Sourdough No Knead Method

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.

{ 1419 comments… read them below or add one }

Kim February 7, 2011 at 8:48 pm

Thanks Carolyn. Really good information…I will not be deterred! My rye came out flat with a tough crust, but very tasty. I’m totally hooked on the whole grain sourdoughs. I’ve got the starter out and will feed it a least three times before I use it. Though, I suspect the overnight proofing also. I think I’ll mix up the next loaf, a whole spelt sourdough, early Wednesday morning and just watch it all day. When it doubles in size I’ll move on to the final proof rather than wait for the 10-12hr time frame. I’ve had great results with the instant yeast…maybe 1 bad loaf out of dozens. The sourdough is clearly graduate level! I’ll let you know what happens! Kim

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Carolyn F. February 7, 2011 at 8:14 pm

Hi Kim,
I had similar problems for a while. Two things seemed at the root. 1) My sourdough starter sat too long in the fridge and wasn’t quite robust enough. Through feeding and setting multiple times it got strong and made a big difference. 2) Over-proofing on the overnight rise. Now I use a giant 8-cup measuring cup/bowl so I can see exactly how much it has risen. I had to adjust my time to keep it at or less than the actual doubling amount.

Maybe one of these will work for you. Keep trying and sharing.

Carolyn F.

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Kim February 7, 2011 at 7:11 pm

Hi again..I just cut into the white sourdough that came out 10 min ago. The poor thing wanted to work. There are some great holes but in dense dough, no rise, almost uncooked after 45 min. I’m baking at 450. Have a thermometer and preheated for at least 30 min. I have a rye sourdough in right now, and fear the same thing!

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Kim February 7, 2011 at 7:06 pm

I am having a terrible time with my sourdough bombing out at or before the proofing stage. I mix up the bread, with your starter, in the evening. By morning I have a good rise..12-14 hrs. the dough looks good, but very wet. I spread it out, rest and set to proof. The dough does nothing in the proof and has no oven spring….dense UFO. I bake in a cast iron dutch oven. I have actually had some luck with the whole spelt..2 good loves. The white has been a disaster…no rise at all in the oven. HELP!!! Thanks

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Breadtopia February 7, 2011 at 6:56 am

Zambian sourdough. Awesome!

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sandy February 7, 2011 at 6:14 am

kxj………..it is wonderful! great picture of a great bread.

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KXJ February 7, 2011 at 4:13 am

I went ahead and baked the dry-ish loaf. It came out great! The crust was perfect. The crumb was a little dense and there really weren’t any big holes, but it was chewy with a great flavor. I have another loaf fermenting as we speak that’s much more moist. Here it is proofed in a willow basket and oblong la cloche from your site.

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Breadtopia February 5, 2011 at 8:42 pm

Hi KXJ,

Might be too late responding to help you with this loaf, even if I knew what to tell you. Would need some more info.

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Breadtopia February 5, 2011 at 8:39 pm

Very nice, Marqui!

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Marqui February 5, 2011 at 4:50 pm

This is my third attempt at making sourdough bread, and I just wanted to share my pictures

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KXJ February 5, 2011 at 12:02 pm

A couple of hours ago I made the sourdough no-knead bread according to your recipe and while it has risen a little bit, it doesn’t look wet at all. Should I take it out and add a tablespoon or so of water and start the rising process again?

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Tricia February 1, 2011 at 9:56 am

I had never made sourdough bread before. Although I have had a starter in my refrigerator for years, I had always used it to make Amish Friendship bread. Upon seeing your video, I decided to try my hand at making sourdough. I placed my laptop on my kitchen counter and watched your video as I went through the steps of the no-knead method “along with you”. Your instructions were easy to follow and unintimidating. The results were fantastic! My bread looked exactly like yours. A hard cruchy crust, good holes, and a nice crumb. My family devoured it within an hour of letting it cool! Thank you so much for giving me the courage to try this new venture. I will never ‘knead bread’ again.

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Breadtopia January 30, 2011 at 6:24 am

Thanks for posting the photos Lexi and Josh. Both totally awesome looking loaves! Nice going.

