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How To Bake the Perfect Sourdough Boule in Your Dutch Oven – Recipe + Video Instructions

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Over the last few years I’ve made it my mission to learn how to make the softest, fluffiest, chewiest, naturally leavened bread with my sourdough starter.

A collage of sourdough loaves with text overlay.

This easy sourdough boule is the result of much practice and formula testing. I wanted to keep the recipe very simple and straightforward so that even an amateur sourdough baker could reproduce this bread with beautiful results! If you follow my recipe and learn the technique from watching my video you will definitely be able to master baking an artisan sourdough boule at home in your Dutch oven.

An artisan sourdough boule baked in a Dutch oven.

Are You Interested in the Science of Sourdough?

I’ve written a comprehensive guide to sourdough. It answers questions about what sourdough is, why it’s better for your body, how to talk about sourdough and understand common terminology, and how to save yourself years of trial and error.

Demystifying Sourdough – Everything You’ve Ever Wanted To Know About Sourdough Starter – Why It’s Better for You – And How To Start One

Sourdough starter that is active and fresh makes wonderful artisan bread!

One of the First Steps To Making Great Bread Is Having a Great Starter!

Learn how to feed your starter for optimal performance and successful baking in my easy visual guide,

How To Feed Your Sourdough Starter for Successful Baking

The key to really great sourdough bread and other baked goods is a lively and active sourdough starter. Learn how to properly feed your starter for the most successful bread baking. #fermented #naturallyleavened #masamadre #motherdough #sourdough #leaven #slowfood #realfood #nourishingtraditions #wisetraditions

Once you’ve mastered the sourdough basics you will be ready to bake an incredible loaf of bread like this one.

A soft artisan sourdough boule cut in thick slices perfect for toasting.

This Recipe Uses the Stretch and Fold Method of Kneading. 

What I love about stretch and fold:

  • It’s easy.
  • It can be done over a period of time and at your own pace.
  • It develops an insane amount of gluten, making your bread reach for the clouds with the absolute BEST oven spring.
  • It’s flexible. (Only have time for two stretch and folds? No problem, you will still have an awesome bake!)
  • It can be done in the bowl, keeping your workspace clean.
  • You don’t need a stand mixer — stretch and fold is a “by hand” method, uniting you to your food!

This video will walk you through the steps of the recipe and stretch and fold method.

A sourdough loaf with text overlay.

Sourdough loaves with text overlay.

This artisan sourdough boule fits perfectly into a Dutch oven for baking!

How To Bake the Perfect Sourdough Boule in Your Dutch Oven

Yield: 12
Prep Time: 1 day
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 1 day 40 minutes

Learn how to bake a big and beautiful loaf of real sourdough bread. This formula yields a soft and pillowy crumb perfect for slathering with real butter!

