The process of making a sourdough leavened no-knead loaf (at least the way I do it) is almost identical to the instant yeast variety. I just substitute 1/4 cup of sourdough starter for the 1/4 tsp. instant yeast.

Of course, working with sourdough can alter things quite a bit depending on how wet you keep your starter and how healthy it is. Some starters are very liquidy and can be poured out of their containers. I keep mine pretty thick. It has to be spooned out of the jar. I go into quite a bit of detail on how I manage my starter in the various related videos.

That said, here’s the most basic recipe that I use quite frequently.

  • 1 cup (5 oz.) whole wheat flour
  • 2 1/2 cups (11 oz.) white bread flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 cups purified water
  • 1/4 cup starter

The baking times and all that are the same as the basic no-knead method. So you can easily just watch that video but follow this recipe. I usually bake the bread at 500° for 30 minutes with the lid on and then remove the lid and continue baking for 15 more minutes at 450°.

You might have noticed that there’s a bit of difference between what I say in the video regarding recipe quantities and what’s written. The weights shown are probably more precise, but you should be fine either way as there is a fair amount of leeway in this recipe.

Generally speaking, the wetter your dough the bigger the holes will be, which many people really like. However, a drier dough will make it easier to get the bread to rise while baking, giving you greater “oven spring” and a more spherical loaf versus a pancake. With practice, you’ll get so you can come closer to predicting how your bread will turn out just based on the consistency of the dough when you’re mixing all the ingredients together. You can adjust the amount of water and flour to get the consistency that suits you best.

Many people want to know how to make their bread more sour. Breadtopia reader, Rhine Meyering, enjoys success with this by using just 1/8 cup of sourdough starter and extending the fermentation time by refrigerating the dough. Click this link to his October 7, 2007 post to read what he says. It makes a lot of sense based on my understanding of sourdough baking too.

Also, click the following link to Ariela’s post of November 25th, 2007 where she describes her success with the sourdough no knead method using spelt flour. She includes the actual recipe she uses too – very nice.

No Knead Revisited – A Three Year Check UpIt’s been over 3 years since the original New York Times no knead bread recipe was published. That’s also about the same time Breadtopia was born. By far the most common difficulty people write or call in about is with the dough being too wet to handle at the end of the long first proofing period and also when it’s time to place the dough into a covered vessel to bake at the end of the second rise.

When you run into this, there’s not a whole lot you can do about it other than attempt to follow through on the instructions and ultimately wrest the dough into your heated baker and into the oven. Your “mistake” may turn out better than you expected and if nothing else, you’ll learn from it. The next time around you can do one or a combination of a couple things differently.

  1. Add more flour and or use less water than you did the first time. Dough has a way of getting more slack as it sits for many hours so if you start off with the dough being a little stiffer than you think it should be, that’s fine and maybe it’ll be easier to handle later.
  2. Consider reducing the long proofing time by several hours. Don’t get stuck on the idea of 18 hours. Depending on your room temperature and humidity, 18 hours may result in over proofing. When dough proofs too long, the gluten breaks down, the yeast looses some oomph and it can just get downright soupy. Most of the time, I find 12-14 hours to be about right. If you want or need to prolong the proofing time, but don’t want to risk over proofing, stick the dough in the fridge for several hours or overnight. That will slow things down a lot. Then resume proofing at room temp until it’s ready to bake.

The same principle holds true on the second rise. While 1-2 hours is the suggested range, I’m almost always at about 60 to 75 minutes.

Another concern we hear a lot is about the dough not rising much during that second short proofing period. I don’t see mine rise much then either and it doesn’t matter so long as you see a good rise during the first several minutes that the dough is in the oven. That’s called oven spring and it’s a very good thing. By keeping your proofing periods on the shorter side, you’re more likely to get good oven spring from the still vigorous yeast or sourdough starter.

Of course all of the above is assuming your yeast or sourdough starter is fresh and viable to start with.

In summary, most problems can be helped or solved by stiffening the dough a little and/or shortening the rising times.

If you’re new to bread baking, don’t think from reading this that it’s difficult or tricky to get great results. Most people find it a breeze and enjoy success right out of the blocks. Others may find it takes a few tries. It’s important to have fun with it and don’t worry about bombing. There’s no significant downside to bread baking but the upside can be fabulous. Enjoy!

