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A Gluten-free sourdough bread recipe has been a long time coming. Last year I published my gluten free sourdough starter guide, after years of experimentation. Now I’m publishing my recipe for gluten free sourdough bread itself. The process, as you’ll discover, is ever evolving, which is partly why I’ve held off posting a recipe for so long. I also quite liked having sourdough as a hobby, rather than making it work related.
That thought process, I think, has resulted in a gluten-free sourdough bread recipe that I’m really proud of. I’ve tested it all sorts of different ways, and although I am no expert, I have definitely learned a lot about sourdough.
Honestly I think the main takeaway is that every loaf is a lesson. No two are the same, and there will be both successes and ‘failures’ (that will still taste good.) Gluten free sourdough making is a ~jOurNey~, you guys.
Before we begin – this is quite a dense bread. It’s more of a European, serious style gluten free sourdough bread, and less of a lofty loaf. I didn’t want to use gums or anything weird, and this bread is truly delicious as it is.
Gluten-free sourdough bread recipe notes
- Currently, I have no substitution suggestions for the flours. I have tried to make them as easy to find as possible. If you can’t find them in stores, you should be able to buy them online. As I bake with more varieties, I will update this post. Only so much bread I can bake, so thanks for the understanding there.
- Different flours have different absorbencies, so if you’re going rogue, you’ll have to consider how much water you add.
- In the same vein, I have no substitutions for the psyllium husk. I don’t use the powder (which is more absorbent) I use regular psyllium husk. Currently, I don’t have a suggestion as to substituting between the two, either.
- You can make your own quinoa flour using quinoa from the supermarket. Simply blend it in a high powered blender.
- The recipe makes one small-ish loaf of dense, European style bread. This is serious ol’ bread – not some white lofty number. It’s dense and moist and DAMN DELICIOUS.
- All the websites I read say that a dutch oven is really truly necessary for a good loaf of bread. This is because it traps the heat completely and keeps it stable, much like a professional bread oven. Regular ovens are, apparently, quite terrible at maintaining a consistent heat.
- That said, I did a year worth of tests with a cast iron skillet and some tin foil. So it’s possible to do without, your bread just might not be QUITE as good. Still v good, though.
A note on gluten free sourdough bread making in general
I’ve been tinkering with this recipe for over a year now so while I’m not an expert, I do have some things to say. First and foremost – sourdough is not something you make once and discard the recipe when it doesn’t work. There are SO MANY factors that determine the success of each individual loaf. So, a little bit of truth: if you end up with an average loaf, it’s something you did (or didn’t do.) Sorry bout it. It’s your own job to hone in your own sourdough, so if you’re not in for the long haul, I wouldn’t bother starting.
You can’t rush the process of sourdough making. The starter is ready when it’s ready, as is the loaf itself. Don’t be so rigid in sticking to a recipe that you end up with a failure. You need to use your intuition, and that’s something I can’t help with. Take the time to learn by doing and you’ll end up with the gluten-free sourdough bread of your dreams, I promise.
Gluten free sourdough bread making glossary
- pre-ferment = a mixture of starter, water and flour. This sometimes goes by other names, but I wanted to keep it simple and obvious.
- Banneton = bread making basket. You can use a round based bowl instead if you don’t have one.
- Proofing = the act of allowing of your bread to rise enough that it’s ready to bake.
- Lame – a sharp blade to score your loaf. People have told me you can also use a razor blade or sharp box cutter.
- Oven spring = liftoff in the oven. Good oven spring means your dough has risen nicely. Generally the first 10-15 minutes in the oven are crucial to oven spring.
Sourdough starter resources
First and foremost, you’ll need a lovely, healthy gluten free sourdough bread starter. Here is my extensive how-to guide, and here are some links I found handy when creating my first starter.
I find the best way to learn is by doing. However, here are some handy resources for making your own starter.
- A good video on the general gist of making a starter. There’s no mentions of discard but if you’re a visual learner, this might help.
