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Sourdough French Bread

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Don’t toss that sourdough discard! You can make deliciously crusty, light, and flavorful French bread with sourdough starter, a few simple ingredients, and this easy sourdough bread recipe. It’s an easy dough to make and rests overnight to get just the right rise without any yeast needed. Then just shape, score, and bake to perfection! This is a tried-and-true rustic sourdough French bread no yeast recipe you are sure to love.

two loaves of sourdough French bread recipe

I’ve been making and keeping my own sourdough starter for many years. It is so easy to make artisan sourdough bread or soft sandwich bread with sourdough! And, we love the slightly tangy taste and great texture you get with sourdough recipes.

Did you know that the discard can be used to create even more delicious baked goods?

What to Do With Sourdough Discard

In fact, the name “discard” is quite misleading.

No one actually wants to throw away the sourdough discard. And there’s no reason to! A slew of recipes includes leftover starters, like this French bread with sourdough starter recipe! It easily makes a flavorful French loaf, crusty on the outside and terrifically tender and fluffy on the inside.

Use your sourdough discard to make sourdough pizza crust! It is so easy that even the kids can make their own pizzas.

a canning jar of active sourdough starter

Anyone who has tried making bread with sourdough discard knows that you absolutely need these 2 key things for the perfect loaf: a starter (be sure to make this quick sourdough starter before you get, well, started. It’s homemade with flour and water, and is ready in a week thanks to my no-fail tips!) and patience.

And true to form, this fantastic sourdough French bread recipe requires these as well. However, unlike many other sourdough discard recipes, this one doesn’t use any yeast. Instead, it ferments overnight to get just the right rise. So you’ll certainly need that patience, but I promise this bread is so worth it,

Let’s get started with this easy sourdough bread recipe!

Sourdough Bread Recipe Ingredients

  • Sourdough starter (see link above for the best foolproof starter recipe)
  • Warm water
  • Sugar
  • Olive oil or other vegetable oil
  • All-purpose flour (I use King Arthur flour)
  • Salt

This is a sourdough discard recipe, but your discard should come from an active starter that’s been fed within the last day (if stored on the counter) or the last week (if stored in the refrigerator).

The sugar helps activate the sourdough sponge. The small amount of sugar won’t give this bread a sweet taste.

I prefer using King Arthur flour for my recipes. For me, KA flour is readily available locally, or on Amazon, so it’s easy to get. Find a quality brand that you like and stick with it. Using the same brand of flour will provide the most consistent results in your bread making.

a bowl of rising dough with a bag of King Arthur flour and a bottle of olive oil in the background

How to Make French Bread with Sourdough Starter

Note: Again, you’ll need to have already made the sourdough starter and have discard to work with for this recipe.

Although it does take some time to prepare, there really are only 5 simple steps to make a perfect sourdough French bread with no yeast:

  1. Mix the dough either by hand or with a standing mixer.
  2. Cover the dough and let it rise (ferment) overnight.
  3. Shape the dough, wrap it with plastic on a baking sheet and let rise one more time.
  4. Score the loaves with a sharp knife.
  5. Bake for up to 30 minutes in an oven preheated to 400 degrees F.

Keep reading for foolproof tips!

Sourdough French bread fermenting

How to Knead Sourdough

Because there is no yeast used, this sourdough bread recipe needs kneading to get that classic French bread texture. (For no knead sourdough recipes, see my easy overnight sourdough bread or soft crust sourdough sandwich bread recipes.)

My favorite way to knead any bread dough is with my stand mixer.

However, if you don’t have a stand mixer, you can knead the dough by hand. Use a timer to keep track of how long you knead the bread. If your arms get tired, take a break for a moment or two and resume.

https://youtu.be/ySOj0fFWo1U

How do I know if my sourdough has kneaded properly?


Here are some signs your sourdough has finished proofing.

  1. The dough should be smooth and pliable.
  2. When stretched, it should stretch easily for several inches without holes or tears.
  3. It passes the windowpane test.
this dough isn't kneaded enough

This dough is not kneaded enough. The dough isn’t as soft and pliable as it should be. When stretched, it tears in the middle.

After a minute of hand kneading:

The dough above is soft and stretchy. When stretched, it passed the windowpane test visually (not seen in the photo). It stretched thin enough to see through without holes.

Signs your Sourdough has Finished Proofing

Sourdough undergoes a fermentation process during the overnight proofing. Here are a few signs that your sourdough has finished proofing (and is fermented):

  • It has doubled in size. In cooler temperatures (less than 75º) this may take longer.
  • You can see bubbles in the dough. There are finger-tip-sized bubbles on the top and sides of the dough, and smaller bubbles underneath.

Sourdough fermentation takes hours, and your dough will need at least 6 hours and possibly 12 hours until the sourdough has proofed. Keeping the dough between 75º and 85º will speed up the fermentation process.

Under proofed dough is stiff and the surface of the dough is smooth.

Properly proofed dough shows bubbles on or below the surface. It’s soft and when you press your finger into it, the impression stays.

This dough is fully proofed. It has large and small bubbles on the surface and under and is soft to the touch.

Over-proofed sourdough may spill over the bowl during proofing. To avoid over-proofed sourdough, set a timer per the recipe card and keep the dough at 85º or lower.

