Small Loaf Sourdough

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Small loaf sourdough might be the best reason to keep a living, growing, fermenting thing in a jar on your counter! This easy, no knead sourdough recipe will result in a gorgeous sourdough boule that’s just right for your family!

I saw a meme the other day that said “Are we just gonna let March come back after the way it acted last year?” I laughed and laughed. March 2020 was a month, alright.

We spent the following months having morning coffees together. We had lunch and dinner together as a family every single day. We totally made the most of the opportunity to slow down and enjoy each other’s company.

And every afternoon for months, I’d come out of the kitchen with a gorgeous sourdough loaf for a snack! I guess we know where that quarantwenty came from!

This small batch sourdough bread recipe is dedicated to maximizing things.

Sliced sourdough loaf in a dutch oven.

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Tips + Tricks

No. 1 –> Don’t have a starter yet? Check out my step-by-step 24-hour sourdough starter recipe! It’s got a secret ingredient that helps the yeast along! Then take a quick look at my guides on storing sourdough starter, feeding sourdough starter, what makes the best sourdough starter jar, and how to use discard!

No. 2 –> Ensure that your starter is mature and lively to provide the best results possible. A weak, immature starter will have a hard time leavening your dough.

No. 3 –> Avoid over-proofing the dough. The “more proof = more sour” temptation is definitely hard to resist, BUT over-proofed sourdough will likely result in a flat loaf and sticky dough that’s nearly impossible to shape. That said, don’t worry about proofing sourdough in the fridge, the cold temperature slows down the fermentation process considerably.

A loaf of sliced sourdough in a red cast iron pot.

Key Ingredients

Starter: Use an active, recently fed starter. Your starter should be dotted with bubbles and risen by at least double.

Salt: I use hand-ground kosher salt, but any fine ground salt will do. The salt in this sourdough recipe is responsible for adding taste and enhancing the aromas and flavor present in the dough itself. Salt also helps to tighten the gluten structure and strengthen the dough – making it easier to create and hold air bubbles.

Sourdough starter full of bubbles and air pockets after feeding.

How To Make A Small Sourdough Loaf

Make The Dough:

  1. Combine 60g fed and active starter with 220g water, then add 330g unbleached flour.
  2. I usually stir with a spoon until I get to the shaggy stage. Once the dough looks shaggy, I just mix it with my hands or bowl scraper for a couple of seconds just to ensure everything is incorporated.
  3. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel.
  4. Set the dough aside to rest for 1 hour. This step helps to reduce mechanical mixing by activating the gluten structure and softening the dough.

Add the salt:

  1. After the dough has rested for 1 hour, it’s time to add the salt.
  2. Sprinkle 8g salt around the top of the loaf.
  3. Using damp hands, knead the salt into the dough for approximately 10 folds.
  4. Recover the bowl with plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel.
  5. Set aside for 30 minutes.

Stretch + Fold:

  1. With wet hands, grab the dough and gently pull it until the flap is long enough to fold over itself, then fold the flap, rotate the bowl 90 degrees and repeat 4 times.
  2. Recover the bowl, and set it aside for 30 minutes.
  3. Repeat the stretch and fold process at least once more for a total of 3 sets of stretch and fold.

Shape + Proof:

  1. On the last stretch and fold, pick up your sourdough and form it into a boule. Either place it seam side up into a banneton or banneton alternative or seam side down on a square of parchment paper and using the parchment paper as a sling, pick up and place the boule in a bowl approximately the same size as your baking dish. Re-cover the bowl with plastic wrap and the kitchen towel and set it aside to rise.
  2. The timing of the proof depends heavily on a lot of factors; the temperature in your house, the temperature of the water used, and the vibrancy in your starter.
  3. This final proof is done when the dough has at least nearly doubled in size and looks less dense and airier. This usually takes 3-4 hours.

Bake bread:

  1. Place your cast iron dutch oven inside the oven and pre-heat both together to 450f.
  2. Once the oven has reached temperature, uncover the bread, and score it with a sharp knife or razor blade.
  3. CAREFULLY pick up the parchment paper sling and lower the bread into the heated dutch oven.
  4. Recover the pot and return it to the oven for 30 minutes at 450f.
  5. After 30 minutes of baking, uncover the dutch oven and bake the sourdough until a deep caramel brown, about 15 minutes, but this may vary.