- There is a sourdough website which is basically a chat forum of all things sourdough. If you have ever googled something sourdough related, chances are you ended up there.
- Not gluten free, but The Perfect Loaf has a great sourdough guide, and is an insane sourdough baker and specialist. I am a crazed Instagram fan.
- This post is what got me into gluten free sourdough making all those years ago. Major props where they are due.
Other things you will need for your gluten free sourdough
- A selection of gluten free flours at your disposal, and a basic understanding of which flour does what. Please have a read of my gluten free flour guide if you’re new to the gluten free life/having an overloaded flour pantry.
- Some decent kitchen scales. If you’ve gotten this far into gluten free baking, I’m assuming you have some scales at home. Gluten free is a fickle beast, and even small deviations in flours can yield very undesirable results. Scales aren’t super expensive and they’re worth every penny.
- Potentially, a banneton (bread proofing basket) and a lame (very sharp instrument to score the bread.) Note that neither are compulsory – you can use a bowl for proofing and a sharp knife for scoring.
- Some sort of dutch oven for baking the loaf. This is necessary to create the same sort of environment as a profesh oven – high, consistent heat which results in ‘oven spring’ aka lift. Check that it’s suitable for high oven temperatures (or you might lose the handle of the lid). Worst comes to worst, you can use a cast iron skillet, a foil tent and a tray of water in the bottom of the oven to create steam.
Gluten free sourdough bread tips and tricks
- Patience is key. It sucks but it’s true. You need to be patient in waiting for your starter, then in making the pre-ferment, and again in proofing. Oh also, it’s best to cut a loaf when cool (to avoid gumminess) so there’s that too.
- Manage your expectations, and know that it won’t be as beautifully air pockety and soft as a regular, wheat based loaf.
- As with pasta recipes, there isn’t really such thing as a sourdough recipe. That is, you’ll need to use a bit of intuition. Is your dough really dry? Add a bit of water. Is it less of a dough and more of a soup? Might have to add a bit of flour. There are so many variables – starter, the degree to which your flour is milled, etc. Use this recipe as a guide, and make the bread your own.
- WEIGH YOUR INGREDIENTS, water included.
VARIABLES THAT CAN IMPACT YOUR GLUTEN FREE SOURDOUGH BREAD
On basically every gluten free sourdough post I’ve seen, there are a hoard of angry people asking why their loaf didn’t work. A) don’t do this to me pls and B) you’ll never get a 100% accurate answer from a stranger (me) unless you deviated so enormously from the instructions that it couldn’t be anything else. So, with all this in mind, let’s chat through things that could alter your loaf.
- Your sourdough starter. Is it thick, is it thin, is it even bubbly? Different gluten free flours absorb water differently, so a starter with rice flour could look dramatically different to one with quinoa flour. Personally I like to add water using my intuition – I want the starter to be on the thicker side, but still pourable. Think porridge or yoghurt consistency. Just as the thickness could impact your loaf, so too could the weather. Starters thrive in warmer climates, and loaves rise quicker and higher as a result.
- Your flours. Different brands mill their flours to different degrees, and no two batches are the same. Your choice of flours will also impact the loaf. Buckwheat is thirstier than quinoa, for example.
- Your psyllium husk. I use plain ol’ psyllium husk, but there is also such a thing is psyllium husk powder. It absorbs a lot more water than the regular variety.
- Your oven temperature. Is it accurate? Did you preheat it for long enough?
- Whether you watched each element of your bread carefully. This is particularly important in the proofing stage – overproofed dough is a cause of many bread ills. See the proofing section for more.
- Whether or not you have a dutch oven at your disposal. I’m learning that you really need your loaf to be covered for optimal oven spring (lift and rise in the oven.) You can try to simulate this with a tray of water at the bottom of the oven (for steam) but ideally a dutch oven is best.
- How you measure things. Scales are best, but with aforementioned variables, some adjustments might need to be made.
