Preview: Make this Classic Sourdough Bread Machine Recipe (with no yeast added) using the DOUGH cycle of your bread machine. All the hard work of mixing and kneading happens in the machine, but you do the folding, shaping, and baking (in a conventional oven) for a superior crust. This recipe is for a traditional naturally-leavened sourdough bread with only four ingredients: starter, water, flour, and salt.
Have you ever wondered if it was possible to make sourdough bread without yeast in your bread machine? What if you could use the DOUGH cycle to accomplish the mixing and kneading phases instead of using your hands?
You can! Use the bread machine as a mixer instead of using your hands.
When the kneading portion completes, remove the dough to a separate container for the bulk rise. You still need to do a few folds to build strength.
When the dough has risen sufficiently, shape the dough and refrigerate it overnight. Bake dough the following day. No one will ever guess you used a bread machine to mix this light and airy sourdough bread.
When I first googled the idea of using a bread machine, some people said it was impossible to produce a high-hydration sourdough loaf using a bread machine. Perhaps they are thinking about making a traditional sourdough loaf from beginning to end in the machine, including the baking. I agree that you cannot make an excellent loaf of sourdough bread without any commercial yeast from beginning to end with a bread maker.
WHY? Every naturally-leavened sourdough loaf is slightly different. Putting the whole process on a timer would be almost impossible. Besides, a bread machine oven doesn’t get hot enough to produce a good oven spring or a crisp crust that many people like and expect with naturally-leavened sourdough bread.
The few bread machine sourdough recipes I’ve seen were not the simple traditional recipe. Instead, they call for extra ingredients such as sugar or butter and often, a small amount of instant yeast thrown in for good measure. That is a hybrid sourdough. Not the same!
My mission?–Make a simple sourdough bread with only starter, water, flour, and salt in a traditional shape with a classic texture and a hydration level of at least 65% or higher. Of course, it had to taste and look fabulous.
Making sourdough without yeast is a lot like making yogurt. There are as many ways to make a loaf of good sourdough bread as there are to make homemade yogurt. After a lot of experimentation, this is the best way I’ve found, so far. I will update this recipe if my method changes.
What makes this sourdough recipe different from other bread machine sourdough recipes?
- Only 4 ingredients (no fat, sugar, or commercial yeast added)
- This recipe yields a 1.5 lb. loaf that is easily mixed in most home bread machines.
- Bread can be made from start to finish in less than 24 hours – including an overnight final rise in the fridge.
- Only a bread machine and a conventional oven are required. I’m particular about the crust on my bread, so I always bake it in my oven. Why? A bread machine barely heats to 300˚F. There is no way you can get a thin, blistered, and crispy crust, much less the boule or batard shape with an ear and big cracks on top that we all enjoy.
- I like a blistered crust that’s crunchy but tender and golden brown in color. To that end, I don’t use any flour on my work surface or when shaping the dough. A handy spray bottle full of water keeps my hands, bench knife, and work surface damp and stick-free.
- No custom bread machine cycles are required for this recipe. If your machine has the capability, you can use them to make the whole process more convenient.
- Although not required, digital scales, a bench knife, and a quick-read thermometer are extremely helpful.
- Hydration is a common topic in sourdough circles. The hydration of this recipe is 68%: 272 gr of water divided by 400 gr of flour = 68% hydration. I’ve also had success using 280 grams of water which translates to 70% hydration.
Ingredients and substitutions:
- STARTER: If you don’t have a starter yet, your first step is to get one. The most basic starter contains flour and water. Because I’m a yogurt maker, I used a little yogurt whey to make my starter. The process can take 10 days or longer to create a starter strong enough to make bread.
If you are impatient, I recommend buying the fresh starter offered by King Arthur Flour. Once you receive it in the mail, follow the directions. You’ll have a starter that’s ready to bake within a couple of days. I’ve tried it. Works great!
I use 100% hydration with my starter. That means the amount of water is equal to the amount of flour in WEIGHT. But water is much heavier than flour, so don’t use the same volume of both. My starter looks like a thick paste before it starts to proof.
- WATER: I often use refrigerator-cold bottled water or tap water (chill after it sits on the counter for 24 hours to let the chlorine evaporate). Why cold? Because the paddle action of a bread machine can heat up the dough to nearly 90˚F which can make the dough a bit sticky to knead well in my experience. (Note: This may not be necessary during the wintertime or if your kitchen is quite cool.)
