Preview: Make this Sourdough Bread Machine Recipe with no yeast added using the DOUGH cycle in your bread machine. All the hard work of mixing and kneading happens in the machine, but you do the shaping and baking (in a conventional oven) for a superior crust. This is a traditional naturally-leavened sourdough recipe with only 4 ingredients: starter, water, flour, and salt.
Have you been wanting to try sourdough bread without yeast in your bread machine? What if you could use the timer and DOUGH cycle to accomplish the autolyse, mix, knead, and bulk rise phases while you sleep or work?
After the only thing left to do is shape the dough and refrigerate it for the final rise. Bake this traditional-shaped boule 6-24 hours later. No one would ever guess you used a bread machine to make this addictive sourdough bread.
When I first googled the idea, I read that it was impossible to produce a good loaf with a nice texture using a bread machine. The few bread machine sourdough recipes I found without yeast called for extra ingredients such as sugar or butter. This was my mission: to make a simple sourdough bread with only starter, water, flour, and salt that looked like a traditional loaf with a hydration level of at least 65% or higher. Of course, it had to taste fabulous.
For several months now, I’ve been making loaf after loaf of sourdough bread–without yeast–using my bread machine. Success and failure visited often, sometimes on the same day. But finally, success has prevailed, and failure only visits when I push the window too far. (Only my trash can knows how many bread frisbees I’ve made.)
Making sourdough without yeast is a lot like making yogurt. Because there are many ways to achieve a great loaf, you have to fine-tune the process to work for you – in your kitchen, with your bread machine, oven, and equipment.
Figuring out a schedule that works with your lifestyle can take time and experimentation. I hope this recipe inspires you and gives you a place to start.
What makes this sourdough recipe different from other bread machine sourdough recipes?
- Only 4 ingredients (no fat, sugar, or commercial yeast added)
- Yields a 1.5 lb. loaf that is easily mixed in most home bread machines
- The recipe can be doubled. Be careful not to exceed the recommended amount of flour for your bread machine.
- 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.
- Speaking of crust: 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, but examples are included below if your machine has the capability and you want to 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 word in sourdough circles. The hydration of this recipe is 68%: 255 gr of water divided by 375 gr of flour = 68% hydration. I’ve also had success using 263 grams of water which translates to 70% hydration (see the picture below) and even higher. IT CAN BE DONE WITH A BREAD MACHINE.
How to use a bread machine timer or delay button to make sourdough bread without yeast:
This is how I use the timer on my machine. Not all machines have a timer that will operate in conjunction with the DOUGH cycle. That’s one reason why I bought a Zojurishi. In my opinion, it’s worth the money.
- 10 PM (bedtime): Mix the ingredients right in the bread machine pan by using the DOUGH cycle (See the recipe for specifics). Mixing only takes a couple of minutes. Stop the cycle. Choose the DOUGH cycle again but don’t press start. (This is the autolyse stage.)Then set the timer for 30 minutes to 4 hours (depending on when you are getting up, the temperature, and the hydration of your dough) and press START. (Be sure to check out the tips below for why you want all your ingredients to be cold if you do this.)
- OVERNIGHT: (while you sleep): When the time is up, the timer will trigger the DOUGH cycle to start the kneading process. After the DOUGH cycle completes, the dough will sit quietly in the machine as it goes through the bulk rise stage overnight.
- 7:00 AM (wake-up): You must decide when the bulk rise is done. No machine can do it for you. Look for a few larger bubbles popping up on top. Gently remove the dough from the machine to your work surface and shape by hand. Then place the shaped dough in the fridge for the final rise–8-24 hours.
The same schedule could be used early in the morning before work. Steps one and two can be set to take all day. The dough would hopefully be ready to shape when you get home after an 8-hour workday. You will need to experiment to know how long to set the timer so that your dough will be ready to shape when you get home.
Ingredients and substitutions:
- STARTER: If you don’t have a starter yet, that’s your first step. 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 get 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 out and it works great.
I use 100% hydration in 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 thick paste before it starts to proof.
- WATER: I 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? See the tips below.
- FLOUR: My recipe calls for 15 grams (2 tablespoons) of whole wheat flour and 360 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. (Like the water, I also keep my flour for this recipe in the refrigerator.)
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 is good. It will dissolve while sitting on top of the dough during the autolyze stage. You can cut back the amount 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 nice but not required for this recipe. You will only be using the DOUGH cycle. Some machines 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 really need digital scales to measure the ingredients with accuracy, especially the flour. You can get this one for around $14.
CLEAR CONTAINER for PROOFING: If you don’t want to proof in your bread machine, look for a 2-qt glass bowl or plastic 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 helpful in moving the dough around while you shape it. The less you touch the dough with your fingers, the less likely you are to 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: A banneton is a type of wood basket that is traditionally used for holding 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.
Temperature is an important 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 heat.
CAST IRON DUTCH OVEN: (optional) You don’t have to have a Dutch oven to make sourdough bread, but it will give your bread more rising power than not using one. I used my Le Creuset DO at first. The high temperatures pretty much ruined the finish and made the crust a little tough. I had much better luck with a relatively inexpensive seasoned cast iron pot and lid that I could also use as a skillet. The lid holds the bread while the pot acts as a lid.