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Weigh all ingredients in a glass or ceramic bowl.
  2. Mix the ingredients into a loose shaggy dough with a wooden spoon or dough whisk.
  3. Wet your hands and gently knead the dough in the bowl by hand until it comes together with no excess flour.
  4. Let the dough rest covered for 10 to 15 minutes. 
  5. Start the first stretch and fold by wetting your hands and lifting one side of the dough and folding it toward the middle. Repeat this stretch and fold process in all four directions.
  6. Sometimes you can get away with an extra one or two folds depending on the elasticity of the dough. If it wants to stretch, stretch it! If it's tearing or breaking, it needs a rest.
  7. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes.
  8. Start the second stretch and fold by wetting your hands and repeating the same folding motion in (at least) all four directions. 
  9. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes.
  10. Repeat the stretch and fold and resting process up to five more times for a total of seven stretch and folds (or as many as you are able). I have made great bread by just doing two stretch and folds. But remember, the more stretching and folding, the more gluten will develop, and the higher your bread will rise!
  11. After the last stretch and fold cover the dough and allow it to double in size. This can take anywhere from 3 to 6 hours depending on starter strength and ambient temperature.
  12. Prepare your banneton (proofing basket) with a coating of flour. My trick is to use sprouted wheat flour. Sprouted wheat does not develop gluten so it will keep the bread from sticking to the basket. Rice flour, buckwheat, or other non-glutinous flour can also be used. 
  13. Working with the doubled dough, start the final stretch and fold. This will act as the "punch down" of the dough, deflating the gasses trapped inside the gluten network. Stretch the dough several times toward the center, each time pressing down on the dough to remove air bubbles.
  14. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes. 
  15. Lightly wet your hands and remove the dough from the proofing bowl onto your work surface. Shape the dough by repeating the same folding toward the center action. Once a tight ball is achieved flip it seam side down and push it gently in all directions across the work surface to build tension in the outer layer (see attached video).
  16. Let the dough rest seam side down for 5 minutes.
  17. Transfer the dough to the banneton basket. This time you want the seam to be up and the tight surface to be down in the basket.
  18. Sprinkle the seam side of the shaped dough with a light dusting of flour and cover it securely with wrap and a rubber band.
  19. Place the banneton basket in the refrigerator overnight for at least 10 hours. 12 to 24 hours is my preferred proofing time.
  20. Once the dough has crested the edge of the banneton it is ready to bake, but you may keep it in the refrigerator for a longer period of time. 
  21. Preheat your oven to 450°F with your covered Dutch oven inside.
  22. Cut a piece of parchment paper big enough to overhang your loaf's circumference by a few inches.
  23. Remove the banneton from the refrigerator, remove the wrap from the dough, and place the parchment sheet over the exposed dough. Hold the parchment in place with your hand while you flip the dough onto the counter. Now the parchment is on the bottom.
  24. Carefully ease the banneton off the dough. Sometimes it takes a little coaxing. Use your fingers to gently work between the dough and basket. Hopefully the basket will lift away clean!
  25. Using a sharp razor blade, score the dough along the top. There are so many scoring patterns to practice with, but a good one to start with is a simple slash or a cross. Score the dough about 1/2 inch deep.
  26. Using baking gloves, remove the Dutch oven from the oven and remove the lid. 
  27. Working quickly, pick up the boule by the parchment paper edges and place it into the Dutch oven on top of the parchment. 
  28. If desired, add a few ice cubes to the Dutch oven between the parchment and the wall of the Dutch oven, or spray the boule with a few spritzes of filtered water. Adding additional moisture will keep the crust soft, allowing for more rise and giving a nice blistered texture and appearance.
  29. Cover the Dutch oven and place it back in your preheated oven. Bake undisturbed for 25 minutes.
  30. Open your oven and remove the Dutch oven lid. Bake for an additional 15 minutes.
  31. Remove your Dutch oven from the oven and gently lift the boule out using the parchment paper as handles. Remove the parchment paper and cool the boule on a wire rack. Cool the boule completely before cutting (possibly the hardest part of baking this incredible loaf of bread!).

Notes

Beginners: Start with 275 grams water, about 1 1/5 cups.

Also note that all cups and spoons measurements are approximate, for best results please weigh your ingredients!

This recipe yields a boule that has a hydration percentage of 73.3%

Higher hydration doughs will have a more open crumb (bigger holes). Want to play around with hydration? Use this website to calculate the hydration percentage of your dough: Bread Hydration and Conversion Calculator.

A collage of sourdough loaves with text overlay.

Because You Are Awesome and Read All the Way to the Bottom of This Post You Get My “Pro Tips” for This Recipe!

Pro Tip #1 You can use up to 60% whole wheat or other heirloom or ancient grain in this recipe. Be aware that you may want to add additional water because whole grains absorb more water in the dough. Start with 10 additional grams of water per 50 grams of whole grain flour used. 

Pro Tip #2 If you are baking in an electric or gas oven with a bottom heating element, always use a baking stone, pizza stone, cast-iron griddle, or cast-iron frying pan on the rack below your Dutch oven! Position the Dutch oven directly above the barrier pan or stone — this will help keep the bottom crust from getting too dark!

Joelle

Friday 1st of July 2022

My starter was bubbly after I fed it. I did 7 stretch and folds, but for some reason after putting the dough in the banneton in the fridge for 24 hours (even 48 hours one time I tried), my dough does not crest to the top. It rose a little, but that's it. It tastes great, but I don't know why it didn't rise much in the fridge. Every time I've made this recipe, my dough just doesn't rise to the top of the banneton for some reason. Any ideas why? I would love for my loaf to have the beautiful rise your's does in your video.

Katie

Friday 24th of June 2022

Hi Courtney! OH MY GOODNESS!!!! I️ just baked the most glorious and beautiful loaf of sourdough bread thanks to you! I️ cant believe it. With 3 lukewarm tries under my belt, I️ stumbled upon your blog and decided to put in a little work and give it one more try. With your guidance I️ converted my starter to 100% hydration and fed her like crazy until she was doubling consistently within 3 hours and beautifully bubbly. Despite failing the float test (I’ve never seen you mention the float test… curious about your thoughts on it) I️ decided to continue on following your recipe and BAM! Today I️ have the most lovely loaf of bread and I️ can’t believe I made it!!! So satisfying and I️ can’t thank you enough!