- FLOUR: My recipe calls for 15 grams (2 tablespoons) of whole wheat flour and 345 grams (3 cups) of bread flour. The higher protein in bread flour helps when using a bread machine. However, I’ve produced good loaves with all-purpose flour, too.
Regarding the whole wheat: I think a small amount improves the taste, gives the starter extra energy, and enables a higher level of hydration. Whole grains absorb more water than white flour. You can substitute bread flour for whole wheat flour if you prefer, but you may have to adjust the water down a bit.
- SALT: Fine sea salt or table salt will dissolve quickly.
You can cut back the amount of salt if you like, but don’t cut it out completely.
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What equipment do I need to make sourdough bread?
The only thing you must have with this recipe is a bread machine with a DOUGH cycle and a conventional oven. Everything else helps you get better results.
BREAD MACHINE: A fancy bread machine is lovely but not required for this recipe. You will only be using the DOUGH cycle. Some bread makers have a timer that will control the DOUGH cycle. So convenient! If your machine has a custom cycle option (most often seen on the more expensive models), use it to customize this recipe to your schedule or lifestyle.
DIGITAL SCALES: In my opinion, you need digital scales to measure the ingredients with accuracy, especially the flour. You can get this one for around $14.
CLEAR CONTAINER for PROOFING: Look for something no smaller than a 2-qt glass bowl, glass casserole dish, or storage container. It doesn’t have to be see-through, but visibility helps. If it has markings on the side, that’s even better.
BENCH KNIFE: A bench knife or scraper is SUPER helpful in moving the dough around while you shape it. The less you touch the dough with your fingers, the less likely you will get into a sticky mess. Instead of using flour, keep your water sprayer handy to wet the bench knife, the work surface, and your hands.
BANNETON, mixing BOWL, or COLANDER for PROOFING: Traditionally, a banneton holds the bread dough as it rises. If you don’t want to purchase one, use a small colander or mixing bowl along with a cotton or linen tea towel to line your container. Rice flour works best to flour your liner or towels since it has no gluten and won’t dissolve into the dough as wheat flour does.
After making more than 100 loaves, I no longer flour the linen liners of my bannetons. Using a banneton repeatedly will season it. Please don’t wash out the floury seasoning.
QUICK-READ THERMOMETER: Thermometers are helpful to know when your bread is ready to take out of the oven. This thermometer costs about 14$. I use my thermometer nearly every day whether I’m making bread or not.
Temperature is a vital factor in how fast each stage of making sourdough progresses. Use your thermometer to monitor the situation and make decisions about whether you need more or less warmth.
CAST IRON DUTCH OVEN: A Dutch oven will give your bread more rising power. I used my Le Creuset DO at first. However, the high temperatures pretty much ruined the finish. I had much better luck with a relatively inexpensive seasoned cast iron pot and lid that I could otherwise use as a skillet. The cover holds the bread while the pot acts as a lid. Now I use the Challenger cast iron Dutch oven that is specifically designed for baking sourdough bread.
ALTERNATIVES TO A DUTCH OVEN: Check out this post from KingArthurBaking.com about creating steam in your oven for several methods you can use to get that all-important steam inside your oven if you don’t use a Dutch oven.
DIGITAL SCALES: Digital scales increase accuracy and make measuring easier and faster. I wouldn’t be without one.
MISCELLANEOUS: Parchment paper is handy, especially if you need to use it as a sling to lift and lower dough into your Dutch oven or onto a cookie sheet or pizza stone. Lames are fun if you want to cut fancy designs on top of your bread, but a sharp knife or razor blade is sufficient for beginners.
Are you a beginning or an advanced bread baker?
Beginners might want to start with lower hydration levels. For example, use 264 gr (66%) or 253 gr (63%) of water when using 400 gr of flour in the recipe. Lower-hydration dough is easier to handle until you get some experience. If your dough seems sticky and unmanageable, reduce the water and gradually work your way up the hydration scale.
If you are used to working with sourdough with no yeast, you can increase the hydration by simply changing the amount of water. For example, If you want to try higher hydration levels for a lighter and more open crumb, use 280 grams of water for 70% hydration, 292 grams of water for 73% hydration, or 300 grams of water for 75% hydration.
FAQ about naturally-leavened sourdough bread:
Place a cookie sheet or broiler pan onto the bottom rack located directly below the rack holding your bread.