Sourdough scoring

The scoring for this sourdough bread recipe is simple but necessary to keep the bread from cracking. Use a very sharp knife or lamé for sourdough scoring. I prefer to use a lamé or a serrated knife.

Loaves of sourdough French bread scored and ready for the oven.

Here’s a link to my favorite lightweight, non-stick French bread pans.

TFN Tip: For a clean score, use quick, even motions. Sourdough scoring is only about 1/4″ to 1/2″ in depth. Side slashes work best for scoring loaves of French bread.

French sourdough cut into two pieces and ready to roll into loaves of dough
Fermented sourdough ready to roll into French style sourdough bread loaves

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I make a quick French bread loaf?

Since you can’t skip the overnight fermentation process in this sourdough bread recipe, I recommend you instead try this Easy Homemade French Bread recipe. It uses yeast and is not a sourdough discard recipe, so it’s quite faster but equally tasty.

How will I know when my dough had proofed?

When it’s ready to bake the dough should be doubled in size with visible bubbles in the dough. See above signs your sourdough has finished proofing where I explain this a bit more.

Can I use bread flour instead of all purpose flour?

Yes! Bread flour has a bit more protein in it, which will add more gluten to the recipe.

Why do you show ingredients in grams?

Weighing your baking ingredients is more reliable for baking. For those of you without kitchen scales, I’ve listed the cup measurements in the full recipe card below.

What can I do with leftover sourdough that is going stale?

When my sourdough bread is past its prime, I slice it into cubes and dry or toast it to make sourdough stuffing. I always have a bag of cubed sourdough in the pantry ready to use.

Why do you cover the dough with a damp towel for the overnight rise?

Your dough will dry out during the fermentation overnight, especially in areas with low humidity. The top layer of the dough will get a hard crust and it prevents the dough from rising.

How do you make sourdough bread with no yeast?

Sourdough starters create their own wild or natural yeast, so an active starter is all your need for this easy no yeast sourdough French bread recipe.

sourdough loaves rolled french style sourdough loaves
A rolled sourdough French loaf

French Bread with Sourdough Starter Recipe

two loaves of sourdough French bread recipe
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Sourdough French Bread Recipe

Don't toss that sourdough discard! You can make deliciously crusty, light, and flavorful French bread with sourdough starter, a few simple ingredients, and this easy sourdough bread recipe.
Course Bread
Cuisine American, French
Keyword Breads, French bread, Sourdough, sourdough bread, Sourdough French bread
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
overnight rise 10 hours
Total Time 10 hours 45 minutes
Servings 20 slices
Calories 142kcal

Equipment

  • Sharp, serrated knife or lamé for scoring sourdough loaves
  • Baking sheet or French bread pans

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (240g) sourdough starter
  • 1 ½ cups (283g) warm water
  • 2 Tbsp (25g) sugar
  • 1/3 cup (80g) olive oil (can sub with any vegetable oil)
  • 4-5 cups all-purpose flour, divided (can sub with bread flour)
  • 2 tsp (15g) salt

Instructions

Mixing the sourdough bread sponge

  • Combine starter, water, sugar, oil, and 3 c flour in a medium bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer. Stir using a dough whisk or flat beater until a thick, sticky dough forms. This is called a sponge. Cover and let rest for 30 mins.
  • Add salt to the dough, and slowly add the last 1-2 cups of flour, 1/2 cup at a time until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

Kneading by hand

  • Add 1 cup of flour on the countertop and knead in one cup of flour at a time until the dough is no longer sticky. Then knead for 10 minutes by hand until the dough is soft, smooth, and elastic. See video below for more tips. You should be able to stretch the dough for 4-5" without it tearing. Use a timer to time kneading and take short breaks if your arms get sore.

Stand mixer kneading

  • Use the dough hook at low speed to mix the dough until it cleans the sides and bottom of the mixing bowl. Knead in mixer for 5-7 minutes, until a soft, smooth, and elastic dough forms. You should be able to stretch the dough for 4-5" without it tearing.

Overnight rise (fermentation)

  • Place dough into a large greased bowl turning the dough over, and cover with a clean damp towel or plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place (75º to 85º is ideal) overnight or for 8 hours (or until dough is bubbly and has doubled in size).

Preparing the Sourdough French Bread loaves

  • Cut the dough in half. Flatten each half to a 5" x 7" rectangle (i use my fingertips to gently deflate or degas the dough). Then tightly roll on the long side. Pinch the ends to seal them.
  • Place dough on lightly greased french bread pans, or place length-wise on a large parchment lined baking sheet. Cover with greased plastic wrap and let rise for 1 1/2 – 2 hours, until the loaves have increased in size and look puffy.
  • Preheat oven to 400ºF (205º celcius). Using a very sharp knife or lamé quickly score loaves with 3 – 4 diagonal slashes. Make scores about 1/4" to 1/2" deep.
  • Bake for 25 – 30 minutes. The loaves should be golden on the outside and sound hollow when tapped.

Video

https://youtu.be/ySOj0fFWo1U

Notes

See video for hand kneading method and tips. Baked bread will read about 195º when checked with an instant read thermometer.

Nutrition

Serving: 1slice | Calories: 142kcal | Carbohydrates: 23g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 4g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Sodium: 193mg | Potassium: 27mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Calcium: 4mg | Iron: 1mg

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