March 20th, 2010 update: Beadtopia reader, Beth Adams, emailed this:

I have been a follower and contributer (through the comments sections) to the site for a few years. I just tried something that I wanted to share. I added a tsp. of lavender to the regular sourdough recipe and had great results when using it for sandwiches. Hope you are able to enjoy it!

For more no-knead recipes using sourdough, check out No-Knead Recipe Variations.

1,331 thoughts on “Sourdough No Knead Method

  1. Bina

    Hi Eric,

    Thanks for the link I’m going to try a spelt starter following your recipe, and use white spelt flour (which I bought in London) for the bread. I’ll let you know how it turns out. I live in Hong Kong which is very hot and humid so I’ll be watching the dough very carefully during rising as I understand spelt flour is very easy to overproof.

  2. Hi Bina,

    Christina contributed a sourdough spelt recipe here. The only potential problem is I think the 1/3 cup starter that the recipe calls for may be a regular wheat based starter.

    I don’t have any experience with using a sourdough starter made exclusively with spelt flour but it may work just fine. Do you already have a starter going?

    Eric

  3. Thanks Ronnie.

    Actually, most of the time I would use 2 cups of bread flour and 1 cup of WW. But sometimes I use more flour to get a loftier loaf. The holes aren’t as big as Leahy’s but the bread rises better if it’s not quite as wet.

    You can certainly use 3 cups of bread flour. I think most people do. Try it and see how you like it.

    Eric

  4. Bina

    Hi,

    My husband and I are allergic to wheat but can eat spelt. Has anyone tried the sourdough slow rise bread with spelt flour or does anyone have any tips on baking with spelt. Thanks.

  5. rlabohn

    hi eric..great site…my sour dough starter is just about ready for use..started it on july 6 and started feeding 2 times on monday the 9th..anyway the recipe i am referring to is youors….the original recipe(sullivan st) calls for 3cups of flour and 1/4 tsp yeast..yours calls for 2 and a half cups bread flour and 1 cup of whole wheat flour…except for starter ,everything else is the same as leahy/s bread…what does the extra 1/2 cup do?? and what happens if i just want to use 3 cups of bread flour???

  6. I often do make an oblong loaf to fit the oblong La Cloche by just shaping it differently.

    With the no knead recipe, I do everything the same except after the 18 hr proofing period I just stretch and fold the dough so it ends up in an oblong shape and place it in an oblong pan for the final rise before baking.

    I’m pretty sure I show this in one of the videos, I just can’t remember which one. If I find it, I’ll come back here and post the link.

    Okay, I found it – about 7 minutes into the Cranberry Pecan no knead video (www.breadtopia.com/no-knead-recipe-variations/#CP), I make an oblong loaf.

     

  7. Jil

    How about a video for making sourdough oblong loaf?

    Do you use the same quantities of ingredients for oblong loaf?

  8. Beth

    Stan and Eric, I accidentally left mine for the 18 (+6!!) hours. I looked at it after the 18 but didn’t have time to do anything with it. It was a mess. If you are going to let it rise in the fridge, I’d consider putting it in the fridge for the entire time. I’ve done that and had great success.

  9. Hi Stan,

    Refrigeration is a great way to slow fermentation and so lengthen the process. There are many recipes which call for refrigeration to do just this and attempt to bring out more of the flavor in the grains.

    Since refrigeration only slows the process and does not suspend it, I’m wondering if waiting until the end of the 18 hour first rise and then refrigerating over night might be giving it too much time. Since I’ve never tried it, I don’t know what you would find. How far along your fermentation comes in that first 18 hours is going to vary too depending mostly on room temp. I’m finding 18 hours during the much warmer summer weather is too long and I’m cutting back to 16 or so.

    Your thinking is good but I guess it comes down to an experiment thing. If you do play around with this, I’d love to hear how it goes. It’s nice to learn from other’s mad science experiments.

    Eric

  10. Stan Helfgott

    Eric – I have been using the No-Knead method very successfully for the past several months. Your Danish dough whisk is great.

