Open crumb basic sourdough bread

When I started to bake bread I had no idea how much science and technique is behind. I had a simple desire like: I would like to be able to make a beautiful and tasty bread myself.  In the last 6 years of my sourdough journey I've experienced a lot of failures but I have never thrown away a bread that I did myself. Of course, I made breads spreads completely in my oven, I made dense breads, I made not so good looking breads but all of them were perfectly eatable. What I love about baking bread is that you cannot fail. You might only have disappointments or extraordinary experiences. I've leaned a lot with every single bread I made. I've learned about flours of any type, I've learned to know my sourdough, I've learned to play with the environment to target specific improvements for baking wonderful loaves.
Baking great bread comes only with a journey. I doubt that there is somebody who made such bread with his/her first try. There is a lot of science behind to understand how each variable influence what and at which step. There is a lot of physics and chemistry behind. There is also mathematics behind calculating the proportions of ingredients. Am I just speaking of just our basic daily bread? Yes, it is exactly what I am speaking about.
My experience with bread started even before Maya (this is how my sourdough is called) appeared into my life.  I was making bread in a bread machine for some years already but there was something that pushed me to step further from this. Bread made in a breadmaker  was always the same. Same shape, same taste (or tasteless), same tons of crumbs on the table. On the other side it was very practical to thrown away all ingredients and come back after 4 hours to get out my warm bread. I remember that when I first time read that the bread can take 4 hours in the bread machine to be ready I thought that it was a huuuge amount of time. Now I do breads that are spread over couple of days only to get a specific flavor.
The sourdough journey was with up and downs in terms of look but always the result was an incredible tasty bread. And I don't know how, it fit even in my crazy weekly schedule. I didn't have much time for other things, but for bread, I was always making time.
Although in the last 6 years I baked bread almost weekly, at a certain moment in time I stopped photographing them as to me they were looking all the same. Great but not wow. Now with the lock down I had a desire to upgrade to a new level, to test different variables in my bread making to achieve a better looking. I've changed recipes, I've  changed flour sources, I've read dozens of blogs and watch hundreds of hours of instructions videos to find the secrets of an open crumb bread.
I've then made a plan: stick to one recipe that you trust, stick with the same flour and try small changes. And this is exactly what I did. I've made this recipe 4 times with the same ingredients and quantities and slightly modifying other variables.
I was watching others how they were handling the dough but mine was not looking like theirs. What I was doing wrong? It was a question that troubled me for days. Could their flour have being so different than the one I had access to? How was this possible? And then again, was it me handling something wrong?
First 3 trials were almost the same.  For the last one I changed couple of things.
First it was the autolyse. I've changed the one hour autolyse (with sourdough included) to 6 hours of autolyse of just flour and water. This in fact changed everything from the start to me, because the dough was behaving in an incredibly good way. For the first time I felt that my dough was looking as it should.
The second thing I've changed was the technique in the handling of the dough. I knew well my old good style but I wanted to change to something much better. This new handling improved so much the structure of my dough.
Third thing was the scoring of the loaves. With a good bread structure you need a deep scoring. Before I was scoring superficially at let's say 0.5cm, but now I discovered that a 1 to 2 cm scoring is delivering incredible results.
Putting these 3 together I reached to an incredible bread although there were the exact same ingredients and quantities as before. OMG, what a difference. I've made a complete description of this technique bellow. Just a little disclaimer, for me these were the improvement to get a gorgeous bread, to you might be others.
For me this bread put me on another level of my journey. Discovering these secrets is like raising the experience level from amateur to profesionist. The satisfaction to bake this bread was huge. I jumped for joy like a child telling, Yesss I did it! It worked! The other members of the family were looking weird to me, wondering if I lost my minds in this lock down period. Who didn't struggled with sourdough bread could not understand this joy.
This bread is not just about having an ear on top, is also about having an airy structure inside with gorgeous bubbles. It is the success of a long experience. It is for me like to highest level of baking bread. I just knocked on the door of this level and I hope that from now one I can experience even more incredibly good looking breads.
This recipe is to be made in 3 days if you have all ingredients available. But if you are like me and you keep a small amount of sourdough in the fridge you add 3 days more to have a enough and strong starter. I picked this recipe, from a blog that I admire very much (see at the end). I picked it also because it can be done anytime in the week, it is flexible and it fits perfectly the classic schedule of daily 9 to 5 worker. Before, I had to do my bread only on weekends, but this recipe is conceived to work on it only during the evening and it is giving you quite a big interval so you can fit it into your schedule. I made an example of the schedule in order to have the bread cooked for lunch on Sunday. But if you wish to bake it for Sunday evening there is no risk to have it over proofed.

