My Best Sourdough Recipe

I’ve baked this loaf, or a variant of it, so many times I’ve lost count. This bread was born when I first got my hands dirty with flour & water. Its parent, if you could call it that, was Chad Robertson’s Tartine loaf with his liquid levain and mix of whole & white wheat that is brought to life not with intensive kneading, but rather a series of folds during bulk fermentation. It’s grown since then and has developed a personality of its own as I’ve expanded my baking repertoire and investigated the many facets of baking naturally leavened sourdough. It’s taken on, and lost, traits from many of the great bakers out there, borrowing from their inspiration and giving me direction to raise this bread into something of my own. A bread that doesn’t entirely taste like anything else I’ve had, and yet, still employs many of the same processes and ingredients. That’s one of the greatest things about bread: it can taste and look dramatically different just by changing the two hands that create it. Calling this post “my best sourdough recipe” is a lofty claim, but honestly, I do believe this is the best bread I’ve made thus far.

Yes it’s excessive in some way, but there’s an excessiveness to ambition as wellJohn Mayer

I sometimes revisit a discussion I had with a few readers of this site and their comments: “bread is just bread, it’s something to be eaten and is something life-giving, isn’t that enough?” I do agree with this, but when something becomes (in my case, unexpectedly) a passion for you, it’s important to set lofty goals and get excited when breakthroughs are made. Isn’t that really the definition of a craft and the relentless honing required? I’ve taken this bread, real bread, from its most nascent form all the way to its current stage and can trace through the years each change to its formula or process — and I’m sure I’ll be changing things well into the future as it continues to evolve — a work-in-progress. Maybe the actual recipe for this bread isn’t the most important part, but rather, the lessons and insights learned along the way as I continually hone my baking proficiency.My Best Sourdough RecipeI’m not claiming this recipe will yield the perfect loaf every single time, but I dare say it comes the closest for me — and that’s exciting. This is the bread that I want to make the most often, the one my family asks for the most often and the one I share most often. I have a special place for whole wheat bread, and taste-wise it might make me want to call that my favorite one day, but the versatility of this bread cannot be beaten. I use it for breakfast with eggs, a brisket and BBQ sandwich for lunch, a bowl of soup on a cold, windy day, and simply torn and on the plate accompanying dinner (this bread also makes incredible croutons, bread crumbs and stuffing/dressing). I bake this so often that my freezer has an entire shelf lined with pre-sliced loaves wrapped and in bags labeled pane perfetto1.

While the actual formula is simply a mix of flour, water, salt and levain, there are many nuances here to pay close attention to, here are a few key things to successfully making this bread:

  1. An active starter
  2. A long-ish autolyse
  3. A high hydration
  4. Sufficient dough strength
  5. Warm bulk fermentation
  6. A long, cold proof

Before writing this I pulled out my trusty Moleskine notebook and paged through the handwritten (and flour-ridden) pages to find any scribbled “ah-ha” moments or little notes jotted down in the margin, along with a few curse words peppered throughout, and have bundled them up into this entry (sans curse words to keep it clean). A compendium of sorts containing my insights, breakthroughs and ah-ha best sourdough recipe moleskine notesThis recipe doesn’t require an exotic blend of hard-to-find flour, a complicated multi-step levain build, or the use of a mechanical mixer. It’s built around making this bread in your home kitchen, just like I do at least once every week.

With that said, the high hydration can be challenging to work with and requires practice. The pre-shape and shape phases can draw out a curse word here and there, and maybe even the desire to raise your hands in the air and sprinkle the dough with choice words like an old Italian grandmother (I have memories of this!). Feel free to adjust the hydration to suit your environment and flour, though, because as we know each bag of flour can be different. If you’re not accustom to working with high hydration dough, please start out somewhere in the middle and slowly work up. If you try to jump in the deep end you might get frustrated and give up altogether.Pane PerfettoWas that a couple paragraphs of doom & gloom or what?! Ok hopefully I didn’t discourage anyone, let’s get started.

Flour Selection

I’ve tried a lot of flour out there, certainly not everything there is but I’ve ordered enough now that the UPS guy thinks I might have a bakery in my backyard. I have baked some memorable bread with Hayden Mills grain & flour (including this wonderful white Sonora Sourdough bread), Central Milling and Giusto’s. Early on I’ve also had great success with some King Arthur varieties (specifically their bread flour when I need a bit of extra strength in my dough). But time and time again I turn to my two favorites: Central Milling Type 70 and Giusto’s Artisan Bread Flour. I like CM’s T70 so much, not only because it’s organic, but also because of the performance and taste. I’ve made some of the best loaves with this flour, I love its strength, enzymatic activity and it coaxes out the most beautifully colored crust. It is a very versatile flour, I’ve used it in everything from sourdough bread to waffles to banana bread and it just tastes delicious each time.

But at the same time Giusto’s Artisan Bread flour calls to me. I have consistently made incredible loaves with their flour, I only wish it was organic. Nevertheless, I find myself ordering a box of it here and there and enjoy the results every time.Giusto's Flour - Artisan Bread Flour and Organic Whole WheatOf course, as I mentioned before, try whatever is local first (sadly my source for good quality, organic flour is no longer) and what you like. It might require a little tweaking of this formula (specifically hydration) but I know you’re up to the task. When trying new flour remember to hold back more water than you might otherwise, and then slowly add it in at the end of mixing or throughout bulk fermentation.

If you’re brand new to baking sourdough, you might want to first check out my Beginner’s Sourdough recipe, it has longer in-depth explanations on every step in the baking process!

My Best Sourdough Recipe


Total dough weight: 1800g
Total pre-fermented flour: 6.4%
Hydration: 87%
Yield: 2 x 900g loaves

If you want to halve this recipe just take all ingredients and divide by 2 (I’d recommend keeping the levain build quantities the same, though, it’s already quite small. I’m referring to the actual build here, we will still divide the final amount of levain added to the final mix in half).

Levain Build

Weight Ingredient Baker’s Percentage
35g Mature liquid starter (100% hydration) 50%
35g Giusto’s Stoneground Whole Wheat 50%
35g Giusto’s Artisan Bread Flour 50%
70g H2O @ room temperature 100%

Dough Formula

Note that the baker’s percentages listed below are with respect to the final dough ingredients and do not take into account the levain.

Target final dough temperature (FDT) is 78ºF. This dough loves a nice warm ambient environment. Try to keep the dough at the listed temperatures if possible, use your oven with a light on inside, your microwave with a bowl of steaming water, or a proofer. I keep my ambient thermometer near my dough and also use my instant read thermometer to check the dough temperature periodically throughout bulk.

Weight Ingredient Baker’s Percentage
804g Giusto’s Artisan Bread Flour 91.67%
73g Giusto’s Organic Stoneground Whole Wheat 8.33%
755g H2O @ 90ºF 86.11%
18g Fine sea salt 2.03%
150g Mature, liquid levain 17.09%


My method below employs a few subtle changes from previous recipes here on my site. I typically try to avoid adding photos here so the recipe is clean and concise, but in this case I want to show the dough as it’s developing so you get an idea of how it should look at various points throughout.

1. Levain – 9:00 a.m.

Build the liquid levain in the morning and store somewhere warm around 77-80ºF ambient for 5-6 hours. Alternatively, you can build your levain in the evening the night before and leave out at cooler, room temperatures (around 72ºF) and it should be ready in 10-12 hours.

If you haven’t yet read through my last post on my sourdough starter maintenance routine, check it out for some helpful hints on when to use your levain.sourdough levain (leaven)

2. Autolyse – 12:30 p.m.

Mix flour and water (reserve 50g water for mix, later) very well in a bowl and cover. Ensure all dry flour is hydrated. Store near levain (we want the temperature of the dough to remain warm).

3. Mix, Step 1 – 2:00 p.m.

Note that I split the mixing phase into two steps.

For the first step scoop out the required amount of levain on top of your autolysed (is that even a word?) dough and using about 30g of the reserved water hand-mix the levain into the dough so it’s incorporated very well.

Let fermentation get a head start: incorporate the levain & wait 30m before adding salt

Wait 30 minutes before adding the salt in Step 2. Salt slows the pace of fermentation, giving your levain just 30 minutes before adding salt you will notice quite a bit more activity through bulk2.

4. Mix, Step 2 – 2:30 p.m.

30 minutes later spread the salt on top of the dough and use the remaining water to help dissolve. If your dough is already extremely wet, and you’re getting worried, you don’t have to use all the remaining water. Just spread it out and mix well with your hand, the dough is wet enough already to work the salt thoroughly.

This dough does not require intensive mechanical mixing, in fact, we want to under-develop at mix time and build strength during bulk through fermentation and several sets of stretch and folds. After the salt is incorporated perform folds for about 2-3 minutes in the bowl. Grab under one side, pull up and over to the other side, then rotate the bowl a bit and repeat. I do this probably 30 times or so (it goes fast and easy). At the end the dough should still be shaggy, but it will be a little more smooth and will slightly start to hold itself together more in the bowl.
Sourdough at Beginning of BulkIf you’re a fan of the slap & fold mixing technique I’ve described in the past, you can do this but be aware that at this hydration it is difficult. If you’re up to the challenge (I do it occasionally) dump the dough out and slap/fold for a maximum of 3 minutes until the dough starts to slightly hold its shape on the counter. You won’t get a super smooth dough, even with slap/fold.

I find that the correct strength level of the dough at this point is important. You want the dough to be just a little smooth after mixing, but not well developed. I know those are general terms, but try to remain observant of how the dough looks when you are done mixing and how it looks when you are done with bulk fermentation (take note of how my dough looks through this post). If you find that by the end of bulk you can’t get the dough smooth & strong enough, next time mix a little bit longer to develop the dough a bit more before you start bulk. Alternatively you could add another set of stretch/fold’s in bulk3.

Transfer dough to a tub or thick-walled bowl for bulk fermentation.

5. Bulk Fermentation – 2:45 p.m.

At 78-82ºF ambient temperature bulk fermentation should go for about 4 hours. Perform 6 sets of stretch and folds during bulk. The first three are at 15 minute intervals, and the last 3 are at 30 minute intervals. After these folds (2 hours and 15 minutes have gone by) let the dough rest for the remainder of your bulk fermentation (1 hour and 45 minutes).

I stretch and fold more vigorously at the beginning of bulk than normal since the dough is extremely slack and extensible (due to the high hydration of this recipe). Pick up one side of the dough with both hands and really pull it up, just before tearing, and fold it over to the other side. Rotate your container and repeat 4 or 5 times. That is one set.Bulk fermentation after first stretch and fold

Below you can see my dough halfway through bulk, after about 2 hours. No significant rise as of yet, but  the edges are beginning to dome and the texture of the dough is smoothing out slightly. We still have several more folds to do and more strength to build.
Bulk fermentation after third stretch and foldIt is important that the dough be kept near 80ºF as much as possible (minor fluctuations up and down are ok). If temperatures dip down too far you might have to extend the duration of bulk fermentation to compensate, and vice versa. Use your judgement, the signs described below, and be flexible.

At the end of bulk your dough should look very gassy, some bubbles here and there and the edges where the dough meets the bowl should be slightly domed. You can see all these signs in the image below. When the bowl is shaken the entire mass jiggles from side to side — very alive. You’ll also notice that compared with the photo at the beginning of bulk, the dough is smoother and holds its edges, folds and creases more readily (most of the bumps and ridges you see are due to trapped gasses from fermentation).Sourdough End of Bulk

6. Divide & Preshape – 6:45 p.m.

Divide the dough into two masses, each scaled at 900 grams (essentially the dough mass in half). Lightly shape each mass into a round, cover with inverted bowl or moist towel, and let rest for 20 minutes. Act quick when dealing with this dough and rely heavily on your bench knife. I try to use my hands as little as possible when dealing with the dough at this point.

Let the dough rest 5 minutes exposed to air before shaping

After 20 minutes remove the towel or bowl and let the dough rest 5 more minutes exposed to air. That’s probably the first time you’ve heard that. I find this small step to helps dry out the dough just a bit so it’s not such a sticky mess when you perform that tricky scoop-and-flip before shaping.

7. Shape – 7:05 p.m.

Lightly flour the top of your dough rounds and flour the work surface. With this recipe use a little more flour on the surface than normal, the dough will be extremely sticky and wet. Flip each round and shape into a batard (see notes below) or boule, whatever your preference.Sourdough ShapingSourdough Shaping

I prefer to shape these as batards and my shaping method is as follows:

  1. Flip pre-shaped round
  2. Fold bottom up to about half way
  3. Fold left side over to about 3/4 to the right
  4. Fold right side over to cover left
  5. Stretch top up & away from center and fold down to about half (you’ll now have a “letter”)
  6. Grab a little of the dough at the sides near the top and stretch it over the center so the dough crosses. Imagine lacing up a shoe where you first grab your laces and cross them over
  7. Repeat 3 times from top to bottom (the result will look like a laced up shoe)
  8. Take the bottom and gently roll the dough up to the top and try to seal it slightly when done rolling

Here is a video of Chad Robertson shaping (I’ll have a video up one day!). He does things a bit differently but overall I use the same process.

After shaping, let rest on the bench for a few minutes and then place into a banneton that was lightly dusted with white rice flour. You’ll see below my bannetons give the dough plenty of room to relax and expand in the fridge overnight. While this dough doesn’t rise quite as much as when I use Central Milling’s T70 flour, you still want the loaf to have plenty of room. If your proofing container is on the small side, and you find your dough almost spilling over the edges, it might be time for a larger basket.Bannetons

8. Rest & Proof – 7:25 p.m.

Cover your banneton with plastic and let the dough rest on the counter for 20 minutes. Then, retard in the refrigerator at 38ºF for 15-16 hours.

9. Bake – Next Morning: Preheat oven at 9:00 a.m., Bake at 10:30 a.m.

Preheat oven for 1.5 hours at 500ºF. Bake 20 minutes at 500ºF with steam, and an additional 25-35 minutes at 450ºF, until done to your liking. I like to bake rather dark so I sometimes extend this second half of baking until I get the crust I’m looking for.

I scored this dough with a single, long slash to get that dramatic opening when baked. I keep the blade at a fairly shallow angle so the taut skin created during shaping will “peel” back as the loaf rises.Scoring SourdoughI steamed my oven in my usual way, described here in my post on how to steam your home oven for baking.


