Most people love the idea of baking with sourdough because they see pictures of beautiful artisan loaves with deep crust, slashes, and all the rest. And then the reality of their bread is a flat, weird, situation that is not quite what they expected. Anyone else?
It’s time to end that sadness forever. Because once you master this bread machine sourdough recipe, you’ll have a foolproof loaf you’ll be proud of every time.
- 3 cups bread flour 15.85 ounces/ 450 grams
- 1 cup lukewarm water 7.75 ounces/ 220 grams
- ¾ cup fed sourdough starter 5.65 ounces/ 165 grams
- ½ tablespoon sugar
- 1 ¾ teaspoon salt
- Autolyze. Mix the bread flour, starter, sugar, and water in a large mixing bowl. It will seem dryer than most sourdoughs, but don't add more water. Use your hands to make sure everything is incorporated into a ball. Cover the bowl with a damp tea towel and let it rest on the counter. (It helps to measure out the salt into a separate container on place it on top of the towel so you don't forget to add it later.)
- Knead. Place the dough and salt into the bread machine bucket and select the dough cycle. The machine will beep when the cycle ends, but leave it there. it rise another 2-3 hours in the machine, for a total rise time of 3-4 hours. The dough should look noticeably puffier, but may not have quite doubled in size.
- First rise. Let the dough rise another 2-3 hours in the machine, for a total rise time of 3-4 hours. The dough should look noticeably puffier, but may not have quite doubled in size.
- Shape. Prepare a baking sheet by lining with parchment paper and sprinkling it with cornmeal. Take the dough out of the bread machine and gently shape it into a round or oval loaf. The dough will be slightly sticky, but try not to use any flour when shaping it. Place on the prepared baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap sprayed with cooking spray.
- Second Rise. Place the covered loaf in the refrigerator to proof overnight. Anywhere from 8-16 hours will be fine.
- Prep for baking. In the morning, preheat the oven to 450 degrees with two racks: one in the center, one in the lower middle. Place an empty rimmed baking sheet on the lower rack while the oven is preheating. Remove the loaf from the fridge and gently rub with flour. Slash the loaf with a lame or sharp serrated knife.
- Bake with steam. When the oven has preheated, pour 1 cup of water onto the empty baking sheet to create steam. Immediately place the loaf inside, close the door, and bake for 45 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack for at least 4 hours before slicing. 7. Store at room temperature, well wrapped, for up to three days,
🧂 about the Ingredients
This is an overview of the ingredients. You’ll find the full measurements and instructions in the printable recipe at the bottom of the page.
You’ll need the following for this easy loaf:
- bread flour
- active sourdough starter (your starter MUST be well-fed, healthy, and vigorous! I follow a relatively low-maintenance starter regimen and keep mine out on the counter.)
- A bread maker! A basic model is fine; you are only using it for kneading and rising. I have this brand and use it almost every day.
- Parchment paper. A sheet that will lay flat is much easier than wrestling with a roll every day.
Day 1: Prepare the dough in the bread machine and shape the loaf
This bread has an autolyze step that is a fancy word for “mix everything in a bowl and let it sit there”. Pour all the ingredients into a mixing bowl, EXCEPT THE SALT, and mix it up.
It may look dryer than you are used to seeing with sourdough bread. That’s okay. Don’t add any more water. You can use your hands to make sure any dry bits get mixed in.
Cover with a towel and just let it rest on the counter for about 30 minutes. I always measure out the salt and put it in a little container on top of the towel so I don’t forget to add it later.
Come back after the 30 minute rest and the dough will probably seem less dry. Great!
Then we put the dough and the salt in the bread machine bucket. Set in on the dough cycle and press start. You don’t need to fold the dough or anything crazy like that. Just walk away.
Since this is a true sourdough without yeast, it needs a longer rise time than what the bread machine gives it. Let it complete the cycle, turn itself off, then leave it for 2 to 3 more hours. It won’t double in size, but should look noticeably puffier. The cooler the room, the longer the rise.
Now we take out the dough and shape it into a loaf. It will feel sticky, but should not be too difficult to work with. Don’t flour your hands or anything else. Prepare a baking sheet by laying parchment paper on top and sprinkling it with cornmeal,
Roughly shape it into an oval without mashing it down. Just gently shape. I don’t use any type of fancy technique. When it looks like a smooth oval loaf, great.
Place the loaf on the baking sheet and cover it with heavily greased plastic wrap.
Put it in the fridge overnight. I have left it in there up to 18 hours without any trouble.
Day 2: Bake the bread
When you bake up in the morning, it’s time to bake your bread machine sourdough. The earlier the better.
Preheat your oven to 450 with one rack in the center and one rack in the lower middle. Place an empty rimmed baking sheet on the lower middle rack. We want to heat it up so it can create steam. The steam is an essential part of getting a well shaped loaf.
While the oven is preheating, take the loaf out of the fridge. It may not look that much bigger than it did yesterday. Don’t worry.
Gently rub it with flour (I use rice flour, but any kind is fine for this). and then slash it. If you want an “ear” on your loaf, do you main slash parallel to the baking sheet.
Once the oven has preheated, pour 1 cup of water onto the hot, empty baking sheet.
Immediately place the baking sheet in as well, close the door quickly, and set the timer for 45 minutes.
See how much oven spring you get with the steam? Amazing.
Let it cool at least 4 hours before slicing.
🥫 Storage instructions
Your loaf will stay fresh at room temperature for up to 4-5 days. (Towards the end, it will be good as toast but not much else.)
You can also freeze sourdough as long as you allow it to cool completely (overnight is best), and wrap it tightly before freezing.
Yes! Some readers have baked this in the machine. But you can’t just run a cycle from start to finish. You’ll need to remove the dough to rest in the fridge overnight, then pop it back in to bake in the morning.
You sure can. The steam and baking sheet is really a workaround for those of us who don’t have one. 😊
👩🏻🍳 Expert tips
- No bread maker? No problem. Stand mixer sourdough is basically the same thing (and you can actually just knead it by hand too!)
- Bread flour is best for this, but you can use all-purpose flour. However, you’ll need to reduce the water by 20% or else the dough will be too wet.
📘 Related Recipes
- My sourdough roll recipe uses the same steam technique and adds a pinch of instant yeast for a fluffy roll with a crisp crust.
- Sourdough baguettes are hand-kneaded but also a similar process.
- And if you want to do all the crazy folding and buy some neat tools, here is a true artisan bread recipe you might like.