Sneak Preview: Make Sourdough Bread with No Yeast using the DOUGH cycle on your bread machine. This simple sourdough bread contains four ingredients: starter, water, flour, and salt. The result will be a delicious and beautiful loaf with an open texture and 70% hydration.
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Have you ever wondered if you could make sourdough bread without commercial 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! With this recipe, the hard work of mixing and kneading happens in the machine.
All you have to do is the fun part–a few stretch-and-folds, shaping, and baking in a conventional oven. (I forgot to mention the waiting–it’s an important part of the process.) Your reward is a superior crust with lots of blisters, a light and airy texture, and evenly distributed holes inside.
No one will ever guess you used a bread machine to mix and knead this tasty sourdough bread.
Why use a bread maker to mix and knead the dough?
- A good bread maker kneads better than most people can accomplish by hand.
- It’s convenient. Dump all the ingredients into the bread maker pan and walk away for 90 minutes. When you return, the dough will be mixed and kneaded. After a few strength-building stretch-and-folds, the dough will be ready to put into another container for the long bulk rise.
- It’s a lifesaver for people with arthritic hands.
Why bread machines are not suited for making a traditional sourdough loaf from beginning to end:
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 the crisp and crackly crust many people like and expect with this kind of sourdough bread.
The few bread machine sourdough recipes I’ve seen online are not the simple and traditional recipes. Instead, they call for extra ingredients such as sugar or butter; more often than not, a small amount of instant yeast is thrown in for good measure. That is a loaf of hybrid sourdough bread, as seen here. Excellent, but not the same!
Some might say, “There is a sourdough setting on my bread maker. Why can’t I use that?” That setting may refer to making a sourdough starter. The machine will keep a starter at the perfect temperature when it’s getting started. If your bread machine manual says you can make a loaf of sourdough, the recipe will probably contain some instant yeast in addition to the starter.
My bread machine has an artisan cycle with a longer rise. Can I use that?
To get the best sourdough bread, the gluten in the dough needs strengthening so your loaf will rise high and round instead of looking like a frisbee. This involves manipulation with your hands, often called “stretch-and pulls.” A bread machine cannot do this.
It doesn’t take long, and it’s not hard. Only three to four stretch-and-pull sessions are needed, generally speaking. I’ll show you how below, or watch the video.
The other drawback is that every sourdough loaf needs a different rise time. It’s impossible to predict exactly how long any particular loaf will take. It needs a human brain to judge that.
Why I prefer a conventional oven for baking naturally leavened sourdough bread:
I’m particular about the crust on my bread, so I bake ALL of my bread machine recipes in my oven. Why?
- A bread machine does not bake at high enough temperatures. You cannot get a thin, blistered, and crispy crust.
- The shape is limited to the shape of your pan.–no boules or batards as you see at the bakery are possible.
- Many people like to cut fancy designs into the top of their bread. Producing a beautiful sourdough loaf with an “ear” and big expansion cracks on top is incredibly satisfying.
What you should know about this recipe:
- This recipe yields a 1 and 3/4-pound loaf (approximately) that is easily mixed in most home bread machines.
- This recipe can produce a loaf of sourdough bread in approximately 24 hours–including a final overnight rise in the fridge.
- No custom bread machine cycles are required for this recipe. If your machine has the capability, you can use it to make the process more convenient.
- Although not required, digital kitchen scales, a bench knife, and a large Dutch oven are suggested.
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 from five days to several weeks to create a starter strong enough to make bread.
If you are impatient, I recommend buying the fresh starter King Arthur Flour offers. Once you receive it in the mail, follow the directions. You’ll have a starter ready to bake within a couple of days. I’ve tried it. Works great!
I prefer a thick starter that looks like a thick paste when I first mix it.
- WATER: I use tap water (let it sit on the counter for 24 hours to let the chlorine evaporate). It does not need to be warm since the friction of the bread machine paddles will warm the dough in a hurry.