It’s hard to put into words just how much I enjoy this bread. I bake this recipe almost every week (sometimes multiple times if baking for friends & family) and yet every time I pull it from the oven I just smile. The color of the crust, the open and light interior, only the tinniest perception of sour notes and the way it crunches when toasted. I could go on and on.theperfectloaf-mybestsourdoughrecipe-3The photos to follow are the results of scattered recent bakes that all followed this process exactly and have a  similar-but-not-exact outcome. You’ll notice some are a bit darker, some have more or less flour on them, some expand differently in the oven and some are taller & some are shorter — that’s the nature of baking, every single bake is different no matter how consistent you try to be. It’s the same with my Dad and his Italian restaurant, and the reason I’ll sometimes get a call in the middle of the afternoon: “hey the pizza dough is incredible today, you should head over and grab some.”


As a kid I was known to take slices of bread, cut out the center and just eat the crust. It used to piss my family off because they’d reach into the bread basket only to find slices of only the soft parts. That’s how much I love the crust! Can you blame me, though?My Best Sourdough Recipe Crust

I absolutely do enjoy bread that has a chunky, chewy crust but for me this bread with its delicate and cracker-like crust takes the top spot. Even though I bake these rather dark, the crust remains thin and brittle, crackling under the slightest pressure. I love using the “heel” (the very end) of this bread as a basin for soup or simply hefty slices of cheese. It’s delicious.


I think there’s a balance to be had with bread like this. It’s possible to let the crumb open up too much, but for me this is just right. Scattered open areas with that translucent webbing spanning from wall-to-wall, a dynamic movement to these areas that almost show you how shaping was carried out.Sourdough Crumb


This bread has an almost imperceptible hint of sour and because of this, the wheat flavors from the flour really come forward. It has an extremely tender, soft crumb that almost dissolves in your mouth. It’s one of those rare foods where upon taking that first bite your mouth begins to water.ShunI think in the end bread really is just bread, the staff of life throughout history, but it’s also the sum of what you personally put into it. It’s how it makes you feel when you give some to a friend and they grin ear-to-ear as they take a big bite. It’s the knowledge that you created this thing over the course of a few days that once was a lump on your counter and is now a shiny, incredible smelling piece of food meant to be shared. To me this is real bread and my best sourdough recipe (and with this bread you’ll even find me devouring more than just the crust!).

Buon appetito and have a wonderful holiday season!Sourdough Sliced by ShunSourdough Crumb

P.S. Try this bread sliced thick and left out to really get crunchy overnight for some morning French toast — you will not be disappointed!

Recipe and method submitted to YeastSpotting.

  1. Thanks Margie for the name suggestion!

  2. A nice, wet, warm bowl of food for your levain provides the perfect conditions for rapid metabolization. There’s some more science-y stuff in there somewhere.

  3. And in the worst possible case, if your dough at the end of bulk is soupy, extremely shaggy, and just never came together this means you most likely used more water than you flour can handle. Next time reduce hydration by 20g or so and see how that affects things.

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  • Susan Santos

    Wow! Thanks for taking the time to post all this great information. I’ve yet to attempt a loaf with this level of hydration, but this makes me want to try.

    • Susan — you’re very welcome, thanks so much for the comments! The hydration level here is challenging to work with, I’m not going to sugar coat it. Definitely start out a bit lower and work up as you get comfortable (also your flour will only support a hydration at a certain level, so if the dough becomes absolutely unmanageable you might have reached the limit). Have a wonderful holiday!

  • Noah

    Wonderful post and pics are beautiful! Really enjoyed reading it. Your love of bread making shines throughout the entire piece.
    I feel like I’m going back to Chad Robertsons style too. Having success with doing everything at higher temps. I’m going to try Babetteartisan’s levain build next.

    • Thanks, Noah! I get so enthusiastic when I start to really dial in on a great process & recipe, I can’t help but convey that here 🙂

      Babbette’s method is partly what inspired my experimentation with warmer conditions — it only makes sense, yeast/bacteria really get moving as it gets warmer. Looking forward to seeing your results!

  • Maree

    Oh Maurizio, you’ve done it again! I just love seeing the photos of your bread and reading your descriptions and the story behind them. You have a new shaped starter jar? I would dare not show you my journal, it is an absolute mess! I might try your recipe, my favourite is also based on a Chad one which I tend to stick to and will continue to do so until I get a real oven. Thank you for such lovely posts, wishing you and your family a safe and happy Festive season. Cheers, Maree.

    • Thanks so much Maree! I actually bought a box of these “tulip” shaped Weck jars to do preserving of vegetables, they are very nice. I didn’t have any clean jars so I had to use it! It’s a great shape, actually, as the top is even more open and the rounded bottom makes stirring even easier. Not sure if I’ll stick with them, I guess it depends on what’s clean 😉

      You’re welcome and I hope you and your family have a great holiday!

  • Lee

    Maurizo, what happened to the fresh milled flour? Not in this recipe?

    • Lee — still working quite a bit with fresh flour! None used in this recipe, there were enough variables to track and experiment let alone throwing in fresh flour. I’m back to the milling game starting this weekend! I’ll definitely try this recipe out with part fresh flour very soon.

  • margie

    Love it, love it! Best bread and best blog. Your details are enlightening, as well as stunning. I love that you are able to incorporate so many of the things we come across, and make them work for you. Hope your Dad reads your blog, and maybe spends a day with you in your “bakery”. Thanks so much.

    • Thank you so much Margie 🙂 I really appreciate the comments! I think it’s those little things we discover along the way that sometimes lead to great breakthroughs (that and our conversations and endless testing!). I just gave a loaf to my Dad just a few minutes ago, he had a big grin on his face 🙂

  • Thank you, Alma 🙂 I’m going to be experimenting more with rye here very soon, it’s especially fitting giving the really cold weather we’ve been having out here in the Southwest. Russian black bread sounds very, very hearty!

    Thanks again I appreciate it — have a happy holiday!

  • Thanks! The dough goes straight from the fridge, to my peel for scoring (as shown in the picture) and then right into the oven — I bake them from cold.

  • flour_dusted

    All I have to say…perfect loaf and beautiful write up! I always look forward to reading your posts and thank you for all your hard work you put into this blog!!

    • You’re very welcome, glad to have you along! Thanks for the kind words and have a happy holidays!

  • John Ferrari

    I will be trying this one in the AM. Hey isn’t Giusto and Central milling the same company? Also thinking about Pandoro, instead of Pannetone. Any suggestions on making 50 grams of sour starter sweet? I am going to wing it from there, using your methods, with some Carol Fields inspiration. Your the best!

    • Thanks, John! Yes, there is some connection there between Giusto and CM, I think one of them started the other, not sure which way went where. Either way, amazing flour from both! To make the starter sweet, I’d say you need to feed often, keep it liquid, and when feeding carryover as little as possible mature starter. Make sure you let it ferment enough to fully colonize the new food/water, but you want to feed before high levels of acidity build up. Pandoro, THAT is my favorite. Next year… next year. I already have too many baking “projects” for this next week 🙂 Cheers John & happy holidays to you and your family.

  • Jon (jonno_r on instagram)

    What can I say! – Fantastic as always. I will be sure to try your variations soon! Merry Christmas to you and yours – I look forward to sharing Seasonal baking endeavours! Best Regards,


    • Thank you so much Jon, much appreciated! Merry Christmas to you and your family 🙂 Ciao!

  • Sherry Buckner

    ‘Excessive”!?! That can not be! Such attention and passion is the mark of an artist…of one born to do his/her work. I came to this passion late in life, already in a wheelchair but before my arms became disabled as well. Not being able to to do these wonderful steps is definitely mediated by reading about and seeing your bread. Thank you…thank you!

    • Wow, very heartfelt words, thank you so much. I do feel a calling towards bread, I’m lucky I have the time to heed it! Thanks again for the comments and I hope you and your family have a great Christmas holiday!

  • Roberto Torelli

    Great loafs, when you score you go deep? Is better a flour not very strong?

    • I do score fairly deep, about 1/2″ or so, but the blade rather shallow to the dough. Imagine cutting under a thick piece of paper. The Giusto’s flour I used for this bake is not overly strong, probably 11-12% protein. Thanks!

  • Thank you for the comments! Yes, instead of heavy mixing I find it much easier to do stretch and folds, and the crumb will open up a bit more as a result. Taking time off for your son is a valid excuse 🙂 Thanks again for the comments and have a great holiday!

  • Jerry

    I have the two loafs in the fridge and will bake them tomorrow. I have to say it was a lot of work to get this far. I followed your directions the best I could. Hopefully I didn’t screw anything up and the bread comes out good. The high hydration was a challenge. I used the only flour I had in the house which is King Arthur bread and whole wheat. I’m hoping they can handle the hydration. I like a long overnight ferment. It adds so much flavor, Hoping for the best. Merry Christmas

    • Sounds like you’re well on your way! King Arthur flour should be able to handle it, if not just reduce some next time and see how it goes. This bread is a bit of extra work but I believe it’s worth it! Good luck, let me know how it turns out!

  • Steven Seed

    Beautiful cumb. I strive for a crumb like that. I don’t think I read in your post, do you allow the dough to come to room temperature before baking or just go straight from the refrigerator to the oven?

    • Thank you, Steven! I bake all my sourdough straight from the fridge.

      • Brendan Coen

        Right on!! Answer to my question!
        Thank you for the amazing blog Maurizio!

  • Kerry

    I love seeing your posts, am about to try my first ever sourdough loaf tomorrow. Have been having fun with my starter. May I ask- what size Bannetons do you use for your loaves? thanks for your fantastic site.

    • Thanks and good luck! Once your starter is up and running it really becomes like a part of the family. I have some listed on my baking tools page, but the ones listed here are 9″ long by 4″ wide. Hope that helps and thanks for the comments!

  • Jerry

    Just took them out of the oven and they look and smell great. I’m going to save these for Christmas dinner since I won’t have time to bake again this week. I’m surprised they came out as good as they did. I’m new to bread baking and the high hydration was a challenge. I expected the bread to be flat with little to no rise. They really didn’t look that good going into the fridge last night. I baked them in my Dutch oven for about 45 minute total bake time.
    Hopefully they taste as good as they look. I wish I could post a couple of photos. Thanks for the step by step instructions.

    • Excellent! Looks can definitely be deceiving with this loaf, especially before they go into the oven. Glad your bake was successful, I’m sure they are going to taste great. You’re welcome and have a great holiday!

  • Hi Leo, you do keep the dough covered during the bulk, right . . . between the 6 stretch and fold times? What do you find is the best method for covering dough? Are you aiming for a really tight cover? Last week for the first time I used the top of my Lodge baker and it was so much easier not to mention I think it helped the dough.

    • Sue — yes I keep the dough covered during the entire bulk fermentation. I use plastic bowl covers with elastic to cover my bulk container (these things are amazing) — they are kind of like shower caps, really easy to take on and off.

      Yes, those Lodge combo cookers are awesome! Happy baking 🙂

  • oops, I called you Leo, sorry . . . Maurizio!

  • Tom

    Maurizio, nice write-up. I have a couple of loaves going in tomorrow morning. Do you preheat the dutch ovens?

    • Tom, thank you! Yes preheat the Dutch ovens for the full time as your normal oven. haply baking!

  • talka

    Woo-hoo! Thank you Maurizio! I just made my best bread ever! I’ve been following your posts for at least 6 or more months as well as working with what works in my kitchen (with the fluctuating temperatures of British Columbia). So I used a 50% fresh milled flour with some of your tweeks from this post ( different times for each step and the equal levain ratios), plus a much longer preheat of my oven – and I was happy to have my best bread ever to share with my whole family for Christmas Eve! …. off now to replicate another batch for tomorrow 😉 –

    • Natalka – excellent! Really awesome to hear this. I’m glad you kept with it for a long while, it sounds like your practice (and some of these tips) have paid off 🙂 Fluctuating temperatures can be tricky to deal with, I’ll typically use my oven as an insulating chamber to try and keep the dough at a somewhat consistent temperature. Just keep it in there (with it off!) and maybe a light on inside, I’ll also keep my ambient temperature thermometer in there just to keep an eye on things.

      Thanks for the comments and happy holidays!

  • Karen

    Gorgeous loaf and beautiful photos.

  • Trevor

    Hey Maurizio – How much do you expect your levain to grow before it’s ready?

    • Hard to say an exact height, really. It definitely more than doubles, but I pay attention to other signs just as much: the smell, whether there are streaks on the sides indicating it’s started to fall, and if you jiggle just a bit the feedback you get when it jiggles. When fermentation is starting to go quite far you’ll notice a more acidic smell and you’ll get quite a bit more “jiggle” in the container as things begin to breakdown. Hope that helps!

  • marcelo duraes

    Hello Maurizio!! First of all, thank you for sharing this amazing post with us! I’m just started my proccess but please note that I’m sligtly confused on the step 5 – Bulk Fermentation – If we perform 6 sets of stretch and folds starting on 15 minutes the first three steps we got a total of 45 minutes. Them the final three steps on 30 minutes intervals each one is about 90 minutes total. It means that we have 45 + 90 minutes the 6 sets – total 2 hours and 25 minutes. You mention about 4 hours. Does it mean that I have to let the dough rest the remaining time? Can you please clarify? Thank you very much from Brazil!

    • Marcelo, you’re very welcome! You are correct, after your last set of stretch & fold you let the dough rest, untouched, for the remainder of bulk fermentation. You are essentially strengthening your dough in the beginning, until is is “strong enough”, and then you let it rest and build up gases inside to aerate your dough. It’s important to give the dough at least 1 full hour untouched at the end of bulk fermentation.

      Happy baking!

  • marcelo duraes

    Ola Maurizio!! Thank you so much for your reply! I just had to antecipate the dough for an hour in the refrigerator due to hot weather in Sao Paulo. It is about 30 degrees here. I really loved your recipe since the quality of flour is pour and the maximum hidratation we can get here is about 60% but on your technics I got 75%. Cheers!! Again, I’m grateful for your help. Best wishes for the coming year! Happy Baking in 2016 :))

    • You’re quite welcome Marcelo! That IS hot, whew. Glad it turned out so well and I hope to hear from you again soon — Happy New year!

  • bonnie rekers

    Well, just blew the whole day of working your perfect bread recipe….blew a blast of heat in the oven and walked off, then heard the beep that the oven reached temp….350 thank you very much. Start again tomorrow….

    • Ah darn! Well think of it as a learning exercise 😉 Let me know how it goes!

  • Ha, true words! Thanks for the comments and I’m glad the recipe has worked out so well for you. Cheers from across the globe 🙂

  • Justin Fulton

    Hi Maurizio,
    Been following your techniques for a while now, and I’m glad to see you’ve perfected your Sourdough Recipe. I’m in my bulk build right now as I write this lol. Cold proof has always been a challenge for me, perhaps because I don’t let it go long enough? I usually cold proof in an AC’d room a bit higher temp than 40 deg F. I want to make the fridge thing work today though as I need to slow the process down a bit due to schedule conflicts. My question (finally) is this, do you bring the dough out and let it come to temp on the counter while the oven warms up, or do you pull the loaves cold from the fridge and put them straight into the pre-warmed oven?