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Lexi January 26, 2011 at 11:52 pm

My Romertopf and other supplies arrived today. Luckily I had a batch of dough ready to bake today. :) I attached a picture of my first loaf with the new baker. I’m extremely pleased with how it turned out.

I really have to thank this site for my success. I’ve never been super confident in my bread making abilities, but the videos and articles here were a great help.

Thanks.

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Fred January 26, 2011 at 9:31 am

Sandra: No, I don’t do anything at all to it before putting it into the fridge.

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sandra casagrande January 26, 2011 at 9:25 am

fred…………..do you do anything to the dough before you put it in the fridge?

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Fred January 26, 2011 at 9:09 am

I accidently stumbled on a way to get a great oven spring. I now do about a 12 hour fermentation, then put the dough into the fridge overnight. The next day I take it out of the fridge and let it sit at room temperature for about 4 hours. I flatten and fold twice, letting it sit for 15 minutes each time, then proof it for an hour. I have gotten better oven spring than ever each time I have done that.

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Josh January 13, 2011 at 2:46 pm

I’ve been making no-knead sourdough every few days for a few weeks now, using both the live starter I bought from your site and some that I managed to conjure out of the NJ air. Both come out amazing and my family has forbidden me from buying bread from a store.

Thanks for a great site!

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Richard L Walker January 12, 2011 at 4:57 pm

I always fold my no knead breads about 3 times (each time after the dough has doubled in bulk). When it is too wet to handle easily I just do the first 1 or 2 folds in the bowl used while the dough was rising (don’t even remove it). I just fold 1/3 in from the top, 1/3 in from the bottom, 1/3 in from the left, 1/3 in from the right, flip it over, put the lid on a let it rise again. Don’t squish all the CO2 out. After a few of those the gluten starts developing and you can do a good fold on the counter. After that, shape, rise and bake. It helps with wet doughs like ciabatta.

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aaron January 6, 2011 at 12:23 am

Since I made the pinapple starter back last June, it has only gotten better and better with every loaf. I’ve been making a loaf a week for sammiches. Over the holidays I tried a couple of experiments, a garlic loaf, garlic-rosemary-sundried tomato loaf and a garlic-parmesan loaf. all three turned out better than expected. Thanks for the starter recipe and the website.

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vicki December 30, 2010 at 10:33 am

Correct. I have not used the yeast method given here yet. But, yesterday I was perusing some recipes on the net using starter AND yeast AND kneading and that just may be the ticket for me. I’m going to give it a try that way as it is closer to what I’m used to. I’ll come up with something, that’s for sure!

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BrandoDaMando December 29, 2010 at 11:43 am

Sam101, enjoy your baking!

Also, I think Vicki is saying she is going to try the yeasted no knead recipe now because the starter way hasn’t been working. So she hasn’t done the yeasted recipe yet..

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BrandoDaMando December 29, 2010 at 11:33 am

note: My post below was a reply to Sam101

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Sam101 December 29, 2010 at 11:28 am

Thanks BrandoDaMando the timing info and a sense of the limitations is helpful

I’ll keep trying using bread dough as “starter” and see how it works.

Thanks again!

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Sam101 December 29, 2010 at 11:23 am

Vickie: Your water and air temperature has a huge impact on how long it takes the 1/4 tsp yeast to reproduce enough to make the bread rise. We keep the house at 65 in the winter and the water is very cold. It takes twice as long for winter bread to rise than summer bread when the water is warmer and the air temperature is 85. Rather than time, I go by doubling. One doubling for the first rise, another doubling for the second rise.

What kind of yeast are you using? Instant/Bread Machine yeast works a lot better for me than does Active Dry.

For a more complex flavor, try substituting 5 or 10% of whole wheat flour or 5% oat flour.

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BrandoDaMando December 29, 2010 at 11:19 am

As I understand your post, your “starter” will always be kept in a bread dough form. Assuming I have understood you correctly, no it will not last indefinitely like a true starter would. Now If you dont ever stop with your plan of making bread every day basically, then it would never go bad because it wouldn’t have time to. Even skipping a couple days would still be fine. But as life pulls you away from bread baking for a week or 2, you would find your starter dough has changed colors and gone bad. And of course to get this process going again you’d have to make “real” starter again.

