Yes, You Can Make Sourdough without Yeast with a Bread Machine

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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.

classic whole loaf of sourdough without yeast mixed and kneaded with a bread machine

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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. Then, you get to do the fun part: a few stretch-and-folds, shaping and baking in a conventional oven for a superior crust.

No one will ever guess you used a bread machine to mix this tasty sourdough bread.

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Why bread machines are not suited for making a traditional sourdough loaf from beginning to end:

Every naturally-leavened sourdough loaf is slightly different. So 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 online were not simple traditional recipes. Instead, they call for extra ingredients such as sugar or butter; often, 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 refers to making a sourdough starter on any machine I know about. The machine will keep a new starter at the perfect temperature when it’s getting started.

Why use a bread maker to mix and knead the dough?

  1. 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, kneaded, and ready to put into another container for the long bulk rise.
  2. It’s a lifesaver for people with arthritic hands.
  3. A good bread maker does better kneading than most people can accomplish by hand.

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?

  1. A bread machine does not bake at high enough temperatures. There is no way you can get a thin, blistered, and crispy crust.
  2. The shape is limited to the shape of your pan.–no boules or batards like you see at the bakery.
  3. Many people like to cut fancy designs into the top of their bread. It’s incredibly satisfying to produce a beautiful sourdough loaf with an “ear” and big expansion cracks on top.

What you should know about this recipe:

  • This recipe yields a 2-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 an overnight final rise in the fridge.
  • 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 absolutely required, digital kitchen scales, a bench knife, and a large Dutch oven are suggested.
sliced sourdough with no yeast
70% hydration bread machine sourdough loaf with no commercial yeast added.

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 up to several weeks 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 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 15 grams of whole wheat flour and 485 grams of bread flour for a total of 500 grams of flour. The higher protein in bread flour makes for better oven spring. 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. If you want to use Kosher salt, add a little more.

    You can cut the amount of salt down if you like, but don’t cut it out completely.
ingredients needed to make this sourdough bread recipe

How to make Bread Machine Sourdough Bread – No Commercial Yeast:

Mixing and kneading the dough:

adding water to bread machine pan

Add water to the bread machine pan. Set the empty bread machine on a digital scale (paid link) to measure everything. Using cold water during warm weather helps to keep the dough from getting too hot and sticky.

bubbly starter

Measure active and bubbly starter into the bread machine pan.

adding whole wheat and bread flour to water in pan

Add flour and salt to the machine.

Choose the DOUGH cycle on your machine and press START.

dough after kneading for 10-15 minutes

Allow the DOUGH cycle to finish, including the rise time.

sourdough at the end of the DOUGH cycle. the dough should look puffy.

At the end of the DOUGH cycle, the dough will be puffy. Proceed to the next step.

Bulk Rise:

removing the dough from the bread machine to a clear container

Open the bread machine and transfer the dough from the pan to a damp surface.

stretching and folding the dough

Pull and stretch the dough upward without tearing the dough. Fold over. Do this at least 5-6 times. If the dough doesn’t want to stretch, let it relax for 15-30 minutes. Do a few more stretches until the dough ball is tight and smooth. If the dough sticks to your fingers, wet them in a bowl of water. (See the video.)

dough in glass dish at the beginning of the bulk rise.

Round the dough with your slightly wet hands and place it into an oiled container with the smooth side up. Cover and place the dough aside in a warm place to rise.

dough as it is close to the end of bulk proof

Hours later: The dough is ready when it is light, airy, and approaching 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. The process could take as long as 4 to 10 or more hours, depending on the ambient temperature.


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.

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.

SHAPING:

releasing dough from the bowl

Turn the bowl upside down to let the dough slowly fall onto a damp surface.

folding dough on top of itself

Gently stretch the dough and fold it like an envelope (see the video), patting the dough after each fold to push out any large air bubbles and seal it to the dough underneath.

using a bench scraper to manipulate the dough to create tension

Use the bench scraper to manipulate the dough and flip it over. Cover and let the dough rest for 30 minutes.

Uncover and flip the dough ball over so you can see the rough side. Stretch it gently with damp fingers and a bench scraper to make a rough circle approximately ten inches in diameter. Repeat the process of folding to make a boule or ball.

Pinching the ends together with fingers

Pinch the seams and the ends together with your fingertips.

using a bench press to make the batard shape and add tension

Use a scraper and your hands to increase tension and shape into a batard.

Shaped batard resting in the lined banneton.