    • Justin – thanks! I’ve noticed that my fridge is a bit cold at 38ºF, and that’s why I let the dough rest out a bit before placing in there overnight. If you’re doing a little over 40ºF then it might be ok, it all really depends on how much activity you’re seeing before you place into the fridge. If it doesn’t look super active, bubbly, jiggly, then let it sit out for 20-40 minutes before you toss into the fridge. Try to push fermentation as far as you can, just before the dough looks “weak” and super bubbly. Over time you’ll be able to kind of tell when you’re going too far in the fridge or on the counter. Try to keep as many things consistent while doing this as possible! This way you can really focus on fermentation.

      I do not take the dough out to rest before baking, I bake straight from the fridge. You can take the dough out if you’d like and let it ferment a bit farther before baking, but I find it harder to score the dough when it’s warm (the dough gets softer).

      I hope that helps, let me know if you have any more questions! Cheers from the US!

  • Cathy Barton Whitney

    Hi Maurizio, love this technique. I am currently playing with my new Mockmill stone grinder that is an attatchment to Kitchenaid/Hobart. I will try your method on my next batch of bread with freshly ground wheat. I noticed you have the wood pulp baskets for do you like those? Also..I have the same Shun serrated is kept seperate from all my other knives and used ONLY for bread. It is one sharp mother! Thank you for this lovely informative site! Cathy

    • Awesome, thanks for the comments! Fresh milled flour… what a revelation that is, don’t you think? Just incredible.

      I really like the wood pulp bannetons, they are very nice. My dough has yet to stick to the sides of one of these, they’re magic.

      And yes, NO ONE touches my Shun knife, except me 🙂 Not only because I love it so much but also because you could easily lop a finger off without even noticing!

      Thanks again for the kind words, happy baking Cathy!

  • Cathy Barton Whitney

    Just curious if you sift your fresh milled flour? I am playing with sifting vs non sifted…I just bought a stainless size 50/55 stainless sifter from bread topia. It produced almost white flour. I have various other sifters so I can vary how I want my flour.

    • I do, sometimes. It depends on what type of bread I’m after. I bought a set from a while ago, #35, #50 and #65 screens — really nice set. It can be quite a bit of work to do the sifting but it’s worth it for the flavor of the fresh flour!

  • David Peyton

    Thank you, Maurizio, by following your suggestions I have finally created the sourdough loaf that reminds me of the San Francisco sourdough I grew up with. Each time I make it now I do one variation to see how the bread changes… last loaf was my rye starter and whole rye flour in place of the whole wheat. 🙂

  • jinal contractor

    Revisited this post again after rereading tartine no 3 and Now its time to test my learning ? Thanks a bunch over on Instagram for all your guidance. You have The perfect loaf and I dream for one after each bake for the next ☺️

    • Sometimes a re-read of an old book can bring insight! You’re very welcome, let me know how it goes!

  • Cathy Barton Whitney

    Just also wanted to share that I used my mockmill to grind some rice for my own rice flour for bannetons and flouring wood peels. With the Mockmill at its finest setting, I noticed it a bit more grainy than the purchased rice flour..but still did a good job keeping things non stick…and on another topic I would like to ask you,when you use the hard white wheat that you milled for bread if you sifted that at all, or do you use the whole shabang?

    • That’s a great idea, I don’t know why I’ve never thought to do that. I use very little rice flour, but why not mill my own?

      It depends on what I’m after. If I want a proper whole wheat loaf then I won’t sift at all. If I want to have a lighter, more white loaf then I will sift using one of my screens to get the desired extraction. I’ve done both in the past, either way works really great. I like the taste of fresh milled whole wheat (no sifting, the whole thing), it’s fantastic.

  • Cathy Barton Whitney

    Ok…One more thing to share…I used a seedling mat under my bowl with dough or my sourdough/levain if the kitchen is cold…while it doesn’t heat it up a lot, it does offer some gentle heat to keep things going. I have also lifted the sides of the mat to envelop the bowl as well…?

    • That’s a great idea. Funny you should say that, I actually built a pretty “rugged” proof box with a Coleman cooler that has a seedling mat at the bottom, it works really well! I’ve since moved on to the Brod & Taylor proofer (highly recommended), but that cooler works pretty darn well! I should post my construction steps on that actually… Thanks for the tips!

  • Tagpuan Sa San Juan

    Hi! Im currently using a sourdough starter recipe that i got from red star yeast website. Can i use that one for the levain?

    • I’m not familiar with that website but yes, that will work just fine I’m sure! As long as it’s active (rising and falling predictably) you’re good to go.

      • Tagpuan Sa San Juan

        Thanks so much Maurizio! I will try it again today. We are having a bread overdose here at home hahah

        • This is a good problem to have 🙂 You’re welcome!

  • Tagpuan Sa San Juan

    I have another question, I made this recipe and mine turned out really sticky. Im in the Philippines and it’s a bit warmer here. Do i need to adjust something?

    • Was the crumb inside sticky? If this is the case it might be a sign that you have not fully baked the loaf. You can always test for doneness with your bread by inserting a thermometer in your bread and make sure it’s around 210ºF. The interior should not be gummy or sticky. It should be nice and tender with moistness to it. Additionally, make sure you let the loaves sit for a bit (1-2 hours is perfect) before cutting into them!

      • Tagpuan Sa San Juan

        Okay i think i should go buy a thermometer. Hmm another thing, when do I start the folding? 1st hour or anytime during the four hours?

        • Yes you can bake straight from the fridge — this is what I always do. You definitely should get a thermometer. Start thinking about temperature of the dough as an ingredient in the recipe, take note of temperatures, and see how your dough reacts. It is very, very important!

          I like to start the first fold 15 to 30 mins after mixing. You can really do it any time, but you want to leave the dough for at least 1 hour at the end to ferment untouched.

          • Kevin Smith

            I’m having the same issue with the crumb being sticky, but I get a dark brown color on the outside. I also have the issue of the bottom of the loaf having holes after it’s baked. Any thoughts?

            • At high hydrations like this your crumb will be more moist inside, for sure. Definitely make sure you do a full and complete bake to ensure all the water is baked out of your loaf (bread temperature on the inside should be around 210-212ºF when finished).

              If the exterior of your loaf is baking too fast you could lower the temperature of your oven at the second half of the bake, say to 435, and try baking it for a longer time.

              I’ve seen little holes on the bottom before, and it’s just the nature of how the dough is shaped and the gas pockets that form. For me it’s never been too excessive, though. You could try to make sure when you shape the bottom of your loaf has a nice seal to it (meaning when you fold the dough over the sides touch and form a single piece).

      • Tagpuan Sa San Juan

        Can i bake it right after taking out the fridge?

  • alan

    Awesome writeup and pictures! Desperately trying to mimic :). I’m on my second try and could use any input – first one fell flat for possibly many reasons, flavor good but I think overhydrated and just ended up with ultra dense crumb but flavor was amazing. I’m at the end of the bulk phase but my dough still doesn’t look like yours. I’m using AP flour (reduced water by 30g this time) and temperature here is probably closer to 70 than 80. The post-bulk dough has some big bubbles but still seems too wet compared to yours. Am I possibly still using too much water or do you think I might still need more time in the bulk phase due to temperature?

    • alan

      Should add that it doesn’t seem like the dough has really risen much during the bulk phase. Just shows some gas bubbles.

      • Thanks! Definitely possible you’re over-hydrating your dough. I would suggest cutting back to 75% hydration, see how the dough feels then, and work up from there. If you over-hydrate the dough will not be able to hold on to gasses and will just look like soup.

        Your dough should definitely rise during bulk, 30% at least, with lots of bubbles on top and around the sides. If this isn’t happening, even at 75% hydration, then it could be that your starter isn’t strong enough or stable enough. First try dialing back hydration and then see how it behaves. Let me know how it goes!

        • alan

          Quick update for future viewers, I worked on a few things all at the same time: stronger starter, more aggressive S&H for gluten development early in bulk, and cut hydration back to 75% (I’m using a weaker AP flour). Made one loaf that night after a ‘warm’ proof (gf wanted some that night) and baked the other after a nice cold proof. Both turned out Amazing with a great crust and soft/chewey/open crumb. Thanks for the photos and writeups!

          • Thanks for the update, really appreciate that! Sounds like you’re dialing things in just right for your flour — perfect! I’m constantly adjusting the hydration depending on what flour I source, an important step for sure.

            Happy baking, Alan!

  • Scott Schmidt

    Hi Maurizio-

    Looking at the pictures here, I can’t quite tell what type of bannetons you use. Are they cane with linen liners, or are they something else that mimics a lined cane banneton? In the photos, it appears that they are lined because the cane is not distinctly visible, yet the rim appears to be flat and uniform in appearance, which would not indicate that a liner is wrapped over it. Perhaps you could link me to the exact item you use. The reason I ask is that I have started to used unlined cane bannetons in order to achieve a “striped” loaf appearance, but even when dusting with a fine rice flour, I still sometimes get some dough sticking. When I use the liners, I don’t get any sticking, but I of course sacrifice the desired stripes.

    By the way, you might remember that I was previously living in London, but I have now moved back to the US, which means that I have been able to try the Giustos flours. They have greatly improved the quality of my loaves.


    Scott Schmidt
    Bainbridge Island, WA

    • Scott — The bannetons I used here, and find myself using more and more, are these wood pulp bannetons. I don’t use a liner, just a light dusting of white rice flour. I find that even my highly hydrated loaves have yet to stick to the sides of these.

      Glad you’re enjoying Giusto’s flour, and welcome back to the US! I really love their product, not only the taste but the performance is really great.

      Happy baking!

      • Paul Kunkel

        Hi Maurizio, Great stuff. Thanks! Question on these oval wood pulp bannetons. The link goes to some pretty small baskets (9″x4″). Is this what you meant? Seems to small for 900g of dough each. I want to try these, but looking to be sure to get the right size. Thanks again.

        • Paul, yup those are the bannetons! They are quite long and easily fit 800-900g of dough for me. The pictures in this post are using those bannetons with about that same amount of dough!

  • Marco Gramaccioni

    Hay man your pics and process are fantastic!
    Just 2 question…

    1) when u leave the dough rising for 4 hours, during this period u do stretch and fold? Every stretch and fold is made of 2 actions ( i mean s&f on one side then turn the dough and s&f to the other side)?

    2) When u cook the bread, do you do it from fridge directly to the oven? Or do u leave it at r.t. any minutes?

    Thx have a good day!

    • Thanks I appreciate that!

      1) Yes, for this bread perform 6 sets of stretch and folds during bulk. The first three are at 15 minute intervals, and the last 3 are at 30 minute intervals.

      2) I bake the bread directly from the fridge. I don’t let it rest at all, just straight from fridge to oven!

      Thanks again and happy baking, Marco!

      • Marco Gramaccioni

        Hi Maurizio and thx for your kind reply!
        I’m not sure I correctly understood point n.1…

        If u do 4 hours rising how do u plan the s&f?

        (15 rest time) 1st s&f + (15 rest time) 2nd s&f + (15 rest time) 3rd s&f +(30 rest time) 4th s&f +(30 rest time) 5th s&f +(30 rest time) 6th s&f
        but the total is = 2hrs and 15min…

        Thx again.

        • Yes, that’s exactly correct! The rest of the time (about 1 hour and 45 minutes) you just let the dough rest in bulk — no more stretch and folds.

          • Danny Jauregui

            I’m in the middle of following this recipe and so far I love how this dough feels! I was confused about the bulk ferment time also…wouldn’t hurt to update the recipe and add that last 1 hr 45min rest bulk. Anyways, just discovered your blog and l really love it.

            • Great to hear! Ok, I’ll update the post with those details — thanks guys for the feedback!

              • Danny Jauregui

                My loafs are out of the oven and I have to say this recipe is a game changer for me. I’ve been struggling through the Tartine recipe for the last two years producing mediocre loafs that tasted great but didn’t have the soft texture and open crumb that I yearned for and on my first try with your recipe I finally achieved that! The crumb is open with large irregular holes and the texture is silky and almost creamy soft. Flavor is also fantastic. This has just become my go-to bread recipe! Thanks so much for posting this!

                • That’s really great to hear, glad it’s working out so well for ya! What you describe is exactly what I’m after with this recipe, perfect! Thanks for the comments and happy baking, Danny!

  • Tagpuan Sa San Juan

    I made a terrible mistake! I mixed the salt before adding the levain. Is there anything I can do?

    • Not a problem: just add the levain in at the same time and go forward with it! Hope this isn’t too late…

      • Tagpuan Sa San Juan

        Thanks so much Maurizio! You are helping me alot. Im already selling my stuff here where I live. It’s amazing they love artisan bread! I never thought it would be such a hit here. I owe you this one

        • You’re welcome — that’s really great to hear! I think once people have “real bread” they can’t ever go back!

  • Joshua

    I just prepared my leavin and I switched the flours to Bob’s Red Mill Stone Ground Whole Wheat and Heirloom Einkhorn and the consistency is identical to when I feed it (able to be piled up in the middle of the jar). the recipe calls for “liquid” leavin and I’m wondering if the more viscous consistency of mine will have an affect further down the process.

    Also resorting to baking the future boulets in a cast iron dutch oven. Any advice on that would be much appreciated as well.

    Thanks so much for the wonderfully detailed and captured information.

  • slothbear

    Getting ready to make a batch of this dough. I came across your recipe a few weeks ago, tried it out, and my family loved it. Going to try for double the recipe and hold the dough in the fridge while pulling out enough for a loaf every other day. It worked out well in my cast iron loaf pan, nice crust all around.

    • Sounds like a great idea. Glad my recipe has worked out so well for you guys! I love hearing that. Happy baking!

  • Kim

    I would like to know what changes there would be to the recipe if I was to bake this as one loaf instead two.
    thank you

    • Hi, Kim! Just halve the entire recipe (take all the weights in the mix and divide by 2). I would suggest, though, that you keep the “Levain Build” at the same quantities (so still make 175g total levain, but only use 150/2 = 75g in your mix). It’s useful to have a levain build that has a little extra than what you end up using, just in case you’re not able to use your levain at the right time, it’ll still have food to consume before it becomes too acidic.
      Happy baking!

  • Tania

    Any considerations for high altitudes? How would you modify this recipe for 3500 feet above sea level? Thank you

    • Tania — I live at 5280 ft above sea level so everything you see posted here on my site is baked at that altitude. I really don’t believe you’ll need to modify anything!