    If after the first rise of 18 hours I find I don’t have time to complete the process and want to wait till the following day, can I refrigerate the dough until I am ready to continue? If so, how long could I refrigerate it? Thanks.- Stan

  11. Thanks, Sarah. Good to have these things pointed out. I wasn’t even aware I was doing that.

    Eric

  12. Sarah

    Great video and it’s simply explained, I have only one little concern and that is with spoon banging. May I make a suggestion? If you want to bang or clean your metal spoon on the side of the bowl after measuring or stirring, either use a plastic bowl or plastic spoon, glass chips could get into your dough. Beginners just might repeat it. Thank you for your kind attention, Sarah :)

  13. I have found that getting a stronger sourdough flavor can be one of the trickier things to accomplish.

    Regarding “bland”, I’m not sure what to tell you that you haven’t no doubt though of yourself. I don’t suppose you forgot to add the salt or maybe not enough? I’ve done that more than once and the result is something akin to styrofoam.
    You might have to experiment with different brands and types of flour. Adding a bit of whole wheat and/or rye flour can bring out more flavor without taking too much from the airyness.

  14. Kevin Quinn

    Not very good tasting to be honest. Everything looked okay inside (airy, soft) but
    the taste was rather bland, not very sourdough tasting.
    Thanks.

  15. Hi Kevin,

    How does the bread turn out after you bake it?

  16. Kevin Quinn

    Eric,

    Great site. Thanks for the tips and techniques. I have been successful in creating a very active sourdough starter and the dough for my loaves. It rises for 18-20 hours then I fold it and set it too proof for the 2 hours. This is where things don’t go as smoothly as the video suggests. The final proof takes much more than the 2 hours to get to the dimple stage. The dough seems wet. Will this make a difference? About 2 out of 3 loaves take forever to proof. Temperature is about 75 degrees in the kitchen for this phase.

  17. You’re welcome, Mary.

    450 degrees should be fine. How much extra time you’ll need to give it is a tough call for me. If you’re using the no knead method, maybe add an extra 5 minutes with the lid on and an extra 5 minutes with the lid off and see how that goes.

    Better yet, if you have an instant read (probe) thermometer, the wet no knead breads are typically done when the internal temperature reaches 205 F degrees.

    Good luck and please come back to let us know how it works out for you.

    Eric

  18. Mary Peters

    Hi Eric,
    Thanks so much for your site, it really has been the best source of sourdough information since I started getting interested in creating a starter and then using it to bake bread and other recipes. I am currently “into” No Knead Sourdough Bread and have a problem with your video method in that my oven’s maximum temperature is 230 degrees (I am in France, I think that’s around 450 degrees in US terms). Is there a way of compensating for this that you know of?

  19. Beth

    Anyone care to know what happens when you let it rise the 2nd time for 8 hrs instead of 2……? Oops! Cooked ok, but WAY flattened because the structure was too airy (I’m assuming). Lesson learned. If there is a chance you will be gone longer than you thought, stick it in the fridge to slow down.!! Trying again later this week.

  20. Beth

    Thanks loads! I’ll keep my eyes peeled for anything about it. My batch of NK normal sourdough is going to cook today. I’ll let everyone know how the oven temp reduction goes.

  21. I almost always use just sourdough for leavening in all no-knead recipes, and most other bread baking for that matter. For me, it’s almost as easy as dried yeast. There are certainly flavor advantages, plus there are some indications that there are health advantages as well.

    I’m not familiar with the problem of onions and garlic inhibiting sourdough growth, but I know from experience that cinnamon can be a problem. I think there may be some technique for using cinnamon in sourdough, for cinnamon raisin bread for example, I just can’t recall what it is.

  22. Beth

    I am very excited to experiment now. Is you basic NKB recipe (sourdough) one that I can use for pretty much any variation I can think of? Are there any ingredients I should stay away from that would be unhealthy for the sourdough? I heard somewhere that cinnamon, garlic, and onions ore harmful to the bacteria. Thanks for all of the help so far. This has been SO wonderful!!

  23. Regarding the 12 hour rise vs. 18 hours. You can move on to the fold and rest stage as soon as the dough has risen fully, you just may not be getting as much flavor as with the longer proof. And if you want more sour, you really want to go longer.