- Finally, although there are plenty more, your water. I have found here in Melbourne that the water seems to be fine for sourdough use. However, additives to tap water can hinder the growth of a sourdough culture. Consider buying a water filter if you’ve had no luck getting your starter or sourdough going.
The process of making gluten free sourdough bread
As you’re probably aware, sourdough making is not a quick process. Getting your starter going can take up to 12 days in a cold climate, so this is a marathon. A carb laden marathon (my preferred sort.)
STEP ONE: CREATE YOUR STARTER
If you’ve gotten this far without a starter, please stop and read the starter post here. Note that you can play around with the flours that work best for you.
STEP TWO: MAKE THE PRE-FERMENT (THE NIGHT BEFORE )
There are fancy names for these actions in regular sourdough making. I’m not going to use them because I don’t think I have a full grasp on them yet. They also differ a little in instruction between glutenous and gluten free preparations.
To make the pre-ferment, combine the starter, flour and water. I like to do this step the night before baking bread. It can be done the morning of, but I actually find the bread has more air pockets if the process begins the night before.
Whatever you choose to do, the pre-ferment needs to be made using starter that is well fed and in a ‘rise.’ Basically, a couple of hours after feeding a starter it rises and bubbles up before collapsing again. You need to use the starter at the peak of it’s rise. There’s no exact science and it’s a somewhat forgiving process. My suggestion is to feed it, run some errands or do some work and then check back. The timing depends on the strength of your starter and the climate in your kitchen. Starters and sourdoughs like a bit of heat (not too much!) so they’re generally quicker in warmer climates.
If you’re doing it in the morning, it needs to sit until bubbly for at least 3 hours. The top should look like a bowl of warm milk does after you’ve added packet yeast and left it sit – fluffy and bubbly, but not excessively so. Try to do this in a glass or plastic bowl as opposed to metal.
CLIFF NOTES SUMMARY OF WHERE WE’RE AT SO FAR:
- Create your starter and feed it until it’s active and bubbly
- Feed your active starter a few hours ahead of it’s maiden voyage (so it’s on a ‘rise’)
- Create your pre-ferment with active starter, rice flour and water
STEP THREE: MAKING THE GLUTEN-FREE SOURDOUGH BREAD (THE NEXT DAY OR WHEN THE PRE-FERMENT IS FLUFFY)
Good morning or happy lunchtime! Time to create your loaf. You’ll be combining the psyllium husk with water and honey/sugar to create a gel. You’ll need to let this mixture sit for 5-10 minutes to allow it to gel up sufficiently. While you’re waiting, you’ll be mixing up your flours in a large mixing bowl. Next up, you’ll combine the pre-ferment with the psyllium husk, and then combine this with the flours. Mix mix mix! There should be no dry spots.
As mentioned, you will need to use your intuition. If the loaf is way too dry, add a splash of water, but wait until you’ve incorporated ALL the flour before making any rash moves. Again, as mentioned, every single flour is different, so this will likely change every time you make a loaf. It’s a process of discovery and intuition, so trust your gut. Even a bad loaf is a good loaf by gluten-free sourdough bread standards.
If the dough is very wet, be honest with yourself – did you accurately weigh the flours? Follow the instructions? Use an active starter? Same goes if the dough is exceedingly dry.
The dough should feel kind of moist but overall like a dough should feel. It shouldn’t be wet like a regular gluten free dough – you should be able to handle it and shape it. It should feel light and kind of jelly-ish.
Now, let’s talk shaping! There’s not a crazy amount to it here because we’re not stretching gluten or doing anything fancy. This King Arthur video gives you a decent idea of the basics – you want to try and make sure the seam is on the bottom of the loaf and sealed up as much as possible. The seam will open up when baking so it’s preferable not to have one (especially not on the top of the loaf.)
To do this yourself, dump your dough onto a lightly floured bench. Lightly flouring is unusual for gluten free baked goods but this dough isn’t all that sticky. Only using minimal flour means you won’t add extra to the inner crevices of the bread, which can be unpleasant when eating it.