Cool:

This may be the worst part! Allow your small-batch sourdough loaf to cool before cutting into it, at least a bit!

Speed It Up

Yes, good things come to those who wait but good things ALSO come to those who make it happen!

This sourdough bread can be sped up in a few ways:

  1. When feeding the starter, use warm water. I like to use water that’s between 80-85f. Adding heat can speed up the activation time.
  2. Adding a little heat during the bulk fermentation can also shave precious hours off your rising time.

Here’s what speeding up the recipe looks like for me:

  • 6 am: Feed my starter with warm water (between 80-85f) while my coffee is brewing, then pop it into the microwave with the light on, and allow it to “proof” in there for 4-6 hours. By the time noon rolls around, my starter has easily doubled and is full of bubbles.
    • My microwave hack to keep the light on: I stick a piece of folded paper towel in the corner of the door, this allows the door to close but not completely, keeping the light on. This is a trick I learned from my mom, and I proof ALL my bread this way!
  • 12 pm: Mix up the dough for a small batch sourdough loaf, again, using warm water, and start the autolyze process.
  • 2:30 pm: The stretching and folding process is complete, and my loaf is shaped and resting in a parchment paper hammock! At this point, I tightly cover the rising bowl with plastic wrap and place it in the microwave with the light on for about 3 hours.
  • 5 pm: Set my favorite small dutch oven into the cold oven and preheat both together at 450f.
  • 5:30 pm: Remove the rising bowl from the microwave, and carefully score the surface to allow for expansion. Then remove the dutch oven from the oven, and using the parchment paper as a sling, lower the boule into the dutch oven. Recover then bake as per the recipe.
  • 6:30 pm: We’re eating warm, fresh sourdough with our dinner!
Sliced sourdough bread on a counter.

Slow It Down

I 100% get that not everyone has the luxury of being around their kitchen all day, so there’s a way to slow down this recipe too!

Just like speeding it up, this recipe can be slowed down using temperature manipulation:

  1. Feed the starter room temperature or cooler water.
  2. Don’t encourage the starter to activate by applying heat.
  3. Complete the bulk ferment in the fridge.

Here’s how I make overnight sourdough:

  • Day 1 –> 6 am: Feed my starter room temperature or cooler water. Set aside in a cooler place to activate.
  • 6 pm: Mix up the dough for a small batch sourdough loaf again, using room temperature water, and start the autolyze process.
  • 7:30 pm: The stretching and folding process is complete, and my loaf is shaped and resting in a parchment paper hammock! At this point, I tightly cover the rising bowl with plastic wrap and place it in the fridge overnight.
  • Day 2 –> 7:30 am: Remove the dough bowl from the fridge and set it on the counter, covered in plastic wrap and a kitchen towel.
  • 5 pm: Set my favorite small dutch oven into the cold oven and preheat both together at 450f.
  • 5:30 pm: Uncover and carefully score the surface of your boule. Then remove the dutch oven from the oven, and using the parchment paper as a sling, lower the boule into the dutch oven. Recover then bake as per the recipe.
Overhead view of a scored sourdough loaf.

Batch + Storage Information

Batch:

This small batch sourdough bakes a 1 1/2 lb loaf. This is the perfect amount for our family of 4 to serve with dinner and have toast leftovers in the morning!

Storage:

If you’ve got leftover sourdough, you’ve got serious willpower! Storing sourdough bread can be done, BUT be warned that it doesn’t have the preservatives that a store-bought loaf of bread has, so the process is a bit different.

Your boule can be kept cut side down on a cutting board for up to 18 hours before the crust becomes too crisp. After 18 hours, I recommend transferring it to a bread bag.

Your sourdough loaf can also be frozen. To freeze, cool the loaf to room temperature, then tightly wrap it in plastic wrap, slide it into a bread bag, seal it up and stick it in the freezer for 1-2 months. To use after freezing, remove the loaf from the freezer, unwrap and allow it to come to room temperature (1 -2 hours) before slicing and enjoying.

