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Small Loaf Sourdough

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.

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.

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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!

📖 Printable Recipe

Sliced sourdough loaf in a dutch oven.
Yield: 1 loaf

Small Loaf Sourdough

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Inactive Time: 5 hours
Total Time: 6 hours 5 minutes

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!

Ingredients

feed the starter:

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

Sourdough:

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

Instructions

Feed the starter:

  1. 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.
  2. Once the starter has risen to double its size and is full of bubbles, it's ready to use.

Start the dough:

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

Add the salt:

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

Stretch And 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 folds over about an hour and a half's time.

Final rise:

  1. 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.
  2. The final rise is done when the dough has at least doubled in size and looks less dense and airier.

Bake:

  1. Place your cast iron dutch oven into the oven and pre-heat both together to 450f.
  2. 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.
  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, 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.

Recommended Products

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Nutrition Information:

Yield:

8

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 259Total Fat: 1gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 391mgCarbohydrates: 54gFiber: 2gSugar: 0gProtein: 8g

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Small batch sourdough pinterest graphic.
Share Your Thoughts

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Michael O.

Monday 15th of January 2024

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!!

Ally

Tuesday 16th of January 2024

So happy to hear this! It's a great recipe for a smaller loaf! You might like my dutch oven sourdough bread recipe, too, it's a bit larger in volume, but still super yummy!

Huong Nguyen

Friday 7th of July 2023

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!!

Ally

Sunday 9th of July 2023

Absolutely!

Bailey

Thursday 6th of July 2023

About how long does the bulk ferment take on the counter?

Ally

Sunday 9th of July 2023

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.

Kristin Moore

Wednesday 1st of February 2023

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!

Kristin Moore

Wednesday 8th of February 2023

@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.

Ally

Wednesday 1st of February 2023

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!

Susan

Friday 13th of January 2023

Where does it say in recipe to put dough in refrigerator? It looks like bulk fermentation to bake.

Ally

Tuesday 17th of January 2023

In the section titled "Slow It Down" I discuss slowing the process down by keeping the dough in the fridge overnight!

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