OPTION TIME FOR YOUR GLUTEN-FREE SOURDOUGH BREAD: LOAF OR BOULE
So, time for your bread options! I’m sure there are more, but I’ve only made these. So, you can either make a gluten-free sourdough bread boule or a loaf. A boule is a round loaf, essentially. A loaf is a loaf. Thank me later.
To create a boule, you have a few options. Firstly, you can buy a round banneton. I found one at a local bakery and it cost me about $30 Australian. It’s a bit of a bougie bakery so I expect you could probably find a cheaper one, but I don’t mind paying more for small biz. If, however, a banneton is out of the question, you could also use a bowl lined with a tea towel. Ideally it will have a round bottom (not a flattened one) and be made of either glass or plastic.
Sprinkle a little flour into your banneton or bowl, and then place your loaf, seam-side up (aka the shit bits on the bottom so nobody will see them.) Cover the bowl very thoroughly. I like to use a jumbo ziploc bag. The dough needs a moist environment to rise without getting dry.
Personally, I am obsessed with putting my covered dough in the oven with JUST THE LIGHT ON. NOT THE OVEN, JUST THE LIGHT. It’s a draft free environment with a bit of heat, which is exactly what your dough needs to rise. If you don’t have that option, some people have written online that they use electric blankets, dog electric beds (who knew?) or hot water bottles (not too close or too hot!)
In summer, you likely won’t need a heat source, particularly if your kitchen is warm. Note that you can put your dough in a sunny spot, but it needs to be draft free and not crazy insane heat.
STEP FOUR: PROOFING YOUR DOUGH
This is the bit where you leave the dough to do it’s thing. The Spruce Eats has a good definition of proofing. Note that (as previously mentioned) gluten-free sourdough bread differs from regular. Most obviously if you’re clicking that link, gluten-free requires only one proof – also known as bulk fermentation. In laymen’s terms, it just needs to rise once.
There is such a thing as under-proofing and over-proofing. I don’t have a full grasp on these yet, I don’t think. However, Cooks lllustrated says that if you gently poke the dough and it springs back completely, it needs to be proofed longer. If you poke it and it springs back slowly (leaving a lil indent) then it’s ready to be baked. This article is also very helpful in determining when your bread is correctly proofed.
Apparently, if in doubt, it’s better to slightly under-proof your dough as opposed to over-proofing it. An over-proofed loaf can result in a big air pocket at the top of the loaf and a dense, gum like bread underneath. Learning what works best is an art (that I don’t think I have fully mastered). It also depends heavily on your kitchen ambience and all the other variables mentioned above that went into your loaf to begin with.
STEP FIVE: BAKING YOUR GLUTEN-FREE SOURDOUGH BREAD
Alright! Your dough is shaped and proofed, so it’s time to bake. Firstly, you’ll need to preheat the oven to a whopping 250C or 500F. You need to preheat your baking vessel of choice (hopefully a dutch oven, but an oven proof skillet or baking stone will suffice.) Everything needs to be bloody hot, so make sure you have your wits about you and protective gear on your hands.
Lots of people online preheat their ovens for an hour ahead of time. This is because a hot, consistent heat is necessary to create oven spring, which is liftoff in the oven. Oven spring is best observed in loaves made in a dutch oven, because they keep heat consistent and trap steam.
If you don’t have a dutch oven, apparently baking stones are helpful. And if you don’t have a baking stone, you can use a cast iron skillet as a base and AT WORST a very well constructed til foil tent on top of your bread. It will help to put a tray of water in the bottom of your oven to create steam for lift. If you want a lift boost in your dutch oven, you can pop a couple of ice cubes in with your loaf.
