Basic Sourdough Boule - 70% Hydration

70% Hydration Sourdough Boule


This is a scalable recipe designed to yield one large sourdough boule. This is the exact recipe used in our "How To Make A Basic Loaf of Sourdough Bread Video." Please see video and show notes for further information. Also, if you have a smaller dutch oven (this recipe calls for a 7qt), try halving the recipe by clicking on the appropriate button in the yield box to the right.


275 g
Warm Water (Filtered)
500 g
Poolish Starter
400 g
Bread Flour
100 g
Whole Wheat Flour
15 g


  1. Make sure you have an active poolish sourdough starter that has been recently refreshed. I prefer to discard most of my sourdough starter the night before and refresh with cold water and flour at a 1:1 ratio of flour to water, with half of my flour being bread flour, and the other half being whole wheat. I will then set the refreshed starter our at room temperature overnight, or for around 8-12 hours. For this particular recipe, you want to have at least 600g of sourdough starter, 500g for the above recipe, with 100g leftover which you will then feed and store for later use.
  2. Whatever method or schedule you use to keep your sourdough starter strong and full of life, test it's strength right before baking by dropping a tablespoon's worth into room temperature water. If it floats, then you know your starter is active enough to levin a loaf of bread. If the starter sinks to the bottom of the container, it is not yet active enough for baking and will likely need a few more hours of fermentation at room temperature.
  3. Combine warm water and poolish starter together, mixing with your hand or a wooden spoon to evenly distribute the starter throughout the water.
  4. Place bread flour and whole wheat flour on top of water/starter mixture, mixing with your hand to thoroughly combine. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to autolyse (rest at room temperature) for 30 minutes.
  5. After 30 minute autolyse, measure out 15 grams of kosher salt and mix into dough.
  6. Turn dough out onto a clean work surface. DO NOT use flour or non-stick spray. Embrace the stickiness of the dough, slapping, folding and stretching the dough on your work surface to form a strong gluten network. For further explanation of this technique, please view the video above.
  7. Once the dough has a strong gluten network, very lightly dust your work surface with flour, place the dough on top of the flour and perform a standard stretch and fold, resulting in a rounded, cohesive piece of dough (see video).
  8. Repeat stretch and fold every 10 minutes for a total of 3 times.
  9. Bulk ferment at room temperature for 2-4 hours, or until the dough's volume has increased by 1.5 times its original size.
  10. After bulk fermentation, gently turn dough out onto your work surface, being careful not to compress or overly "de-gas." Over working or "flattening" the dough at this point will yield an undesirably dense crumb.
  11. Form dough into a round boule, using tension pulls to to create a tight gluten structure on the surface of the dough (see video). Allow to bench rest, covered with plastic wrap, for 10 minutes, after which another round of tension pulls is performed to create a well structured loaf that will hold its shape during proofing and have superior oven spring.
  12. Place shaped dough seam side up in a proofing basket and that has been generously dusted with flour. If a proofing basket (banneton) is unavailable, an appropriate sized bowl, lined with a lint free towel that has been generously dusted with flour will work nicely.
  13. Cover proofing basket with plastic wrap (insuring the surface of your dough doesn't dry out) and allow to proof for 2-3 hours, or until the dough has increased by 1.5 times its pre-proof volume.
  14. While dough is proofing, place a large (I use a 7 qt in the video) dutch oven, with lid, inside your oven and pre-heat to 500°F/260°C, at least 45 minutes prior to baking.
  15. After dough has proofed, gently flip the dough into the pre-heated cast iron dutch oven so that the seam side, (which was up during the proofing stage), is now down, in direct contact with the bottom of the dutch oven.
  16. Score the top of the loaf with a sharp baker's razor or pairing knife, using whatever design you prefer. A # sign is always a simple option that works well.
  17. Cover dutch oven with lid and bake covered in 500°F/260°C oven for 20 minutes.
  18. After 20 minutes, remove lid from dutch oven, turn oven down to 425-450°F/215-230°C, and bake for another 30 minutes, or until the loaf is dark brown. Everyone's oven is different, so please pay attention during the final stages of baking. If it looks like your loaf is browning too quickly, reduce oven temp slightly and continue to bake. Remember, you want a dark brown crust with portions flirting with burnt.
  19. After 30 minutes of baking, check bread for doneness by removing loaf from dutch oven and thumping on the bottom with your thumb. The loaf should sound hollow when thumped and feel light for it's size. Place finished loaf onto a wired cooling rack and allow to cool to room temperature before slicing (this will take at least 1.5-2 hours).
  20. Slice and enjoy.