      • Tania

        Thank you. I was surprised at how well I could handle the wet dough. It was easier than my 72% hydration because it was really nice and airy by the end of the bulk fermentation. I see now that I never let it ferment for the 4 hours and how it makes a big difference. I experimented with 8-hour long autolyze (just flour+water) but my bread didn’t have enough oven spring. I should’ve found your blog earlier. This recipe and method is great!

        • Thanks, I really appreciate that! Sounds like you’re definitely on your way to making some awesome sourdough 🙂

  • Razing Orange

    With the exception of implementing a few techniques acquired from Ken Forkish’s book (like working the dough from start to finish in a 12qt. tub) and using locally available flours, I baked this recipe(today) as instructed. The results were Amazing. Crunchy crust, chewy crumb, great flavor, and giant, glorious air pockets. I had half a dozen people, who are accustomed to sampling my “bread experiments” say this was the best yet. Up until now I’ve only baked from a poolish. This was my first natural levain bread and I couldn’t be happier!
    One thing to note to other first time natural levain bakers… Having used instant yeast for every bake up until this point, I’m use to seeing my dough double or triple in size while proofing. This was not the case today and I was worried I had messed it up. After retarding for 16 hours at 40 degrees, my dough rose maybe 20-30%. However, after 20 minutes at 500 degrees, the dough doubled in size and when cut into later, many 1/2″-3/4″ diameter air pockets were scattered throughout the slice.
    As Iv’e said, this loaf was fun to bake, delicious to eat and I can’t wait to do it again. I only wish I could figure out how to bake it on a work day.

    • MelB

      Couldn’t agree more! This was my 2nd attempt making bread without commercial yeast and ditto to everything that you wrote! I was super nervous that the dough didn’t rise like I was used to, but just took out gorgeous, puffy loaves from the oven! Cooling now!

    • Thanks so much for the feedback, sounds like your baking some awesome bread at home! I have little experience with commercial yeast but yes, I’d expect there to be quite a number of differences. I’m glad the recipe turned out well for you, this really is the bread I go to time and time again — it’s just delicious!

      For baking on a work day I typically do most things at night. I build my levain in the morning and then mix right when I get home, bulk in the evening and then retard somewhat late. If you do this on a Friday then you can bake Saturday morning/afternoon after the dough has proofed. Just a thought!

      Thanks again for the comments and happy baking!

  • MelB

    @ThePerfectLoaf – thank you SO MUCH for sharing your knowledge!! Absolutely LOVE your site and just took 2 beautiful loaves out of the oven after following your advice! Thank you Thank you Thank you!

    • I replied below but thank you for the kind words! You’re very welcome, glad my site and recipes have been helping you make awesome bread at home 🙂

  • Lilach Lilaz Davidoff

    Hello Mauriziu. I am very happy to have discovered your beautiful blog. Thank you for it. As I read through it, I ran to the kitchen to start the process of making yout perfect loaf. I am so very happy with the results. It is the first time i have been baking 2 loaves at a time (at home) and without covering the loaves. I would like to post the fotos of the loaves, but I dont know how..The only odd thing that happened is that one of the loaves came out unbelivably beautiful, but the other, which was made from the exact same batch, didnt come up so nice:) maybe its my cutting, my oven.. Did you ever had this kind of an experience? Thank you very much. I will keep baking your recipes one by one!!

    • Thanks Lilach, I appreciate the comments! There are definitely many factors that could lead to the difference between the two loaves: different shaping, rising baskets, and of course the score in the morning. I definitely have had that experience, each loaf seems to take on a life of its own at the end — it’s beautiful and expected 🙂 Consistency is one of the hardest things in baking, takes a lot of practice!

      Happy baking 🙂

  • Brandon Pierce

    Wow! Great pictures! Just wondering, have you experimented with a retarded bulk fermentation? I don’t have time to do a 4 hour bulk, can I do it in the fridge? Thanks!

    • Thanks, Brandon! I have done a retarded bulk with pizza dough but have yet to do it with my sourdough loaves. I do plan on experimenting with it more. You should be able to retard your bulk with no problem, just watch the dough after 10 hours or so and see how it’s developing. You can take it out of the fridge after that time, preshape and shape with a final proof in baskets. Once the dough is then ready, bake it. I hope that helps!

  • weedrea

    Do you ever do the second rise of 4 hours, not in the fridge?

    • You can certainly do that! I prefer the longer, colder proof overnight to develop complexity and the type of sourdough I’m after. A proof on the counter works really well, though!

  • Eduardo Navarro

    Hello Maurizio,
    First off all congratulations for your blog! I’m baking for a while some Tartine (Chad R. recipes) loaves with 70 to 75% Hydration, and didn’t getting too much holes or oven spring. Then I found your blog and I accepted the challenge of 86% hydration. I changed some steps to fit your recommendations like longer autolyse and mixing. Everything was doing well until the end of bulk fermentation. After mix #2 and S&F steps, as recommended, the dough was wet but I could work. After four hours by the end of bulk fermentation the dough was really soak, very wet and no strength at all. The temperature was stable at 79F and the Humidity around 50%. I am using a French Flour – Bagatelle T65 with 11,5% protein 90% and 10% with local whole wheat Flour.
    Could you help me understand what happens? Maybe the flour can not holds as much hydration? Thank you!

    • Eduardo, thanks for the comments! Yes, it sounds like your flour is not able to go quite as high with hydration. You could try this same recipe again with perhaps 10% lower hydration and see how your flour handles it, if it does well slowly increase water each bake until you get to the taste/texture you are after. Each flour has its relative hydration level it can take on and adjustments are needed not only on a flour-by-flour basis but sometimes with each sack of the same flour! Constantly adjusting 🙂

      Hope that helps — happy baking!

      • Eduardo Navarro

        Great Thanks!
        More protein more hydration? This is correct to say? Thank you!

        • You’re welcome! No that’s not necessarily true, protein isn’t an indicator for water absorption. However, higher hydration means you’ll need to strengthen your dough appropriately!

          • Eduardo Navarro

            OK Thanks again!!

  • Tagpuan Sa San Juan

    Hi again Maurizio! This has always puzzled me. How do you make starters by bulk? Like when you have a bakery or something? You have to have kilos of starter noh? But recipe for starters are maybe just 500g or less at the end. How can you make more? Let’s say 1500 g of starter?

    • I’ve never worked in a situation where I’ve needed that much levain, but it should be the same process as creating one in your home, just at a larger scale. If you needed 1500g levain for a bake you’d still use the same percentage of ingredients, just the quantity would be higher.

      If you needed something like 1500g of levain for a bake you’d only need a small portion of mature starter to make that happen, for this recipe you’d only need like 300g mature starter to build a 1500g levain (I have spreadsheets to calculate all this out). So my point is you just make it the same but all the quantities are higher (percentages are the same). If you don’t have enough mature starter to make that levain then you might have to increase the amount of flour/water you give your starter the night before to ramp it up and ensure you’ll have enough.

      I hope that makes sense!

  • Casey

    Hello! I am a pastry chef by profession. I have tried this recipe twice, and each time, I have had giant air pockets at the top,of my finished loaves. I first attributed that to not enough to gluten formation to hold the gas, however, the second batch had more gluten development, and even larger air pockets. (Like…the entire top of the loaf.). My next instinct is to decrease the water (therefore decreasing the steam),but I wanted to know what your thoughts were. ( it is almost like I have made a hybrid bread/cream puff dough when these loaves are baked) I am using King Arthur flour at the moment.

    • That’s very interesting, I’ve never seen anything like that happen. Are you performing your turns during bulk as described in the writeup above? I’m wondering if you’re dough might be sitting and developing large pockets that are never re-distributed. Another suggestion would be to try and degas your dough just a tiny, tiny bit at shape time to help squish some of those larger bubbles. Just lightly tap down on the dough from top to bottom when you’re shaping.

      Other than that I’m kind of at a loss why you’d get these holes more than once in the same area…

      • Casey

        Yes, I am doing everything according to the directions. To the point that I am setting alarms. (Obsessive, yes.) Haha. Especially the second time, because the first time did not produce the results that I was seeking. I have had success with many high hydration bulk stretch and fold doughs in the past. When I am shaping the dough, I am shaping in boules, so…I am degassing pretty much entirely, working it into a taught boule. The dough is quite slack, which was to be expected, but not unworkable. I will try again. Maybe I need to go less than the 15-16 hr. Final rest in the cooler. I will also take a look at the steam I am incorporating and perhaps use less, so that the crust sets sooner. (I have access to steam injected ovens with the push of a button.). Meh. I should take a picture, but the crust rises from the crumb on the top of the loaf like pita bread, and leaves a good two inches of crumb in the bottom. Kinda awesome for sandwiches. :). Always tastes amazing. Best tasting bread I have had, and as such will keep baking it until I find out what’s going wrong. Thank you for sharing the recipe, and thank you for responding.

        • Glad it tasted great, at least! Any chance the dough is overproofing? Were there any dense areas in the dough? I’ve seen some loaves that underproof with large pockets and other areas that are quite dense.

          • Casey

            I suppose that it is possible that they are overproofing. I never checked the temp of the cooler, perhaps it’s running a little warm. The pockets in the rest of the crumb were nice, and a lot like what are in your photos, just with big holes above. I will start the dough again tomorrow, and make a couple of adjustments. (Only regarding shortening the final cold proof and the steam in baking). I will let you know, if you’re interested! Baking troubleshooting is fun for me anyway. (I once spent 6 months perfecting macarons, 3 months with croissants, and another four working on the perfect 80% hydration baguette.). And all that after baking all day at work. I have that kind of mind (the slightly crazy kind). Thanks again!

            • Definitely interested to hear how it works out! Trust me, I know what it’s like to work like crazy on a baking endeavor 🙂 While I’m not a professional I’m either planning my next bake or baking late at night! One of my next ventures is going to be croissants… It’ll be a challenge, just as bread as been, but I’m excited. Keep me posted on the next attempt!

              • Casey

                Well, I figured out my problem. Too much steam in the oven. It allowed the crust to expand too long after the crumb inside started to set, giving all that air a big, open space to occupy. I have baked without the giant hole problem twice now. I also have been leaving out 55 grams of water, and find my current flour to be able to handle less liquid a tad better. (I have an artisan flour I plan to try, hopefully it can hold more water than King Arthur.)

                Thank you for this awesome recipe!


                • Wow that’s very interesting — I guess in a home oven it’s pretty hard to have too much steam, I feel like I’m constantly fighting the vents in my oven. Thanks for the feedback, I appreciate that!

                  You’re welcome and happy baking, Casey!

  • Mandy

    I reccommend fooling around with sourdough brioche and whey sourdough. Pretty cool. (or sourdough whey brioche)

    • I’ve made brioche a few times but based it on the recipe found in Tartine, they use a mixture of sourdough and instant yeast. I’ve love to try a full sourdough version! Thanks for the suggestions, might be time to revisit that.

  • Christopher Kolon

    Just baked off two loaves that were based on this recipe. Second time I did this recipe and both times the results were impressive. There was one difference I can’t quite figure out. On this go round the crust was nice and thin with a slight crackle, but it was really more soft and chewy than crisp and crackly. The first time I did the recipe I had that great crackly crust. At that time I could hear the bread crust crackle as it cooled, this time not so much. I’m thinking it might be one of two things: 1) I let it steam a little too long or 2) the hydration was too high. The dough was really wet when I loafed it, but it had good gluten development and plenty of gassy holes. I think it was where it was supposed to be as to the bulk fermentation. The Bread had ok ovenspring but because of the wet dough it expanded more outward rather than upward.

    By the way, from appearance, the crust lookd identical to the first time, much like your photos. It just wasnt as crisp as I would have liked. Any ideas? Again, thanks for the fantastic blog.

    • Hey, Christopher! I would guess that the second time hydration was just a tad too high, especially if you didn’t quite get the rise you’re used to. It could also be over proofed, but if the interior was nice and open I tend to side with over-hydrated.

      You could try cracking your oven door open the last 2-4 minutes of your bake to really get that dry heat in the oven, that also helps build a little more crunch in the crust towards the end.

      That’s my two cents! Hope it helps, sounds like your bread is turning out fantastic, though!

  • Sushi Cat

    I’m really excited that I found your blog on my journey to sourdough baking! I do have a question though: after the overnight proofing, do you let your dough get to room temperature or do you bake it straight out of the fridge?

    • Glad to have you along, thanks for the comment! I like to bake the dough straight from the fridge, I don’t let it warm up unless I feel it needs more time to ferment at room temperature (not often). Hope that helps!

  • Aaron

    Hi! I know you’re measuring in grams, but–when a recipe asks for so many “cups” of starter, is it referring to stirred-down starter or un-disturbed starter? Thank you so much!

    • That’s one reason to use weights 🙂 I like to stir down my levain before using it. You’re welcome and happy baking, Aaron!

  • Christopher Kolon

    Hi, Maurizio. I have a question mainly about appearance. My loaves have turned out well: nice airy holes, brown shiny crust, decent oven spring. But when my loaves expand in the oven they don’t push the crust up at the places I scored them. So the crust doesn’t form “ears” or have a sort of 3D appearance. It’s rather flat. I thought maybe the dough was too hydrated, but this last batch definitely wasn’t. I follow your recipe pretty closely. I don’t know – could it be my fridge is too cold, the oven temp isn’t right? There are just so many possibilities. Any ideas?

    • There are quite a few things that could cause this. I’d first start with perhaps you’re not building a tight enough skin on the dough when you’re shaping. You want to make sure your loaf is shaped tight enough so that when you toss it into the oven it rises and has nowhere to expand except the area you scored, if that makes sense.

      Make sure your score is deep, but not too deep to where the loaf collapses at the score site. Try to do an angle to it, so the blade is almost parallel with the dough, this will ensure it “peels back” when you bake, and it helps to lift the loaf a little more.

      If your dough is not active enough you wont get explosive spring needed at bake time. Check the interior of these loaves, are they super dense with little aeration? If so you might not be fermenting enough OR you’re over proofing too much. Usually it’s the first case.

      Other than that, it’s what you said, it might be too highly hydrated. It sounds like you’ve eliminated that possibility though.

      I hope those suggestions help! Try one at a time and see if things improve, it can sometimes be hard to narrow things down when there are so many variables!

  • Aaron

    Quick question regarding creating my levain: if my just-unfridged-and-fed starter takes about six hours to quadruple in size, is that about how long my levain should be proofed before incorporating into my dough? Basically, until it is at the peak of its activity?

    • Aaron — yes that’s exactly what I look for, that peak. Keep in mind, though, if your levain uses more whole grains that time period will decrease (and vice versa if you use more white flour).

