My New Favorite Sourdough

I love baking all kinds of bread, but a basic sourdough loaf is an essential staple at our house. Good with everything from blue cheese to blueberry jam, and quite possibly even better unadorned, we always feel something is missing if there isn’t a loaf resting on the cutting board, ready for a quick snack or a hearty sandwich.

I first tried this recipe, adapted from the Vermont Sourdough in Jeffrey Hamelman’s Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes, about a month ago. I loved it then, and have made it several more times since, to make sure the first time wasn’t just beginner’s luck. Nope; this one is a real winner. It’s a plain, honest, not-too-sour sourdough with a touch of pumpernickel for depth of flavor. With a thin, crisp crust and soft but substantial crumb, this is now my go-to bread for everyday good eating, anytime, with anything.

norwich-sourdough-wild-yeastThe original recipe calls for 125% hydration starter. I adjusted it to work with mine at 100%, and made a few other tweaks as well. I am calling it Norwich Sourdough, in honor of the home town of Hamelman’s King Arthur Flour bakery. And this charming Vermont town, as it happens, was my home, too, for five memorable years.

Norwich Sourdough
(adapted from Vermont Sourdough in Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes by Jeffrey Hamelman)

Yield: 2 kg (four or five small, or two large, loaves)


  • Mix/autolyse: 35 minutes
  • First fermentation: 2.5 hours
  • Divide, bench rest, and shape: 20 minutes
  • Proof: 2.5 hours (or 1.5 hours, then retard for 2 – 16 hours)
  • Bake: 35 minutes

Desired dough temperature: 76F



  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix the flours, water, and starter on low speed until just combined, about one minute.
  2. Let the dough rest (autolyse) for 30 minutes.
  3. Add the salt and continue mixing on low or medium speed until the dough reaches a medium level of gluten development. This should only take about 3 or 4 minutes.
  4. Transfer the dough to an oiled container (preferably a low, wide one so the dough can be folded without removing it from the container).
  5. Ferment at room temperature (72F – 76F) for 2.5 hours, with folds at 50 and 100 minutes.
  6. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter. Divide it into 400g – 500g pieces. I usually make four 400g loaves and refrigerate the rest to use for pizza dough later. Preshape the dough pieces into light balls.
  7. Sprinkle the balls lightly with flour, cover loosely with plastic, and let rest for 15 minutes.
  8. Shape into batards and place seam-side-up in a floured couche or linen-lined bannetons.
  9. Batards in couche

  10. Slip the couche or bannetons into a large plastic bag or cover with plastic wrap and proof at room temperature for 2 – 2.5 hours. Alternatively, the loaves can be proofed for about 1.5 hours at room temperature, then refrigerated for 2 – 16 hours and baked directly out of the refrigerator; this will yield a tangier bread with a lovely, blistered crust.
  11. Meanwhile, preheat the oven, with baking stone, to 475F. You will also need steam during the initial phase of baking, so prepare for this now.
  12. Turn the proofed loaves onto a semolina-sprinkled peel or parchment. Slash each one with two overlapping cuts that are almost parallel to the long axis of the batard.


  13. Once the loaves are in the oven, turn the heat down to 450F. For 400g loaves, bake for 12 minutes with steam, and another 15 – 18 minutes without steam. I leave the oven door cracked open a bit for the last 5 minutes of this time. The crust should be a deep brown. Then turn off the oven and leave the loaves in for 5 minutes longer, with the door ajar, to help them dry. Larger loaves will need to be baked longer.
  14. Cool on a wire rack. Don’t cut until the loaves are completely cool, if you can manage it!

Norwich Sourdough batards

CommentsLeave a comment

  1. says

    Hi There, Ive made this loaf a few times now. It tastes great. Ive even started it with your starter recipe, but its seem really wet. I cant get it to hold shape. Im using a Spelt White Flour and a Rye flour at the exact recipe. What am I doing wrong. Is it ok to use less water. Any help really appreciated.