This is a basic recipe for a "country style" sourdough loaf. As your confidence with baking sourdough bread grows, here are some fun things you can try:

  • Raise hydration rate to 75%-80%. This will make your dough harder to work with but yield a more open crumb if that's what you're after. If going this route, I would recommend doing a stretch and fold 5-6 times at 20 minute intervals. Perform the stretch and fold in a large bowl, using a wet hand to pull one edge of the dough over the opposite edge, continuing around the bowl until the dough has gone through a complete stretch and fold. The "slap and fold" kneading method can be omitted with higher hydration loafs.
  • Make the Kalamata Olive and Rosemary loaf served at Stella by adding a handful of rough chopped Kalamata olives and one sprig of fried rosemary (minus the sprig) to the dough after autolyse, at the same time the salt is added.
  • Add extra character by using 10% dark rye, 10-20% whole wheat flour and some fennel seeds.
  • Make a seeded loaf by adding a 1/4 cup of your favorite seeds (sunflower, poppy, sesame, pumpkin, etc).
  • Break the bulk fermentation and proofing phases into multiple days for a more complex and sour flavor and for added convenience. For example, day one, mix, autolyse and perform stretch and fold on the dough. Place in proofing container, covered with plastic wrap, and leave in your fridge until you have free time the following day. The next day, let dough come to room temp (about 1-2 hours), form, place in proofing basket. At this point you can allow to fully proof or place back in refrigerator overnight. The next day, remove dough from fridge and allow to come to room temperature for about 1-2 hours before baking. Bake as demonstrated in the above video.
  • If at any time in the baking process you're in a bit of a hurry, place dough (either in the bulk fermentation phase or proofing stage) in your oven (make sure it is NOT ON). Place a pan of boiling water in your oven which will raise the temperature and humidity, effectively turning your oven into a proofing chamber, speeding up bulk fermentation and proofing.
  • Try adding dry fruit, nuts, cheese or a mix for a special loaf of bread. One of my personal favorites is blue cheese with toasted almonds and dried cherries that have been rehydrated in water, and the water itself is then used in the bread recipe. Add extra ingredients between autloyse and kneading process, at the same time as the salt.

Those are my ideas, what are some of yours? Let's talk about them in the comment section below!

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There are 67 Comments

donner2000's picture

Hi Chef,

I've succeeded in making several loaves and have even taken to adding Rye flour as well. My family cannot get enough. I've taken to forming them into loafs (2 per recipe) which makes it more manageable for slicing.
With the strong structure of the crust, I am actually thinking about using smaller boules for bread bowls. Do you know of any forms I could use that would limit the diameter of these mini boules? I would like to get the mini boules into a consistent size.

Thanks for all the hard work Jacob.

jacob burton's picture

@ Donner2000,

I would try to find some smallish mixing bowls and lint free towels. Rub towels generously with flour and proof like I demonstrated with the banneton. Cook on a pizza stone with a turkey roasting pan flipped upside down over the top to trap in the steam for the first 20 minutes of baking (I would also sprits the loaves with a little water).

