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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!

Joe Falcone

Tuesday 23rd of January 2024

I made this Bread. GREAT JOB & Product.

Butter For All

Wednesday 24th of January 2024

So happy it worked out for you, Joe!

Rhiannon

Sunday 21st of January 2024

This is my 3rd time and I got stuck at 15. The farthest I got though. But why does My dough not get to the unsticky point 😒 what am I doing wrong??? Frustrated in Florida

Patty Esparza

Monday 29th of January 2024

@Rhiannon and Courtney, I had some of the same problems. This was my first time using a banneton. I made the dough yesterday and just put it in the oven so results aren’t complete yet. After 24 hours in the fridge It didn’t crest over the rim of the banneton but did rise some. Having baked sourdough in Florida for a few years I know my recipes almost always require more flour. I used the lower amount of water and King Arthur AP flour. The dough was fine through the stretch and folds and doubled nicely after about 4 hours. But it was a sticky mess on 2 different silicone mats. I tried to shape using flour when wet hands didn’t work but never got real tension on the surface. I know I need more practice with high hydration doughs but I don’t see how anyone could have created surface tension with a dough that slack. Any help would be appreciated!

Butter For All

Wednesday 24th of January 2024

Hi Rhiannon!

First, I'd like to know what flour you are using.

If you are a new baker it is possible that your starter's yeast isn't strong enough and the bacteria is breaking down gluten faster than you can make it. That is probably the most common problem. Work on starter strength. Keep a very small starter and feed it 1:3:3 every 12 hours for a couple days until the yeast is doubling the starter in 4-6 hours.

Give me a few more details and I'll try to help further,

Courtney 😊

Michelle Poulos

Tuesday 16th of January 2024

I’ve been following your recipe for the last couple years and love it! I’m having a problem with timing. After stretch and fold, I usually proof 3-6 hours but I might have to proof overnight. Is that okay?

Butter For All

Wednesday 24th of January 2024

Hi Michelle!

Awesome, thank you! Yes, you can proof overnight! You can either start your dough right before bed and do a long bulk ferment at cool room temp (65℉), or if you have a strong starter, just do your bulk fermentation in the refrigerator. I do overnight bulk on almost all my breads and it works really well for me. You might have to play around until you figure out the exact timing, but I can usually get away with a 8-10 hour bulk if it's cool enough inside. Whole grains will overproof in that time though, so just be careful!

Christine Muldoon

Friday 5th of January 2024

Hi Kourtney! I’m trying this recipe out and it has been past 12hrs now but my dough has still not crested the banneton. Can I still bake it? Or have I messed up at some point? Thanks for the help!

Butter For All

Saturday 6th of January 2024

Hi Christine!

Are you doing a cold proof? If so, just bring it out of the fridge and let it proof at room temp. Sometimes some starters and doughs don't appreciate the cold as much as others. I'm sure you didn't do anything wrong!

Kenna James

Thursday 21st of December 2023

I’m currently letting it rise, it is at 6 hours. I’d love to send you a picture and you tell me if it is ready for fridge or not! Thank you❤️

Butter For All

Tuesday 20th of February 2024

Hi Kenna, You're always welcome to email pictures to me at Courtney@butterforall.com! I absolutely love to see people's bakes! I hope you have wonderful success, happy baking!

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