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Sourdough Bread Without Dutch Oven

Sourdough Bread next to wheat and butter.
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A chewy crust and a lovely moist texture make sourdough bread impossible to resist! A perfect accompaniment to soups, a great base for posh open sandwiches or a plain canvas for your breakfast toppings. And the beauty of it is that baking sourdough without a dutch oven is very achievable! We’ve been doing it for years!

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A slice of sourdough bread made without dutch oven on a chopping boardw ith butter and marmite.

Sourdough has been the word in the 2020 baking world. With yeast in short supply in UK supermarkets over the summer, many of us turned to the unexplored methods of making our bread rise and discovered something that we will no longer be able to live without, even with yeast back in our cupboards!

Sourdough bread has a reputation of being a very difficult one to master. I am not going to lie, it took me five failed loaves to arrive at a perfect one, but it hasn’t failed since. One of the main reasons is a mature, well-maintained starter. Another reason is that shaping the bread right needs practice!

Can I Make Great Sourdough Bread Without A Dutch Oven?

Absolutely! When we first started baking sourdough, we didn’t own a dutch oven, nor did we want to invest in one early on (in case we didn’t like sourdough, I say laughing out loud!). So we experimented with a bunch of things, picking up advice on the internet. We tried baking sourdough bread:

  • Covered with a Pyrex bowl.
  • By spraying water all over the baking sheet.
  • Baking it on a preheated baking stone.

These methods worked to some degree, but we have reached a conclusion that the easiest way to make sourdough is in a cast-iron skillet with a trayful of hot water underneath.

The reasons sourdough is baked in a Dutch oven are twofold:

  1. Pre-heated Dutch Oven holds a lot of heat and retains it throughout baking.
  2. Whilst sourdough bakes in the Dutch oven, all the moisture steaming out of the dough stays in, creating a beautiful rise.

And this can easily be achieved without investing in a Dutch oven!

Sourdough scored in a spiral pattern coming out of the oven!

What Equipment Will I Need To Make Sourdough Without Dutch Oven?

You will need a few things that you are likely to have in your kitchen:

  • Cast Iron Skillet: works beautifully, as it retains heat, but you can use a black ovenproof frying pan instead. Failing that, pizza stone works too!
  • Stand Mixer with a Dough Hook Attachment (Optional): makes light work when kneading the dough, which can take up to 15 minutes.
  • Dough Scraper: choose a flexible (tough silicone or plastic) dough scraper to help you shape the dough.
  • A small-to-medium ovenproof dish to hold water that will create steam in the oven.

Method

Day 1: Make the Dough

In the morning/ early afternoon of Day 1, feed the starter. Whatever weight of your sourdough starter you have, add the same weight of flour and the same weight of water. For example, for this recipe, we will need 160g of active starter, so I would mix 60g of unfed starter with 60ml of water and 60g of flour (which will give me 180g, but note that some of it will stick to the bowls and jars in the process).

Leave the starter to at least double in size. This should take no longer than 4 hours. If it doesn’t double in volume, it may be due to the temperature being too low (19-24C works great). If the temperature isn’t the problem, your starter may not have strong enough cultures to give your bread enough rise, so we recommend feeding it again and monitoring how quickly it rises.

Once the starter is very active and at least doubled in size, it is time to make your dough. I personally use my Kenwood mixer with a dough hook attachment. However, it will work just as well if you want to knead the dough yourself. Moreover, you might feel like you’ve had a good workout after kneading.

Active sourdough starter in a mason jar.

It’s difficult to recommend the amount of time you should knead your dough. It simply depends on too many things. I find the temperature of your kitchen, type of flour, method of kneading and your own strength affects the process. For me, it takes about 12 minutes in a Kenwood, and about 15 minutes if I knead the dough myself. The most important thing to look for is the windowpane effect. Once you can stretch your dough so thinly that you can see through it without tearing it, you know it’s ready. Your dough should also be smooth, soft and elastic.

Windowplane effect on sourdough.

Now, shape a ball, pop it into a large bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave for 4-5 hours at room temperature to proof. If you’ve been baking bread with commercial yeast up until now, you may be disappointed with how much it rises. It will make it a while to double in size, so be patient.

When your dough has just about doubled in size, take a clean bowl and put a tea towel in it. It is best if it’s a close weave cotton tea towel. Flour it well to make sure your dough doesn’t stick to it.