Using this recipe, you can probably get away with portioning it into 4-6 smaller boules to use for individual soup bowl servings. Let me know how it turns out.

shadowpixie's picture

I'm on my third try of this recipe and it looks like I'm headed for failure once again. My starter (100% hydration whole wheat) is quite active and will double in ~2-3 hours (though I've only been feeding it once a week and keeping it in the fridge). When I make the dough I first do the floating-starter test and it passes, and I develop the gluten to the point that it passes the windowpane test, but then it seems to go flat in the bulk ferment. It took ~6 hours to double in the bulk ferment and ~3-4 hours to double again (I use a clean t-shirt in a mixing bowl) and when I turned it out onto my baking stone it basically turned into a pancake. After a bit of research I learned that proteolysis is a possibility, should I try making a new starter or is there some technique I should do differently?


jacob burton's picture

What you describe could be some proteolytic enzymes at play, but they aren't the only thing that can cause this to happen.

You might want to try to get your starter on a better feeding schedule and not feed 100% whole wheat. I would try pouring out all of your starter out except for the little bit that clings to the sides and bottom of the container and feed back in 300g bread flour and 300g cold water (don't use any whole wheat, I'll explain below). Try and feed twice a day for 2-3 days and then try the recipe again.

The reason why not all hope is lost is because whole wheat flour tends to super charge starters and also creates an acidic environment. The starter may be throwing off a lot of excess alcohol while at the same time creating an abundance of acetic acid. The more acidic your dough, the weaker the gluten strands will become, often giving you a flat loaf (the acidic environment could also explain your slow fermentation and proofing times).

If you feed once or twice a day with just bread flour for the next three days, re-try the recipe, and the dough still goes flat, then I would make a fresh starter.

Also, try feeding your starter twice the day before baking. The morning before you plan to bake, pour out all of the starter except what clings to the interior of the container and then feed 300g bread flour and 300g water. That night, again, dump out all of the starter except for what clings to the container and then feed another 300/300 and let ferment overnight.

If the results of the bread are good the following day, then you can retard your sourdough starter in your fridge and feed once a week, but you'll probably need to do a double feed before you bake another batch of sourdough to get your starter conditioned again.

Let me know how it turns out.

PS: Cold fermentation also contributes to acetic acid production which is why you want to feed at room temperature for a few days and then try again.

Prturbodog's picture

Just wanted to thank you for teaching me to make bread! I baked three loaves today using the Poolish starter and the 70%hydration recipe. Each loaf came out looking just like yours, and I have impressed the heck out of everyone in the house (including myself). Thanks again!

jacob burton's picture

That looks great. When the dough flattens out on you after the rest, try doing the "tension pull." This will give you an even better oven spring.

jacob burton's picture

It should be about the same. Follow the baking instructions and then pull the bread when it's a dark, golden brown.

jacob burton's picture

You have to remember that the poolish starter is half water and half flour by weight, so it contributes 250g water and 250g flour to the equation.

jacob burton's picture

Hi Bobster,

Sorry I'm just now seeing this. If you want to split the bread into two loafs, do it after the first rise. Then divide, shape, proof and bake.

jacob burton's picture


Sorry I'm just now seeing this. It looks like your bread came our great. I'm glad I could be of service.


For dry ingredients like sundried tomatoes, you can just add them by sight, without messing with the hydration rate. Usually extra flavors will range from about 5-10% based on the weight of the flour. Obviously something like fresh herbs (since they're so light), you would use much less.

But this is a solid base recipe that you can easily add other flavors to. Remember though, the more extra flavors you add, the heavier the dough will be. If you add too much, then the bread will come out a little more dense than usual. But with a little trial and error, you'll be able to make an number of flavored breads using this recipe as your base.

For an example, check out my post on the Pancetta-Parsley loaf.

Let me know if you have any more questions, and thank you for taking the time to comment.

jacob burton's picture

Sundried tomatoes still have a decent amount of moisture in them, so it shouldn't be an issue. However, one of the things you can try is take the amount of water called for in this recipe and soak the sundried tomatoes in it overnight. Then use the water and tomatoes in the formula as normal.

jacob burton's picture

You made the right decision. Adding extra ingredients during the second or third stretch and fold is the best time in my opinion.

jacob burton's picture

Yes, this dough can be formed into many different shapes, and makes a good, rustic baguette.