1. Spray the paper with cooking spray.
2. Sprinkle the bottom of the dough with semolina flour or cornmeal before turning it out of the banneton or basket.
3. Use a grill sheet cut in the shape of the bottom of your pan instead of parchment paper (my favorite solution because it’s reusable).
The amount of time required will depend on the ratio of the original starter to flour and water, the starting temperature of the water and seed starter, and the vitality of your starter. If a small spoonful of your starter floats in water, most people would say it’s ready to use. Of course, this is not a guarantee that the starter is strong enough to make your bread rise nice and high, but it’s a clue.
A bread machine only heats up to about 290-300˚F – not hot enough to create a crispy and golden crust, a hallmark of naturally-leavened sourdough. Also, the rise cycles programmed into your machine are nowhere near long enough for a naturally leavened loaf. So your bread will be better when you shape it by hand and bake it with high heat to make it pop and produce a lighter texture. Worth the trouble!
If you want to use your machine to make sourdough bread from beginning to end, including the bake, I recommend you try a sourdough bread recipe with a small amount of commercial yeast added.
One advantage is the timer. Since the kneading is on a timer (as part of the DOUGH cycle), you don’t have to worry about how long to knead or if you’re doing it right. Use the DOUGH cycle on your machine, but cut it short after 10-15 minutes of kneading. If you prefer and your bread maker offers the option, set up a custom kneading cycle for 10 minutes.
The only thing left to do by hand when using a bread machine is a few folds after mixing and shaping the dough before the final rise. Then, bake the loaf in a conventional oven.
The bread machine is a life-saver for people who can’t physically knead dough or find the process uncomfortable.
Three secrets to successful naturally-leavened sourdough bread:
In my opinion, the secret to sourdough bread with no yeast is learning to read and handle the starter and dough.
Knowing when to go to the next step is crucial and hard to learn from pictures. Experience helps.
You can manipulate almost any stage of making sourdough by changing the temperature. Warmth speeds things up. Cold slows it down.
Temperature affects how fast your starter grows, the bulk rise, and the final rise. In general, the slower the yeast develops, the better the flavor and texture of your loaf of bread. So when possible, don’t rush it.
Ratios make a HUGE difference when it comes to the timing of the rises and characteristics of the dough.
For example, the higher the water percentage, the faster the dough will rise, the more open the crumb will be, and the greater the possibilities for a sticky mess. Likewise, the starter is affected by the ratio of flour to water.
The best way to learn how to make this sourdough bread is to keep practicing. Luckily, the ingredients aren’t expensive.
The sweet taste of success and a beautiful loaf of bread can be so rewarding!!!
p.s. Making sourdough bread is addictive once you get into it. Consider yourself warned.
How to make Bread Machine Sourdough Bread – No Commercial Yeast:
KNEADING (DEVELOPING THE GLUTEN)
Choose the DOUGH cycle on your machine and press START.
3. BULK RISE
If the bread doesn’t rise long enough during the bulk rise, it may turn out too dense. Sometimes, under-proofed bread will have tunnels between the compact crumb.
If the dough rises too long and over-proofs, the bread will spread out and develop giant tunnels. The flavor and color may be off when you bake it. Oven spring will be less.
Over or under-proofing makes a sad loaf. But don’t let it ruin your day.
You’re one loaf closer to success. The silver lining is that the bread usually tastes delicious even if it’s not Instagram-worthy.
Flip the ball back over with damp hands and a bench knife. The smooth side should be next to the surface of your work area.
FINAL RISE (COLD RISE–REFRIGERATOR)
Preheat your conventional oven before taking the shaped dough out of the fridge. Set your oven to 500˚F or as high as it will go. Let it preheat for 45-60 minutes. Set a Dutch oven inside the oven to preheat at the same time.
Speaking of Dutch ovens, don’t exceed the manufacturer’s recommended maximum temperature. Some will tell you never to preheat an empty pan. If that’s the case, preheat the oven first. Then, place the bread in the pan, then into the oven. The Dutch oven doesn’t have to be preheated (although I have much better luck when it is).
Getting the hang of making a sourdough loaf without commercial yeast takes persistence and a willingness to experiment. I guess that’s why a successful loaf is SO SATISFYING.
If you try making sourdough, I hope you’ll let me know how it goes.
p.s. A special thanks to Vanessa, one of my faithful readers and a fellow bread machine lover, who has encouraged me throughout my sourdough journey. May you have somebody in your life who will do the same.
More recipes and posts related to bread machines:
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p.s. If you have any questions or suggestions, you can email me privately: Paula at saladinajar.com.