    • Aaron

      Awesome. After a month of waiting (created my own starter–it is strong!), I’m finally doing my 1st bake this weekend. Wish me luck. Thanks!

  • Aaron

    Hopefully last question. I am confused about something. My starter becomes fully active in only about 3 hours. If I was to create my levain the night before I plan to mix the levain with the dough, my levain would have already reached its peak and receded when it came time for mixing. It wouldn’t be fully active anymore. Why do so many people say to make your levain the night before mixing? On the other hand, if I activate my starter in the morning, then make my levain, then wait and mix, I am shaping late, at 10 pm. So, does it really matter if my levain has peaked and receded already when I mix the dough? Then I could make it the night before. Thank you!

    • You’ll need to adjust the percentage of starter you put in your levain mix to change the time it takes for it to mature. For example, if you want to let it ferment overnight, and not peak till the morning, you can do something like only 20% starter to 100% flour to 100% water. This lower percentage of starter causes fermentation to take several more hours than if you were to use 50% or even more.

      Hope that helps!

      • Aaron

        That makes sense. Thanks!

  • Elizabeth Hultman

    I’m trying this recipe for the first time; wondering if I don’t want to retard for 15 hours in frig, how long should/could this second proof take? 2 to 3 hrs like other recipes I’ve seen? Thanks in advance! -Beth

    • It depends on how you’re doing is progressing through bulk… I’d say at about 72-75ºF somewhere around 3-4 hours should work. Try the “poke test” as it’s proofing on the counter after a couple hours and see how the dough responds. Once you bake this way a few times you’ll learn how your dough responds to the ambient temperature and what looks ready to bake.

      Hope that helps!

  • Jerry

    I finished mixing up this dough at midnight and will be baking it around 3:00pm. I made this once before and it was a great tasting bread hope this one comes out great also

    I cant remember if i baked it right out of the fridge or if i let it come up to room temp while the oven was heating up. Think ill put ut in directly from the fridge


    • Awesome! Straight from the fridge is how I always do it 🙂

  • Jerry

    Well I just took it out of the oven. Smells great and I cant wait to cut into it. Not to happy about the lack of oven spring. It rose but not like the other I made several months ago. I think I over proofed it. My fault trying to put it together late in the day, taking the wife to dinner, and I believe the levain was to warm during its ferment time.
    It is a little hard dealing with the high hydration dough but since making my first bread 4 months ago I’ve learned a lot and this time it wasn’t really a problem.
    Thanks Maurizio for the great recipes.

    • Jerry, excellent! Yes, if you proofed it a bit too long it could compromise spring a bit. Easy fix though 🙂 With practice the higher hydration dough definitely gets easier and easier to handle, things slow down and you learn to move quick.

      You’re very welcome, I’m glad my recipes are working out well for ya! Happy baking 🙂

  • Clayton

    Love your site! Tons of great info. For the past 2 months I have been baking bread every weekend. The
    results have been great. A couple things I have noticed are my dough gets huge bubbles and is very gassy. The giant bubbles make it very difficult to shape. Also, I am almost getting too much spring in my loaf. They turn out massive! Lastly, I am having a hard time getting “ears” on my bread. I fill the oven with steam prior to baking but my loaves are rising so fast that the area I scored just inflates.

    • Thanks for the comments, Clayton! It sounds like perhaps you have too much fermentation going on during your bulk fermentation step. This could be because it’s warm in your area currently, you have a lot of whole grains in your dough mix, you are using a large percentage of levain or your bulk is going too long. I’d first try to reduce your bulk fermentation time, you could go down to 3 hours (from the typical 4) and that should help with shaping. Alternatively, you could use cooler water when you mix your dough as colder temperatures will slow fermentation down some.

      I hope that helps — happy baking!

  • Heidi Guttmann

    I just made this and it’s awesome! I found you because in the middle of my first Tartine loaves a few weeks ago I thought, “Hmmm, I wonder if altitude makes a difference.” I’m in Taos, and I’m so glad I found you! Today’s (made with Sangre de Cristo flour and in the combo cooker) is way better than my first loaf.

    • That’s great, nice to meet someone here in NM! I’ve used Sangre de Cristo flour in the past and loved it — where you buy it these days? I used to get it at the co-op, I need to head back there soon to see if they have any. It used to be organic flour, but I”m not sure if that’s still the case.

      Your bread looks fantastic! Glad my instruction has been helping 🙂

      • Heidi Guttmann

        I buy the Sangre de Cristo flour in the bulk section at the main health food store in town–Cid’s. I’m not sure if it says “organic” or not. I’ll check next time. I should have made 2 loaves! It’s almost all gone.

        • Ill check again at La Moñtanita co-op, they might have it back in stock! Always a problem here… good bread disappears rather fast 🙂

  • igniteyourmind

    I’m having some issues with this dough I’m not sure where I went wrong. After bulk fermentation I pre-shaped the dough into two loaves and they were very wet. After 20 minutes or so I tried shaping them but the dough took no form. I didn’t want to add to much flour but with each dusting it just got quickly absorbed and it didn’t help me out too much. I was able to get them into lined bowls and into the fridge, but the forming process failed so I’m not sure what Ill get. Maybe too much water? I used less than the recipe so I’m not sure, I know Ill try again next week. Some pointers would be appreciated. I love your site I’ve been making the 100% wheat sourdough for the last few weeks and its been a big hit, I’m hoping to eventually have the same success with this recipe.

    • Yes, it sounds like too high of a hydration for the flour you are using (and/or your environment). Try reducing hydration by 10% and then see if that helps!

      Glad the WW recipe is working so well for you (and your fans), I love that bread.

      Let me know how the hydration reduction goes — happy baking!

  • Richard P

    Hi Maurizio,

    First of all, I adore your website. The pictures are mouth-watering, and your nerdiness about bread shows through which I love.

    I am having trouble with my bread. The crust and flavor are fantastic, but for some reason I always end up with this gummy, dense structure, often with large holes, which is nowhere near the light and airy crumb you seem to achieve. I’m sure it could be several things making this happen to me, but what would you suggest I look at first?

    • Thanks Richard, I appreciate that! Bread nerd right here, through and through 🙂

      When I see those results it’s usually due to under fermentation. Make sure you’re doing a full bulk (around 4 hours at 78-80ºF if using mostly white flour) and if you’re retarding overnight around 12 hours at 38-40ºF. Another clue under fermentation is the cause is when your bread has a few large holes but other areas of your bread are dense and gummy.

      Hope that helps, let me know if that fixes the issue if not we can look at other things!

  • Corrine

    Hello there, I was wondering how long this bread lasts and the best way to store it?

    • One of the incredible things about sourdough bread is its natural keeping qualities — this bread will stay great for a week or slightly longer. If I’m going to eat it that week I’ll keep it in my bread box on my counter or in a paper bag.

      If I’m going to eat it within the next month I’ll slice the entire loaf after it cools and then place it into a freezer bag. I can then take out bread a slice at a time, defrost it in my toaster (it has a defrost function) and eat it straightaway.

      If I’m going to eat the bread after a month (long term storage) I’ll wrap the loaf after it cools several times with plastic cling film, then into a freezer bag and into the freezer. When I want to eat the bread i’ll take it out and let it defrost on the counter or the fridge.

      Hope that helps!

  • John

    Hi Maruizio, thanks for the great recipes. I was wondering if you had any suggestions about how to produce a stronger sour flavor with this loaf?

    • You’re welcome! If you want a more sour flavor you can do a few things. First you can let your dough proof longer in the fridge: instead of proofing for 12-14 hours push fermentation further, say 16 to 18 hours. There is a limit here of course, it depends on what your flour can handle so you’ll have to experiment with this.

      Another option is to add more whole grains to my recipe above. You could sub 10% white flour for dark rye flour, or whole wheat. Just keep in mind doing so will speed up fermentation rates so you will have to adjust things to suit (lower levain percentage or use colder water in final mix).

      Those two things are typically what I’ll play with when I want to try and pull out more sour notes in the final loaf. I hope that helps!

      • John

        great, thank you! i will try those thing out. and thanks again for all the amazing in-depth content on your website!

  • Jenna

    Because I’m lazy – how long exactly does the 2nd day take to make the dough, stretch & fold, etc?

    • Did you mean the first day? There are a lot of factors that go into the total time and you can increase/decrease it as needed (to a point), but I typically will start my levain in the morning around 11:00am and then finally put the loaves into the fridge at 9-10:00pm. That seems like a long time but really you only come in at several parts during the whole process to guide things in the right direction. Most of the time you can do other things 🙂

  • Leigh

    Awesome site. I live in Arizona and they sell hayden mills at our local Whole Foods and Sprouts. I’ve tried them with little success, but I will try your recipe … I’m think the ratios were off in in mine. What type of banneton is that? I have been looking for ones with the flat top piece.
    Thank you.

    • Very lucky to have flour like that at your local market! Jealous 🙂 Definitely give my recipe a shot and let me know how it goes.

      I got that banneton at, they have a number of “wood pulp” baskets like this, I really like them.

  • Andrey Gordeychuk

    Buongiorno Maurizio). Explain to me please …. You do autolysis 1.5 hours – mix only water, flour and one tablespoon Levian. After 1.5 hours – add all Levian. Wait 30 minutes … add salt and mix everything in a blender. That’s right, I realized that autolysis lasts 2 hours (1.5 and 0.5 hours) ??????????

    • A true autolyse doesn’t include the levain, it’s only water and flour. Once the levain is added fermentation begins, the 30 minute rest before adding salt let’s fermentation start without any inhibition (salt tempers fermentation). Additionally, that 30 minutes let’s the dough rest and relax so adding salt becomes a bit easier. Hope that helps!

      • Andrey Gordeychuk

        Grazie miele )

  • Bwspot

    hello, what a great loaf. I have been baking bread for last 3 years, but i use different proportions: 2 cups flour, 0.5 cup water and 1.5 cup sourdough starter which is 60% hydration. My bread has nice holes inside and looks great but i wanted to try higher hydration bread and am not sure but something is off in your recipe or i am doing something wrong or my flour does not work as yours? Should the first fermentation be done with a cover of without? The mixture is very watery and nevertheless the fact that it is stretchy after 4 hours of fermenting it still does not hold its shape after shaping and it flattens on the table. Is this normal and expected? It would be good if you would make a video to show the consistency of the mixture during each process as it is hard to imagine how sticky or how watery your bread is at each stage.

    • Thanks! I keep my dough covered at all times. During bulk it’s covered in the bowl with reusable plastic wrap (see my tools page at the top) and during my proof in the fridge I place my entire baskets in a large plastic bag tied shut.

      It sounds like the hydration of this formula is probably too much for your flour. Try reducing by 5-10% and see if your dough handles better and is more manageable.

      I agree about the videos, this is something I’m working on and will have more up soon!

      • Bwspot

        thx, I was not sure what to do so I went by a feel and I added some flour during the bulk fermentation until I reached consistency that made sense. The bread turned out to be great and had little more holes then one I make with 60% hydration. Yes, videos would be great. I do have some experience with baking bread but those who never did it might get confused when they see very watery dougt. Thx again for great tips and recipe.

        • You’re welcome! Definitely will be working on more videos 🙂

  • Kevin Smith

    I have been trying the tartine country loaf for a while now and just started with your recipe and I am finally much closer to being successful with the type of loaves I want to make. I attribute this to using a mature starter and levain (that you suggested) instead of a young one; and a higher temp. I adjusted the hydration to 82.5%, which suits my flour better, but I think I am having trouble with overproofing as I am not getting any oven spring. Do you have a ballpark for the % rise I should have at the end of bulk fermentation? I’m currently getting about 50% rise at 4 hours at 80 degrees. And how about % rise with the final rise? Thank you for your blog and all of your comments/help!!!

    • You’re welcome! I don’t typically measure a percentage rise for my dough during bulk because I find it can be misleading (eg more while grains will rise less that usual). I look more for the signs described above: dome edges between the dough sides and the bowl, the dough should jiggle a bit when shaken, if you wet a hang and tug a little it should resist your tugging a bit and finally bubbles on top and at the sides. You should see some rise of course and you can kind of see the amount in my pictures above. That’s typical for me and my flour. For me and this formula it’s usually 3.5-4.5 hours at around 80F.

      If you find its over proofing try to cut bulk a bit short (try 30m) and if you still get this you could try to reduce your proof time by a few hours as well. I don’t like to go less than 3 hours for bulk.

      As far as the final proof I actually don’t notice much rise in my baskets at all. The dough will spread out and be a little puffy but there won’t be significant rise.

      I hope that helps, let me know how it goes!

  • Gage Allen

    Hi Maurizio! Could you bake this particular recipe with the combo cooker? Similar cooking times to your other recipes perhaps?

    • Yes, definitely! Should be similar bake times the only thing I’d suggest is to preheat for less time, perhaps 1 hr max, and bake at a slightly lower temp at the beginning (475F) for the first 20 mins. I notice sometimes with the combo cooker I’ll get a much darker crust on the bottom and the lower temp and times help offset that.

  • Cindy De Priest-Cannon

    my bulk fermentation has been going on for over 4 hours. There are bubbles on top, but it doesn’t appear to have risen much and the dough looks much more wet than the photos you show

  • Cindy De Priest-Cannon

    can I add more flour at this point or is this a bust!

    • Sounds like you’re having good fermentation activity in there so that’s a good sign! It sounds like the hydration in this formula is too high for your flour, next time try everything the same but reduce water by 10% and see how it feels.

      It’s definitely too late to add flour at this point. Just preshape it tight and then shape it really tight — you might still be surprised!

      • Cindy De Priest-Cannon

        oh oh …I read someone else s post that sounded like they had a similar problem & they said they added flour during fermentation & it turned out.ok. I”ll watch it a couple hours and see what happens. Sounds like a weeks worth of work may be wasted…ugh!

        • You can definitely add flour, but the sooner you do the better. If bulk is already over then at that point I don’t like to add raw flour into the mix as it wont be properly hydrated and might not ferment fully. You’ll most likely end up with raw flour in your baked loaves.

          This is not a week wasted! Now you have a strong, viable starter and you just take what you’ve learned this time and apply it to the next bake. Nothing lost and a lot learned!

  • Rogério Moraes de Oliveira

    Thanks for great post! One quick doubt: from step 8 to 9, do you go straight from the fridge to the oven? It was not clear to me. Thanks!

    • Thanks! Yes, I’ll typically go straight from fridge to oven.

