How to Bake Sourdough with All-Purpose Flour
This is a great recipe for anyone for wants to make sourdough bread using all-purpose flour. As quite a few of my YouTube viewers struggle to source high-protein bread flour this recipe and method are designed to bake awesome sourdough using softer flour.
There are no magic tricks to using all-purpose flour, but there are some considerations.
Different types of flour will absorb different amounts of water so getting the hydration correct is key to success. Fermenting your dough at a temperature close to 25C / 77F will keep it manageable. The dough doesn’t develop lots of strength so careful handling of the dough is required.
In this blog, we are going to follow the 70% hydration recipe that I demonstrate in the video at the end of this blog. In the recipe sheet section at the bottom of the blog, you will find the ingredients for a 65% hydrated dough too, the method is exactly the same.
- The equipment used
- Adjusting hydration
- Times and temperatures
- Watch the video
- Recipe sheets
- Printable recipe
- Sourdough Calculator
This recipe makes an 800 gram dough which weighs approximately 630 grams after baking. The dough is made with 85% soft white all-purpose flour (10.4% protein) and 15% whole wheat flour (10.6% protein).
The total time including levain fermentation, dough fermentation, overnight cold proof and baking takes 38 hours. Depending on your speed the hands-on time is between one and two hours.
The equipment used
You’ll need a mixing bowl or a large pot for mixing the dough.
Digital scales are a must for accurately weighing the ingredients. I’m using the: My Weigh KD-8000 digital bakers scale.
This 800g dough is designed to fit an oval proofing basket measuring 24cm (L) x 12cm (W) x 8cm (H). You can use a larger basket but this may not fit into a smaller basket.
You’ll need a baker’s lame, razor blade, or an extremely sharp knife to score the dough. I’m using my wire monkey UFO Zero bakers lame to score the dough, in my opinion, these are hands down the best lames on the market.
I use a baker's peel but isn’t necessarily needed you could use a cookie sheet tray or a stiff piece of cardboard to make your own peel. I make super budget-friendly peels from off-cuts of plywood from my local DIY store.
I’m using a lava rock baking stone to bake the bread. You could use a dutch oven, a challenger pan, or bake directly on the oven shelf.
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Adjusting the hydration
As with most sourdough recipes, there is a good chance that you will need to adjust the hydration. Perhaps your first test bake produces a dough that is too soft to work with, or maybe the dough is too stiff.
Different types of flour absorb different amounts of water and the resulting dough may well be different in texture to the one shown in my video. That’s when you need to tweak the hydration.
To avoid making any mistakes I use a simple sourdough recipe calculator that I designed (with the help of many of you!). You are welcome to download a copy, it’s absolutely free and makes the process super simple. It’s in Google Docs format and you can access it by clicking here.
To adjust the hydration of this recipe copy the dough weight, levain and scale values across from the recipe sheets shown below and enter them into the same fields in the sourdough calculator you’ve downloaded. Then add the flour, water and salt percentages into the fields with blue text. You’ll find the values for this recipe in the recipe sheet below.
Now you’ve mirrored the recipe you will be able to change the hydration by adjusting the water percentage in the calculator. And the best bit is that all of the other ingredients are automatically adjusted for you. Once you’ve played around with the calculator a few times you’ll be creating your own recipes easily!
There is a short instructional video on the download page.
Times & temperatures
My kitchen or working temperature is 35 degrees Celsius so I am using a fermentation chamber to keep my levain and dough at 25 degrees Celsius. This is my optimum temperature for making sourdough.
If your ambient temperature is colder then the fermentation process will take longer and if it's warmer the process will go quicker.
If you are working in hotter climates I’d suggest using a cool box and an ice brick to create a cool place to ferment your dough.
My blog on how to ferment your sourdough in hot weather will explain how to do this.
22g all-purpose flour
2g Active sourdough starter
372g All-purpose flour (mine has a protein content of 10.4%)
70g Whole-wheat flour (mine has a protein content of 10.6%)
47g Active sourdough levain / starter (from above)
Making the levain
At 21:00 in the evening, I mix all of the ingredients for the levain together to create a smooth mixture. I place a lid loosely on the jar and leave it to ferment at 25 degrees Celsius (77F) for 12 hours.
