Baking a healthy and nourishing loaf of sourdough bread — with your own sourdough starter — is gratifying, to be sure, but what if you’re not home all day to check in on the long-fermented dough? I mean, some of us do have to work, right? This simple weekday sourdough bread is an uncomplicated recipe and schedule for mixing and baking a loaf of bread during the busy workweek.
This post is full of pictures and videos to help convey the process clearly and concisely1. But why is this recipe so easy compared to others here?
What makes this recipe easy?
- It’s a no-knead sourdough bread recipe: mix everything in one bowl
- It uses only two types of flour: bread flour and whole wheat flour
- It’s moderate hydration — no messy dough or counters
- It’s baked in a Dutch oven or combo cooker
- Timing is extremely flexible
Let’s go over the workweek schedule.
A Weekday bread schedule
In the past, I’ve talked about a weekend baking schedule that outlines a schedule for low maintenance during the week with a bake on the weekend. The following schedule, however, gives an option to bake during the week around a typical nine-to-five workday. It’s also quite flexible, you always have the option to place the dough in the fridge longer to bake when you get a chance.
|7:00 a.m. (before work)||– Make the 10-hour levain (ready ~5:00 p.m.)|
– Save time later, scale-out flour & salt into bowls and cover
|5:00 p.m. (after work)||When levain ready, mix dough for autolyse|
|5:30 p.m.||Finish mixing and begin bulk fermentation|
|9:00 p.m.||Divide, pre-shape, and bench rest|
|9:30 p.m.||Shape and place into the refrigerator to proof overnight|
|7:00 a.m. (next day)||– Bake the next day before work|
– Alternatively, bake after work
The schedule above has example times so shift the timeline earlier or later according to your schedule. Don’t worry if you don’t hit the times exactly as they’re written, there’s some flexibility there.
A Simple Weekday Sourdough Bread Recipe
|Total Dough Weight||1,800 grams|
|Yield||2 x 900g loaves|
My final dough temperature for this dough was 75°F (24°C). See my post on the importance of dough temperature for more information on this.
|735g||High protein bread flour, malted (King Arthur Bread Flour2)||80.00%|
|184g||Whole wheat flour (King Arthur Whole Wheat Flour)||20.00%|
|165g||Mature levain (see below)||18.00%|
1. Build Levain – 7:00 a.m. before work
A levain is simply an off-shoot of a sourdough starter3. It’s created with a small bit of a starter and left to mature (ferment) until ready to be used to mix into a dough. Ultimately, it meets the same fate as the dough itself: it’s baked in the oven.
In the morning before work, mix together in a jar:
|Whole wheat flour||39g|
|Mature sourdough starter||7g|
Loosely cover the jar; it should be ready after about 10 hours at room temperature, 72-75°F (22-24°C).
2. Autolyse with Levain – 5:00 p.m. after work
An autolyse4 gives our dough a chance for the flour to fully hydrate and begins the gluten development process (all without kneading).
Add the called for levain, flour, and all but 50g of the water (reserve for later) to a mixing bowl. Using your hands, mix to fully incorporate. Cover, and keep somewhere at warm room temperature for 20 minutes.
You can see the direct result of even a short autolyse in the image above. The left image is the shaggy mass just before I finished incorporating everything. The image at right shows how smooth and strong the dough becomes simply by resting. Let’s take this further with a little mixing.
3. Mix – 5:20 p.m.
Add the salt to the top of the dough and some or all of the remaining 50g of water, depending on how the dough feels: it should be shaggy and loose, but not “soupy.” Using wet hands, mix everything until it comes together into a shaggy mass. This dough is rather strong and doesn’t require any intensive kneading (like slap and fold), but do give it a few folds in the bowl, perhaps 5-10, until it smooths slightly (see image, right).
Cover the bowl with reusable plastic and keep somewhere warm in your kitchen for bulk fermentation.
3. Bulk Fermentation – 5:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Bulk fermentation, or first rise, is when the dough is leavened (through the production of carbon dioxide gas) and flavored (through the production of organic acids) as a result of natural fermentation. Below, you can see how much my dough rises during this 3 hour and 30-minute bulk fermentation at 75°F (24°C).
During this time, give the dough 2 sets of stretch and folds where the first set is 30 minutes after the beginning of bulk fermentation and the second set is 30 minutes after the first. After the second set, let the dough rest, covered, until the next step.
As you can see in the video above, each set of stretch and folds is simple: with wet hands grab one side and gently stretch it up and over to the other. Perform this fold at each direction: North, South, East, and West.
4. Divide & Preshape – 9:00 p.m.
Fill a bowl with some water and place it on your work surface. Scrape out your dough from the bulk container onto your dry counter. Divide the mass in half using a bench knife. Using a wet hand and the knife in the other, gently preshape each half into a loose round.
Let the dough rest, uncovered, for 30 minutes until its relaxed outward.
5. Shape – 9:30 p.m.
As seen in the video below, flour the top of the round and your hands and flip it over. Take the bottom edge and fold it up to about the middle. Take the left and right sides in your hands and fold the right over to about 2/3 of the left side. Repeat for the left side. Then, take the top and fold down to about the middle and gently seal. This should form a little envelope shape.
Now, flip over the entire thing and begin dragging and sealing the dough underneath itself (top-right, above). Using both hands, rotate and drag the mass toward you to create tension on the top. Repeat the dragging if necessary.
Read through to my guide to shaping a boule for more instruction.
6. Proof – 9:45 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. or 6:00 p.m. (the next day)
Cover both proofing baskets entirely and put them in the fridge to proof overnight. The fridge gives us the flexibility to slow the fermentation process so we can bake the next day before or after work.
7. Bake – 7:00 a.m. (pre-heat oven at 6:00 a.m.)
Preheat your oven with the rack at the bottom third to 450°F (232°C). Place your Dutch oven inside, open, with the lid and bottom side-by-side.
Take one basket out from the fridge and uncover. Your dough might not have risen considerably in the fridge, but that’s just fine. Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit over the basket and place a pizza peel (or large cutting board) on top. Using both hands, flip the entire stack over and remove the basket.
Score the dough and load it into the Dutch oven; then, bake for 20 minutes covered. After this time, remove the lid and finish baking for 30-35 minutes or until done. The internal temp should be around 205-210°F (96-99°C)
Remove the loaf to a cooling rack for 2 hours before slicing. Return the Dutch oven to the oven (without parchment) and bring it back up to temp to bake the second loaf.
And there you have it, this simple weekday sourdough bread can be made just about any day and adjusted to fit your schedule. Now there’s no reason not to bake, right? This recipe is also a great place to experiment: mix in 125g of nuts like walnuts or pecans and/or dried fruit like cranberries, cherries, or raisins.
Many recipes here at my site can be adapted to use this type of schedule. Most notably, my Beginner’s Sourdough and even my Fifty-Fifty Whole Wheat recipe — both are flexible doughs and the fridge furnishes even more. Happy baking!
If you try this recipe, I’d love to see it! Tag @maurizio on Instagram and hashtag your photo #theperfectloaf so I can take a look!