Artisan Sourdough Made Simple (Bread Recipe for Beginners)

This artisan sourdough made simple is a bread recipe perfect for keeping a homemade loaf on hand. With a developed sourdough taste, a soft crumb, and the perfect crust, you’ll be surprised it was made at home!

Unlike most hydrated sourdough bread recipes, this one is broken down into simple steps, making it perfect for beginners. It contains only 15 minutes of hands-on time!

pinterest pin for bread
Source: Plum Branch Home

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When baking artisan sourdough bread loaves, it’s important to remember some loaves won’t turn out perfect. Sometimes your starter will be less hydrated, or the dough doesn’t ferment enough, or even the oven temperatures drop without you knowing.

These things aren’t necessarily problems but rather circumstances that happen when baking with sourdough. It’s both an art form and a science so don’t beat yourself up when things aren’t perfect. I still have occasional weird loaves but, you know what they still taste amazing!

Recipe Inspiration

I started my sourdough starter at the beginning of January 2023. Since then I’ve developed many sourdough bread loaves for the blog such as a no-knead loaf, a cinnamon raisin loaf, and a seeded whole wheat loaf. They’re all fantastic but I wanted a simple artisan loaf to add to the list.

The inspiration behind this bread was to create a simple recipe that tasted like it was made in a bakery. After a little research, trial and error, and a whole lot of testing, this loaf has become our go-to! I’ve continually baked this recipe over and over again, it’s that dang good.

loaf of artisan bread
Source: Plum Branch Home

What is Artisan Sourdough Bread

Artisan sourdough bread is simply homemade bread made with a sourdough starter instead of yeast. It’s usually shaped into a boule, round shape, and baked in a Dutch oven or bread cloche. Baking in either of these vessels gives the loaves that artisan flair: a soft crumb and a developed crust.

Health Benefits of Sourdough Bread

  • High-quality ingredients to protect your body from harmful dough conditioners and additives
  • Natural fermentation of the sourdough cultures adds gut health benefits to each loaf
  • Doesn’t spike blood glucose, or sugar levels, like regular bread because of the fermentation
  • Contains healthy carbohydrates to feed your brain unlike regular bread
  • May improve digestive health, lower disease risk, and promote healthy aging
loaf of bread with slices in a tin
Source: Plum Branch Home

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

  • Simple steps make this recipe easy to understand
  • Only 4 ingredients are needed
  • The amount of hands-on time is a total of 15 minutes
  • Tastes wonderful every time you make it

Artisan Sourdough Bread Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup fed sourdough starter (feed starter 4-12 hours before using)
  • 1 1/2 cup slightly warm or room temperature water (not hot and ensure it is filtered, not city water)
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 3 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (I recommend using organic)

How to Feed a Sourdough Starter

Feed your sourdough starter 4-12 hours before using it. To feed it use a 3 parts flour to 1 part water ratio. For example if you feed your starter 1/2 cup flour, you’ll want to add 2.5 Tbsp water. Or if you feed it 1 cup of flour, add 1/3 cup water.

Things To Avoid With The Ingredients

Never use bleached flour or city water that’s not filtered. Both of these items can kill your sourdough starter which will cause bread not to rise. Also never use hot water or cold water, it needs to be room temp or slightly warmed to protect the sourdough cultures.

Helpful Sourdough Baking Tools for This Recipe

For baking tool substitutes and an explanation of how to use each of these listed above, checkout the blog post a Complete List of Sourdough Baking Supplies You Need

How to Make Artisan Sourdough Bread Recipe

  1. In a large bowl, combine sourdough starter, water, salt, and flour. Mix with a bread whisk or your hands until it forms a dough.
  2. Your dough should be slightly sticky. If it’s too dry, add 1/4 cup more water; if it’s too wet, add 1/4 cup more flour.
  3. Cover the dough with a kitchen towel and let it sit on the counter for 30 minutes.

Stretch and Fold

  1. After 30 minutes, it’s time to stretch and fold the dough. Pull a section of the dough upward, give it a little shake as you go, fold it down into the center, and press down. Do this all the way around for 1-2 circles to develop gluten in the dough.
  2. Recover the dough and let it sit for another 30 minutes.
  3. Then do another round of stretch and fold.

Bulk Ferment

  1. Cover the dough and let it bulk ferment on the counter for 6-7 hours or until it doubles in size. Don’t let it over ferment.

