Preview: This sourdough bread machine bread recipe makes a great tasting simple white loaf. Mix it with the DOUGH cycle of a bread machine and bake in the oven. Because the recipe also includes commercial yeast, you can bake this in 3½ hours.
Like making Greek yogurt, there must be millions of ways to make sourdough bread, and plenty of people willing to tell you how. Who do you listen to? Does it have to be so complicated?
I played with sourdough starter years ago. When it turned colors, I decided it wasn’t worth the trouble or guilt, so out it went. This time around I’m determined to keep it simple. That’s why we’re using the bread machine for this recipe.
Please note: This recipe contains instant yeast for a quicker turnaround– about 3½ hours. Your bread still needs to cool for an additional hour. I’ll share my trick for doing that at the end.
Where can I get sourdough starter, or how do I make it?
- Sourdough bread makers love to share their starters. Keep your ear to the ground.
- You can buy dry cultures on Amazon that will require some time to rehydrate and develop. King Arthur Flour sells sourdough starter that is fresh and ready to use when you open the package. Haven’t tried it myself.
- Make it yourself. Recipes and formulas abound on the internet. You can see my method for making a starter on this post about uses for yogurt whey or on this recipe for Chewy Sourdough Dinner Rolls. You don’t have to use whey in your starter as I do. Unflavored yogurt or water will also work to get things started.
What to expect from this bread machine sourdough recipe:
- TASTE: The level of sourness will depend mostly on your starter. The recipe is basic. See below for a modification of this recipe to make your bread taste sourer.
- TEXTURE: As you can see by the pictures, the texture of this recipe is somewhere between a finely-textured regular white bread and a chewy artisan loaf with lots of big holes. If you bake this dough in a loaf pan, the texture will be soft, fairly uniform, and slightly chewy.
Free-form loaves as seen below are baked on a cookie sheet and tend to have the same soft texture with a few larger holes.
- CRUST: I tried to keep this recipe simple. Only a loaf pan is required along with a pan of hot water to create steam in your oven. A floury top adds an artisan look. Keep reading for more ways to modify the crust.
- FAT: The recipe doesn’t specify any fat. If you want a softer and less chewy crumb, add 1-½ tablespoons of softened butter or oil when adding the wet ingredients to the bread machine pan. The fat will also help to prolong freshness.
How do I get a nice crust on my sourdough loaf?
When baking in the oven, the crust can be manipulated with baking techniques and/or glazes. Here are some options:
- Bake your bread in a loaf pan. The crust will be crispy at first but soften with time. Covering the top with flour before slashing gives a professional look.
- Shape the dough into a free-form loaf and bake on a cookie sheet. The crust will come out of the oven crusty but will soften within hours.
- Bake bread in a preheated Dutch oven or another covered pan for a crispy and very dark finish. This method takes longer and more attention but gives your bread a bakery-made look. I won’t go into details here since this is meant to be a simple loaf suitable for beginners.
- Brush bread with a glaze made of 1 egg and a teaspoon of water or milk. This treatment gives your bread a beautiful dark golden color, a shiny finish, and a crispy crust that softens to slightly chewy when cool. My favorite for this bread!
- Place a pan of boiling water into the oven on the lowest rack under your bread. In addition, spritz the bread with a mister (spray bottle) a couple of times in the first 5 minutes of baking. (Do it quickly so not much heat will escape the oven.) This will make a crusty finish that comes close to using a Dutch oven.
Ingredients and substitutions:
- STARTER: Hopefully, you already have a starter. When you are ready to mix up your bread, it should be spongy and bubbly. Even if your starter is not a robust as you would like, you can still use it in this recipe since it has bread machine yeast added to it.
Measuring starter can be tricky. For my recipes, I recommend a digital scale. Without scales, stir down the starter and use a measuring cup.
The starter I make and use has 100% hydration. Whenever feeding my starter, I use equal weights of flour and water. For example, for every 1 cup of flour (120 gr) add 1/2 cup of water (120 gr). If your starter is different, no problem. With a bread machine, you can easily adjust the dough after a quick peek inside.
Watching your machine as it kneads is more important than ever when baking with a sourdough starter. Open the lid and look to see if your dough needs more liquid or flour after the dough has been kneading for about 15 minutes.
The goal is for the dough to be tacky, stick to the sides as it kneads, then pull away cleanly. (See video.) If it’s too wet, add more flour; if too dry add more water. Add only 1 tablespoon at a time and wait for the dough to completely absorb it before adding more.
- WATER: My readers know I like spring water because it has no chlorine to fight with the yeast. Sometimes I use yogurt whey. If you don’t have either, tap water usually works.