      • Rogério Moraes de Oliveira

        Great. Thanks for prompt reply. This is the first time I am baking your recipe and so far it is going very well. Have just placed the loaf in the fridge.,will let you know the results by tomorrow;)

  • Bill

    Thanks for your site and this fabulous formula “My Best Sourdough”. Wow, just great. I had just started a loaf from Tartane Book 3, when my baking friend emailed me your URL. I read your process and realized it filled in all the blanks from the book and then some. Since then I’ve baked about 6-7 loafs all of them “perfect”. I generally use a stone, but once tried a Dutch oven since I was not getting a nice gringe. I’ve gotten a nice gringe twice and the loaf in the oven now looks very good. Do you have any suggestions for improving this percentage of success? The only thing I do differently from you is I use 75% hydration as I live on the N. CA coast and it is too damp here to go with 86% as the flour has a higher moisture content. That plus I already have a little trouble handling the dough at 86%, I may try creeping up, but I am getting excellent loaves at 75% except for the gringe. I might add that this is the loaf I have been trying to achieve for the last 3-4 years of active baking.

    • Bill — thanks for the kind words, glad things are working out so well for ya! A nice gringe comes with a few things, most notably giving your dough enough tension during shape time. Creating a nice taut skin on your dough helps keep it intact during proof but more importantly when you first start baking the loaf. The skin will keep your dough together as it heats up and begins to rise, and only the area where you slash will open up.

      Speaking of scoring, make sure you have a very sharp blade and make your score deep enough so it’s right under that tight surface you’ve created during shape. I find I get a better ear if I slash at a fairly shallow angle to the dough, somewhere near 30º should work fine.

      Lastly, it’s important your loaves are not over proofed. If you let your proof go too long you won’t have enough strength in your dough and things will spread too much when you transfer to the oven. It doesn’t sound like this is your problem but I wanted to point that out.

      I hope that helps! Thanks again for the kind words, really appreciate that! Happy baking, Bill.

  • Martin

    Would the baking schedule be the same with a dutch oven?

    • Yes the schedule should the same. I’d reduce all the baking temperatures by 15-25ºF though. I notice sometimes with a Dutch oven the bottom will cook a little bit faster than the top and end up a little more cooked.

  • Kat LeSueur

    Can’t wait to try this method today. I’m curious – have you compared a long, cold bulk ferment and room temp proof as opposed to room temp bulk ferment and cold proof? I know some people swear by doing an extremely long cold bulk, up to 10 days, but I worry about over fermenting. Also, even with an overnight cold bulk ferment, it seems like the stretch and folds would be difficult, both in dealing with cold dough and a more drawn out schedule. Thoughts?

    • Kat LeSueur

      Another question just popped into my head… I’m also trying substitutes for water for the first time today. Doing a Porter Sourdough with Hazelnuts and Barley Flour. OK to autolyse with beer? Doing about half and half beer and water, beer has been left to go flat overnight.

      • Good move on letting the beer go flat, I’ve done this several times and it works much better than using it straight from the bottle 🙂

        In my stout sourdough recipe here at my site I actually perform the autolyse with the stout included. It was a relatively short auto at only 40 minutes but the resulting bread turned out really nice.

        I’d love to hear how it turns out for you! I really like using beer in bread in general but the winter time it’s a perfect addition.

    • I haven’t experimented with a cold bulk, yet. That’s something I plan to work on here very soon, especially with 100% whole wheat dough that ferments at rapid pace. 10 days seems like a really, really long time and I’d be worried about overproofing!

      With a cold bulk you’d typically perform your mix and maybe do one set of stretch and folds and then toss into the fridge. I’ve read about other bakers performing stretch and folds even with the dough in the fridge but yes, I agree I think it would be hard to do so since the dough will chill and be harder to work with.

      • Kat LeSueur

        Thanks for the feedback! I tried a long autolyse yesterday and 5 stretch and folds during room temp bulk ferment before retarding overnight. Today I’ll divide and shape straight out of the fridge and proof at room temp before baking. Fingers crossed!

        • Good luck!

          • Kat LeSueur

            So it worked out great! But here’s something that surprised me.
            I made two doughs. One with beer and barley flour, one with hard cider and millet. Otherwise, same formulas, same schedule.
            I’m still really bad at shaping, need a lot of practice. I tried shaping the beer bread first and was not happy with it, so after letting it rest about thirty minutes I tried again. I was afraid that over handling might result in a denser crumb, but went for it anyway.
            I did not do a second shape with the cider bread, just pre shape and shape.
            When I cut into the baked loaves I was really surprised to find that the beer bread (the one handled more) had a much more open crumb than the cider bread, which was very good but had a pretty closed crumb. The beer bread is definitely the best loaf I have baked thus far.
            Does that make any sense to you? The results are making me think differently about how to shape and handle the dough, but maybe it’s a fluke?

            • Great news! Sounds like some awesome variations to the recipe as well.

              Things like this happen, a lot. Finding that dough strength sweet spot can be a hard thing, it sounds like the dough you shaped twice benefitted from a little more strength (doing a second shape like that could be seen as an extra set of stretch and folds during bulk). If you make that bread again try to do another set during bulk and then a single shape and see if you end up with the same open crumb.

              I think in general it’s a good thing to handle the dough as little as possible when shaping so you preserve the open structure of the dough. However, sometimes a little more structure is needed and so extra handling during shaping is a good thing. For example, with this recipe I do a “stitch” style shaping that could be seen as quite a bit of handling but if the dough is stronger (or less hydrated) a more minimal shaping could be performed as the dough doesnt need that extra structure & support.

              In the end experimentation and intuition helps you realize when the dough has “enough strength” and can use a lighter hand during shaping.

              Either way that sounds like a really fantastic bake and you learned quite a bit, which is probably more important in the end! Sometimes these “accidents” are how I progressed the most in baking 🙂 Thanks for the update!

  • tinalbrecht

    Hi, any recommendations for someone who would like to try this recipe, but lives at sea level? I’m new to baking and not really sure what kind of conversions I should keep in mind.

    • Hi! Honestly I don’t think they would be much conversion necessary, except for a few things to keep an eye on.

      Chances are your environment is a little more humid/moist than it is here at 5,000 ft in the desert so keep an eye on the hydration of your mix when you start adding water. I’d suggest reducing the water in this recipe by 10% to start and then work it up as you get comfortable and experiment with the flour you have.

      At lower elevation your bake time and temperature might need some adjusting (also each person’s oven is different). Keep an eye on these loaves in the oven near the last 10 minutes of the bake and take them out if they start to color too fast (this might happen to you at lower elevation), or leave them in if then need longer cook time. Next time you can lower the temperature if it colors too fast, try 15ºF lower and see if that works.

      Aside from that I don’t really think it’s necessary to adjust the amount of natural levain (rising agent) in this recipe to suit your elevation. I hope that helps, let me know how it goes and happy baking!

  • Pedro Henrique Formigoni

    Hi Maurizio. Thanks from Brazil for this great website. I’ve got a new oven with a baking stone and I want to try this recipe. I’m new at baking so I’ m afraid of ruine my baking stone. I have a doubt. After a cold retard do I need to wait sometime before I toss it into the oven? Cause I suppose the dough will be cold enough for a Temperature shock and it may brake my stone. Thank you again.

    • Hi, Pedro! I personally have never broken a baking stone baking this way, but I supposed it would be possible (I feel like it would be unlikely, though). What you could do is take the dough out 30 minutes before your oven is done preheating and let it come up to room temperature so it’s not so cold.

      If you do this keep in mind your dough might be a little harder to score because it will have lost its firm shape from the cold fridge. I do this from time-to-time depending on how the dough looks when I need to bake it so it’s not a problem at all, just something to be aware of.

      Happy baking!

  • Andrea Carlini

    Hi Maurizio ,
    congratulations for your site, it’s very nice! I’m Italian, can you recommend me some flour to buy in Italy? Thank You very much!!!!

    • Ciao, Andrea! Thanks I appreciate that 🙂 Unfortunately I don’t live in Italy so I’m not too familiar with the flour available out there. I’d recommend you try to find one that has lower protein, around 11-12% and mix that with some good quality whole wheat (“stoneground” is great) for this recipe, but also in general. I like to use lower protein flour as the majority of the flour in a recipe because I find it tastes less “gummy” or “chewy”.

      Sorry I don’t have any Italian brands I can recommend, I’ll have to try them one day! Happy baking 🙂

      • Andrea Carlini

        In your opinion what is the best work table to handle very hydrated dough? Wood, marble or steel?

        • I haven’t had the opportunity to work on steel but I have worked on wood and granite (similar to marble). I prefer to work on wood, even with highly hydrated dough, because I like the feel of it and it can provide a little more friction between the surface and the dough which helps me when I shape. Granite was nice because it was easy to clean and I could use less flour.

          I would imagine metal would be just fine but it would be a lot less work to clean up than wood. You could just scrape and wash it down.

          I think in the end it’s a preference thing!

  • Muneera

    Hi Maurizio.
    I just posted a question on another recipe too. As I mentioned, I tried this recipe with tremendous success ☺️
    Thank You!

    So I had a different wetness of dough by the time I got to bulk fermentation. I guess this is from using different flours than you. It was very wet! By the time I had to shape, the dough still had little strength and I had to pretty much slip it off the counter into the proofing bowl (I had come this far and so decided to keep going). The next day, when I went to put it onto the baking pan, it stuck to the floured cloth in the proofing bowl and I had to scrape much of the dough off the cloth and so there was no shape left at all, and no continuous skin in the top of the loaf. I know this all sounds terrible but here’s the thing… It baked beautifully. The rise was prefect, the crumb was open and beautifully moist. I wish I could post a picture but I don’t know how.

    So my question is, why do we shape at all? If one can literally pour the dough into a pan and bake a scrumptious loaf, why go through all that trouble?

    Many thanks in advance.

    • Fantastic! If I ended up with dough like you describe I’d definitely lower hydration next time. You want it wet but not too wet, the dough still needs enough strength to rise properly in the oven. Chances are you’d be able to get a bit more rise than you did (sounds like it worked out well, though). Note that as the hydration increase you usually will see a reduction in rise, especially if the dough is not shaped tight enough.

      I think the answer is we shape mostly for aesthetic reasons, but perhaps somewhat functional as well. We want to be able to shape the dough, and have it hold its shape, into various configurations to fit the bread’s purpose. For example, I like to primarily shape into a batard because I use my bread for sandwiches and it fits the sandwich ingredients I typically use. Boules are nice for this too but I make those when I want to use the bread for soups or for tearing the bread.

      Pan loaves are nice also, and I do push hydration impossibly high when making these because the pan provides the structure needed for the dough to rise high. Without the pan these would probably just spread out on the hearth.

      Some types of bread have almost no shaping at all, they are just cut, lightly preshaped and then that’s it.

      I think in the end it’s how you want your bread to turn out: do you want a perfectly shaped batard with sharp angles and a nice defined ear on it? Or do you want a rustic boule that goes where it wants and that is part of the beauty? That’s one of the things I love about baking bread, there really is an unlimited number of choices with ingredients, shapes, bake times and so forth. It’s wonderful.

      Hope that conveys my take on your question! Ciao 🙂

  • Rob Pucci

    Hi Maurizio, I enjoy your site very much. I’m also on FB in bread Groups. I’ve been baking the no knead for about 8 yrs and recently got into sourdough, Tartine and FWSY. I bake loaves exclusively in cast iron or clay pots for steam and the heat. My question, in Chad’s video, he’s baking in a cold cast iron pot, not pre heating. I always preheat and never tried this. What are your thoughts and is the baking time extended past the 35-40 minutes?

    • Rob, thanks so much for the comments I appreciate that. I’ve also always preheated whatever baking enclosure I’m using, it’s my feeling that you really want that high heat to shock the dough into rising to its full potential. I’m wondering if in those videos of Chad online he had no choice but to use a cold pot, I’m sure he would have preheated it.

      I think baking past the 35-40 minutes is fine, and sometimes I do this depending on the hydration of my dough or if my dough is in a pan, but for me I bake until the crust is deeply colored and at that point I know the interior is finished (a little knock on the bottom always verifies this, or if in doubt an instant read thermometer). Sometimes it’s 35 minutes and sometimes it’s 25 minutes — all depends on the dough.

      I hope that conveys my thoughts! I’m glad to have you reading along, hope to hear from you again!

  • Rodney Ferris

    I just pull the loaves out of the oven. My batch went crazy! Once it started to ferment it just went steady. There was no way I was going to be able to retard this one. It rose to double in the fridge within an hour! So it was so soft and slack that I decided to use a Dutch oven and a baker and this worked beautifully. I started the bread in the Dutch Oven from cold and times it when the signal reached 425ºF. Baked for ½ hour and then for another 25 mins. I haven’t cut it yet because it is still warm, but the loaf is so “luscious!” They are both huge and will make good sandwiches and toast! The Whole wheat i used was Red Fife.. for some reason Bulk Bard has to call it Stone Ground Hard Red Whole wheat. The dough smelled exactly as the Red Fife smelled.. but it disappeared and seems to have come back as another incarnation!

    • I just replied to your email but I’ll reiterate here: awesome! Sounds like a good bake and I hope you’re enjoying those with some good butter and jam 🙂

  • Kuzmatron

    No sophomore slump for me. First Beginner’s Sourdough went very well. Now My Best Sourdough did well too, even though I accidentally put my shaped loaves in their banneton upside down! I just flipped them after they got firmed up by the cold and noticed very little ill effect.

    But I do have a problem, Maurizio. These loaves have all been so wonderfully crusty that even my very sharp Wusthof bread knife has trouble getting through the top and bottom of the crust. It’s really quite a struggle and means that anything less than a thick slice gets kind of mangled. I’m wondering if an electric knife would offer any advantages. Or do you have any other techniques to suggest?

    • That’s great news!

      To help with cutting I usually let the bread rest for several hours before cutting (the next day is even easier), if the crumb is still a little soft then the slices tend to be harder to cut. Other than that I just try to cut as straight and strong as I can without smashing the top of the bread too much.

      Since I bake very frequently for me and my family, I invested in a really nice Shun bread knife that is out of this world awesome. It’s pricey, but I cut a lot of bread 🙂 The slightly curved blade and extremely sharp steel makes cutting a whole lot easier. An investment to be sure, but worth it for me!

      • Kuzmatron

        Uh oh, now my Wusthofs aren’t looking so good. ;-( I went out and “test drove” some Shun Premieres last night at Crate and Barrel. I think I have some saving up to do.

        • Yes, they are expensive but I felt it was worth it for the amount of bread I bake!

  • mitsuko sato

    Hello Maurizio- I feel like bit of a stalker commenting on so many of your posts, so frequently. But I wanted to let you know I’ve baked this today again. It was my second attempt. It is truly exceptional bread/recipe. It was probably a personal best for me. Thank you again for the site and guides; I am very grateful to have them.