Shape Dough

  1. After the bulk ferment is done, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. The dough should still be slightly sticky.
  2. Shape the dough by stretching it out into a medium/large rectangle. Fold the dough in half horizontally (shorter sides together), then fold it vertically (longer sides together). Finally, take both ends of the dough log and press them together, creating a ball shape with a seam at the bottom.
  3. Place the dough ball seam side up into a clean bowl or proofing rattan and cover.

Cold Ferment (Overnight)

  1. Put the dough in the fridge for 12 hours. To check if it’s ready to bake, do a poke test: gently press a finger into the dough. If it bounces back almost all the way but not fully, it’s ready. If it doesn’t bounce back at all, it’s under proofed and needs more time in the fridge. If it bounces back all the way, it’s over proofed and should be baked ASAP.

Bake Bread

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees with the Dutch oven or bread cloche inside.
  2. After preheating, turn the dough out seam side down into the baking vessel. Use a bread razor or knife to make a cut design on top.
  3. Bake covered for 35 minutes.
  4. Uncover and bake for an additional 15 minutes to develop the crust.

Note: If you don’t have a Dutch oven or bread cloche, bake for 50 minutes, covering the bread if it gets too dark. Keep in mind that you won’t get the same crust without a Dutch oven or bread cloche.

how to stretch and fold sourdough bread dough
Source: Plum Branch Home

Stretch and Fold Dough Infographic

This infographic above is showing you the steps of a sourdough stretch and fold technique through imagery. I’ve created this to give you a visual when making this recipe. It’s super simple to do!

Sourdough Dough Poke Test

I’ve also included these photos to demonstrate a dough poke test to test proofing.

Ready To Bake: Gently press a finger into the dough. If it bounces back almost all the way but not fully, it’s ready.

Under Proofed: If it doesn’t bounce back at all, it’s under proofed and needs more time in the fridge.

Over Proofed: If it bounces back all the way, it’s over proofed and should be baked ASAP.

Tips for the Best Artisan Sourdough Bread Loaf

  • Don’t skip a step of this recipe or rush any part of the process
  • Check out the sourdough sample baking timeline below to help you plan your bake ahead of time
  • Always do the poke test before baking
  • Don’t knead this bread dough
  • Feed your sourdough starter 4-12 hours before using
loaf of sourdough bread
Source: Plum Branch Home

Example Baking Timeline

Saturday

  • 10:30 a.m. = make dough
  • 11 a.m. = 1st stretch and fold
  • 11:30 a.m. = 2nd stretch and fold
  • 11:35 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. = bulk ferment
  • 5:30 p.m. = shape dough
  • Saturday 5:35 p.m. to Sunday 7:30 a.m. = cold ferment

Sunday

  • 7:20 a.m. = preheat oven with baking vessel inside
  • 7:30 a.m. = bake covered 35 mins
  • 8:05 a.m. = bake uncovered 15 mins
  • 8:20 a.m. = remove from oven and let cool before enjoying

Artisan Sourdough Bread Storage

Store bread for 4-5 days at room temperature in a bread box with ventilation. For longer lasting bread, store in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 7 days. If you want to freeze baked bread, package it in an air-tight bag or container and freeze for up to 3 months.

Recipe FAQ

  • How long will sourdough bread keep? In a ventilated bread box it will keep for 4-5 days at room temperature or up to 7 days in the fridge.
  • How to know when my sourdough starter is ready to use? Just feed it 4-12 hours before using and it will be good to go.
  • What is artisan bread? Artisan bread is bread that contains sourdough starter instead of commercial yeast.
  • Can I use different flours in this recipe? I haven’t tried different flours with this recipe but I’m sure you can. Just know different flours call for different ingredient ratios. If you’re looking to use whole wheat flour, try this recipe: Simple Seeded Sourdough Whole Wheat Bread
  • How do I get the crispy crust on my bread? You’ll need a Dutch oven or bread cloche do achieve the sourdough crust.
  • The bottom of my loaf burnt, what happened? Next time you bake a loaf you can either move your oven rack up one notch or sit your baking vessel on a cookie sheet while baking to protect the bottom from burning.
  • Is sourdough bread healthy? Yes! Sourdough bread is one of the healthiest options due to natural fermentation.