    • Alice Lockhart says

      Wet can be good. Harder to handle, but worth it in the end result. If the finished loaf has great taste and texture, you aren’t doing anything wrong.

    • Lena says

      Spelt definitely needs less water, so if you have used it as the main flour, you definitely cantry educing the water. I’d start by reducing it by 50gms if it were me…

  2. Jane says

    I’ve made this a couple times and used spent grain that I’d dried and ground as a replacement for the rye in my last batch. It came out very dark (the grains were chocolate roasted) and toasty, and smells amazing. I’m waiting for the loaves to cool down and having a hard time restraining myself.

    This recipe is excellent, and I plan on experimenting with lots of different spent grains in the future. Thank you so much for the recipe.

    • Lena says

      Why don’t you check out the stretch and fold method on youtube ? I never knead by hand now, just mix well, autolyse , add salt and do stretch and folds at the apropriate times.

  3. Ada says

    Magic bread. It reminds me of growing up, a long time ago, in the Netherlands. It will be my go to bread as well. Next, tomorrow is the More Sour Sourdough. Can’t wait:-)

  4. Maggie says

    Could you halve this recipe? I’m still learning sourdough and we normally don’t finish one loaf before it goes bad. I definitely don’t need 4-5 loaves. I wouldn’t mind 1 Large loaf. Thanks!

  5. Billy says

    This is absolutely the best sourdough which comes from my oven. Since my family eats so much sourdough, I vary the recipes. However, we’re all pleased when this one hits its turn in the rotation!

  6. Sharon Zimmerman says

    I love this recipe. It’s become my favorite bread recipe. I have had less success turning it into pizza dough. I hope you’ll do a post on that or give suggestions for temp and baking time.

  7. Dawn says

    Hi Susan,
    I have been baking sourdough on and off for 2 years now. This weekend I baked 2 loaves using the William Alexander’s recipe in “52 loaves”. Quite happy with them but I baked one in a Dutch Oven and one on a baking sheet. I honestly think the Dutch oven one has a better rise, crust, and more air holes. What do you think of the Dutch oven method and why do most artisan bakers tent not to use it? Especially for home baking without having to feed an army, why not using it?
    Thank you!

    • Carol Thuman says

      Hi Dawn, When I started baking sourdough,I used a ceramic Dutch oven with very good results. However, it was extremely heavy, so I bought a clay tangine cooker at Goodwill and it worked fabulously ($3.50). Unfortunately I put it in the dishwasher and it picked up a really nasty odor (live and learn!). So, I just bought an elegant Emile Henri cloche type baker. The loaves are good in any of the cookware I’ve used–the most important thing being that it allows for steam at the start of cooking. Good luck!

  8. Gina says

    Thank you for sharing your favorite sourdough recipe.

    My 1st attempt at making sourdough and i tried your recipe but i need help. My dough seems to be getting wetter and stickier as i leave it to ferment at room temp for 2.5 hrs before putting attempting to shape it by which time i end up having to knead by hand in order for it to be more manageable. I have tried thrice, excluding the 4th which i threw away, and end up with same results. Have tried reducing water.

    I live in a country (philippines) where our weather is about 28-30 degrees Celsius so quite hot and very humid. Is this affecting the dough? How should i adjust recipe to account for this? Should i also knead it a bit more before fermenting (i knead with kitchen aid at low speed for 4 minutes, at which time dough still looks like a shaggy mess).

    Would love to hear from you before a make another attempt.


    • s. elliott says

      I am not the author of the post, but I can confirm that in my experience dough will absolutely become wetter and stickier when the air humidity and temperature are high. Have you tried proofing the dough in the refrigerator, I find that makes it easier to handle. Maybe have a look at the forums at, I remember seeing posts there from bakers in tropical climates. Best of luck!