    I had one question, and hoped you could perhaps help. I seem to keep having this one issue…the issue being, as I divide and preshape, my two halves will behave/look differently. I notice one is always a little looser than the other. But I carry on, unsure of what to do or if perhaps my mind is playing tricks on me. I then go to shape- and the skin on the looser looking loaf will not become as taunt as my other loaf. I pull and spin some more. Get some gas bubbles on the surface, but still it’s always quicker to spread on bench rest. Nonetheless, I decide to press on. I proof, I, I score, I bake at the same time. One loaf comes out of the oven looking good enough to take a pic of. But before I can snap a photo for the husband to humble brag a bit, I pull out the second one and see it’s a sad little disc not even the best camera angle can deny. Any insight on what I might be doing would be so appreciated. Thank you!

    • Not a problem at all, I love the comments and questions! Really glad to hear this recipe worked out for you again.

      It’s funny you should say that because I see that anomaly from time-to-time as well. I don’t see it quite to that extent but for me sometimes one shaped loaf is tighter than the other, or just shaped better in general. The always both rise properly in the oven but sometimes on is a little odd looking compared to the other. Honestly I almost always just chock it up to a mistake in shaping on my part.

      The only other, really far-reaching theory I would have is to first think about your dough in bulk, you have what is essentially a column of dough from top to bottom. When you dump the dough out to preshape the half that’s been bulking on top might exhibit slightly different characteristics than the dough on the bottom half. There’s probably some some physics explanation going on in there I’m sure, and I can’t really say whether the top or bottom would always be better, but that is one reason we do turns in the bowl during bulk: it helps regulate temperature though the entire dough mass (in addition to build strength).

      Just an idea. A really, really good question I’m afraid I don’t have an answer to! But I will say that I notice this effect less and less as I continue to bake through the years.

      • mitsuko sato

        Thank you for the ideas on what to pay attention to moving forward. I do bulk ferment/stretch and fold in the bowl. So it is most likely my shaping then- im going to try and read up/watch some videos on technique tonight and try again the day after tomorrow. Thank you again!

        • You’re very welcome! In the near future I’ll have my own videos up of these methods, keep an eye out!

  • Wendy Shefte

    Hi Maurizio. Again, thank you so much for this website! I have a question — My first loaf of this bread, as well as the 100% whole wheat bread, turned out phenomenal. If I could show you a picture, you’d probably be proud 🙂 Anyway, ever since those two wonder loaves, I have had miserable hockey pucks come out of the oven. I threw away my starter, thinking I’d killed it (I forgot to feed it one day, and it looked terrible). I made new starter, just like the first one I made, and I’m still not having luck. My loaves (both white and wheat) taste delicious, but have very little oven spring. I’m following your recipes, just like I did with my awesome loaves, but no luck. I’m beginning to wonder if I bragged too much when those first ones came out of the oven (even dreamed of supplying local restaurants with gorgeous bread)…

    • Wendy — you’re welcome! Really glad my site has helped! Bragging is ok 🙂

      Did you change flour (even if it’s the same brand, but different bag) between the good and bad loaves? Each flour, even different bags, can display slightly different characteristics — especially water absorption. Usually it’s pretty minor, but every once in a while you’ll snag a bag that is just wildly different. You want to try and internalize how the dough feels when you mix it with water, this comes with time and experience but after a while you’ll be able to spot when your mix is “too wet” or “too dry” and you can hold back or add water as necessary.

      Aside from hydration changes make sure your starter is indeed healthy and strong. You want to see a consistent rise and fall (as I describe here in my sourdough starter maintenance post, if you haven’t had a chance to read it) and significant fermentation activity in there with lots of little bubbles. Try to feed your starter at a consistent time each day, for example, at 800am and then 800pm. Do this for a few days before a bake to help your starter get ramped up and ready to go. My maintenance post goes into detail with schedule and what to look for.

      From there I’d say really try to focus on each step of the process and try to relate it back to my post here, things should look similar (in terms of dough development, fermentation activity, etc.). If the interior has a bunch of little holes throughout then that’s a good sign fermentation is on track but perhaps the dough has been over-hydrated, or there wasn’t enough tension built in the dough through stretch and folds at bulk, and finally make sure there is a nice and tight skin formed on your loaves at the end of shaping. If it feels like the dough is too sloppy and you can’t shape them rather tight then you should consider lowering hydration to help.

      Finally, focus on changing one thing at a time at each bake! It’s hard to do, but try to keep everything else consistent so you know what pushes you in the right direction and what does not.

      If you have photos of your next bake, and it turns out the same, feel free to shoot me an email through the Contact link at the top and I’ll see if I can diagnose further. Don’t worry, we’ll get you back to bragging status soon enough! Happy baking 🙂

  • Heather Eddy

    Hi Maurizio, I’ve baked this recipe three weeks in a row now, paying ever closer attention to detail (especially since it’s actually now summer in London), taking lots of notes, and doing lots of research. I’m sure you can relate. The crumb is lovely and the taste is fantastic, but dammit I cannot get this bread to spring! Shaping is my weakest spot at the moment- could it mostly be down to a lack of strength and structure? Should I take a step back and maybe practice shaping again with a slightly lower hydration dough? By all rights I’m still a real beginner with little more than a year of sourdough baking under my belt, it’s seemed lately that I’m getting worse! Nevertheless, I’m still gonna throw my hands back into this dough again next week. Thanks for being such great inspiration.

    • Hi there! There’s a balance to be had here, and especially with a higher hydration bread like this one, where the increased hydration starts to compromise your oven spring and reduce the height of your bread. The higher the hydration the more strength required in your dough (during mixing, bulk and shape) to get it to spring up properly, but even this has a limit. Yes, I think the best approach would be to lower hydration by say 10% and work that until you get the height you’re looking for. Focus on building enough strength in the dough (you might need less now that the water has been reduced) and shape tight enough so the dough rises properly in the oven. Once you’ve got that under your belt work up the hydration until you get to the taste and look you’re after.

      As I mentioned in this post it’s all relative to the flour you’re using as well. It might be that your flour isn’t able to take on the same level of water as mine (or due to environmental changes) — and that’s ok! In the end it’s 90% about taste and 10% about aesthetic, but I know how we all strive for that “perfect” loaf 🙂

      I’m glad I could help and I hope these comments do as well! Please let me know if you have any more questions and keep me posted on how it’s going!

    • Veronika Bogumska

      Hello Heather, as I read your post i would love to ask what pan you using as I can see you from England to.
      I have iron cast tefal pan with lid, but it’s about 4.7l which results my bread to spread more. I am not seems to be lucky to find the right mesurment lodge anywhere in UK (3.6l)
      So was you lucky to find one? Thank you

  • Runnerfemme

    Woooowee! I am amazed by this recipe. I am a newcomer to sourdough — really to any bread baking of an earnest effort — but I am a fanatic already. I have read many of the books referred to often as the ultimate sources (Tartine, BBA..), and was all geared up to make Robertson’s country loaf for the first time this past weekend. And then I found this last week. I had to try it. Having made only very few (I could count them on one hand) sourdoughs and never with a 100% wild starter (the satisfaction!!), I fully expected to be disappointed simply by virtue of the fact that my hands are inexperienced with such a wet dough and my intuition has not been fully awoken to be able to read when my bread dough needs to be treated differently than the recipe instructs. But..nothing ventured, nothing gained. So I jumped in the deep end! My bulk ferment had to go a good hour longer than I planned (thank you for your excellent descriptions and photos..really helped guide me), and the shaping was, well, not my most mannerly of moments. $#@! But I did it! How fun and gratifying. My husband, best friend and I devoured an entire loaf slathering goat’s cheese and raspberry preserves on this incredible bread. Thank you for your wonderful website! I’m a fan. Hey, if you got me to veer off course from Robertson’s loaf and I’m still smiling, you must be doing something right! I wish I could post a photo — ears! open crumb!! 🙂

    • Thanks for the comments! I love your recount of this first attempt and I’m really happy to hear it turns out so dang well 🙂 You hit on a good point though: sometimes “life” gets in the way of things and we have to adjust as necessary. A lot of baking has to do with that, and as our experience and intuition grows we’re able to adapt ever more.

      Thanks again and I’m really happy to hear my site has helped you make such wonderful sourdough — stoked! Happy baking 🙂

      • Runnerfemme

        Next weekend, I am going to try my hand at a spelt sourdough with a grain/seed soaker (using your spelt recipe as my northern star) and your gorgeous seeded rye recipe. I’ve got gorgeous, thriving spelt & rye starters thanks to you. Yes, it’s official. I’ve gone bread bananas. Thank you, Maurizio & happy 3rd anniversary of this fabulous site.

        • Thanks I appreciate that! Sounds like some good bread to me! I totally understand how it is to be completely taken with sourdough… it’s so satisfying 🙂

          Happy baking!

  • Oleg

    Hello, Maurizio. I admire your bread and for several months trying to bake this bread, I clearly follow your instructions, but my bread always turns sticky crumb. I ask you to help and advise what mistakes can lead to such a defect? I would be very grateful!

    • Thanks! Usually a dense interior is due to insufficient fermentation. Pay attention to the Bulk step outlined above (the times and temperatures and how your dough should look & feel by the end) and also the final proof step. Your dough needs to ferment for the times listed above and also warmer temperatures help significantly. Remember to treat temperature as just an important ingredient as anything else!

      Before this, though, make sure your starter is rising and falling predictably after you feed it. I like to feed my 2x a day the day or two before I bake with it to get it really strong and active. If you haven’t checked out my posts on starter maintenance have a look (click the recipes link at the top and then it’s under the Starter category).

      I hope that helps!

  • Casey

    Hello, Maurizio!

    I wanted to tell you that I made this recipe with dark rye in place of the whole wheat, and high-gluten in place of the bread flour. Added 2tsp. rye flavor, and caraway seeds. It was very nice. However, because of the high-gluten flour, the crumb was a little more closed. I think I will try it without the high-gluten flour, to see if I can get away with it. I am thinking that with the lack of structure in rye flour, I may need to add back some high-gluten flour to pull it off, but I would like it very much if I could just use bread flour. I want to keep the hydration the same.

    Anyway, I thought you might like to know that I looked for a good sourdough rye recipe, but I just love this recipe so much that I decided to use this recipe as a base, and experiment from there. I just couldn’t get myself to use another recipe.

    Thank you!


    • Hi, Casey!

      Sounds delicious to me! I’ve been meaning to try adding in some rye flour to see how the flavor profile changes, I bet the addition adds some real flavor. I almost feel like the “bread” flour should be enough, without the addition of any more high-gluten flour. Bread flour typically has protein levels around 13%, which is pretty high compared to what I usually use… Would take some experimentation.

      Thanks so much, I’m really happy to hear you’re enjoying my recipe! This still is my favorite one to bake 🙂

      Happy baking!

  • Iron Dice

    Hi Maurizio-

    Over the past few weeks I’ve successfully made a starter and a few loaves of bread using the information from your site, and it’s all turned out wonderful on the first shot – so thanks for that!

    I finally got up the courage to try your “Best Sourdough” recipe. The crumb and taste were absolutely as you described – simply incredible. However, the crust was a bit tougher – not bad by any means, but not brittle or thin.

    Any idea on what I might do better? I’ll be the first to admit I’m not yet very skilled at shaping, particularly with high hydration dough. Could it have been a shaping error? Also, my starter is quite new – about 3 weeks – should I expect better results as it gets stronger over time? What else might help?


    • TJ — that’s awesome news! Really glad to hear that.

      I don’t think your starter will have much to do with it, shaping is not likely either. I’ve found I get the best crust when I fully preheat my oven (and baking stones/steel or Dutch oven) for 1-1.5 hours, bake the loaf hot at the beginning and finally have ample steam in my oven. If you’re following my post on steaming your home oven then you should have plenty of steam in there. For heat I like to preheat for 1 hour or so at at least 500ºF and I load my dough quickly and shut that door as soon as possible so not too much steam & heat escapes.

      If you’re baking in a Dutch oven I do notice even my crust is a little thicker when using that, I’m not sure what the cause for this is but that is usually the case. Perhaps the dough is at a constantly hot temperature for a long period instead of a major blast of heat at the beginning with a trickle down to lower temperatures.

      I hope that helps. Sorry I don’t have a 100% sure fire want to improve on this!

      • Iron Dice

        Thanks Maurizio! I plan to bake it again this weekend – I have been using the dutch oven, so I will try one in the oven and one with another of your steam methods and compare. I’ll let you know how it goes. Thanks again!

      • Iron Dice


        The oven steam worked! Great crumb, and the crust is now nice and crackly. Thanks!


        • Awesome!! So glad to hear that, thanks for reporting back. Bake on!

  • Marcelo

    Hi Maurizio!

    I tried yours “Best Sourdough Recipe ” and thought the process was fine until the end of fermentation. The dough´s surface did not seem to smoothe and seemed to me a little too wet. As the temperature here is around 65 F, the bulk fermentation took eight hours and still had not found conditions to shape the dough. The levain (your recipe) was very active and the dought also showed some bubbles during fermentation.

    Should I decrease the proportion of water in the recipe?

    • Hello! Yes, it sounds like you should reduce hydration and see how the dough looks and feels at the end of bulk. During bulk fermentation the dough should smooth out and become stronger as you do stretch/folds and also the process of fermentation itself will strengthen the dough.

      I’d reduce hydro next try and see if that helps!

      • Marcelo

        Hi Maurizio! Thanks, its great to have this helpfull comment’s channel.

        I’ve reduced hydro to 70% and still have not get the smooth surface on que dought at the end of the bulk fermentation, nor did it grows twice its size.

        It should be some problem with my levain, shouldn’t be strong enough. It grows twice its size in 7 hours, with usually small bubles. I’ve been feeding it a month always twice a day, discarding half, but could not managing to see intense activity in it.

  • ReneeR

    Thanks so much for all of these wonderful recipes! I’ve made this recipe a few times and I have my first ninety-five percent whole grain sourdough in the oven now. Yum! My question is about temperature. We live in the SF Bay Area, and the temperature in our home is generally around 69-70 degrees. I don’t have a warm place in my kitchen or anything like that. How should I be adjusting these recipes? Generally I do build the levain the night before to give it extra time. I can make my water hotter than you suggest in the recipes but don’t want to make it too hot. interested to hear any thoughts you have. Thanks!

    • You’re very welcome! Happy to hear my recipes are working out so well for you.

      When temps are low, near 70’s, it typically just means things will take more time. It means you’ll have to adjust each step of the process just a bit until the dough is ready. In other words, as they say: “watch the dough not the clock”. 🙂

      Using warm water for your dough mix helps significantly and I always find myself doing this. Typically I’ll use water that’s around 90ºF and that works out just fine.