- FLOUR: My recipe calls for 40 grams of whole wheat flour and 360 grams of bread flour for a total of 400 grams of flour. The higher protein in bread flour makes for a better oven spring. However, I’ve produced good loaves with all-purpose flour, too.
Regarding whole wheat: I think a small amount improves the taste, gives the starter extra energy, and enables a higher hydration level. Whole grains absorb more water than white flour. You can substitute bread flour for whole wheat flour, but you may have to adjust the water slightly.
- SALT: Fine sea salt or table salt will dissolve quickly. If you want to use Kosher salt, add a little more.
If you like, you can cut the salt back, but don’t cut it out completely.
How to make Bread Machine Sourdough Bread – No Commercial Yeast:
Mixing and kneading the dough:
How to do a “Stretch and Fold”: Grab one side of the dough with both hands or use one hand and a bench scraper and pull or stretch the dough upward without tearing the dough. Fold over two-thirds of the way toward the opposite side. Proceed to the next side and pull, stretch, and fold. Work your way around the ball, pulling and stretching, then folding over until you have done all four sides two times around. Cover the dough and let it rest on the work surface for 15-30 minutes.
Repeat the process described above two more times with another 15-30-minute rest period after the second. In summary, do at least three “stretch and folds” with 15-30 minutes between them. After the third “stretch and fold,” the dough should be smooth and only slightly sticky.
Hours later: The dough is ready when light, airy, and approaching but not yet double the original size. You should see several large bubbles on top (like the picture above) and smaller bubbles all over the bottom. The dough should jiggle like jello when it’s ready.
Warning: You won’t see much happening for the first hour or two. The rise starts slowly, but once it gets going, it can grow fast. Most of the bubbles appear toward the end of the bulk rise. Depending on the ambient temperature, the process could take as long as 4-7 or more hours.
Pay no attention to the time–only look at the dough. Getting this right is one of the hardest things about making sourdough bread with no yeast.
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.
The bread will spread and develop giant tunnels if the dough rises too long and over-proofs. The flavor and color may be off when you bake it. The oven spring will be less.
Over or under-proofing makes a sad loaf. But don’t let it ruin your day. It’s all part of the learning process.
Drop into a lined banneton or similar-shaped basket with the smooth side down. Allow the shaped dough to rest for 30-60 minutes.
Preheat a 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.
Be careful not to 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).
When your oven is thoroughly preheated, remove the dough from the fridge. Work fast. After sprinkling the dough with semolina or cornmeal, invert the shaped dough onto a piece of parchment paper. (The black sheet is a grill sheet cut to fit the bottom of my Dutch oven. I think it prevents burning better than parchment paper.)
FAQ about naturally-leavened sourdough bread made in a bread machine:
75%. Using baker’s percentages, 400 grams of flour times .75 equals 300 grams of water. I did not take into account the water and flour in the starter for this calculation.
Yes. Use baker’s percentages to determine the amount of water you will need in relation to the amount of flour you want.
Yes. 200 grams of flour will require 150 grams of water.
Even though you won’t be using your machine for baking the bread, 800 grams of flour would be too much for all the home machines I know about.
Make one batch and remove the dough to another container after the kneading stops. Then, start another batch. Most machines take about 20-25 minutes to mix and knead a loaf. That does not count pre-programmed preheat cycles or resting phases built into the DOUGH cycle by some machines.
Yes. Remove the dough from the machine when the DOUGH cycle is completed.
Then follow these steps:
Step 1: Place the dough on my granite countertop or a marble slab. Any super-clean and smooth surface will work.
Step 2: Do three series of stretch-and-folds (about 8-10 times) on a damp flat surface until the dough is smooth. The dough will be sticky, so keep a bowl of water handy to dip your hands and bench scraper in as needed.
Step 3: Shape the dough into a smooth ball and place it into a lightly-oiled bowl or clear casserole dish (8×8-inch) for the bulk rise. You don’t need to mess with the dough again ( approximately 3-6 hours, depending on the temperature) until it’s ready to shape.
