Preview: Make this 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 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 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?
When the kneading is finished, remove the dough to a separate container for the bulk rise. When the dough has risen sufficiently, shape the dough and refrigerate it overnight. Bake the next morning. No one will ever guess you used a bread machine to mix up 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 were thinking about making a traditional sourdough loaf from beginning to end in the machine including the baking. And I agree with that.
Every naturally-leavened sourdough loaf is slightly different, so it would be almost impossible to put the whole process on a timer. Besides that, a bread machine oven doesn’t get hot enough to produce a good oven spring or a crisp crust that many like and expect on their sourdough.
The few bread machine sourdough recipes I found without yeast called for extra ingredients such as sugar or butter and often, a small amount of instant yeast thrown in for good measure.
My mission?–Make a simple sourdough bread with only starter, water, flour, and salt in a traditional shape with a traditional texture and a hydration level of at least 65% or higher. Of course, it had to taste and look fabulous.
NOTE to all my readers: As I continue to refine and simplify my basic No Yeast Bread Machine Recipe, I have revised these notes and the written recipe to reflect my current experience.
I continue to try different ways of folding and shaping the loaf and encourage you to do the same.
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. There are as many ways to produce good yogurt as there are to make a loaf of good sourdough bread.
The secret to complete happiness with either yogurt or sourdough is fine-tuning the process to work for you – in your kitchen, with your equipment, your schedule, and your taste preferences.
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. Observe how your machine handles the dough. If it doesn’t seem smooth and elastic when done, you might need to go back to a smaller batch.
- 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 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 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 and even higher.
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 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.
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 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: Look for something no smaller than 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 SUPER 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.
After making more than 100 loaves, I find it unnecessary to flour the linen liners of my bannetons any more. I don’t wash them. They seem to be “seasoned” like a good cast iron pan so you don’t want to wash out the floury seasoning.
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 warmth.
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.
ADDENDUM: I now use the Challenger Bread Pan to bake my bread. It’s heavier than the iron Dutch oven I was using, so I store it in my second oven. The investment is worthwhile if you are hooked on sourdough and plan to make a lot of sourdough bread. You’ll see a visible difference in the oven-spring your bread experiences in the oven.
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 simply 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 70% hydration, 275 grams of water for 73% hydration, or 283 grams of water for 75% hydration.
Tips for making sourdough bread with no yeast in a bread machine:
One secret to making sourdough bread without yeast in a bread machine, especially when using higher levels of hydration, is to use COLD water.
Don’t worry. The kneading cycle will warm everything up in a hurry.
When the dough becomes excessively warm, the dough can get 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.
3 tips for extending the bulk rise phase:
These tips are especially helpful during the summer or when doing the bulk rise overnight.
- Place the bread machine pan into the freezer for 15 minutes or longer to get it really cold before using it to make bread.
- Use less starter than the recipe calls for. The more starter you use, the less time the bulk rise will take.
- If you find you have to leave the house unexpectedly and you think the first rise (bulk rise) might be finished before you return, put your container of dough in the fridge to slow it down and buy more time. Take it out as soon as you can to finish the bulk rise.
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. 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 lighter texture. Totally worth the trouble!
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.
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. (I like to do a few additional folds with the dough when I transfer the dough from the bread machine to the proofing container before the bulk rise. These are optional.)
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 and don’t let the failures get you down. I’ve heard that you’re still a beginner until you make at least a hundred loaves.
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. MIXING AND AUTOLYSE
2. KNEADING (DEVELOPING THE GLUTEN)
3. BULK RISE
If you don’t allow the bread to rise long enough during the bulk rise, your bread may turn out too dense. Sometimes, it will have huge tunnels between the compact crumb. If you let the dough rise too long and overproof, the bread will have a tendency to spread out like a frisbee and develop large tunnels. The flavor and color may be off when you bake it. Oven spring will usually be less.
It’s sad, really. But don’t let it ruin your day. You’re one loaf closer to success. The silver lining is that the bread usually tastes great even if it doesn’t look like an Instagram photo.
5. FINAL SHAPING
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.
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.
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. 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 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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Hope to see you again soon!
p.s. If you have any questions or suggestions, you can email me privately: paula at saladinajar.com.