Baking your loaf covered first results in spring and lift with a bit of colour. If you baked it uncovered the entire time, it would likely burn quite significantly. So, each does have a purpose. I bake my loaves for 40-50 minutes covered, before uncovering and cooking for an additional 30-50. This is longer than a regular loaf, but we’ve added a lot more water and our loaves are at risk of being gummy.
HOW TO TELL WHEN YOUR LOAF IS COOKED
It should be a lovely golden brown and if you knock on it (as you would a door) it should sound hollow. Even if the crust is very dark, it should smell caramelised as opposed to burnt. You should also just be able to smell the aroma of baked bread. Sometimes I think we forget that smell is a very helpful tool.
You should absolutely leave your loaf to cool completely before cutting. I know this is hard, but the steam is still working it’s way through the loaf while hot. Cut it too soon and you’ll compress all those air bubbles you worked hard to create. The interior will be a gummy, sticky mess. I think this issue is particularly pronounced with gluten free loaves, so just don’t do it.
Troubleshooting your gluten free sourdough bread
My loaf is very wet as I’m shaping it?
There are a few reasons this could have happened. Firstly, did you weigh all your ingredients very precisely? Secondly, is your starter pourable, as opposed to spoonable? An ideal starter is thick like a paste – you could either spoon it or sluggishly pour it. It should be FULL of bubbles that pop as you decant it. If your starter is runny and not super active, this is adding liquid but not gas to the loaf. As mentioned below, starters hit their baking peak a month after you first begin them, so be patient.
Next issue is whether you left your psyllium husk to gel for a sufficient amount of time. The psyllium husk is responsible for holding all the liquid in the dough. If you’ve gotten to the mixing stage and the dough looks like it will be too wet to handle, leave it in the bowl for 10 minutes. Some doughs are tricky to handle (higher hydration = more open crumb, to an extent) it shouldn’t be so wet that it’s like cake batter.
If the 10 minute wait fails and you really can’t lightly flour it on and get it into the bench, add 10g more starch (potato or tapioca) and try again. Don’t add too much flour or you’ll end up with a dry loaf.
It is worth noting that flour absorbency varies from bag to bag, country to country. If your loaf is very wet, it might be that flour in your country (or your brand of choice) is markedly different to mine. I can’t test every bag of flour that was ever made! If wet loaves keep happening to you, add less water to compensate.
The loaf didn’t get much height?
Potential issue 1: your starter might not have been active enough. Apparently, you probably won’t hit peak strength (and thus peak bread) from your starter until about a month in. It needs time to become stronger and more mature. Don’t we all.
Issue 2: Sometimes bannetons are quite shallow and large. While this is probably fine for glutenous bread, it means that your gluten free loaf will more likely spread out. To counteract this, either use a deep bottomed banneton (or bowl) or slow proof your bread in the fridge overnight. To do this, simply follow the method for using your preferment on the same day, and make the loaf after 3 hours. Place the loaf in banneton and cover with cling film/a plastic bag. Leave it in the fridge for up to 24 hours. Not only does this help develop flavour, the bread will also stand taller, even as it proofs at room temperature.
Another potential issue? The fermentation process all takes a lot longer in a cold environment, so that’s something to keep in mind for next time. A 2-3 hour timeline is thrown out the window in a very cold kitchen. Baking a loaf before it has fully proofed means that it won’t have the strength and air pockets to hold itself up.
On that note: the first 10 minutes in the oven is crucial for growth and height. So, was your oven hot enough? Did you preheat your Dutch Oven thoroughly?
The loaf was gummy?
Did you weigh your ingredients precisely? Water and starter included? Did you cut the loaf before it had cooled? Gluten-free sourdough bread can be a little more moist and dense than the normal variety, but it shouldn’t be gummy. Another thing to consider for next time is taking the lid off the sourdough a little earlier than you did last time. Lastly, did you cook the loaf for long enough?
This issue can also be traced back to a new or sluggish starter. The bubbles in the starter are what will allow the bread to expand. Without expansion, you have a flat, gummy loaf.
The loaf innards were detached from the top crust, leaving a big air pocket and a dense bread?