Drop into a lined banneton or similar-shaped basket with the smooth side down. Allow the shaped dough to rest for 30-60 minutes.

Stitching the dough with fingers to create tension

Stitch the dough if desired to add more tension. Cover and place in the fridge for 8-20 hours for the final rise.

Baking:

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).

sprinkling semolina over the top of the crust

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 here is a grill sheet cut to fit the bottom of my Dutch oven.)

brushing and spraying the loaf with water--hoping for blisters

If you want blisters, spray the loaf with refrigerator-cold water.

Scoring the loaf with a serrated knife

Use a sharp knife or razor blade to score the bread at a 45-degree angle if you want an “ear.” Or make a simple “X” or “+” sign. The slash should be 1/4 to 1/2-inch deep.

using a Challenger bread pan to bake the sourdough loaf

Place the dough into your Dutch oven and cover. Turn the oven thermostat back to 460˚F and bake for 20 minutes.

taking the lid off halfway through the bake

Remove the lid. Turn the oven temperature back to 435˚F. Continue to cook for 20 more minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 210˚F.

baked sourdough loaf on a cooling rack

Some people like their sourdough baked to a darker color, but this is perfect for us. Let the loaf cool for 1 hour before slicing. Waiting 2-3 hours is even better.


FAQ about naturally-leavened sourdough bread made in a bread machine:

What is the hydration of this recipe?

70%. Using baker’s percentages, 500 grams of flour times .7 equals 350 grams of water.

Can I change the hydration?

Yes. Use baker’s percentages to figure out the amount of water you will need in relation to the amount of flour you want to use.

Can I cut this recipe in half for a mini bread machine?

Yes. 250 grams of flour will require 175 grams of water.

Can I double this recipe?

Even though you won’t be using your machine for baking the bread, a thousand grams of flour would be too much for all the home machines I know about.

Make one batch and remove the dough 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.

Can I leave the dough in the machine for the entire DOUGH cycle?

Yes. Remove the dough from the machine when the DOUGH cycle is completed.

Do some stretch-and-folds or slap-and-folds (about 10 times) on a damp flat surface until the dough is smooth and you can stretch a portion of the dough so thin you can see light through it (the windowpane test). The dough will be sticky so keep a bowl of water handy to dip your hands in occasionally.

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 until it’s ready to shape.

I’ve tried recipes that don’t require kneading. Do I even need to use a bread machine?

Maybe not. 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 won’t knead very well in a bread machine. The paddles can’t get traction with thin dough.

How do you get blisters on the crust of sourdough bread?

Spray the crust thoroughly with refrigerator-cold water. Then, bake inside a pre-heated Dutch oven at high heat.

How can I keep the bottom of my sourdough bread from burning?

Place a cookie sheet or broiler pan onto the bottom rack located directly below the rack holding your bread.

How can I keep the parchment paper from sticking to my 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)

Why don’t you use flour when handling the dough? That stuff is sticky.

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.

Why doesn’t this sourdough recipe specify very much starter?


1. The less starter you use, the slower the rise. The slower the rise, the better the flavor.
2. Too much starter contributes to a higher hydration percentage which makes the dough more challenging to manipulate.
3. A long bulk rise period fits into my schedule better.

Playing with the amount of starter and the ambient temperature in the proofing read are both ways to make this bread fit into your life. Less starter and cooler temperatures slow everything down. More starter and higher temperatures accelerate the rising process.

What is the advantage of using a bread machine to make sourdough bread over a stand mixer or by hand?

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 that you didn’t measure right. Remember to come back and remove the bread dough from the machine.


bread machine crash course sign-up

In my opinion, the secret to sourdough bread with no yeast is learning to read and handle the starter and dough. That takes experience. Knowing when to go to the next step is crucial and hard to learn from pictures.

The reward for persistence is one of the most satisfying feelings I’ve ever experienced in the kitchen.

Note to readers as of 1/22/2022: I continue to modify and make this recipe simpler. The video and process pictures have been updated. paula

p.s. A special thanks to V, 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:


If you have questions or suggestions, email me privately to Paula at saladinajar.com. Hope to see you again soon! Paula

uncut loaf of bread machine sour dough bread

Classic Bread Machine Sourdough Bread Recipe – No Yeast

Make this no-yeast sourdough bread recipe in your bread machine using the DOUGH cycle. 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 and a traditional appearance.
4 from 3 votes
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 40 mins
Rising Time 22 hrs
Total Time 22 hrs 55 mins
Course Bread
Servings 16 slices

Video

Ingredients

  • cup + 1 tablespoon water - 350 gr
  • ¼ cup bubbly and active sourdough starter - 40 gr
  • 2 tablespoons whole wheat flour (substitute with bread flour if preferred) - 15 gr
  • 4 cups + 1 tablespoon bread flour - 485 gr
  • 2 teaspoons table or sea salt - 11-12 gr

Instructions
 

Mixing:

  • Add the water, starter, flour, and salt to the bowl (in that order).

