Pandemic Era Sourdough Loaf

Pandemic Era Sourdough Loaf  

This recipe make one large size loaf

(Recipe is modified loaf from Maurizio Leo , The Perfect Loaf, “Sourdough with AP flour”)

 This loaf is one of the millions of loaves made all over the world while the world is mostly shut down and we're all home baking. History books will make note #pandemic baking #bakinginthetimeofcovid #covidbaking as the moment non-celiac individuals rediscovered the wonders of gluten. 

·         You can make this loaf with all AP flour. We liked the texture and taste of this version with wheat and rye.

·          This loaf is made in a regular loaf pan with good results.  For photos showing the same bread baked in a covered Staub round Dutch oven, see the end of the posting. 

Don’t skip the steps, this is the procedure I use for almost all sour dough bread. It’s a combination of several baker’s techniques, and it almost always works (baking sourdough bread is mostly science, part art - sometimes dough it out of control).  The proofing times can be played with, you can slow down the proofing by placing in the fridge. Proofing can be sped up (but don't rush too much) by using a proofing boy or placing dough in a warm oven. Turn the oven onto 100 degrees, place dough in the oven and SHUT OFF THE OVEN.  Another way to use your oven as the proofing box is by turning on the light in the oven that is NOT turned on. The bulb will create a heat. If your oven has a proofing cycle, I would not recommend it for sour dough breads, I find the proofing to be too warm for sour dough.

In this time of flour shortages, make sure you have enough flour. 

The WHOLE RECIPE will use:

460 g flour  (I mix up the flour, you can use entirely all purpose)

340 g water

9 g Diamond Crystal kosher or sea salt (sea salt is no better than kosher salt. Don’t use Morton’s kosher  

      salt, the crystals are different size, the measurement will be wrong).

92 g sour dough starter (any starter, rye, wheat of combination works equally well)

½ tsp instant yeast

2-3 Tbsp wheat flour or corn meal or rye flour for dusting the pan (optional)



Large bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer

Scale , measuring spoons

A metal loaf pan (the large size)

                This loaf can be made in a smaller size (4 qt) round covered baker.

It is too small a loaf for the Lodge cast iron combo pan.  If using a covered baking pan, preheat

the pan in the oven and transfer on parchment into the pan.


1.       .Autolyze :

Measure off and combine in a bowl a beginning amount of water and flour.   

If you are going to work by hand, a big bowl will do, if you are going to use the kitchen aid, do this in the kitchen aid bowl.

a.       200 g water

b.       100 g  bread flour

c.       100 g rye flour

Mix with a spatula or spoon. Cover bowl with a very damp flat weave (not terrycloth) dishtowel and let rest 30 -60 minutes

2.        Add Sour Dough starter (you might see this step called “Biga” ):

a.       Stir in starter, cover with wet cloth, leave at room temperature 8-12 hours (overnight)

It will be puffy and wet – but not soupy.

3.       Add to aged starter mix:

a.       100 g water (you are holding back 40g of water until later)

b.       260 g bread flour

c.       ½ tsp yeast

You can either mix this in the kitchen aid , speed 2 for 2-3 min and then speed 4 for 3-4 minutes and let rest, covered, for 2 hours OR You can mix it in the bowl with a flexible scraper and then with very wet hands do a cycle of stretch and folds 4 x over 2 hours. You can slow down this process and place the dough in the fridge for up to 8-12 hours and more or less ignore. In this case, it will work more or less like a no knead bread. 

While it’s resting, you can use saran wrap to cover, or if the bowl is big and the dough will not touch the top, a wet towel will work. Don’t let the plastic or towel touch the dough (this is different than regular yeast doughs, where it won’t matter if the saran is touching the greasy dough).

4.     After 2 hours  (or have chilled in the fridge) you will see the dough almost double, but it’s still gloopy. You’re going to add the salt now and you will see the dough “seize up” and become more bread-dough like and stretchy. Salt improves stretchability, but it also steals water from the flour and yeast, so this is a technique of adding the salt after most of the proofing is done. 


Combine (mix with a spoon or your finger, you don’t need to have it totally dissolved)

a.       40 g  warm water

b.       9 g salt


5.       Stretch and fold the dough one full time around (it’s 4 stretch folds, moving the bowl around ¼ of the way until you’ve made a circle).  You can either let it rest in the bowl for 30 minutes or a better way of doing it is to: pour the dough out onto a floured surface and using your flexible scraper, slide the scrapper under one side of the dough, bring up toward the middle , continue around the bread, so that all around the bread you’ve folded it toward the center. This will increase the tension of the skin of the bread. This helps the dough to hold it's shape and will form a better crust.


6.       Using the scraper, place the dough in a metal loaf pan. Either grease/flour (you can use cornmeal or rice flour for this) OR you can line the pan with parchment paper and skip the grease /flour part.  Let rest until it gets puffy, 30-45 minutes.


7.       Seeding and Baking:

a.       While the bread is resting in the loaf pan, heat the oven to 450 degrees and place a pan (best to use a cast iron frying pan if you have one) filled with water onto the bottom shelf or oven floor. Be careful when you open the oven later on, there will be steam in the oven that will rush toward your face.

b.       When you are ready to place the dough in the oven, use a lame, razor or scissors and slice a few well spaced slits along the top of the bread. This helps with oven “spring” and will increase the rise of the bread. 

c.       Spritz the top of the dough liberally with room temperature water and sprinkle any seeds or combination of seeds, dried onion, za’atar on top.


8.       Be careful opening the oven (it is steamy !!!!).

a.       Place pan in the middle of the middle shelf of the oven , close the oven door

b.       Immediately lower the heat to 425 degrees, bake 20 minutes and DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN.

c.       Lower heat to 350 degrees and continue to bake for approximately 15- 20 minutes (check after 15 minutes).  I use the color of the bread to indicate doneness, if you want to use a thermometer, the inside of the center of the loaf should read 190- 195 degrees.

 Let the bread rest for 10 minutes when you remove it from the oven, and then turn it out of the pan. Cool on a rack. This will help it remain crusty.

Pictures below, same loaf made, unseeded, in a Staub covered baker. 


 If  you are looking for other sourdough breads, you can check by search terms. If you happen to have whole wheat flour (also at a premium right now) check out : Whole Wheat & Walnut Sourdough Bread


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