More Sourdough + Sourdough Discard Recipes

Variations + Substitutions

I know you’re gonna ask! But first things first: If this is your first time baking your first loaf, follow the recipe as specified so you know what to expect.

Whole wheat flour: Results in a more flavorful, but dense loaf. If adding whole wheat to your sourdough, I would substitute a maximum of 50g of whole wheat. The flour proportions would be 270g all-purpose flour and 50g whole wheat. My sister has a GREAT recipe for whole grain sourdough on her site ModernHarvest.ca!

Rye flour: This will also give a more flavorful loaf, but again, I would be cautious about the proportions, as rye tends to be weak and can be hard to work with. I would substitute rye to a maximum of 50g as well. I do have a great recipe for rye sourdough and an accompanying rye sourdough starter.

Flavor Add-Ins: If you’re looking to whip up a fancier loaf, check out some of my flavored recipes, like pumpkin sourdough, chocolate sourdough, jalapeno and cheddar sourdough, and cinnamon raisin sourdough.

Herringbone sliced sourdough bread in a cast iron dutch oven.

Recommended Equipment

3 qt cast iron dutch oven: Much of the success of this bread depends on having a heavy ass cast iron dutch oven. It’s one of those things you should already have, and if you don’t have one, fix that! The little red one in these photos was my first piece of cast iron and something that started somewhat of a cooking revolution for us a decade ago.

A 3-quart CAST IRON DUTCH OVEN is a workhorse in the kitchen, and you’ll find yourself reaching for it often.

Scale: It’s really hard to make sourdough without a scale. Sorry, but them’s the facts! bread baking and bread dough are a bit of a science. A good kitchen scale will treat you well over a huge range of recipes, like homemade bacon!

If you love this recipe, please give it a star rating or leave a comment below! This helps me to create more content you enjoy!

📖 Printable Recipe

Sliced sourdough loaf in a dutch oven.

Small Loaf Sourdough

Allyson Letal
This small-batch sourdough loaf is the perfect sourdough recipe for beginners and sourdough enthusiasts alike. This easy-to-follow guide will ensure the best sourdough possible!
4.60 from 30 votes
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Inactive Time 5 hours
Total Time 6 hours 5 minutes
Course Bread
Cuisine American
Servings 10
Calories 162 kcal

Ingredients
  

feed the starter:

  • 50 g sourdough starter
  • 50 g unbleached all purpose flour
  • 50 g filtered water

Sourdough:

  • 60 g active bubbly, fed sourdough starter
  • 220 g filtered water
  • 330 g unbleached all purpose flour or bread flour
  • 8 g salt

Instructions
 

Feed the starter:

  • 8-10 hours before baking, feed your starter. Use 50g starter, 50g water, and 50g flour. Stir it all together and set it aside to rise.
  • Once the starter has risen to double its size and is full of bubbles, it's ready to use.

Start the dough:

  • Combine 60g fed and active starter with 220g unchlorinated water, then add 330 g unbleached all purpose or bread flour.
  • Stir until completely combined.
  • Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel. Set the dough aside to rest for 1 hour.

Add the salt:

  • After the dough has rested for 1 hour, sprinkle 8g salt around the top of the loaf.
  • Using damp hands, knead the salt into the dough for approximately 10 folds.
  • Recover the bowl with plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel.
  • Set aside for 30 minutes.

Stretch And Fold:

  • With wet hands, grab the dough and gently pull it until the flap is long enough to fold over itself, then fold the flap, rotate the bowl 90 degrees and repeat 4 times.
  • Recover the bowl, and set it aside for 30 minutes.
  • Repeat the stretch and fold process at least once more for a total of 3 sets of stretch and folds over about an hour and a half's time.

Final rise:

  • On the last stretch and fold, form the dough into boule. Place it seam side up in a banneton or banneton alternative, or seam side down on a square of parchment paper and using the parchment paper as a sling, pick up and place the boule in a bowl approximately the same size as your baking dish. Re-cover the bowl with plastic wrap and the kitchen towel and set it aside to rise.
  • The final rise is done when the dough has at least doubled in size and looks less dense and airier.

