A lot of recipes online that are labeled “no knead” sourdough are still the same amount of work as traditional sourdough recipes. This No-Knead Sourdough Master Recipe is ridiculously easy (well, as far as bread baking is concerned!) and will teach you how to make no knead sourdough.
It takes 13 to 15 hours from start to finish, which is one of the fastest sourdough bread timelines I’ve seen.
This recipe is perfect for new sourdough bakers or those who like a tangy, more traditionally sour San Francisco style loaf.
This is my first recipe for no knead sourdough that was written for my book Everyday Bread Baking. The beautiful photos in this post are from the book and photographed by photographer Tom Story.
What is No Knead Sourdough, and Why do People Love it?
Bread making is a time intensive process. For breads made with commercial yeast, the process takes at least 3 hours. Traditional sourdough breads take 18-24 hours from start to finish.
During these traditional processes there are many steps in between when the dough requires attention. Breads with commercial yeast need considerable kneading and folding. Sourdough bread requires folding also in addition to preparing the starter and waiting for it to be in its active phase (at least for my method).
People love no knead bread because it is easier to make, requires less hands-on time and technique and gives them more flexibility. Some bakers will make a batch and store it in the fridge, taking off portions of dough to shape and bake for fresh bread on demand.
Here is my ultimate guide to no knead sourdough for more info.
Why is my No Knead Sourdough recipe unique?
No-knead breads using commercial yeast have become incredibly popular because they are easy and low maintenance. They utilize a much longer bulk fermentation time to compensate for the gluten activation that typically occurs in a traditional autolyse or kneading period.
I was happy to discover that the same method could work with wild yeast from sourdough starters. For anyone who loves the traditional sour, tangy sourdough like you’d find in San Francisco, this is the recipe you want to try!
My recipe is made with a small ratio of sourdough starter (20g, many recipes I’ve seen use 100g). Even if you haven’t mastered the timing of activating your starter, you can use a portion of active or inactive (discard) starter in this recipe.
Not having to prep your starter makes this recipe very flexible for timing. It can be started anytime as long as you have a few tablespoons of sourdough starter on hand.
This recipe is also one of the easiest and fastest sourdough bread recipes. This bread is truly no knead and no fold so there’s less hands-on work. And from start to finish, this bread takes 12 to 15 hours.
How to make my No Knead Sourdough
Before you begin, you must acquire a sourdough starter from a friend, online source, or make your own.
The basic process of No Knead Sourdough:
- Scale or measure your ingredients
- Mix the dough until all the flour has absorbed the water
- Cover and ferment at room temp for 10-12 hours
- Prepare a proofing basket or a collander lined with a kitchen towel
- Lightly flour a table and put the dough on top to shape into a ball
- Transfer dough into the proofing container, cover, and proof for 1-1 ½ hours
- Preheat oven with a Dutch oven inside
Good bread begins with ratios of ingredients and the percentages of ingredients impact what kind of bread dough is made. All ingredients are measured against the total amount of flour.
Each ingredient added and its percentage affects how quickly the dough ferments, how strong it becomes, flavor of the bread, and how it bakes.
I have American measurements for this recipe, but I highly recommend using a scale.
A food scale gives you the most accurate measurements for bread making. Flour is difficult to measure accurately with cup measurements because it can vary as it settles or how it is scooped.
In no knead sourdough the ingredients that have the biggest effect on your dough are the sourdough amount and the water (hydration percentage). These ingredients determine the rate of the fermentation and final flavor.
Mixing the dough
As the dough ferments, the sourdough starter breaks down the flour, especially during the long bulk ferment, and the dough becomes much softer as a result. So, the dough starts out feeling drier in the mixing stage.
There is variation with types of flour so if you are finding that you are having trouble getting all the flour to mix and the dough feels too dry with dry flour on it after a few minutes of mixing, add 10g of water and continue mixing. Repeat if needed.
Bulk fermenting no knead sourdough
This long bulk ferment is the beauty of making this recipe. During this time the gluten has time to make connections and develop strength without kneading or folding.
The ratio of the starter in the dough and this long fermentation create a more traditional sour San Francisco style sourdough which many sourdough bakers love. If you are looking for a more mild flavor, my Once-a-Week No Knead Sourdough formula would be a better option.
See this post for more info.: How to tell when sourdough is done with bulk fermentation
The shaping for this recipe is very simple. Turn the dough out of the bowl onto a lightly floured work surface then form into a ball.
If you are more experienced with sourdough, you can do a more advanced boule shaping technique.