And of course as I mentioned your starter is always just in the form of bread dough; and one specific kind at that. So any other type of bread or baked item would not be possible.

Now of course all this is assuming I’m understanding you correctly. It just seems that your whole post was based on not wanting to use starter in it’s traditional form.

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sandy December 29, 2010 at 11:10 am

hey there vicki…………don’t give up yet. two things that worked for me. my dough was never wet enough, try adding a little more water. and second, when I did the second rise and the baking in a smaller (2-3 qt) round baking vessel, the dough rose up instead of out. keep the faith and try some more.

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Vicki December 29, 2010 at 10:27 am

Well, it’s time for me to give up. I’ve tried the Artisan in 5 minutes…edible but hardly like what you buy in the store. I’ve tried this recipe twice now and both times there was next to no rising whatsoever. I’m tempted to try once more using the yeast but 1/4 tsp. seems hardly enough to accomplish any real rising and I’m tired of wasting good flour. I guess we old traditional bread bakers have to stick with what’s tried and true. I envy those of you who have been successful. Happy baking.

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Fred December 27, 2010 at 7:11 pm

It has always taken me about 5 minutes to incorporate all of the flour into the dough. Today while doing that, I tore the dough in half and discovered that the inside of the dough was much wetter than the outside. I tore it in half a couple of times and was able to incorporate all of the flour in much less time with a lot less effort. When all the flour was incorporated I gave the dough a quick knead to make it into a ball and covered it with plastic, as I usually do.

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Sam101 December 27, 2010 at 6:06 pm

re: BrandoDaMando: “it will not keep indefinitely like a normal starter”

Thanks for the reply. How/why do you think it will fail? Loose leaving power? Loose it’s sourness or get too sour.

FWIW: I use the same dough for bread and pizza. I’ve never tried yeast risen pancakes or biscuits.
450g home milled Prairie Gold Wheat
425g ice water
1/2 tsp diastolic malt (to help convert more of the starch into sugar to feed the yeast)
3 Tbl gluten
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp yeast if using yeast

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BrandoDaMando December 25, 2010 at 4:16 pm

Sam101, I also reflect Sherry’s post.. Maintaining starter is only wasteful IF you waste it! The other problem with your plan is that you never really have a starter available for anything but another loaf of the same bread. And it will not keep indefinitely like a normal starter.

I’m not sure why it seems wasteful to you, I’m assuming it’s because when you feed it you end up with excess because you’re doubling the volume. While it is suggested to double the volume, I don’t do this if I have a good amount of it. The key for me is keeping it vigorous:
[This should answer Vicki's question too] It stays in the fridge until you’re ready to use it.. As you’ll see in Eric’s videos, you can actually revive a starter that’s been in the fridge a long time. I’ve fed starters that were months old and become super vigorous! No matter what, I do the same thing: pull the starter out, pour off the alcohol on top if any, feed it, cover and set on the counter at room temperature until bubbly and active. Now it’s ready. When you’re done, put it back in the fridge.

And Sam, the other big thing to keep in mind is that the starter can be used for ALL kinds of things.. From pizza dough to waffles to pancakes to biscuits to many other breads. Some recipes use a lot more starter than others. If I have a lot of starter I’ll make something like a pizza dough that uses 1 1/2 cups. There is NO waste here.. Keep in mind your starter is just a natural rising agent, and can be used in pretty much anything that would need yeast.

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Sherry December 25, 2010 at 3:16 pm

To Sam101’s question — I’ve been using a sourdough starter for many years and have never discarded any when refreshing. I just keep adding to it and taking what I need for baking, & don’t seem to have any bad results from this. Am I missing something? If not, Sam101, maybe it’s a non-issue . . . just don’t discard & you’ll have no waste.

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Sam101 December 25, 2010 at 2:42 pm

I’m new to baking no-knead with a sourdough starter. Maintaining the starter is a hassle and wastes flour through the discards when refreshing. Will the following work over the long term making bread 3 or 4 times a week? (It has worked so far over the last 10 days.)