Bake:

  • Place your cast iron dutch oven into the oven and pre-heat both together to 450f.
  • Once the oven has reached temperature, uncover the bread, and if using a banneton turn it over onto a parchment paper square and score it with a sharp knife or razor blade, if using the bowl method simply score the top of the loaf.
  • CAREFULLY pick up the parchment paper sling and lower the bread into the heated dutch oven.
  • Recover the pot and return it to the oven for 30 minutes at 450f.
  • After 30 minutes of baking, uncover the dutch oven and bake the sourdough until a deep caramel brown, about 15 minutes, this may vary depending on your oven.

Notes

Batch:

This small batch sourdough bakes a 1 1/2 lb loaf.

Storage:

If you've got leftover sourdough, you've got serious willpower!
Your boule can be kept cut side down on a cutting board for up to 18 hours before the crust becomes too crisp. After 18 hours, I recommend transferring it to a bread bag.
Your sourdough loaf can also be frozen. To freeze, cool the loaf to room temperature, then tightly wrap in plastic wrap, slide it into a bread bag, seal it up and stick it in the freezer for 1-2 months. To use after freezing, remove the loaf from the freezer, unwrap and allow to come to room temperature (1 -2 hours) before slicing and enjoying.

Nutrition

Serving: 1gCalories: 162kcalCarbohydrates: 32gProtein: 6gFat: 1gSaturated Fat: 0.1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.2gMonounsaturated Fat: 0.3gSodium: 315mgPotassium: 98mgFiber: 3gSugar: 0.1gVitamin A: 1IUVitamin C: 0.02mgCalcium: 9mgIron: 2mg
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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41 Comments

  1. Many recipes later…this one was “Winner” !!!
    Perfect every time. Much appreciated 👍🏻

    1. Yes, you bet! Did you use a dark cast iron dutch oven? I find mine gets darker way faster when I use my bare cast iron vs my white enameled cast.

  2. Can’t wait to try this recipe! I like to bake the bread first thing in the morning. If I leave the dough in the fridge overnight for the bulk ferment, once I take it out of the fridge, how long before I can bake it? I noticed you don’t bake yours for about 10 hours after that. Is waiting that long necessary? I’m assuming so because it needs to warm up? Thank you SO much for including your timelines. That was incredibly helpful. How would you set up your timeline if you were trying to pop the dough in the oven in the early morning, maybe 7/8 AM? I guess that’s my real question. Lol.

    1. You can bake your sourdough straight from the fridge if you like! You can take a look at my Proofing Sourdough In The Fridge guide if you’re interested. Basically, You can use the fridge to bake sourdough on your own terms. If you want to bake it at 7am, you can make all the dough in advance then place it in the fridge to hold it until you’re ready, sometimes, for up to 3 days, this timing depends a lot on your starter though. I like to leave my loaves nearly double on the counter before baking with this recipe because it does not call for a pre-shape and shape after the bulk ferment, so I find it helps it to rise a bit better. Hope that helps.

  3. Thank you for this recipe! I’m brand new to sourdough and my starter is only a couple of weeks old. Was struggling with a ‘beginners’ recipe from another site and the warm weather in the UK this week, and after two tries of this one I finally have a nicely risen crusty golden brown loaf! <3

  4. My first successful sourdough was made using your perfect recipe! Thank you! (I also doubled the ingredients following the same recipe and baked it in a 5 qt. Dutch Oven!) Lastly, I mixed the flours using 60 grams of whole wheat and rye, it yielded an even tangier sourdough!

    1. @Allan Suaza, Hi! If you were to want to add rye and wheat to this small loaf, what would be the weight of each flour (bread, wheat and rye)? Thanks!

    2. @Janye, Soooooooooo sorry for the late reply! Ally beat me to the answer, that is EXACTLY what I did, those amounts that she listed! Let us know how your sourdough turned out! ; )

  5. If I wanted to cook this in a loaf pan as more of a sandwich type loaf, how long and at what temperature would you bake?

  6. Most recipes using DO call for initial covered baking for 20 min. Uncovered for remaining 20-25 min to deepen color. What are your thoughts on increasing the initial baking time to 30 min.? Thanks!

    1. This recipe calls for 30 minutes of covered baking time as written, but if you’d like to play with it a little, you can always uncover it sooner. I haven’t because I’m always SO happy with the results! Sometimes, I do bake uncovered for longer at the end to get a deeper color, but it’s usually not necessary. If you do try it, let me know!