  9. Christina says

    I am wanting to make your bread , can I use a different flour instead of the Rye as I can’t get it here in France only with yeast already added , don’t know if that will work or not .
    Hope you can help

    • Abe says

      This recipe is inspired, and is very similar, by Hamelman’s Vermont Sourdough. In his recipe he suggests you can use whole rye flour or whole wheat flour.

  10. Marc says

    I followed this recipe halving it, leaving the dough over night in the fridge. In the morning I was disappointed that the dough was showing little rise. Instead of baking it cold I left it out of the fridge for about 3 hours, then baked in my clay baker. Awesome oven spring, best loaf I’ve ever baked – 30 minutes at 500, then 15 with top off at 450. I’m going to experiment with this as my main recipe. Many thanks.

  11. says

    Wow! Just baked my first ‘Norwich Sourdough’ this morning, sliced it now and had some for lunch, it’s amazing. Much better then the other high hydration sourdough boules I used to make! Thanks a bunch for the lovely recipe, I’m on my way to make another one for tomorrow! ;)

  12. OgitheYogi says

    This recipe asks for a lot of starter, I only have a rye sourdough, do you think that would work for this recipe?

  13. Steve from Jersey says

    There are so many sourdough recipes out there and have tried a couple, Tartine been one of them,yours seems easier to work with as not so wet , just done the first fold , can’t wait to bake it

  14. says

    Made a few adjustments to my schedule and preferences but this, I must say, is bound to be my new base jump-off recipe. This one gets tucked away for certain. Also, if anyone is on the fence, opt for the longest possible final proof retard… the loaves are far easier to work with going from banetton to dutch oven, hold their shape better, blister more during the bake, and are just a nicer flavor overal – it’s subtle but worth the overnight in the fridge.

  15. Elena says

    thank you for posting this recipe!!! it is amazing, it was published almost 10 years ago, and I couldn’t imagine then that I would bake bread some day. I baked this bread yesterday and it came out fantastic!!!! thanks again for sharing the recipe!

  16. Matt says

    I have done this recipe many times over the years as I’ve moved around the country/world (I always use fridge retardation adaption), and after a few tries/adjustments to a new environment/kitchen, it always works. But, one common thread in very success and failure is that the final loaf has always been heavier and more rubbery than I would like or when compared to that fluffy picture you have of yours.

    Any ideas ?

    • Abe says

      This means the starter is equal parts flour and water by weight. So if the starter is 360g then it has 180g flour + 180g water.

      It’s a good idea to build a levain (an off shoot starter) from your ongoing starter. A nice build would be:

      32g starter
      164g water
      164g bread flour

      Allow this to mature for 12-14 hours.

      This is just a suggestion. As long as you have 360g mature starter at 100% hydration then you’re good to go.

  17. Ivar says

    I have now done this recipe three times. Once halved and as one single batard, once halved and as a single boule – both RT, and finally this morning full size and retarded over night, with all fermenting and bulk proofing also done in the fridge.

    It is a fantastic recipe. All three times the bread has come out perfect, and yes, I did have to make some adjustments in the proofing time due to the hot and humid weather here in Queensland, Australia, but my does this recipe make it easier than any others I have tried.

    I’ve also adjusted the flour to be all white for the last two attempts, on account of having run out of rye, and it still works perfectly well.

    It seems that it’s really easy to get a gauge for when the dough is ready, due to the relative little handling that is done, and I think that’s what I’ve been missing from other recipes – including the Dan Lepard’s the Handmade Loaf’s White Leaven Bread.


  1. [...] Bud pulled through! (The mark is how much starter there was after I fed him, and before I let him rise.) Ladies and gentlemen, we have a sourdough starter! I fed Bud twice more with the mix of rye and white flour, and tonight switched him to white flour only, but with more “food” (1:2:2 ratio, so there’s twice as much water and flour per part of starter) to see if he can still double in 12 hours or less. If Bud is still bubbling away happily tomorrow morning, then I can try him out in my very first bread recipe that calls for levain, or starter. Maybe some Norwich Sourdough? [...]

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