When dough is proofing it is still fermenting. The difference in this stage is that the dough has been shaped and it must rest in a vessel that allows air to circulate to maintain this shape.
The traditional proofing vessel for a boule (round loaf) is a round proofing basket (also called a bannetton), but if you don’t have one, you can substitute a colander lined with a kitchen towel.
Dust your proofing container with rice flour, semolina, or cornmeal so that the dough won’t stick and will release easier later.
Cover the dough and leave it at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours to rise to at least 1 ½ times to 2 times larger in volume. Look for your dough to leave an indentation when you poke it with a wet finger.
See this post for more info.: When is sourdough finished proofing? The signs and a test
After the proofing is done, preheat your oven to 500 degrees F with a large dutch oven inside on a center rack or use a manual steam method outlined here.
Once the oven is preheated, place parchment paper on top of the proofing vessel, hold edges tight then turn it upside down to flip the dough out of the proofing vessel.
Then score the dough with razor or sharp bread knife about ¼ to ½ inch deep across the top of the loaf. This post explains more about scoring.
Carefully pick up the loaf by holding the edges of parchment and place it into the hot Dutch oven. Close the lid and bake for 20 minutes at 460 degrees F. After that, remove the half baked loaf from the Dutch oven and put directly on the rack to bake for 20 minutes longer at 450 degrees F.
This might be the hardest part of bread baking. Cooling helps the bread finish baking inside and sets the structure of the interior. By allowing 30-60 minutes for the bread to cool, you will be able to slice it easier, retain more moisture, and have a loaf of bread that lasts longer.
But if you want to dig in right away, I won’t judge you. After all, it’s your bread!
Q: My dough is not at the proper volume at the end of the proofing time, what do I do?
A: If your dough is not at the proper volume at the end of the specified proofing time, it may be because the room temperature is too cool. You can extend the proof for another hour. Look for the volume to be 1 ½ to 2 times larger and conduct a poke test by wetting a finger and poking the dough about ½ inch deep. If the dough rises about halfway back up but the indentation remains, it is just right.
Q: Why is the crumb of my bread irregular or tight?
A: Doing a traditional round shaping technique (sometimes called a boule) may help with the final structure and shape of your no-knead bread. If results are still not ideal, follow the shaping instructions outlined in my Sourdough Country Loaf recipe here.
Q: Why is my crust coming out too dark?
A: It is overbaked or the temperature is too hot. Some ovens bake at a different temperature than the set temperature control by a few degrees. It can be helpful to use an in-oven thermometer to get an accurate temperature your oven is baking at; it could be baking a few degrees hotter or cooler than the set temperature. You can also try reducing the second half of baking to 15 minutes, which should keep the crust from getting too dark.
Q: Why did my loaf burst on a different section than where I scored the dough?
A: It may not have rested or proofed long enough. When a loaf of bread bursts in one or multiple areas during baking, it is creating vents to release the built-up pressure of the heat and moisture. This can be avoided by allowing the dough to rest or proof longer before baking and making sure the score cut is large enough to allow the dough to expand easily. This can also happen if the scoring wasn’t wide or deep enough.
4 Tips and Reminders for No Knead Sourdough
- Use a food scale. This small investment will make bread making more accurate, will simplify your dough mixing stage, and make it easier to multiply batches of bread.
- Temperature is key. The range of fermentation timing in sourdough baking is impacted by the temperature of the water added to the dough and the room temperature. You need to monitor your dough more closely in hot months and in colder months, you’ll need to be more patient for the rise.
- Take care of your sourdough starter. Plan to care for it every week by refreshing, not just feeding! See this post that explains the difference.
- This is a no knead method to make easy and delicious basic sourdough. If you want more “wow” results you can add in a series of stretch and folds during the early part of the fermentation and use more advanced bread shaping techniques.
You can do this!
Now that you have learned about how easy and flexible no knead sourdough can be, I hope you feel confident and excited to try this recipe!
Down below you’ll find the recipe that originally appeared in my book, Everyday Bread Baking, as well as some additional resources.
Comment to let me know how your bake goes or ask any questions you have.
Need more help?
I’d love to support you with my books or online courses.
I have a free Sourdough Quick Start Guide here. (And if you download it, you will get a chance to get 50% off my Intro. to Sourdough online course)
I have a Once-a-Week No Knead Sourdough online course to teach you how to do 15 minutes of work to have bread, pizza, english muffins, etc. ready to bake all week long.
If you are ready to gain a solid foundation for sourdough, the traditional way, my Intro. To Sourdough online course will teach you all the basics, language, techniques, and the process from start to finish to make sourdough bread.