– make a batch of dough using sourdough starter
– let rise at 65° until doubled
– refrigerate
– 24 hours after making the first batch, make a second batch of dough using flour, salt, and ice-water but without yeast or starter
– mix (stir & knead) the two batches together
– split in half and let each rise at 65° until doubled
– refrigerate one to be used in a day or two as a starter for two new batches
– let the other rise a second time, then bake

Effectively, I’m making two batches of dough with 50% starter, saving one as starter and baking the other. By using ice-water and proofing at 65°, I should be slowing the yeast down more so than the bacteria thus keeping the dough sour.

Anyone see any long term problems with this approach?

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Vicki December 20, 2010 at 8:42 pm

I have a question about this video. Is the starter being used straight from the refridgerator or does it need to be fed first? I began a starter over a week ago and it’s now in the refridgerator but hasn’t needed to be fed as yet.
Thank you,
Vicki

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sandra casagrande December 15, 2010 at 12:14 pm

Hello again. Here is the recipe for the no knead refrigerator bread (boule)
3 cups warm water, 6 1/2 to 7 1/2 flour, 1 tablespoon salt, 1 1/2 tablespoon instand yeast. Mix well. Let sit on counter 2 hours then refrigerate up to 10 days. the longer you keep, the better the flavor, like sourdough. It is wonderful! I did have to find a happy medium with the flour 5 1/2 works best for me. just remember the dough should be wet and hard to handle. cuz you don’t really handle it. I get two loaves from this recipe but you could make a beautiful 2 lb loaf if having company.

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sandra casagrande December 15, 2010 at 9:22 am

Hello! I have been away from this method for awhile being lazy and using my bread machine to make my dough. I had forgotten how absolutely delicious this bread is! This loaf is the refrigerator method, sits on the counter 2 hours and then refrigerate up to 10 days. This dough was made yesterday and I baked it this morning. What a treat, glad I’m back. Happy holidays to you all and treat everyone to your wonderful bread.

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Andrew December 15, 2010 at 9:12 am

I successfully baked a 100% wholemeal brown sourdough NK using:
3 cups wholemeal brown flour
i cup butttermilk
3/4 cup water ( add more water if needed)
1 1/2tsp salt
1/4 wholemeal sourdough starter.

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Talia December 2, 2010 at 9:39 pm

How to tell when my starter is dead?
I’ve attempted a few NKB with the ‘normal’ recipe and it comes out fine, however when I use my sourdough starter I’m getting a dense chewy loaf.
I’ve tried proofing it longer and shorter, getting it to room temp first, and right out of the oven..etc.I’ve got bubbles in my starter when I feed it, but none after (should it continue to bubble?)

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Breadtopia November 29, 2010 at 5:14 pm

Hi Andrew,

Looks like perfection to me! Seriously, it has the perfect amount of carmelization (at least that’s the way I like it). Great oven spring too. Nice!

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Andrew November 29, 2010 at 5:01 pm

Dear Eric,
Thank-you for you fail proof recipes and instructions.
Here is the result of my sourdough bread baked in a clay romertopf.

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Fred November 28, 2010 at 9:32 am

I haven’t searched all the comments, so please forgive me if I am asking about something that has already been answered. I have been making an excellent NK sourdough for a couple of years and want to shift to whole grain. Right now I use 300 grams of KA white flour and 150 grams of a six-grain flour that I get at my coop. I want to use 100% of the six-grain, which has a wonderful taste. Has anyone successfully made such a bread, or at least a 100% ww sourdough?

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Bettie, Dallas TX November 24, 2010 at 6:40 pm

Burning on the bottom in a Dutch oven: I put a heat diffuser upside down in the bottom of the Dutch oven, set a cake pan on top of it, and then drop the parchment with the dough on top of that.