    It’s awesome you are getting great results. I love your enthusiasm. Your bread life will never be the same! Now you can have some fun experimenting all you want knowing you can always come back to the basics if you want to be sure of the turnout.

  24. Eric H

    Beth,
    Lean french type breads (flour, salt, yeast(sd), and water do not store well. The most you should expect is 24 hours. I do set it on the board face down just to keep the cut side soft. Other formula with dairy products (butter, milk etc) oil, eggs or yogurt all will allow the bread up to a week on the counter. Bags will help keep the bugs out but at the sacrifice of the crust.

    Eric

  25. Beth

    Now that we’ve cut into it, how do you suggest it is stored to retain the crust texture? Would it do to just set it cut face down on a board?

  26. Beth

    It just occurred to to me that the reason it may be doing this is because it is a darker surface. In all of my baking, I forgot that reducing the heat is standard for darker pans. I’ll try that next time. Also, I noticed that it had risen the first time in only abt 12 hrs instead of 18. Is that just my luck or is 18 hrs a steadfast rule (even if it looks “done”)? I would LOVE it do be a 12 hour thing!! We just cut into it and are in HEAVEN!! My Husband went to Portugal for 2 years and LOVED the bread. I have tried everything to get a similar bread, from spritzing the bread to cooking with damp bricks in the oven. This was perfect!! He wants me to make more today. LOL Also, I have never made such a sour sourdough loaf as I did this time. I have tried for abt. a year now. That looooong rise did the trick. Thanks so much for your site! Beth

  27. Hi Beth,

    I haven’t used a Dutch oven yet but from all the feedback I’ve received so far, it seems there can be quite a bit of difference in the baking characteristics between a Dutch oven and a la cloche. And even between one D.O. and another.

    So yes, definitely try lowering the temp 25-50 degrees as you suggest and that should help

  28. Beth

    I made my first no knead and it was the Cranberry-Pecan Extraordinaire. It looks beautiful, but the bottom is burning before the initial 30 min. at 500 degrees is over. I know my oven temp is right ( I have an oven thermometer.) I am doing it in a dutch oven. The first loaf (I did a double batch) was done in the pan part of the D oven, the 2nd was done with the whole thing inverted and the bread cooked on the lid, more in the fashion of the La Cloche. I have the rack in the oven a little more than below the middle to accommodate the D oven. It is a gas oven. Would it be possible to lower the temps 25-50 degrees each? Thanks, Beth Adams

  29. jeannie

    Here’s my method for putting no-knead dough into baking pan:
    I add enough flour to my dough so it’s still sticky but can be shaped into a round loaf. Then I use 2 medium or long-handled spatulas (metal or heat-proof plastic) to lift the shaped dough and gently place it into the pot. No flipping the dough and no chance of burned hands. And the dough doesn’t deflate. I use either a 4 qt cast iron Dutch oven with cast iron lid or a pizza stone with a LaCloche top for baking.
    Hope this helps.
    Jeannie

  30. Hi Eric,

    Good points. I think you’re right on there!

  31. Hi Allen.

    I’m afraid it’s too difficult to trouble shoot from here.

    Have you been successful using instant yeast instead of sourdough for your leavening? Instant yeast would be easier. If you’re just starting out, start there first.

  32. Eric H

    I baked a couple batches of no knead over the weekend using the parchment method of lowering into the cloche base. I got much better results in the oven spring and over all appearance. The idea of dropping the dough the last 6 inches into a hot base and expecting it not to deflate I think is contrary to everything I know about baking. Gently lowering the dough into place works well. I don’t have any of the release foil but that might also work. I didn’t bother to try and tuck the excess inside and lowered the cover over the paper with no bad effect.

    The other thing that I think is being missed by some people trying the no knead for the first time is that while it’s true you don’t HAVE to knead, the results will be consistently better if you adjust the flour/water ratio to the point where you can just fold the dough and handle it somewhat. You don’t have to call it kneading but a couple of folds will go a long way toward getting a rise in the oven. The original video of the owner of the Sullivan Street bakery and Mr. Bittman and also Martha Stewart clearly shows the dough being french folded and not the consistency of glop but rather a slack but manageable dough.

