of online retailers. There’s also places such as “carls starter” where for the price of postage you can get a 150 year old starter that has been kept active all these years! I have not gone this route, I myself opted to make one with my own pocono mountain yeasties!

This dutch oven bread mimics the usage of a wood fired oven to some extent, it allows the bread to steam slightly while developing a nice crispy crust but also allows for a tender crumb. If you don’t have a cast iron dutch oven (or clay oven) I imagine an enameled one would do fine. Here is what I did, and if you have your own starter it will go wonderfully in this dutch oven bread.

Sourdough Starter: (the mother dough)

  • 1 cup whole milk, buttermilk, whey or unflavored yogurt
  • 1 cup Unbleached flour, I have used Rye and Spelt but I prefer keeping my starter “white.” 

Thats it!- If your vegan or gluten intolerant you can prepare this with some variety of juice or water, vegetable starter cultures are also available. Gluten-Free Starters can be prepared using buckwheat, rice flour, tapioca starch or any other preferred gluten free flour.

Place flour and milk into a non metal bowl or crock, stir until somewhat combined. ( I use a vented variety of rubber ware that’s BPA free. You can find something just about anywhere but you do need something that is NOT air tight) If your not using a vented dish cover loosely with a cheese cloth or cling wrap etc. Your starter needs to breath, additionally, as the sugars ferment gas is created. You can make a jar explode if you are not careful.

Let the starter stand 3-5 days, stirring with a clean non metallic utensil every day or so. Once your mixture appears to be bubbly and has a sweet and sour “beer like” aroma you are ready to use it. If the mixture appears to have mold or smells sour discard and try again. I always refer to a bad ferment as a “dirty diaper” smell. If it does not smell sweet and crisp, it may not be in good shape.

-At this point your starter either needs to be fed regularly or refrigerated.

To Feed and replenish your starter you will remove the desired amount for each recipe and feed the starter by stirring in equal parts of water and flour, stir until somewhat combined and allow to rise at room temperature 4-6 hours or over night. I highly recommend really experimenting to see what recipe suits you best. This link to King Arthur Flours starter troubleshooting might prove to be very helpful, while I think their “mother starter” recipe is kind of blah, they’re troubleshooting and tips on feeding is very helpful.

Dutch Oven Sourdough Bread
  • 3/4 to 1 cup sourdough starter
  • 1 cup warm, clean water (1oo-115 degrees, filtered of chemicals and flouride if you have public water)
  • 3 to 4 cups unbleached flour (substitute 1 cup spelt , kamut or rye as desired)
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt

In a bowl combine sourdough starter and warm water. Stir until combined and slowly stir in flour and salt. Be sure not to add too much flour, you may need more or less depending on the consistency of your starter, you may add flour as KNEADED. (pun intended)

Knead the dough on a VERY lightly floured surface, approximately 10 minutes. The dough will appear much smoother and almost elastic. Place bowl into a lightly greased bowl, cover loosely with a clean dish towel or cling wrap and allow to rise until its doubled in bulk. Sourdough takes longer than store bought yeast, but its worth the wait. (The slow rise also is what gives you a more interesting flavor) I live in a fairly cold climate so mine takes quite a long time, if your in a warmer climate it may not take much more than an hour. (Resting your dough overnight, covered at room temperature is recommended.)

Once your dough has roughly doubled punch down and shape into a ball, pinching the bottom shut almost by pulling all corners inward and twisting both the bottom and the top in opposite directions. (Your making a classic Boule) dust a cloth or parchment liberally with flour. Place the bread on the floured towel an additional 45 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Place dutch oven or desired vessel into the oven to preheat as well.

When your ready to bake your bread Place it quickly but gently onto a piece of parchment paper, you can slash the smooth side of your bread or you can just place the bread into your oven seam side upwards. Either way it will taste the same. Place your boule and parchment into the dutch oven. Slightly dampen the lid of your dutch oven and close.

Bake for 20 minutes with the lid on, then remove the lid and bake for an additional 20-25.

When the crust is your desired color remove from the oven and allow to cool. It will be tempting I assure you but sit back and listen to the crackling crust in the mean time. Allowing the flavors to marry will be well worth the wait!

Why Sourdough? Sourdough bread is a traditional, nourishing food. Proper preparation and soaking of grains insures that phytic acid does not inhibit mineral absorption. When grains, beans and nuts are soaked, sprouted or slowly fermented more vitamins and minerals are available. Sourdough bread is great tasting, the slow fermentation creates a more tender crumb and an interesting sweet and sour flavor.

No-Knead Variation : I have really gotten used to this basic sourdough recipe for just about everything. I make this dough for flat breads, pizza, pita and rustic loaves that are perfect for serving alongside soups and stews. I will prepare a double batch and refrigerate it for use throughout a week. Rustic no knead loaves are perfect for holiday stuffing, and Bread Pudding. A wetter dough will create more air pockets and a moister, more tender crumb, a kneaded bread will create a more dense and chewy loaf. For a no knead loaf you can simply mix flour into your wet ingredients until it begins to ball up with a spoon. Add just enough flour to make a dense batter. This dough can be refrigerated for up to one week, It is easiest to shape the bread while it is still cold. Pull one pound of dough at a time and place it on a floured or oiled surface for shaping. (into a boule as described above) If you have a silicone mold it can just be poured into it and baked.

I hope this was a helpful tutorial and introduction to the traditional and wonderful world of sourdough! Enjoy!

This video by Peter Reinhart is especially useful for beginners wanting to know how to shape a boule.

One thought on “Natural sourdough starter & Dutch Oven Sourdough Bread

  1. Valerie
    August 15, 2017 at 3:15 pm

    Do you let it cool in the dutch oven or on a cooling rack?