And if you love this recipe, you can purchase my book here so you can always have it in your cookbook library.
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- Food Scale
- large bowl
- plastic dough scraper
- Parchment Paper
- proofing bowl or colander lined with a kitchen towel
- large Dutch oven or steam tray or manual steam method
- bread lame or serrated bread knife
- Cooling Rack
For the dough
- 320 grams water 1 1/3 c.
- 20 grams sourdough starter (active or inactive) 1 1/2 T.
- 550 grams all-purpose or bread flour 3 2/3 c.
- 10 grams sea salt 1 1/2 t.
For dusting the proofing bowl
- Rice flour or cornmeal
- Scale: Place a mixing bowl on the scale, tare the weight of the scale, and weigh all the dough ingredients (water, sourdough starter, flour, and salt). (When using the scale to measure ingredients, use the tare function to remove the weight of the mixing bowl and other previous ingredients so you can weigh each individual ingredient easily as you add each one to the bowl.)
- Mix: Using a spoon, mix the dough ingredients together (if you have a stand mixer and a dough hook, mix until the dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl). There should be no dry spots of flour. After the initial mixing, it can be helpful to mix the dough with your hands or with a plastic dough scraper to make sure that all the water is incorporated into the flour. Be sure to scrape the sides of the bowl so no dry pieces of dough stick to it.
- Bulk fermentation: Cover the bowl of dough and leave it at room temperature to ferment for 10 to 12 hours.
- Prepare the proofing bowl: Dust a proofing bowl or an 8-inch-wide colander lined with a kitchen towel generously with rice flour or cornmeal so that the sides and bottom have a thick, even coating.
- Shape: Lightly flour a clean work surface. Turn out the dough onto the work surface and shape it by hand into a ball.
- Proof: Place the ball of dough into the prepared proofing bowl and let proof for 1 to 2 hours, until the dough is 1 ½ times its original size and an indentation made by lightly pressing a finger into the dough slowly rises back.
- Preheat: Preheat the oven to 500°F. Place a Dutch oven or cloche into the oven on the center rack to preheat for 30 to 60 minutes. If not using a Dutch oven or cloche, use the manual steaming technique in Troubleshooting (page XX).
- Bake: Cut a large piece of parchment paper that is approximately twice as wide as the dough. Center the parchment over the proofing bowl and flip the bowl upside down to release the dough onto the parchment. Using a serrated bread knife or a bread lame, cut a slit all the way across the top of the dough, about 1/4-inch deep. Carefully transfer the dough from the parchment into the preheated Dutch oven or cloche (or onto a cookie sheet, if using manual steam) and cover it with the lid. Place the bread in the oven. Reduce the oven temperature to 460°F and bake for 20 minutes. Carefully remove the bread from the Dutch oven and place it directly onto the oven rack (remove the steam tray if using manual steam). Reduce the heat to 450°F and bake for an additional 20 minutes to create a golden-brown crust.
- Cool: Transfer the bread to a cooling rack and allow it to cool for at least 60 minutes before slicing.
TroubleshootingQ: My dough is not at the proper volume at the end of the proofing time, what do I do? A: If your dough is not at the proper volume at the end of the specified proofing time, it may be because the room temperature is too cool. You can extend the proof for another hour. Look for the volume to be 1 ½ to 2 times larger and conduct a poke test by wetting a finger and poking the dough about ½ inch deep. If the dough rises about halfway back up but the indentation remains, it is just right. Q: Why is the crumb of my bread irregular or tight? A: Doing a traditional round shaping technique (sometimes called a boule) may help with the final structure and shape of your no-knead bread. If results are still not ideal, follow the shaping instructions outlined in my Sourdough Country Loaf recipe here. Q: Why is my crust coming out too dark? A: It is overbaked or the temperature is too hot. Some ovens bake at a different temperature than the set temperature control by a few degrees. It can be helpful to use an in-oven thermometer to get an accurate temperature your oven is baking at; it could be baking a few degrees hotter or cooler than the set temperature. You can also try reducing the second half of baking to 15 minutes, which should keep the crust from getting too dark. Q: Why did my loaf burst on a different section than where I scored the dough? A: It may not have rested or proofed long enough. When a loaf of bread bursts in one or multiple areas during baking, it is creating vents to release the built-up pressure of the heat and moisture. This can be avoided by allowing the dough to rest or proof longer before baking and making sure the score cut is large enough to allow the dough to expand easily. Starter substitution tips:
To replace the sourdough starter with commercial yeast: Use 3 grams of instant yeast instead of the sourdough starter. The flavor will be very different and will not be sour. The timing will be the same.