Shaping your sourdough is artistry in itself. I’ll admit, Seb normally does this himself, and he’s got really good at this. See the video below, of how Seb shapes our perfect sourdough bread loaf.

Pop your tight ball of dough, smooth side down into a bowl with the floured tea towel, fold the corners of it over the dough and pop it into a bag to make sure the dough doesn’t dry out. Make some space in the fridge for it to rest overnight. This reduces the temperature of the sourdough letting it prove long and slow which allows for the development of flavours within the dough and greatly increases its digestibility.

Day 2: Baking Sourdough Without Dutch Oven

In the morning, heat your oven to 230C Fan. Place a shallow baking tray that you will bake your sourdough on or, better yet, a cast iron pan, in the oven to preheat. Boil a kettle of water and pour the boiling water into another dish to create steam in the oven while baking.

Preheating cast iron skillet in the oven.

Take your dough out of the fridge and carefully turn it out from the bowl with a tea towel. We tend to put a bit of baking parchment on top of the dough and then turn the bowl upside down in a swift motion. The domed side with the indentations from the proving basket should now be facing up and the seamed side on the baking tray.

Using a sharp knife, score in any way you like, but make sure you cut up to ½ cm deep. Scoring the bread helps control where and how it rises while baking and, let’s be honest, it looks oh-so-pretty.

Scoring sourdough bread.

Place the ovenproof pan/ cast iron skillet with the sourdough into the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes or until a good crust has formed and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the base.

Baked Sourdough coming out of the oven.

Transfer the loaf onto a cooling rack to prevent soggy bottom. And let it cool for at least an hour before you cut into it. Your sourdough bread is ready to eat!

Other Sourdough Bread Recipes

If you mastered your simple sourdough bread, why not move on to flavoured sourdough recipes. Our favourites include:

Recipe Card

Sourdough Baked

White Sourdough Bread Without Dutch Oven

An easy and straightforward sourdough bread. The only thing you'll need is time and patience. Start in the morning for a lovely loaf read yin time for next day's breakfast!
4 from 2 votes
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 35 mins
Starter Activating & Proofing Time 20 hrs
Total Time 21 hrs 5 mins
Course Breakfast, Lunch, Side Dish
Cuisine Sourdough, Worldwide
Servings 12 slices
Calories 132 kcal

Ingredients
 
 

  • 400 g strong white bread flour
  • 5 g salt
  • 215 ml water
  • 160 g active sourdough starter 100% hydration

Instructions
 

DAY 1:

  • Put flour, salt, active starter and water in a large bowl (if kneading by by hand) or a standing mixer bowl. Mix everything together.
  • Knead the dough for 10-20 minutes until windowpane effect is achieved (you can stretch the dough so thinly that you can see through it without tearing it).
  • Shape your dough into a ball and add to a clean bowl. Cover with a clean tea towel and leave at room temperature to proof until it doubles in size. This will take 4-6 hours, depending on the temperature of your kitchen.
  • Once doubled, turn the dough onto a clean surface and knock the dough back. Form the dough into a tight round ball. See the video above for the technique.
  • Take a large bowl and line it with a clean tea towel. Flour it well and place the formed ball of dough into it. Cover the top with tea towel corners and place into a bag to avoid the dough drying out. Place it in the fridge overnight (up to 16 hours).

DAY 2:

  • When ready to bake pre-heat the oven to 230C. As the over is warming up, put a cast iron pan that you are going to cook your sourdough in as well as a shallow dish filled with water in the oven (this will create steam).
  • Cut a small square of baking parchment and invert the ball of dough onto the parchment. Take the cast iron pan out of the oven. Holding the corners of the parchment paper, transfer the dough onto a hot cast iron pan. Dust the top of the loaf with flour. Work quickly to score the loaf, making sure you don't accidently touch the hot pan.
  • Bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes until good crust has formed and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the base.
  • Transfer onto a cooling rack and cool for at least half and hour before you cut into it.

Nutrition

Calories: 132kcalCarbohydrates: 27gProtein: 4gFat: 1gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gSodium: 163mgPotassium: 33mgFiber: 1gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 1IUCalcium: 6mgIron: 1mg
Keyword No Dutch Oven Sourodugh, Sourodugh Bread Without Dutch Oven
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