Let's see the details of my best bread ever (so far) ...


  • 330g of sourdough at 100% hydration (levain)
  • 850g bread flour
  • 45g rye flour
  • 50g whole wheat flour
  • 40g gluten powder (optional if you have a flour of at least 12-13% proteins)
  • 650g water
  • 22g salt


This is an example of a schedule, starting the bread on Friday and eat it on Sunday.
I keep my sourdough in the fridge (~75g) so I have to take it out and feed it at room temperature for 3 days in advance to achieve the quantity that I need for the recipe and to get a good strength for baking bread with. This means that my recipe starts actually on Tuesday.

Preparation of the 330g of levain based on starter kept in the fridge is bellow until day 4. If you have ready this amount of starter you can skip this part and jump straight to step 7:

  1. [Day 1, Tuesday, 20:00] Take the sourdough out of the fridge and feed it in a new jar: 25g sourdough + 25g starter + 25g water. Keep the jar at the room temperature for 12 hours. Discard the remaining initial starter.
  2. [Day 2, Wednesday, 8:00] Feed the starter in a new jar: 25g sourdough + 25g starter + 25g water. Keep the jar at the room temperature for 12 hours. Discard the remaining initial starter.
  3. [Day 2, Wednesday, 20:00] Feed the starter in a new jar: 25g sourdough + 25g starter + 25g water. Keep the jar at the room temperature for 12 hours. Discard the remaining initial starter.
  4. [Day 3, Thursday, 8:00] Feed the starter in a new jar: 25g sourdough + 25g starter + 25g water. Keep the jar at the room temperature for 12 hours. Discard the remaining initial starter.
  5. [Day 3, Thursday, 20:00].  Take a big jar (1000g capacity) and add in it: 37g sourdough starter+37g water+37g flour). From the remaining initial starter do not forget to build your main starter. I keep 25g, feed it with 25g water and 25g flour that will go back to the fridge for future bakes. The rest is to discard (that should be 75g [initial starter] - 37g [levain] - 25g [future starter] = 13g). Keep the levain big jar at the room temperature for 12 hours. 
  6. [Day 4, Friday , 8:00] In the big jar, that contains now ~110g of starter, add 110g water and 110g of flour and mix. In the evening you'll have the desired 330g of levain needed for this recipe.