Make sure you use a jar that can contain the levain when it increases in volume by up to four times.
Note: I using a small amount of active sourdough starter to inoculate my levain so that it ferments slowly and is ready to use the next morning. You can increase the amount of active sourdough starter you use, just remember that this will speed the process up.
Making the dough
The next morning at around 10:00 I make the main dough.
Add the white all-purpose flour and the wholewheat flour to a bowl and blend them together until well mixed.
In a second mixing bowl, add the water and use a spoon to dissolve the salt completely.
Note: I use a mixture of approximately half room temperature water and half cold water from the fridge. From experience, I know that this will create a dough that is approximately twenty-five degrees celsius. If you want to learn more about temperature you can read my article on baking in hot weather.
Add approximately one-third of the flour mixture to the bowl with the water and salt mixture. Use a spoon to blend them together.
Add the active sourdough levain to the flour and water mixture and use a spoon to combine the ingredients together.
Note: I use quite a small amount of levain to make my dough so that the fermentation process is extended giving the dough time to build strength. You can use more levain to speed the process up, but you’ll need to make sure you adjust the other ingredients to maintain the correct hydration. My sourdough calculator can help with that.
Add the remaining flour to the wet mixture and use a spoon to bring it together. When the mixture becomes stiff use a wet hand to create a rough dough. It doesn’t need to be completely smooth at this point. Cover the dough in the bowl and leave it to rest.
After 30 minutes turn the dough out onto the work surface and spend two minutes gently working the dough with your hand. The aim isn’t to develop strength but to make sure the dough is properly mixed. Bring the dough into a ball, place it in the bowl, cover it and leave it to rest.
Stretch 1: After 30 minutes turn the dough out onto the work surface and gently stretch or laminate the dough. The dough will be soft so treat it gently, pulling it hard won’t help to develop more strength. See the video below to see how to laminate the dough. Bring the dough into a ball, place it back into the bowl, cover and leave to rest.
Stretch 2: After thirty minutes repeat the stretching process again.
Stretch 3: repeat one more time and then bring the dough into a ball, cover in the bowl and leave to ferment.
As the dough created from soft all-purpose flour doesn't develop much strength I prefer not to push the fermentation process too far.
Once the dough has increased by 75% of its original volume the bulk fermentation process is complete. This took 7 hours at 25 degrees celsius.
While the dough is still in the mixing bowl lightly dust the exposed surface and then gently turn it out onto the work surface. Resist the urge to use too much flour as it will make the process of shaping harder as the dough won't stick to itself.
Gently shape the dough by pulling each side outwards and folding it into the centre of the dough and sticking it down. Fold the furthest edge of the dough towards you and roll it up into a cylindrical shape being careful not to de-gass it. Apply pressure to the seam of the dough to stick it together. Watch the video for a walk-through of this process.
Dust the dough with rice flour and place it into your proofing basket gently. Place the basket into a large plastic bag, and slightly inflate it to stop the bag from coming into contact with the surface of the dough.
Leave the dough to proof at ambient temperature. My dough took 2.5 hours to sufficiently proof at 25 degrees Celsius (77F).
Once the dough has proofed place it into the freezer for 30 minutes and then transfer it straight to the fridge for an overnight proof.
The next day, when you are ready to bake, pre-heat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius (430F).
Note: I use a baking stone placed on the lower third shelf of my oven with a large lightweight pot to cover the dough for the first part of baking. You could use a dutch oven or a challenger pan to achieve the same result. You can bake the sourdough directly on the oven shelf but you will need to place a baking tray filled with water in the bottom of the oven for the first part of the baking process.
Once the oven is pre-heated take the dough from the fridge and remove the bag. Lightly dust the exposed surface of the dough with flour so that it doesn’t stick when you turn it out.
Turn the dough out onto a bread peel, a thin cookie sheet, or a piece of non-stick paper. Use a razor blade or baker’s lame to score the surface of the dough.
Slide the dough onto the baking stone and cover with the lightweight pot (or use your baking setup of choice) and bake for twenty minutes. Then remove the pot and continue to bake for 25 minutes or until your desired crust flour is reached.
Leave to cool completely, and then dive in!
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