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.
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 out with lower hydration levels. Use 248 gr (66%), or 236 gr (63%) of water without changing the amount 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 easily increase the hydration by only changing the amount of water. For example, If you want to try higher hydration levels for a lighter and more open crumb, use 263 grams of water for a 70% hydration, 275 grams of water for 73% hydration, or 283 grams of water for 75% hydration.
What is the most important tip to know when making sourdough with no yeast in a bread machine?
The secret to making sourdough bread without yeast in a bread machine, especially when using higher levels of hydration, is to use COLD water, COLD flour, and even a COLD pan (I put mine in the freezer). Don’t worry. The kneading cycle will warm everything up in a hurry.
Using water and flour straight out of the fridge helps keep the dough temperature down around 80˚F as the machine kneads. Otherwise, the temperature can get close to 90˚F from the action of the paddles.
When the dough becomes excessively warm, the dough is too sticky to pull away from the sides of the pan, making the kneading cycle less effective in building dough strength. This is my experience.
2 tips for extending the bulk rise phase:
- Place the bread machine pan into the freezer for 15 minutes or longer to get it really cold. I always do this when using the delay timer to mix, knead, and bulk rise the bread overnight.
- Use less starter than the recipe calls for. The more starter you use, the less time the bulk rise will take. For example: I decrease the starter to 45-50 grams whenever I use the overnight timer on my bread machine if I know I plan to sleep-in the next day.
FAQ about naturally-leavened sourdough bread:
Place a cookie sheet onto the bottom rack located below the rack holding your bread.
1. Spray the paper with cooking spray. 2. Sprinkle the bottom of the dough with semolina 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).
Your starter should double or even approach triple its original size. 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. 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. Your bread will be better when you shape it by hand and bake it with high heat to make it really pop and produce a more open texture. Totally worth the trouble!
One advantage is the timer. Since the kneading is on a timer (the DOUGH cycle), you don’t have to worry about how long to knead or if you’re doing it right. The only thing you have to do by hand when using a bread machine is shaping it before the final rise, and baking it in your oven. Some machines will let you program the machine so that the autolyse, kneading, and bulk rise all happen automatically while you sleep or work. (see example above)
For people who can’t physically knead dough or find the process uncomfortable, the bread machine is a life-saver.
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. This applies to 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 final loaf of bread. 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. Even the starter is affected by the ratio of flour to water as well as the ratio of seed starter to the flour and water when you feed it.
I’m here to answer your questions, but honestly, experimentation in your own kitchen is key. Luckily, the ingredients aren’t expensive. The best way to be successful is to keep practicing, don’t let the failures get you down, and whatever you do, don’t get on the bathroom scales.
The sweet taste of success and a beautiful loaf of bread will be your reward.
Are you ready? Let’s get started. Follow my picture tutorial below or check out the video.
p.s. Making sourdough bread is addictive once you get into it. You’ve been warned.
How to make Bread Machine Sourdough Bread – No Yeast:
1. MIX AND AUTOLYSE
2. KNEADING (DEVELOPING THE GLUTEN)
3. BULK RISE
Leave the dough in the bread machine after it has finished kneading on the DOUGH cycle. The dough should be light and airy, doubled in size, and display some visible bubbles on top when ready for shaping. I hesitate to suggest times because it could be anywhere from 3 to 12 hours (or even longer in the winter). It all depends on the temperature of the dough and the vitality of your starter.
If the ambient temperature is not too warm, I like to use this option overnight or if I’m going to be gone all day. You might like it if you work all day and want the bulk rise to happen automatically while you’re gone.
This option is good if you don’t want to tie up your machine for 4-5+ hours. Also, you can easily observe the status of the dough during the bulk rise since you can see the bubbles on the bottoms and sides of the dough. Removal of the dough without destroying the bubbles is also easier from a glass bowl or container than from the bread machine pan.
Transfer the dough at the end of the kneading process to a clear glass or plastic container that holds at least 2 liters.
If you don’t allow the bread to rise long enough during the bulk rise, your bread may turn out too dense and compact. If you let the dough rise too long and overproof, the bread will have a tendency to spread out like a frisbee. The flavor and color may be off when you bake it. Oven spring might be less. It’s sad, really. But don’t let it ruin your day. You’re one loaf closer to success.
5. FINAL SHAPING
6. FINAL RISE (COLD RISE–REFRIGERATOR)
Preheat your conventional oven before taking the shaped dough out of the fridge. Set your oven to 550˚F or as high as it will go. Let it preheat for 45 minutes. Set your 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 your pan empty. If that’s the case, wait until your oven is preheated. Place the bread in the pan, then into the oven. The Dutch oven doesn’t have to be preheated.
It feels like an act of bravery to publish this post. There are so many ways to mess up. Getting the hang of sourdough (in this case, with a bread machine) takes persistence and a willingness to experiment. I guess that’s why a successful loaf is SO SATISFYING.
I’ve been challenged and many of you will be, too…most of us aren’t comfortable with failure so we give up and move on too quickly. I promise, if you hang in there, you’ll get it.
p.s. A special thanks to Vanessa, one of my faithful readers and a fellow bread machine lover, who encouraged me through the frisbee failures to keep trying until I finally produced bread I could be proud of. 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.