Step 4: After shaping (described in the recipe), place the covered loaf into the fridge and wait 8-16 hours before baking.
You don’t have to. No-knead sourdough recipes and recipes with higher hydration levels than 70% depend on water and time to build gluten.
You could always use the machine to mix the dough, then stop it as soon as it is well mixed. (It will probably take you longer to wash the pan than to mix the dough.) Dough that is too wet doesn’t knead very well in a bread machine. The paddles can’t get traction with thin dough.
To get blisters, two things are required:
1. Build tension in the dough by “stitching the dough” in the banneton after you have shaped it and let it relax for a few minutes. Pull the dough from each side of the loaf and overlap them. (See the video. This is difficult to describe)
2. Spray the crust thoroughly with refrigerator-cold water. Then, bake inside a pre-heated Dutch oven with the lid on at high heat
Place a cookie sheet or broiler pan onto the bottom rack below your bread rack.
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)
Water works better. I keep a bowl of water handy for dipping my hands and keeping them damp. Use a damp bench knife as much as possible and damp fingertips if necessary.
You can use flour if you like but do it sparingly. Too much flour will cause your bread to turn into a sticky mess.
The built-in timer is a huge plus. 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.
You can set it and walk away. With this sourdough recipe, you don’t need to check the moisture level unless you’re worried you didn’t measure correctly. Remember to come back and remove the bread dough from the machine at the end of the DOUGH cycle.
The secret to sourdough bread with no yeast is learning to read and handle the starter and dough. It takes experience. Knowing when to go to the next step is crucial and hard to learn from pictures.
The reward for persistence with sourdough baking is one of the most satisfying feelings I’ve ever experienced in the kitchen.
Note to readers as of 3/24/23: I continue to modify and make this recipe simpler as I learn more about the sourdough process. paula
More recipes and posts related to bread machines:
- Sourdough Bread Machine Bread: A Simple Loaf Recipe
- Bread Machine Sourdough Dinner Roll Recipe
- Bread Machine Ciabatta Recipe
- Do All Liquids Need to be Warm When Using a Bread Machine?
Recipe Help at Your Fingertips: For questions or suggestions, email Paula at saladinajar.com. If you need help, I’m happy to troubleshoot via email (faster than leaving a comment). Attach pictures and as many details as possible for the best advice.
Classic Bread Machine Sourdough Bread Recipe – No Yeast
- ⅓-½ cup (70 g) bubbly and active sourdough starter
- 1⅓ cups (300 g) water
- 1½ teaspoons (9 g) table or sea salt
- ⅓ cup (40 g) whole wheat flour (substitute with bread flour if preferred)
- 1⅔ cup (200 g) all-purpose unbleached flour
- 2 cups (360 g) bread flour
- Add ⅓-½ cup (70 g) bubbly and active sourdough starter, 1⅓ cups (300 g) water, 1½ teaspoons (9 g) table or sea salt, ⅓ cup (40 g) whole wheat flour (substitute with bread flour if preferred), 1⅔ cup (200 g) all-purpose unbleached flour, and 2 cups (360 g) bread flour to the bread machine pan.
- Select the DOUGH cycle and press START.
- When the DOUGH cycle is complete, transfer the dough to a damp surface.
Stretch and Folds:
- Stretch and fold the dough on a damp surface (spritz with water) using a damp bench scraper and damp hands. Use your hands to pull up one side and fold it halfway over to the opposite side. Pat it down lightly. Working your way around the dough, go to the next side, pull it up with both hands, and fold it halfway to the opposite side. Continue until you have worked your way around to where you started. Use the bench knife to help roll it over until you see a smooth surface on top. Cover and let rest for 15-30 minutes This technique builds strength so your bread won’t spread out like a pancake when you bake it.
- Repeat the above exercise with the dough at least two more times so that you have done three “stretch and fold” sessions.
- Shape the dough into a smooth ball with the smooth side up. Place into an oiled bowl or a 1½-quart clear casserole dish. Cover.
