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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.

My husband, who's always worked away from home more than he's been home was suddenly inhabiting my office and working from home. It was such an unexpected turn of events, but we really maximized it!

I spent months having morning coffees on the couch in the office with him while he worked. 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!

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.

No. 4 --> While I consider this to be a no knead sourdough, there is still SOME dough manipulation involved. That said, resist the urge to knead!

No. 5 --> I shape my dough before the bulk fermentation, while most cooks complete a bulk fermentation, then shape before the second rise again. We're able to skip that step with this recipe because we are shaping the dough and placing it in the parchment paper-lined bowl right before the rise.

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.

Flour: Use a high protein unbleached flour for best results. This could be all purpose or even bread flour.

Water: Uncholorinated water works best in all sourdough recipes as chlorine can kill the yeast. When in doubt, use filtered water.

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

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 flour.
  • 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 for a couple of seconds just to ensure everything is incorporated.
  • Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel.
  • Set the dough aside to autolyze for 1 hour. Autolyse helps to reduce required mixing by activating the gluten structure and softening the dough.

Add the salt:

  • After the dough has rested for 1 hour, it's time to add the salt.
  • 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.

Rest + 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.

Bulk rise:

  • On the last stretch and fold, pick up your sourdough and form it into a boule. Place it 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 timing on the bulk rise depends heavily on a lot of factors; the temperature in your house, the vibrancy in your starter.
  • The bulk ferment is done when the dough has at least doubled in size and looks less dense and airier.
  • I keep my house approximately 73f year-round, and my sourdough takes 3-4 hours for a bulk ferment.

Bake bread:

  • When the bulk ferment is done and the dough has risen to double its size, it's time to bake!
  • Place your cast iron dutch oven inside the oven and pre-heat both together to 450f.
  • Once the oven has reached temperature, uncover the bread, score it with a sharp knife or razor blade.
  • 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, 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, 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!

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.

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 whole wheat. The flour proportions would be 270g all purpose flour and 50g whole wheat.

Rye flour: Will also give a more flavorful loaf, but again, I would be cautious on 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.

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!

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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.
  4. Set the dough aside to autolyze 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.

Rest + 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.

Bulk rise:

  1. On the last stretch and fold, pick up your sourdough and form it into a boule. Place it 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 bulk ferment 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, 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, 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 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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