Kneading:

  • Select the DOUGH cycle and press START.
  • When the DOUGH cycle is complete, transfer the dough to a damp surface.

Fold:

  • Stretch and fold the dough using a bench scraper and damp hands. Do this at least 5-6 times. This technique builds strength so your bread won't spread out like a pancake when you bake it. If the dough won't stretch, cover and let it relax for 15 minutes, the stretch and fold at least 5-6 times. The dough should become smooth and less sticky.
  • Shape the dough into a smooth ball with the smooth side up. Place into a bowl or a clear 8 or 9-inch casserole dish. Cover.

Bulk Rise:

  • Let the covered container of dough sit on the counter to rise. 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.
  • How to tell if the dough has risen enough: The dough should approach almost 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.

Shaping:

  • 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 for 15 minutes to an hour on the counter. If desired, "stitch" the dough in the banneton to create more tension. (See video.)

Final Rise:

  • Refrigerate your covered loaf for 8 to 24 hrs.

Bake:

  • Preheat your oven to 500˚F 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 with semolina or cornmeal while still in the banneton or bowl so it won't stick to your parchment paper. 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 in the fridge.)
  • 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. A big "C" makes a nice ear. 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 460˚F. After 20 minutes, remove the cover.
    Turn the oven temperature back to 435˚F and bake for 20 additional minutes. Total time in the oven should be about 40 minutes.
  • Bake bread until it registers 207-210˚F in the middle using a quick-read thermometer.
  • Cool the baked bread on a rack for an hour or longer before slicing. Cutting the loaf too early will result in gumminess.

Notes

Nutrition

Nutrition Facts
Classic Bread Machine Sourdough Bread Recipe – No Yeast
Serving Size
 
1
Amount per Serving
Calories
 
177
Calories from Fat 9
% Daily Value*
Fat
 
1
g
2
%
Saturated Fat
 
1
g
6
%
Polyunsaturated Fat
 
1
g
Sodium
 
75
mg
3
%
Carbohydrates
 
36
g
12
%
Fiber
 
1
g
4
%
Sugar
 
1
g
1
%
Protein
 
6
g
12
%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Author: Paula Rhodes
Course: Bread
Cuisine: American
Keywords: bread machine sourdough, sourdough without yeast
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8 Comments

  1. Hi Paula,
    I would like to make this recipe but put it in a pullman pan for a sandwhich loaf. Also want a soft crust. Should I put the top on the pullman pan? Any advice? I do not want to use yeast or sugar.

    Thanks for your reply,
    PattiAnn

    1. Hi PattiAnn,

      Yes, I have done this before. I would put a top on the Pullman pan for the first half of the baking time. Then remove the top so it can brown. With some experimentation, you might decide you need to leave the top on a little less or a little more time. I would love to hear how it turns out for you.

  2. Great idea! I will try this for my next loaf, thank you! A tip for the bulk rise is to let it rise 25% to 50% in the container. I mark the top of the dough level on the outside of the square container with a pen, measure it and put another mark where the 25% rise will be. When the dough reaches that height I know it’s ready.

    1. Hi Tam,

      Thanks for leaving this tip. I have also used large rubber bands to mark where my dough is at the beginning of the bulk proof and another one where I want it to be at the end. It’s easy to forget how far the dough has come, right?

  3. Can you substitute whey for the water for a more sour flavor as in your sourdough loaf recipe without affecting this process?

    1. In this particular recipe, there is no added yeast. So you can not substitute whey for starter as the bread will not rise. If you want to try using whey in bread to test the flavor, I recommend my French bread recipe. It won’t be the same as sourdough, but the flavor is slightly different when using whey.

  4. I don’t have a bread machine, and am wondering if this method is transferable to a KitchenAid with a dough hook?

    1. Hi Mary,

      Absolutely yes. The bread machine is actually just a “mixing machine” in this recipe. You can do it just as well with your KitchenAid.