This is a classic sign of over proofing, also known as a flying crust. Next time, proof the loaf for less time or in the fridge. If you are consistently having this issue, I recommend dropping back on the amount of starter added to your loaves.
The loaf was dry?
Unless you didn’t weigh your ingredients, I find this one unlikely. Sourdough is a wetter bread than regular, and gluten free needs even more water again. Every bag of flour you’ve ever used has been slightly different. It’s the nature of the beast. If you followed the recipe to the T and your loaf was still dry, consider adding a smidge more water next time (if you’re using the same bags of flours.) It still makes good croutons or toast.
One other thing to note: did you use psyllium husk POWDER? It is much more absorbent, so that could explain it. I don’t use the powder in any of my bread recipes, I’m happy with the original.
The crust was too dark for me?
Cook it on a slightly lower temperature next time! Because we have heated the dutch oven thoroughly, it’s going to be pretty hot in the oven. Sometimes you’ll find that it was a little too hot for the colour of crust you’d like to achieve. Keep in mind that a super hot oven is integral to a good oven spring, so the preheating is undoubtedly necessary.
Gluten-free sourdough bread Q and A
- I don’t have the flours you specified. Can I use XYZ? I developed this recipe with these flours for a few reasons. Firstly, I tried to use a healthy mix of wholegrain varieties and starchy basics (looking at you, rice flour and tapioca.) Secondly, I wanted to use flours that are readily available, as much as possible. I know sorghum is niche, but it works amazingly well in bread. Quinoa flour can be ground from whole quinoa in a food processor. At the moment, I don’t have suggestions as to potential substitutes. I will update the post as I trial different combinations of flours.
- Where can I buy sorghum flour? I buy mine at the supermarket or bulk food store. You can also order it online.
- Can I substitute psyllium husk for psyllium husk powder? I haven’t tried it – I prefer to stick with what I know. If you try it, let me know, but note that they have quite different absorbencies (the powder is much more absorbent).
- Can I use tapioca flour as opposed to starch or vice versa? I use these pretty interchangeably I have to say. I’m sure there are subtle differences but I haven’t really noticed them in my baking. I haven’t used cassava flour before so I can’t say if that’s different, but I’d say arrowroot might be a clean swap.
- Can I use brown rice flour instead of white? I haven’t tried this, although I’d say it would be OK. I’d recommend making the bread with a view to adding a few extra tablespoons of water as necessary. Brown rice flour can be a thirsty gal.
- This article from Serious Eats is seriously helpful. That said, disregard anything to do with gluten.
- This website, True Sourdough, has a lot of handy articles for when you’re getting into sourdough mode.
- The Perfect Loaf is an amazing site full of regular sourdough recipes that I’ve already linked up top. Although not all the steps apply, it’s still a great resource for learning about bread making.
- This Youtube vid of Chad from Tartine bakery running through how he makes sourdough is a great visual learning tool.
My other gluten free sourdough recipes
- This ‘white bread’ gluten free sourdough
- A seeded gluten free sourdough
- Toasted quinoa flour sourdough
- Gluten free sourdough pizza bases
- Sourdough discard crackers
- Some sourdough discard pancakes
- Sourdough brownie cookies
- A delicious gluten free sourdough banana bread
- Sourdough hot cross buns
- And, of course, sourdough brownies
Gluten free sourdough bread
- Large glass or plastic mixing bowls
- Boule shaped Banneton (bread shaping basket) or a bowl with a clean tea towel
- Lame (scoring blade) or sharp knife
- Dutch oven or cast iron skillet and tin foil
- Ice cubes, optional
For the pre-ferment:
- 125-150 g (1/2 cup) active sourdough starter (see notes above and here) Use 150g for a more sour loaf (I use 150g)
- 60 g (1/2 cup) white rice flour
- 150 g (3/4 cup) water
For the loaf:
- 20 g (just over 1/4 cup) psyllium husk, not psyllium husk powder
- 250-275 g (1 1/4 cups) water
- 1/2 tablespoon honey or sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
- 55 g (1/2 cup) quinoa flour
- 100 g (1 cup) sorghum flour
- 75 g (3/4 cup) tapioca flour
- 60 g 1/2 cup white rice flour
To make the pre-ferment:
- Firstly, ensure you’re using a starter that has been fed a few hours before. It should be on the rise and have a domed top when you measure it into the bowl. To fit this around a normal work schedule, I’d suggest feeding your starter at 5.30pm, and then waiting until bedtime (or the peak of your starter) to make the pre-ferment.