- SUGAR: Granulated sugar is what I use for this recipe. You could leave it out, but it helps the bread rise and improves the flavor.
- SALT: Use table salt or sea salt. I prefer sea salt because no iodine is added. If you only have Kosher salt, add an additional ¼ teaspoon.
If you are trying to cut back on salt, you can experiment with lesser amounts. But don’t cut it out completely.
Salt and yeast work together. Without it, yeast will go crazy and act like a teenager with no rules. Just when you need them the most, the yeasty bodies will be sleeping because they’ve exhausted themselves unnecessarily and won’t do their job.
- FLOUR: This recipe specifies bread flour but unbleached all-purpose flour will also work. You might try half bread flour and half all-purpose. Experiment to see what you like better.
If you want to add whole wheat flour, replace 2 tablespoons of bread flour with 2 tablespoons of wheat flour to start with. Adding too much whole wheat will make your loaf dense.
- YEAST: Use bread machine yeast, instant yeast, or rapid-rise yeast in bread machine recipes. They’re interchangeable. If you only have active dry yeast on hand, you can use it (even without dissolving) but it may work a little slower. Allow extra time for proofing, or add an extra ¼ teaspoon.
FAQ about Sourdough Bread in a Bread Machine:
Look for lots of bubbles on top and a spongy texture throughout. This is easier to observe if you use a glass jar or bowl. The smell should be yeasty like the smell of a beer factory.
Unless you make bread every day, you will soon have sourdough starter running out your ears. Think about sourdough starter as a little bubble machine. Want bubbles? Give it fuel. Once the bubble machine has blazed through the fuel, what’s left of the fuel (think exhaust) won’t make bubbles even though it still tastes good. See this post with a more scientific answer to this question.
You don’t have to throw it away. Save it in a separate jar in the fridge for recipes using “sourdough discard.” It will last at least two weeks.
Sourdough bread recipes without yeast take a LONG time. Most bread machines aren’t set up for that kind of waiting so they must have additional yeast.
You can try, but baking in the machine will require some compromises. The crust, texture, and appearance won’t be the same. A bread machine only heats to around 300˚F. At that temperature, the crust tends to be more like cardboard and rather tough. Read more about baking in a machine vs. baking in an oven.
Perhaps the dough was too dry (did you measure your flour accurately?), the ambient temperature was too cool (throw a blanket over your machine), or the bread didn’t have enough time to rise before baking whether you baked in your oven or tried to do it in the machine.
Jumpstart cold sourdough starter with a bowl of warm water.
Set your jar or bowl of starter inside a bowl of warm water to gently warm it before or after feeding it. If your starter is active, it will be bubbling in no time.
All ingredients should be at room temperature in the bread machine pan before starting the DOUGH cycle.
Starting with cold flour or water is a common cause of denseness because it slows down the rising time. Little yeasty bodies won’t come out of hibernation until the weather is warm.
When shaping the dough for a loaf, use your fingers to gently press out any big bubbles.
Pay close attention to the perimeter of your dough rectangle before rolling it into a cylinder shape. Failure to press out the big bubbles can result in tunnels inside the bread that look the same as when a mole visits your yard.
Instead of flour, use a spray bottle of water to wet the surface before shaping your dough.
Also, spray your hands and bench scraper. This will help keep your dough light and works much better than flour with sticky dough. You can also use spray olive oil instead of water for extra flavor–especially good with a sandwich bread.
Use a silicone baking mat as a work surface for shaping the dough.
- Easy to wash by hand, or throw it into the dishwasher.
- Silicone mats are inherently non-stick. They won’t absorb water or oil and use less bread flour than working on a countertop.
- When appropriate, shape the dough and leave it on the mat. Transfer the mat holding the bread onto a baking sheet and straight into a hot oven. Wipe any excess flour from the mat so it won’t burn as the bread bakes.
- When baking bread that might leak (cheese bread or something with fruit), a mat on the baking sheet is much easier to clean than a baking sheet with burned-on cheese or fruit.
Allow sourdough bread to cool completely before slicing into it.
Sourdough bread needs at least one hour to cool and finish the baking process. If cut while still warm, your bread will be gummy.
Read this post for more tips for using a bread machine in general.
How to mix sourdough bread in a bread machine with the DOUGH cycle:
How to shape the dough and bake it in the oven:
Y’know that part about letting your loaf cool for a minimum of one hour or even longer? That is so hard for me. Here’s my little trick: I consciously plan to run an errand that requires me to leave the house or go for a walk for at least an hour until that loaf is cool.
Please tell me I’m not the only one who uses these kind of silly tricks in my life.
“Why is my bread dense?”
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Hope to see you again soon!
p.s. Questions or suggestions? Email me: paula at saladinajar.com.