    The actual recipe starts just now:
  7. [Day 4, Friday, 14:00] Mix all flours, gluten powder and water. Nothing else. Using a standing mixer or simply by hand, combine them until there is no dried flour left. If you use a standing mixer this should not take more than 2 minutes. By hand, is about 4-5 minutes. Cover the bowl with a lid, towel, shower cap, bag or whatever you can to avoid dryness on the top. Try the window test of dough and you'll see that it doesn't work. At this stage the dough is just a shaggy mess, the flouer has not been hydrated and the gluten is not developed. Leave the dough to stay on the counter for 6 hours, for the phase that is called autolyse. During this time, the gluten will start developing by itself and the dough will change its structure.
    If you decide to do this bread during the week and you are working like me during the day, you can make this mix in the morning (Friday morning), just after preparation of the starter.
  8. [Day 4, Friday, 20:00] Check again the dough and try the window test. You'll see that the dough has a lot more elasticity and if you try the window test it will be much better. You are then ready to add the levain. Add it over the dough. If you use a mixer, mix slowly for 4 minutes until the levain is fully incorporated. If you work by hand, pour the levain over the dough and press with your fingers straight down forming a kind of a matrix. Press the dough and turn it for 4 minutes until the dough becomes homogeneous. Cover the bowl and let it si on the counter for 25 minutes.
  9. [Day 4, Friday, 20:30] Incorporate the salt and mix it with the same techniques used in the above step. Mix or knead for 5 minutes. Cover the bowl and let it si on the counter for 25 minutes.
  10. [Day 4, Friday, 21:00] Spray a bit of water on your board and also on your hands. Take the dough out on the board and divide it. As I am baking 2 big breads, I'll divide the dough in 2. You can do also 3 smaller loaves but in this case cut it in 3 portions.
    Now it is the time to do 2 sets of stretch and folds for each piece of dough. The technique is very simple, image that you fold a square paper in 4. Now replace the paper you have in your mind with the dough. With each fold you need to stretch the dough also. Then, put the dough preferably in a squared ceramic or glass bowl of ~20cm large and at least 5cm high. Cover the bowl with a bag or a shower cap and let it sit for 25-30 min. You'll repeat this for each loaf.
  11. [Day 4, Friday, 21:30] Now is the time for the lamination phase. This requirest to spray again your board with water, as well as your hands. You'll take the dough out of the bowl by simply returning it. Remember that the top of the dough is now facing the board. The lamination requires to stretch the dough in a large square on the board, something like 40-50 cm large. This is not possible unless your gluten is well developed in the previous steps. The dough will stick slightly to the board to let you stretch it slowly until you reach these dimensions. Do not add flour otherwise the lamination won't work. However, the dough will not stick that hard to the board and it should be easy to be shaped. Avoid tearing your dough. If it tears, stop stretching it further from that side. With the dough that much stretched, let's imagine again a squared piece of paper that we fold in 3 from both directions, obtaining 9 little squares. Take the dough, fold it 1/3, take it then from the other side and fold it over. You have now a long rectangle that you'll fold also in 3. You get now the dough folded in 9. Take the dough and put it back in the squared bowl with the joints down. This lamination provides a lot of strength to your dough, so do not skip it if you are looking for an open crumb bread. Let the dough rest for 25-30 minutes in the covered bowl.
  12. [Day 4, Friday, 22:00] We start now a set of 3 coil folds performed straight in the bowl. Wet your hands again to avoid that the dough stick to your hands. The technique is the following: with your both hands take the dough from the left and right sides but from the middle on the other sides. Lift the dough until one of the up or down sides is detached. Hide this detached side under the dough. Turn the bowl 180º and lift again the dough to detach the other side and hide this side as well under. The dough looks now rolled under, on 2 sides. Turn the bowl 90º and repeat the same on the remaining sides. The dough will get a higher shape doing these coil folds. Cover the bowl and let it sit for another 25-30 minutes. Repeat the process for the other pieces of dough. Remember that the top of the dough is facing up, so avoid returning it in the bowl or destroying its nice top surface structure.
  13. [Day 4, Friday, 22:30] Do a second set of coil folds.
  14. [Day 4, Friday, 23:00] Do a third set of coil folds. After this, put the dough in the fridge for 16-20 hours. The bowl with the loaves should be covered by plastic to avoid dryness on the top.
  15. [Day 5, Saturday, 19:00] Take the dough out of the fridge and let's give it a shape. This time we'll need flour instead of water to avoid sticking. Sprinkle a bit of flour on the board and return the bowl with dough. The dough should get out in one piece leaving the bowl almost clean. The dough has now the face down. With floured hands stretch just a bit the dough in a square. Not too much like in the lamination phase, but something like 20-25cm. Fold it also in 3 from 2 sides but on the other side do not fold it but roll it. Join the sides where the you see the rolls of the dough to avoid unfolding. The place where the transversal joints of the dough are visible is the bottom of the dough. Place the dough face down into a well floured banneton. Repeat the proces for the remaining pieces of dough. Put the bannetons in plastic bags and place them back in the fridge for 14-24 hours.
  16. [Day 6, Sunday, 10:00Preheat the oven at 260-275ºC with a baking stone inside and a tray with volcanic stones under. It will take 45-60 minutes to heat properly the stone.
  17. [Day 6, Sunday, 11:00] Your oven is now ready for baking the loaves. Take the dough out from the fridge, sprinkle some semolina on top of the bread to avoid sticking. Place a pizza paddle on top of the banneton and return. Remove gently the banneton and let's score the bread. Using a razor lame make an incision of 1-2cm deep along the bread. Play with superficial cuts on the surface of the dough if you like. Slide the loaf on the hot stone in the oven. Repeat the same with the remaining loaves if you have enough place in the oven. If not, bake one after the other. After placing the loaves in the oven, take 200ml of hot water from the tap and pour it over the hot lava rocks. Be very careful as the steam is extremely hot. Also place a towel on the glass of the oven to avoid cracks in case water touches it. The water will create the steam needed by your bread to have a nice oven spring and to open its ears to you. Close the oven (but don't forget to remove the towel before) and bake at 275ºC for 15 minutes. After the 15 minutes, reduce the temperature to 220ºC and continue to bake for 30 minutes.
  18.  [Day 6, Sunday, 11:45] Here you have your beautiful open crumb bread. Place it on a wire rack and resist the temptation to cut it while still warm as the bread is continuing to cook and the flavors are still developing . One hour after cooling should be ok for you to cut it and enjoy an airy slice.

Many thanks for this recipe and techniques to:


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