I️ have one question, if I️ wanted to add fillings like seeds or cheese, etc. would I️ add them right at the beginning with the original ingredients?

Thank you so much! Off to enjoy more bread :) -Katie

Butter For All

Wednesday 29th of June 2022

Hey Katie!

What a wonderful testimonial! I'm so happy things have turned around! Welcome to the world of really good bread :)

There are several ways to add inclusions to your bread. You can add them during mixing and let them ferment along with the dough. This method works really well if you want the ingredient spread evenly throughout the dough. I typically do this with whole grains, oats, seeds, nuts, or vegetable mashes, or even berries. The second technique is to laminate the bread during shaping. This gives you ribbons of filling throughout the dough. This works especially well for chunkier toppings, cheese, or cinnamon swirl. You can check out a few different recipes to see direct mixing and lamination in action. You may also want to try my cinnamon raisin bread!

Thanks for taking the time to leave such a nice note!

Courtney

colin

Friday 3rd of June 2022

Hi Courtney, firstly many thanks for your superbly presented website and the videos. You make it look so simple but sadly, not simple enough for me! I have now had a total of 6 quite spectacular failures..... basically despite adhering to your clear instructions the moment I remove the dough from the banneton chaos. The latest one today clung like crazy to the banneton despite a heavy dusting of spelt flour and by the time it flopped onto the parchment it was greater than the diameter of the dutch oven. It just simply sank into a giant pancake. Only once have I managed to get a dough to part company with the banneton relatively cleanly but even that one failed to show much interest in rising and ended up dense and yukky. I have recognised I am a beginner and use the 275ml recommended water content, I have a 13% protein unbleached white strong white bread flour and I take my starter out of the fridge in the mornings, feed it and then wait til it more than doubles before making the dough. I folded it and stretched it 9 times before leaving it to double and I then put it in the banneton following your timings and technique before covering and putting in the fridge over night. It had more than reached the top edge of the banneton when I attempted to get it out! There seems to be no strength at all in it. Help!

Butter For All

Friday 3rd of June 2022

Hi Colin!

I'm so glad you reached out! It sounds like everything is going really well up until the removal from the banneton. Have you tried dusting with rice flour or sprouted wheat flour? Both of those options work really well. A low gluten content will keep the flour separate from the loaf. Your dough may also require a little less time on the second rise, it sounds like it could be slightly overproofed and that is contributing to the rapid deflation. Also in your case make sure you remove the dough from the banneton right when it comes out of the fridge. A really cold dough is easier to handle.

I hope these tips help! Please let me know :)

Courtney

Joelle

Sunday 8th of May 2022

I've made your sourdough boule and it's easy and turns out great. Can I use this recipe and make baguettes too? Do I just divide it into how many loaves and shape it and bake it the same time/temp?

Butter For All

Sunday 8th of May 2022

Hi Joelle!

Yes, absolutely, you can use the same formula! Baguette is really all about the shaping :) This amount of dough can make two long baguettes or flour shorter ones. If you find the dough on the sticky side use plenty of flour after shaping so they don't stick to the pan or board where they are resting. I'm going to write up my baguette formula and instructions very soon so maybe get on my email list and watch out for that recipe coming shortly!

Best to you,

Courtney

Rachel

Monday 18th of April 2022

This was my first time making sourdough. Everything seemed to go well until Step 15. The dough never got springy and stayed flat and loose. It rose during the proofing stage, but it didn't double. I baked it anyway and it came out flat, almost like a focaccia. Fortunately, it still tasted great, and the texture was surprisingly good. But do you know what might have gone wrong? I used 60% einkorn flour and added extra water as you suggested. I did use buckwheat flour to keep the dough from sticking and some got incorporated into the dough.

Butter For All

Tuesday 19th of April 2022

Hi Rachel,

Welcome to the club!

So Einkorn is a relatively difficult wheat to use in bread making because it has a different ratio of gluten to gliadin. Einkorn tends to be more sticky and fluid in general. I would only add 20% Einkorn as you learn how to handle a sourdough dough. My suggestions would be to use a higher percentage of bread flour and make sure your starter is favoring the yeast by feeding it often and never letting it get too sour.

Hope this helps!

Courtney

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