  7. 5 stars
    This is my favourite recipe hands down! I have made it so so many times and it turns out consistently. It is easy to score and has awesome oven spring. I love to make a few loaves and ferment them overnight.

  8. This is my favourite recipe hands down! I have made it so so many times and it turns out consistently. It is easy to score and has awesome oven spring. I love to make a few loaves and ferment them overnight.

  9. 5 stars
    This is sooo good. Turned out golden brown and delicious. Will for sure make this again.
    Thank you for the recipe!

  10. Ok. I did everything to a Tee. I put the shaped dough boule in the fridge overnight to bulk ferment in your ” slow it down process”. Did everything exactly like you said….But just now pulled the dough out of the fridge and it’s just a big bowl of dough. No shaped round boule like it was when I put it in. What do I do now? Do I just move that to the Dutch oven and bake? It looks like it may just drip out the sides of the paper sling if I try to transfer.. I’m so confused and discouraged! Argh!

    1. That is so strange. I have never had my sourdough be that soft, this is a low-hydration dough and although it gets softer as it ferments it’s never been soupy!

      I guess we have to start at the beginning, did you weigh the ingredients? What kind of flour did you use? What was the texture like during the stretch and folds? How long was it in the fridge? It should still be bakeable – I’d try it anyways to be honest!

    2. @Ally, ok I did bake it anyways and it puffed up into a round boule. It was so good! So weird! It went from a flat bowl of dough to a round boule! It was a little dark for my taste like others have said using a black-inside cast iron Staub but it was just in the fridge over night. I wrote you when I saw it and then waited two more days to see if it would puff up or get ” doubles in size” like you said! It never did so I just baked it! So I did everything you said- weighed everything including salt at the beginning, was using 100%hydration starter, ( was 100 g starter and I fed 100 of water and 100 of flour). I used a brand new bag of “Bob’s Red Mill Artisian Bread Flour” which says it America’s best! Lol I was so discouraged and sad for my first sourdough loaf but after baking it looked totally normal. Could my kitchen be too cold? I never have done the stretch and fold before …. could I have done that wrong? Our heater broke during the Texas ice storm so it was wayyyyy colder in here than it should have been.

      1. I’m really glad it turned out after baking!

        I love a good long cold ferment in the fridge, sometimes it doubles, sometimes it puffs up a bit but doesn’t always double with the cold fermentation. I edited the post to reflect that it may not exactly double, hopefully, that helps the next baker who runs into this.

        Stretch and fold is super intuitive, I’m sure you did it just right! A cooler kitchen will definitely affect the fermentation, the microbes are more active faster at warmer temps, that’s why you can ferment in the fridge for days without over proofing because it slows down the activity!

    1. There are a lot of variables to take into account before I give a concrete answer, but I would guess 3-4 hours after shaping.

  11. Hi! I love your recipe. I have made it a few times. Can we double the recipe if we want to make it a bigger loaf? Thank you!!

  12. I stumbled upon this recipe looking for a small loaf recipe to try for my very first attempt… It turned out perfect!! Thanks for posting!!

  13. 4 stars
    So I’m waiting for my bread to rise and wondering if my 8 grams of salt measured out wrong? It looked like too much, like 1tbs? Another thing…no sugar, honey, oil, or butter in this recipe?

    1. Hey Kathleen, it depends on the grain of your salt how much volume it takes. This is not an enriched dough, when it comes to sourdough you really only need starter, flour, water, and salt.

      I’d love to hear how your loaf turned out.

  14. Hi Ally, I was delighted to read detailed instructions about cold proofing. I am so much more confident knowing the cold fermentation keeps the dough from spreading and is easier to score. Problem solved! Thank-you so much. I’ve been baking sourdough for over 10 years and am always eager to learn more.
    Also, I had a question for clarification. There is reference to place a “small Dutch oven into the cold oven and preheat both together at 450f”. What is “both together” – would that be the Dutch oven pot and the lid?

    1. Hey Karen, you got it! By both together I mean the dutch oven (and lid) and the oven.

      Glad to hear you still have a passion for sourdough baking – it’s such a true love of mine, I’m so happy other share it!