More Sourdough Recipes To Try

Recommended Recipes

I love hearing how much you love PBH recipes, be sure to leave a review below! 😊

loaf of artisan bread

Artisan Sourdough Bread Recipe

Molly LaFontaine of Plum Branch Home
This artisan sourdough bread recipe is perfect for keeping a homemade loaf on hand. With a developed sourdough taste, a soft crumb, and the perfect crust, you'll be surprised it was made at home!
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Bulk + Cold Ferment 18 hours
Total Time 19 hours 5 minutes
Course Bread
Cuisine Sourdough
Servings 1 Loaf

Equipment

  • Large glass bowl
  • Kitchen Towel
  • Bread Whisk
  • bread lame
  • proofing bowl
  • Dutch Oven or Bread Cloche

Ingredients
  

  • 1/2 cup fed sourdough starter (feed starter 4-12 hours before using)
  • 1 1/2 cup slightly warm or room temperature water (not hot and ensure it is filtered, not city water)
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 3 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (I recommend using organic)

Instructions
 

  • In a large bowl, combine sourdough starter, water, salt, and flour. Mix with a bread whisk or your hands until it forms a dough.
  • Your dough should be slightly sticky. If it’s too dry, add 1/4 cup more water; if it’s too wet, add 1/4 cup more flour.
  • Cover the dough with a kitchen towel and let it sit on the counter for 30 minutes.

Stretch and Fold

  • After 30 minutes, it’s time to stretch and fold the dough. Pull a section of the dough upward, give it a little shake as you go, fold it down into the center, and press down. Do this all the way around for 1-2 circles to develop gluten in the dough.
  • Recover the dough and let it sit for another 30 minutes.
  • Then do another round of stretch and fold.

Bulk Ferment

  • Cover the dough and let it bulk ferment on the counter for 6-7 hours or until it doubles in size. Don’t let it overferment.

Shape Dough

  • After the bulk ferment is done, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. The dough should still be slightly sticky.
  • Shape the dough by stretching it out into a medium/large rectangle. Fold the dough in half horizontally (shorter sides together), then fold it vertically (longer sides together). Finally, take both ends of the dough log and press them together, creating a ball shape with a seam at the bottom.
  • Place the dough ball seam side up into a clean bowl or proofing rattan and cover.

Cold Ferment (Overnight)

  • Put the dough in the fridge for 12 hours. To check if it’s ready to bake, do a poke test: gently press a finger into the dough. If it bounces back almost all the way but not fully, it’s ready. If it doesn’t bounce back at all, it’s under proofed and needs more time in the fridge. If it bounces back all the way, it’s over proofed and should be baked ASAP.

Bake Bread

  • Preheat the oven to 425 degrees with the Dutch oven or bread cloche inside.
  • After preheating, turn the dough out seam-side down into the baking vessel. Score the top of the bread using a bread lame or knife to make a cut design on top.
  • Bake covered for 35 minutes.
  • Uncover and bake for an additional 15 minutes to develop the crust.
  • If you don't have a Dutch oven or bread cloche, bake for 50 minutes, covering the bread if it gets too dark. Keep in mind that you won't get the same crust without a Dutch oven or bread cloche.

Notes

Example Baking Timeline
Saturday
  • 10:30 a.m. = make dough
  • 11 a.m. = 1st stretch and fold
  • 11:30 a.m. = 2nd stretch and fold
  • 11:35 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. = bulk ferment
  • 5:30 p.m. = shape dough
  • Saturday 5:35 p.m. to Sunday 7:30 a.m. = cold ferment
Sunday
  • 7:20 a.m. = preheat oven with baking vessel inside
  • 7:30 a.m. = bake covered 35 mins
  • 8:05 a.m. = bake uncovered 15 mins
  • 8:20 a.m. = remove from oven and let cool before enjoying
Keyword artisan sourdough bread, artisan sourdough bread recipe, plum branch home artisan sourdough bread

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Recipe Rating




2 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Great recipe, crunchy on the outside but soft inside!! Easy recipe and worth the wait for the cold ferment over night for homemade bread.

    I don’t have a Dutch oven or bread cloche.
    I covered the bread up with tinfoil towards the end of baking so it wouldn’t get to brown.

    PBH thanks for the tips, notes and timeline of the recipe!! I love those about your recipes, they sure help a lot!!

    1. I am so happy to hear you love this bread recipe and enjoy those sections of my blog posts! Anything to help cut confusion and overwhelm with sourdough! Thank you for sharing that tip for anyone who doesn’t have a bread cloche or Dutch oven!!