    This formula and technique delivers a great crispy bread but the science still applies.

  33. allen

    HI: Tried and failed. First rise was fine but no structure when it came out. Too wet. USed recipe and bread flour. Any ideas on what to change the next time? I have heard the NK concept is very hard with sourdough. Should I reduce water, reduce starter, ?

  34. Eric H

    Eric,
    Well I tried a loaf of both skim and water and honestly I couldn’t tell the differance. I mean there could be but the crust and crumb were identical and equally sour. I suppose the sourness is the one area where it’s subjective. I use a small amount of rye in my AP flour to boost activity and help the flavor.

  35. Christel Kiley

    Good Morning Eric,
    Thank you for shipping my basket. I enclose a photo of my success with your starter and video. The bread is wonderful and we will continue to enjoy it, thanks to your wonderful instructions and starter. Taste and texture: fantastic!
    Since I did not have my proofing basket yet, I used my Colander! I olive-oiled it well and sprinkled it with Oat Bran, that is all I had on hand. You can see how wonderful it worked!
    The most tense moment was when I had to tip it out into the Cloche, I had no idea if it was going to come out. But it did! Thanks again, our life has been enriched with this lovely bread.
    My next try will be to add a bit more wholemeal.
    Kind regards from Christel

  36. Doris Fuerst

    This video is great, please don’t shorten it! At least not too soon. I will have to watch it several more times, because today I had my first try, with a 2 Romertopf Bread pans ( I don’t have a dutch oven or your La Cloche yet) and the dough was not foldable. I will give it some more tries. Best regards from Vienna Doris

  37. I haven’t weighed mine. Only because I keep the hydration level of my starter fairly constant so the 1/4 cup I use is fairly constant from one loaf to the next.
    Working with sourdough is a funny (and potentially tricky) thing since even if our 1/4 cups weighed the same, we might have very different acidity levels or even strains of yeast and bacteria in our cultures.
    It makes me think no bread recipe is really that precise. Which makes sense given the wide range of results people get from the same recipe. More so with sourdough recipes.

  38. Jerry

    As a retired engineer who enjoys math and chemistry, I am used to weighting nearly all cooking ingredients of less than one tablespoon. I use electronic scales which weigh in one gram increments and convert ounces to grams. That said, I recognize that the NKB is not a precise recipe, but none the less, I am curious about what 1/4 cup of starter should weigh. Have you ever weighed yours?

  39. Conrad H.

    I’m not sure on the science, but… I’m using a recipe that does not include yeast. Is the active bubbling things in my starter considered yeast? I know that salt is detrimental to yeast. I also know the reason that cooks use recipes and bakers use formulas is that baking formulas can not be altered without affecting critical actions in the dough. Fat content, binding agents, and catalysts etc are important to success.

    My main curiousity is if I am missing anything about the potassium chloride as opposed to sodium.

    We are in the middle of Mardi Gras down here in New Orleans, it is busy for me at work, so it will be after next week, Feb 20th, before I have time to experiment.

    Thanks for the response.

  40. Eric H

    Conrad,
    I don’t know how the salt substitute will effect the yeast activity. You might have to fool around with levels to discover how or if the Potassium will control the yeast or if you maybe need to adjust the yeast level.

    I do know that a persons tolerance or sensitivity for regular salt is a learned experience. It is well documented in French cooking books and noted chefs that one grows a need for more salty food over time. That’s why some older chefs will occasionally over salt things and are oblivious to the tastes of less desensitized pallets. The good news is that I suspect in a short time you will find yourself a new “normal” and will find salted foods inedible.

    Eric H

  41. That’s a great story, Jerry. Thanks.

  42. Jerry

    Just finished my first ever loaf of sourdough bread. I used your recipe and 1/4 cup of an active starter which a friend furnished. The loaf is beautiful and rose even more than does the yeast version. Unfortunately, I am giving the loaf to the starter friend so I cannot comment on the flavor. It is really a joy to give such a beautiful loaf away.

  43. Conrad H.

    I’ve been baking sourdough breads for a while, but recently joined the ranks of heart patients, so no salt and low to no fat allowed. I started using salt substitute, potassium chloride, in equal amounts rather than sodium. Anything I need to know in baking breads with salt substitutes?