This is the diffuser that I have: http://dealnay.com/781198/flame-master-stove-top-burner-heat-flame-diffuser-kitchen-tools-supplies.html

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Larry November 23, 2010 at 7:03 pm

Thanks for the great website. I had great luck with my first batch of starter. I left it on counter for several days and it died though. I started a second batch of starter and it is going well also. I have it in the fridge now and took it out today and has an excellent sour aroma. I can hardly wait.

My first loaf of no knead sourdough turned out great except that it burned on the bottom. My oven is propane and I think it is much hotter than the thermostat says. I am using a cast iron dutch oven.

I am starting a second batch tonight for Thanksgiving, but it will be cooked in an electric range. So I expect a whole different set of results, but will watch much closer this time.

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Breadtopia November 23, 2010 at 11:06 am

Hi Marilyn,

The longer proofing times could sure account for the strong flavor. Try 10-12 hours and 1 1/2 hours next time and see how you like it.

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Marilyn Tellefsen November 23, 2010 at 9:27 am

Hi!

Tried the starter and it seemed to be doing very well, nice and bubbly. I used 1/4 cup to make some bread, let it rise about 18 hours. The second rise was, I think, to long. About 3 1/2 hours (I got side tracked). Anyway the bread did not rise well the second time, baked it, but the taste was terrible. I assume it is the starter, any way to make it less sour? Did I do something wrong in making the starter that gave it such a strong flavour? I love sourdough but this was awful!! I am having a great time with the no knead bread though. I tried a round loaf in a cast iron oven but like how it bakes in the clay better. Will have to get the round clouche next. Any help or suggestions on my starter would be greatly appreciated!!

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Carolyn F November 22, 2010 at 12:37 pm

Hi Marcy,
I can relate to new questions for each loaf! A cloche isn’t required. If you browse this site for a while you’ll see nearly as many baking vessels as there are contributors. Some people dutch ovens, Romertof clay bakers, pizza stones with an inverted dutch oven for the cover, and pyrex casseroles. I use what I affectionately call a “frugal cloche” which is a clay tray and a clay pot as the lid. We had fun discussing it here in Feb. 2009.

The knob on the Tramontina’s lid may not take the 500 degree oven, but you could replace it with a simple stainless steel knob from the hardware store.

Good Luck, enjoy, and keep asking questions!

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Marcy November 21, 2010 at 9:19 pm

Thank you so much again for your wonderful website!!! I have one question (I seem to have at least one question per loaf that I’ve made…)The original recipe I have says to bake the bread in a clay cloche. Which I do not have. I do, however, have both pampered chef stonewear ( shallow round dish with domed top) and a tramontina dutch oven that I’ve used to make the ATK almost no knead bread. The problem is, I don’t know htat I can heat either up to 500 degrees…is that going to ruin my pans? I don’t think it’s safe to heat the stoneware that high but wasn’t sure about the tramontina. And if I don’t do that, and heat it to only 450 prior to baking, do I need to bake it longer? The first bread I made turned out very dense and almost wet. It tasted good but it was extremely heavy.

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Joe Doniach November 21, 2010 at 6:41 pm

Yesterday I made my first sourdough loaf using my own sourdough starter that I’d made according to your instructions. The result was amazing, a huge hit! Chewy, sour, crusty. Delicious. Thanks very, very much.

I’m curious: Have you tried adding chilled 50F water and then chilling the dough for 3 hours before the first rise, according to Nancy Baggett’s instructions in her 2009 book Kneadlessly Simple?

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James V Castelli November 17, 2010 at 5:22 pm

11/ 18/ 10

Thanks so much !!!!!!!!!!

Just a quick note to say thanks for the instructions on making the sourdough starter. The first try didn’t work but the second attempt went well.

My first attempt didn’t work so I ditched that batch of starter and tried again.

The major differences between the first and the second attempts, as far as I can tell, was that on my first try I used tap water and Dole pineapple juice from a can.

On my second attempt I made my own pineapple juice with a juicer that I own and used Aqua Panna/ Italian bottled water. The second time went like a charm
and the starter is up and running !!!

Thanks again and I have found your website wonderfully helpful in my bread making attempts.

All the best over Thanksgiving!!!

JV Castelli

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Jason November 13, 2010 at 1:36 am

Thanx Katherine !

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