      Another thing you could do is to keep your dough, in its bulking container, in the oven (turned off) with a light on inside. If you have an ambient temperature thermometer toss it in there as well so it doesn’t get too hot. I’ll just about always do this as well, the oven acts as a really nice, sealed and isolated environment for your dough.

      I hope that helps!

      • ReneeR

        Thanks for the response, very helpful! Again, really enjoying this site.

  • Kris

    I just made this recipe for the first time. I want to tell you how delicious it is, it is the best ever! Thank you Maurizio, you have no idea how much I look forward to eating this bread.

    • SO glad to hear that, Kris! Thanks for the message and I’m happy it’s worked out so well for you. Enjoy and happy baking!

  • pikofix

    I have just tried it today, my first ever sourdough bread. It is simply the best bread I had in the last few years, thank you for the great recipe and detailed description, it helped a lot!

    • You’re very welcome, glad to hear that! Now you have a never ending supply of good bread, just need to stock up on butter 🙂 Happy baking!

  • Muneera

    Hello again Maurizio, I have been baking by your recipes for some months now (about to delve into the spelt recipe with my freshly milled spelt) but can’t seem to get a loaf that isn’t a bit overdone at the bottom. Firstly, I can never do the full baking time that you recommend. It makes for burnt loaves for me. I know my oven runs a touch hot, and so I have tried turning down the temperature even lower than you recommend after the first 20 minutes, and I bake for less time in the second stage, but that doesn’t quite do it either. Any suggestions? Or am I missing something here? I should mention that I don’t have a Dutch oven. I use cast iron pans with a steam tray. I have also tried baking on a regular baking sheet, but that doesn’t help either. Would love your thoughts! Many thanks!

    • Glad you’ve been following along for a while now! I do find that when I bake with a Dutch oven the bottom of the dough can easily get overdone. I know you said you’re not using a DO, but it could be a similar issue if you are using cast iron pans — there are a few things we can try.

      First, I usually lower the preheat temperature and/or time in my oven when I use a DO. Instead of preheating at 500ºF I’ll usually drop this down to 475ºF or 450ºF. As you mentioned, each oven is different and also sometimes ovens can misread temperatures (you can grab a cheap ambient oven thermometer to help ensure you’re setting the right temp), so a little trial and error can help deduce what temperatures work for you and your oven.

      You can cover the bottom of your loaves with something to help prevent burning. Some bakers will use coarse bran or cornmeal for this purpose. Before you place your dough into the pan sprinkle a row of bran/cornmeal in the pan then place the dough on top of this.

      If you’re baking on top of baking stones with a cast iron pan as well, remove the baking stones or place the pan on a rack above them. The cast iron pan will retain plenty of stored heat and the baking stones are nice to keep ambient heat high in the oven but can release too much heat when a pan is placed on top.

      Finally, If your oven has its heating elements at the bottom try moving up your rack so it’s further away from the direct heat.

      I hope one of these suggestions helps! Let me know if any of them work out for you 🙂

  • igniteyourmind

    Hey Mario! I love this recipe and have been trying to perfect it for a few months now. Today I baked off what I believe to be my best breads yet. Once I cut them I’ll know for sure. The crust is that perfect crisp thin. I baked off two loaves. One will be eaten today, but the other will either be for tomorrow or Monday and Tuesday lunches. How Can I preserve this bread for a day or two. Everytime I make this bread the next day the crispiness is completely gone. As a chewy crust it is fine, but crispy is what makes this bread. Any storage solutions would be appreciated!

    • That’s great news, so glad to hear it! It can be hard to maintain the dry, crisp crust on bread several days after the bake. Depending on your environment your bread will either dry out or become more soggy as it’s exposed to the humidity in your air. Where I live the bread becomes incredibly dry a few days after and thus I keep my bread in a bread box or paper bag to help retain moisture. It sounds like you might live in a more humid environment and would recommend keeping your bread just out on the cutting board. If you slice it in half keep the sliced, interior face down so the only part exposed to air is the crust (a sort of natural protection to keep the crumb as it should be).

      I hope that helps!

  • Ian

    Hi Maurizio, Thanks for doing all this great experimentation that we can learn from! I’m enjoying the challenge of working with high hydration dough; the folding technique in particular works great to ‘tame’ the wet dough! I had a question about the sequence of bulk fermentation and retarding the dough that maybe you can answer. I noticed in Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast that Ken Forkish follows the same sequence you describe of short bulk fermentation, shape into loaves, then retards the shaped loaves overnight in the fridge; but he uses this sequence only when he supplements his levain doughs with baker’s yeast. By contrast, in his recipes for ‘pure levain doughs’ he alters the sequence by doing bulk fermentation overnight in the fridge, then shaping/proofing the next day before baking. He doesn’t really explain why the change in technique is needed for pure levain doughs, so I’m wondering if you have any explanation. I’m sticking with your technique since it’s more straightforward, but was curious if you’d come across this in your experiments.

    • You’re very welcome! You can do the overall process either way, with a cold bulk like Ken or a warm bulk like I perform. There are pros and cons for each, and for some doughs a cold bulk is almost necessary (like for a 100% fresh milled whole wheat dough), but in the end they both need get to the same result of a fully fermented dough that is strong and active. A cold bulk can be a little easier on shaping the next day as the dough will be colder when it’s divided — this can help with extremely wet doughs that can be trouble to preshape/shape when they are warm. A warm bulk lets you preshape/shape the same day and retard the dough in shape so the next morning all that’s required is a slash and a bake (best for those early risers :)).

      I’d say go with the one that best fits your schedule and know you can employ either technique depending on the time you have and what’s most comfortable for you. I rarely do a cold bulk mostly because I prefer my schedule and the way the dough develops.

      I hope that helps!

      • Ian

        Thanks very much for clarifying, Maurizio. While I enjoy the challenge, I’m really having a lot of trouble getting the high hydration dough to sit up straight during reshaping and shaping, so maybe I’ll try a cold bulk to see if shaping the cold dough makes it a little more manageable. If that doesn’t work, I may try reducing H2O by 5-10%, though I really liking the taste and texture you can achieve with high hydration. Thanks again!

        • You’re very welcome — either approach is a good one! Happy baking, Ian 🙂

  • Douglas Amrine

    I’ve been baking sourdough loaves for around 6 months, with good results (especially since I got the Forkish book), but I have been struggling to get the open, airy crumb seen in this recipe. So I tried Maurizio’s method and the results were fantastic! I live in the south of Brazil, and I’m not sure whether it’s the flour here, or the altitude (900m), or what, but I had to adjust the balance of flour and water. The first time, the dough really was a soup, and at the folding stage I had to add 30-40g of flour even though I had used slightly less water than in the recipe. The dough turned from a soup to a wet mass and that worked fine. The second time, I decided to use 40g of whole wheat, 40g of rye and 40g of porridge oats (rather than the 73g of whole wheat in the recipe). The results were wonderful! I don’t have bannetons (impossible to get in Brazil) so my loaves aren’t shaped as beautifully as Maurizio’s, but the taste is great. Thank you so much for sharing your bread-making wisdom with us.

    • Your modifications sound great! We all have to adjust things to suit our flour and our environment — yours is very, very different than mine here (I live in the desert at 5200 ft. elevation!). I’ve read that a lot of the available flour down in South America is of lower protein so it can be a challenge to get a really open crumb, although there is definitely much more that goes into it than just protein percentage.

      As far as the shaping goes, you’ll get there! It definitely takes quite a bit of practice, especially when there’s a super high hydration.

      I’m really glad to hear your bakes have turned out well, thank so much for the update and happy baking Douglas!

      • Douglas Amrine

        You’re welcome; this weekend I made your whole wheat sandwich loaves recipe. Fantastic as well.

        • Awesome, thank you! I make that recipe every single week and just love it 🙂

  • ReneeR

    This is so good…have made it a few times. Yum!
    My 9 year old is asking for cheese in her sourdough. Any suggestion about how to add cheese to this recipe?

    • Awesome! As I’ve said, it’s one of my favorites 🙂

      I’ve never added cheese to my bread before (!!) so it’s hard for me to say. I would probably recommend grating or shredding it and then adding it in during bulk, perhaps after the second or third set of stretch and folds — much like you’d add nuts or seeds.

      Just an idea, I would have to experiment more to say for sure. Hope that helps!

      • ReneeR

        Thanks, I did make cheese bread: Before putting the dough into the banneton and the fridge, I took the dough and rolled it open onto on a cutting board, poured in ~1/2-3/4 cup grated cheese, and rolled it up again (with the cheese inside) and put into the fridge to rise overnight. Baked as usual. Excellent!

        • Oooh that sounds fantastic! I will have to give this a try 🙂 Thanks for the update!

  • Arthur

    Do you put the cold dough right into the oven out of the fridge or let it warm up a bit before baking?

    • Arthur — I almost always bake my dough straight from the fridge, no warmup time is needed.

      • Arthur

        Thanks. That’s what I did. I used the full amount of water and is was a bit too hydrated — didn’t hold its shape out of the brotform. But it still rose nicely and was absolutely delicious with a beautiful crust.

        • That’s fantastic to hear! Next time drop the water a bit and see if that helps the dough hold more shape. Happy baking!

  • Rita Hennessy

    I am having fun with your recipe on a rainy weekend, and all is going well. Your bannetons look ceramic rather than reed. Can you confirm and the best sorce?

    • Glad to hear that! The bannetons I used here are actually wood pulp (kind of like paper). I picked them up at — they’re nice!

  • Matthew Wong

    Hey Maurizio!

    I tried this recipe using King Arthur bread flour and Josey Baker red wheat. When I released the bread from the banneton, it wouldn’t keep shape and ended up spreading like crazy. I wonder if this was a result of overhydration, but I did follow the recipe practically to a t. The dough didn’t feel overly sticky but it was certainly wet. Any ideas?

    • Hey Matthew! Yes, this is sometimes a sign of over hydration. The dough should be sticky but it should still feel strong by the end of bulk, it should want to stay together instead of spreading super fast. It’s also possible the dough was fine with the hydration but the proof might have been too long (or at too high of a temperature for too long), in which case the dough would spread quite a bit because the gluten in the dough has broken down under the long fermentation time.

      If you feel like the proof time and temp were ok (I list my time and temp above) then I would try to reduce the hydration by 5-10% next time and see if that helps. I do know KA bread flour can take on a lot of water, but perhaps your particular batch and/or environment was too much for it.

      Let me know how it goes (sorry for the late reply)!

  • Mauro

    Hi Maurizio,
    Many thanks for this detailed and beautiful recipe! I tried it with a little less water (~78% hydration), and it all worked out great – the gluten development, the fermentation, the oven spring and the holes in the crumb. But unfortunately the crumb came out pretty sticky. Not dense, but sticky. What could cause such stickiness? I’d really appreciate your advice. Thanks!

    • Hello, Mauro! You’re very welcome, glad to hear it worked out well for you 🙂 An overly sticky crumb is usually due to underbaking. Try to bake your loaves longer to ensure they are fully cooked on the inside. If you have an instant read thermometer, insert it into the bread when you think it’s done to ensure the internal temperature is over 210ºF.

      If you find the outside of the loaf burning too quickly you might want to try turning the temperature down a bit, perhaps 15-25ºF, so you can bake it longer without burning the exterior. Each environment and oven are different, so your bake times could be slightly different than what I list here!

      Happy baking — keep me posted!

  • Jake

    Hey Maurizio!
    I’m slowly getting into baking sourdough breads and was going to give your “best sourdough” recipe a shot. I’m curious though… I’ve recently picked up a bag of a local farm’s All-Purpose blended flour which they claim is a 50/50 blend of their Red(12.4% protein) and White(15.1% protein) wheat flours. That comes out to about 13.75% protein in the blend. Is that too high of protein flour to use for your recipe?

    • Hey there, Jake! Did you also email me? I’ll reply here as well, anyways.
      That’s great news. I don’t think that’s too high of a protein percentage. My flour used here is a lower percentage, probably around 11-12%, but yours should be just fine. If you find the dough is overly strong and it resists stretching out you can increase the autolyse time another 30 minutes or so to help increase the extensibility in your dough.

      Happy baking!

  • Michael

    Hi Maurizio, I would like to bake this in one day without the night in the refrigerator. Do you think that this could this be accomplished simply by letting the shaped dough rest in the bannetons on the counter for some time? Any tips/timings for doing a single day bake. Thanks.

    • Yes you can certainly do this. The flavor profile will be different, but not in a bad way.

      I would say instead of the overnight cold proof 3-4 hours on the counter at room temperature should work. Google “poke test” for some info on how to determine when your counter-proofed dough is ready to bake. Essentially you use your finger to poke the dough a few times and if the dough slowly springs back it’s read to bake.

      Happy baking!

  • Charles

    Gave this a try last weekend and it was a very tasty bread. I used plain wheat flour and cut down on the water to approx 80% but the dough was still very hydrated and hard to handle, I was afraid I’d end up with flatbread rather than a loaf when I put it in the oven. Fortunately it rose beautifully, although not quite as much as yours.

    Will definitely give it another try with whole wheat and slightly less water again, perhaps 76-77%.

    • Super glad to hear that, thanks for the feedback! It sounds like you might have been right on the edge with your flour, like you mentioned, try reducing and see if you get a bit more rise and openness inside. I love this bread! Thanks again and happy baking!

  • theo theodosiou

    Hi Maurizio great site. Up to now have been baking the tartine method but thought I would give this a go. Unfortunately the crumb only had smallish holes and was very dense and doughy. It was kind of uncooked but sounded hollow underneath when I tapped and crust was also dark and crispy. I baked in oven for over 60 mins at the temps you stated. I followed all your instructions and kept within all the temp ranges.
    Hope you can enlighten as to the possible problem, this is most probably the worst bake I have ever made.

    • Thank you! How did the dough feel? Was it overly wet and weak feeling? Most of the time too much water was used for the flour to handle, which requires sufficient dough strength and fermentation to ensure the loaf will rise fully in the oven the next day. I’d recommend you reduce hydration by 5-10% and see if it helps open up your crumb a little bit.

      If you have any photos of your process I’d love to see them, it might help me diagnose what’s happening. Send me over an email through the “Contact” link at the top and we can look through your numbers to see what’s happening! Sorry to hear this didn’t work out so well for you but I’m sure we’ll get you on track.

  • Karen Au

    Hi Maurizio,
    I have been reading and trying many of your recipes and just wondering why you’ve used malt in some and not others. is it because of the enzymic activity of the different flours you’re using? I’m struggling to get enough flavour in my sourdough breads. I have tried an overnight autolyse as wells as putting it in the fridge to proof. the first method seems to make the structure too weak without much flavour improvement and the retard made it very sour. any advice ?