    For everyones information, It is my opinion that potassium chloride has a noticeable “flat” taste compared the the flavorful depth of salt. I hope to grow accustomed to the change in flavor soon, a small price to pay for my health.

  44. Hi Eric. I’m not aware of any differences in how they are managed or anything in particular you need to know. I used to use milk also. See how a finished loaf using each compares. Better yet, see how they compare and report back here to let us know!

  45. Eric H

    I have been using a starter I got from a friend that has been fed a diet of skim milk and AP-KAF in equal measures. I had been using a strain that I started using water but this smells so much better, plus it’s an old starter. Is there anything I should know about the care and feeding using skim milk?

    Thanks,
    Eric

  46. Terry

    Hi Eric, I made your no-knead sourdough bread this weekend and it was delicious! Only one problem, it was not a big enough loaf! We almost finished off the whole thing at one meal. HA. Thanks for the good advice and some wonderful starter. Terry

  47. Sounds like you’re close, Jeannie. The only reason I mention reducing your quantity of sourdough starter prior to feeding it is to reduce the amount of new flour you have to add in order to double it. No sense in doubling a ton of starter if you’re only using 1/2 cup or so at a time. There are so many personal preferences and opinions about the best feeding schedule, I’m almost a little reluctant to offer mine. Almost! I like to feed mine 6-12 hours before baking as I seem to get better oven spring (more and faster rise when baking) as the yeast population is certainly happy and in top form. Some people intentionally "starve" their starters prior to baking as this tends to produce a more sour bread. Since you are going after the oven spring thing, you might want to feed it a couple times the day before baking.
    Oh, and the doubling of the starter thing is also a general guideline. Sometimes I just toss a little flour and water in to tide it over and I know one baker who says triple or quadruple when feeding. Take your pick.
    I’ve made a note to call the cloche company on Monday to see if I can buy just a few spare bases as they seem to be the more likely half to break. I’ll email you directly.

    Eric

  48. jeannie

    Eric and Denyce,
    Thanks very much for your quick response. I’m about to try again with KA bread flour. Besides having too wet a dough, I probably over-proofed it as it began to deflate after 16 hrs. I used a proofing basket and wound up dropping a coiled blob into my preheated cast iron pot as the dough was too wet to hold or support.
    As I was deciding whether to toss my baked sourdough flatbread or turn it into bread crumbs, my husband took a bite and said that this bread had ‘real potential’ and was absolutely the best bread I’d ever made!
    Re: sourdough starter – Is it necessary to reduce a refrigerated starter by half and feed it 12 hrs before each baking session (to keep acidity right per KA)? I bake bread once or twice weekly.
    Do you sell just the base of the La Cloche, new or used? I have a top (broke 2 bases) and have been using it with a pizza stone.
    Jeannie

  49. Hi Jeannie.

    It’s hard for me to tell what your problem might be. Since you’re using 16 oz of flour and, I assume 12 oz of water, the only thing I can think of that would make it so much wetter than mine is maybe you keep your starter at a much higher moisture level. Mine is pretty thick. Some people keep theirs very liquidy. I’m thinking that if you just play around with the amount of flour you add at the beginning and experiment with the proofing time a little, you’ll get it the way you want. Your situation sounds more like an aberration that a big problem. But please do let me (us) know what you figure out.

  50. jeannie

    Thank you for the great video. When I tried to duplicate your method (using 4 oz ww flour and 12 oz white), my dough was very wet and spread out resembling a thick pizza crust even after folding over twice and adding more white flour.
    I’ve had consistent success with the regular no-knead recipe when I’ve incorporated up to 1/4 cup whole grains. My sour dough starter is King Arthur, is very active and the consistency looks like yours. I used ordinary AP flour for the sourdough bread (ran out of bread and high protein flours) but figured that shouldn’t make a huge difference with this recipe. The first rise went 20 hrs. At 18 hrs it looked like yours. Could I have overproofed? Any suggestions would be appreciated. I’m anxious to make this work.
    Thanks again for all the work you put into this instruction.
    Jeannie

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