For the baguette, you'll need a resting canvas called a "couche" for proofing, a transfer board, and a hotel pan, (you mentioned you already had a baking stone, so you'll need that too). It sounds like you have experience with generating steam in your oven, so if you're comfortable with your results, you won't need the hotel pan.

Now while my basic baguette method will work, what I'm about to tell you is more like "Baguettes 2.0," and will yield something very close to what we make in our wood fire oven at Stella.

Form the baguettes like normal, and lay seem side down in the canvas couche that's dusted with a 50/50 mix of rice flour and bread flour. Form pleats in the canvas so the baguettes are resting in the valley of the pleats. Make sure your baguettes are shorter than the length of your hotel pan, and can easily fit on your stone.

After proofing, transfer the baguettes to a flat tray (like the back side of a sheet tray) that's been floured, or lined with parchment paper. You make this transfer using a thin, long board (transfer board), by rolling the baguettes onto the board (seem side up), then rolling onto your tray, seem side down. If you have a pizza peel, now is the time to use it.

Score the baguettes like normal, and slide onto your preheated stone. Give them a quick spritz with water, and place an inverted hotel pan over the baguettes to trap in the steam. Alternately, use your favorite steaming method.

After 15 minutes, remove the hotel pan (and parchment paper if using), and continue to bake until done.

jacob burton's picture

With the baguette molds, simply place them right on your baking stone, steam, and you should be golden.

Let me know how your current loaf turns out.

jacob burton's picture

Hi Jim,

The best time to divide the dough is right after bulk fermentation and before proofing. If you're using a sourdough starter and plan on serving the bread in three days, there's no reason to freeze it. Let it sit at room temperature and then pop in a 350 degree oven for about 10-15 minutes before serving.

Let me know if you have any more questions.

jacob burton's picture

@ Hoodah,

The word "poolish" refers to the mixture's hydration rate, which is 100%. So:

  • Poolish Preferment = 100% hydration using baker's or commercial yeast.
  • Poolish Starter = 100% hydration sourdough starter.
jacob burton's picture


When creating a bread recipe, what is the standard ratio for poolish levin? I see in this recipe it's same as the flour, but it is different in others I have seen. In the tartine book 3 it uses as little as fifteen percent.

In short, it's personal preference, and how long you want to allow the bread to ferment for. We do discuss this in depth though in this forum thread here:


Most recipes call for 100% hydration starters, some don't even specify a percentage. Why would a recipe call for a hydration other than 100%?

The lower the hydration, the slower the fermentation process. There are also starters such as pain au levain that are kept at the same hydration rate of the bread. We discuss various starters, strategies, and corresponding hydration rates in the Stella Culinary School Podcast Episode 21.

My other area of confusion is why would a recipe call for a ripe starter and another call for a mature starter? Is it because of a difference in how the two taste?

The terms "mature starter" and "ripe starter" are interchangeable. When using a sourdough starter, the best way to know if it's strong enough for baking is the "float test" as shown in the video version of this recipe.

jacob burton's picture

Sounds good. Remember, at 80% hydration, the dough will be harder to handle, but it should definitely yield good results. Let me know how it turns out.

By the way, all your math checks out. Looks like you have a firm grasp on the baker's percentage.

jacob burton's picture

That's awesome to hear Rochelle. Keep on baking, and feel free to start a new forum thread to post pictures of your bread!

jacob burton's picture

Bulk fermentation and proofing always take place after kneading. So you would knead the dough in whatever manner you desire (stretch and fold, machine, etc), and then retard in your fridge.

However, you are correct that longer hydration times will help the gluten form, requiring less kneading. This is why in a lot of my bread recipes I incorporate at least a 30 minute autolyse.


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