- Let the covered container of dough sit in a warm place to rise. The ideal temperature of the warm place should be 75-80˚F (37˚C). Test the air with your instant-read thermometer. The proofing process may take 3-10 hours, depending on the temperature, the vitality of your starter, and the amount of starter you use. You can control the timing somewhat by moving the dough to a warmer or cooler location but don’t let the temperature go above 85˚F(29.4 C).
- How to tell if the dough has risen enough: The dough should approach almost but not double its original size. Look for giant bubbles on top and many bubbles covering the sides and bottom of the dough. (This is why a clear container is helpful.) It should jiggle slightly when you shake it. The dough should slope downward at the edges of the bowl or dish.
- Preshaping: Lay the bowl of dough upside down onto a damp surface. Allow gravity to help the dough fall out gently on its own. Shape into a rough circle. Pick up one side of the circle, then fold it toward the center. Use your fingertips to tap the seams and “glue” them down gently. Continue folding like an envelope to form a rough ball. Flip the ball over so the smooth surface is on top. Cover the dough with a damp towel and let it rest 15-30 minutes.
- Use a damp bench scraper to flip the relaxed dough upside down. Repeat the initial shaping process by using your damp fingers to gently stretch the dough into a larger circle approximately 10 inches in diameter.
- Next, pick up one side of the circle, then fold it toward the center. Use your fingertips to tap the seams and “glue” them down gently. Continue folding like an envelope to make a ball again. Flip it over with the bench knife.
- Use a push and pull motion with your hands and a bench scraper to make the ball more compact and create tension.NOTE: If your dough turns into a gooey mess, the dough may be overproofed. (Recovery tip: Scrape the dough into a greased 8½ x 4½-inch bread pan and make a sandwich loaf.)
- Place the dough with the smooth side down into a lined banneton, small mixing bowl, or a small colander. (Line the bowl with a well-floured linen or cotton tea towel. Rice flour works best.) Cover and allow the dough to rest in the banneton for 15 minutes to an hour. If you like bubbles on the crust, “stitch” the dough in the banneton to create more tension. (See video.)
- Refrigerate your covered loaf for 8 to 24 hrs.
- Preheat your oven to 500˚F (260˚C)for 45 minutes before you want to bake. If using a Dutch oven, put the lid on and place it into your oven while preheating (unless the manufacturer recommends against heating the pan empty).
- Remove the bread from the refrigerator immediately before you’re ready to bake. Sprinkle the top of the dough (which will become the bottom of the loaf) with semolina or cornmeal while still in the banneton or bowl so it won’t stick to your parchment paper. Use a toothpick to poke any large bubbles you see in the dough. Turn the dough onto a piece of parchment paper. Brush off excess flour with a brush.
- Turn the dough onto a piece of parchment paper. Brush off excess flour with a brush.
- Optional: If you like a blistered crust, liberally spray the crust with COLD water. (I keep a small spray bottle of water in the fridge for this purpose.)
- Slash the bread with a sharp knife or razor blade using any design you like. The primary slash should be at least 1/2 to 1 inch deep. Keep it simple if you are a beginner. An ‘X’ works fine. Move the shaped dough with the parchment paper under it to your preheated Dutch oven.
- Put the lid on the Dutch oven and place it into your oven. Turn the temperature back to 450˚F (230˚C). After 20 minutes, remove the cover. Bake for 27-30 additional minutes. The total time in the oven should be 46-50 minutes.
- Bake bread until it registers 207-210˚F (97-88˚C) in the middle using a quick-read thermometer. The crust should be dark brown for maximum caramelization.
- Cool the baked bread on a rack for an hour or more before slicing. Cutting the loaf too early or underbaking the bread may result in gumminess.
- If the dough is too sticky to handle, decrease the amount of water in your next loaf. As written, this recipe is 75% hydration.
- If your kitchen is warm or you want a longer bulk rise period, decrease the starter back to 40-6o gr.
- If you don’t have whole wheat, replace it with more bread flour.