- Once the starter is ready to go, mix it with the water and then add the flour. Stir until combined and cover with cling film or a wrap. I hate recommending cling film but it does do a good job here.
- Leave this in a reasonably warm, draft free place overnight. I use my oven with just the light, not the heat turned on.
To make the loaf:
- In a medium sized mixing bowl, combine the psyllium husk, water, honey and salt. Whisk to combine, and then leave for 5-10 minutes to thicken into a gel.
- While you’re waiting, combine the flours in a large glass or plastic mixing bowl.
- Once the psyllium gel has thickened, mix the pre-ferment into it and whisk to combine. Add this wet mixture to the flours and use a spoon to combine the mixture as much as possible. Once it’s almost mixed, use your hands to squelch the dough around, picking up dry bits of flour as you go. If you’ve weighed everything diligently there shouldn’t be a need for extra water, but you can add 1-2 tablespoons if it’s truly truly necessary. You should be able to pick up the dough and shape it.
- Once the dough is completely mixed through and formed into a rough ball, tip it onto a very lightly (white rice) floured bench. Use your hands (and the Youtube links above) to close any seams as much as possible. Make sure the side with no seams is the top of your loaf.
- When the dough is shaped, lightly flour your banneton or bowl with white rice flour. Place the nice side of the dough (aka the side with no seams that you’ve chosen as the top of the loaf) down into the banneton. The base of the loaf (with all the seams) should be facing upwards now.
- Cover the loaf with a lightly oiled showercap or the cling you used for the pre-ferment. Place the loaf in a warm, draft free place (again, I use my oven with just the light on) for 2-3 hours, or until it’s a little jiggly and a finger poke springs back halfway.
To bake the loaf:
- Half an hour or so before baking the loaf, place your dutch oven in the oven get the heat up to 250C or 500F. Making sure the dutch oven is very hot is integral to getting oven spring.
- When the oven and loaf are both ready, take a long piece of baking paper and lay it on the bench. It needs to be long enough that you can lower the loaf into the dutch oven without burning your arms. In my experience, dropping the loaf into the dutch oven results in a flat and gummy loaf.
- Invert the loaf onto the centre of the baking paper, leaving the edges for lowering handles. Use a lame (sharp scoring blade) or a sharp knife to make a reasonably deep incision in the loaf. Google ‘bread scoring’ for some pattern ideas, or just keep it simple.
- Get all your oven gear ready to work quickly for this next step. Carefully and quickly remove the super hot dutch oven from the oven. Shut the oven door while you work. Take the lid off and quickly lower in the bread. If you’re using an ice cube for extra oven spring, add it now. Pop the lid back on and quickly return the dutch oven to the oven. Turn the oven down to 200-220c.
- Bake the loaf with the lid on for 40-50 minutes. If you prefer a less caramelised (aka dark) crust, leave the lid on a little longer. Once the time is up, remove the lid and continue to bake your loaf for another 40 or so minutes, or until the crust sounds hollow when you knock on it and is deeply caramelised brown in colour.
- Once cooked, remove the loaf from the oven and baking paper and place it on a cooling rack. Allow to cool completely (3-4 hours AT LEAST) before slicing into it, as you can compress all the air in the loaf and end up with extremely gummy bread.
- You can store the loaf in a bag or freeze it in slices.