As someone who is somewhat recipe obsessed- not in terms of following and trying new recipes, but in reading them and gleaning tips and tricks and methods to improve my cooking and baking, when I came across a sourdough sandwich bread recipe the other day with a different method…I knew I needed to play around with it.
My Sourdough Sandwich Bread is a weekly bread for so many families and for that, I am honoured. I am tagged on Instagram on a daily basis in peoples’ baking posts and it never ceases to thrill me.
The ingredients in this recipe are basically the same, albeit in slightly different measurements. It’s also measured in cups not grams, which many find so much more approachable and easier to get into sourdough baking without the added step of figuring out weighing ingredients too.
What’s different is the method: you’re going to mix up your starter with specific measurements the night before. Many refer to this as a levain, pre-ferment, sponge…if that feels overwhelming, just think of it as feeding your starter a specific amount, because that’s all you’re really doing.
Next is the proofing. You’ve got an overnight variation or a “make it one day” variation. For the make it one day method; it doubles and you punch it down after 2-3 hours and then let it rise another 2-3 before shaping. You may be saying but Kate – never has my dough ever been ready to shape after such a short time! I’m here to tell you, my dough, which is NEVER ready to shape after such a short time…is ready after such a short time. Like, hold my beer and watch this. Even if my house is cold, it still works. If my house is like REALLY cold…I’ll turn the oven on for a minute, turn it off, then put the shaped bread to rise in there.
The next drastic change is the temperature. For those who have struggled with dark crusts and dark bread at high temps; breathe a sigh of relief, this bakes at 375F. After it comes out of the oven, I slather the top in butter and leave it in the pan to cool. The bread ‘sweats’ in the pan a bit and softens the side crusts. It’s not as sweaty as it sounds, I promise, it works well.
Now the REAL magic in this recipe…is that without needing to be heavily enriched with eggs, oil or sugar…it’s soft enough to make cinnamon buns, french bread, and dinner/sandwich buns. Yes friends, one recipe, FOUR ways to bake it. And I’m not done experimenting. I have more up my sleeve.
While I love the original sourdough sandwich bread recipe, it’s not super versatile. It’s a loaf of bread only. This is the sort of recipe I need. One that I can make over and over and use it all sorts of ways. One that doesn’t require loads of butter or eggs to make soft cinnamon buns. A loaf of french bread for soup. A dough I can make a big batch worth and make it a few different ways: some buns to go with dinner, cinnamon buns for a treat, and a loaf of bread for tomorrow.
Your starter to make the preferment needs to be fed somewhat recently, but it can be falling/needing to be fed. It doesnt need to be at optimal bread baking state.
The recipe is written to make one loaf, but if you hold your mouse/tap your finger over the recipe card where it says “servings: 1 loaf,” a little slider should pop up where you can adjust it to fit your needs. While I never make just one loaf, it made the most sense for using the dough for other variations to write up the master recipe as one loaf’s worth of dough.
OVERNIGHT TWEAKS – In my extensive testing of this recipe, I have found if you are doing an overnight rise, you can skip the autolyze rest before kneading AND skip the first punch down and rise. Just let mix, knead, let it rise, punch down and shape in the morning.
EXCESS EGGS IN YOUR HOME?! You can swap 1/4 cup of milk for an egg! Add the egg in step 3. It adds an awesome boost to your dough and when you’ve got extra eggs, why not?!
Kate’s Soft Sourdough Master Recipe
- 1/2 cup sourdough starter it needs to have doubled, but can be falling and needing to be fed, it does not need to be at 'optimal bread baking state'
- 1/2 cup warm water
- 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
- Pre-ferment from above
- 1 tbsp butter, coconut oil or olive oil
- 1 tbsp honey sub 1 tbsp honey for 1 tbsp maple syrup or 2 tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 3/4 cup milk (save buttermilk from making butter for this if you have it!) sub non dairy milk or yogurt/cultured buttermilk watered down to to milk consistency.
- 2 1/4-2 3/4 cup all purpose flour
- Butter to brush crust after baking
- I recommend reading the blog post before the recipe, there is some different steps here that may feel confusing, but are explained in the post. Happy Baking!
- Mix the pre-ferment of sourdough starter, flour, and water up 8-24 hours before you want to bake. The longer beforehand, the more sour your end product will be. If I plan to mix the dough in the morning, I make it before bed. Cover and let sit on the counter.
To Make the Dough
- Melt butter, honey, and salt on low in a saucepan. When it's melted and combined, turn off the heat, add your milk, and stir to combine. With a thermometer or your finger, test the temperature of the mixture. By thermometer, it should be no more than 105F. By your finger…you should be able to comfortably hold it in for 10 seconds. If it's not this warm, turn the heat back on to warm it. If I use a heavy bottom pot, there is enough residual heat to heat the milk, if I use something like a thin enamel pot, there isn't.
- Add the warm liquid to your mixer (or bowl you plan to mix the dough in) and add your pre-ferment.
- Stir to combine; it's not going to combine super well until you start adding flour.
- Add your flour, starting on the low end, and mix the dough, adding more flour as needed just until it's combined, but not a cohesive, nice dough.
- Let sit 15-30 minutes, then knead the dough.
- This dough takes more kneading than most- my mixer kneads on low for 10 minutes, so if kneading by hand, you're going to knead about 10-15 minutes.
- If the dough sticks to the bowl or your hands, add a little more flour, but try not to add too much. It's not a stiff dough, it's on the softer side. Try wetting your hands/counter for kneading if it's sticking and you've already added a lot more flour.
Bake in One Day Method
- Cover your dough and let rise 2-3 hours until it looks like it's kind of doubled (don't overthink it, as long as it's 1.5'd its original size).
Overnight Method (see notes)
- Cover your dough and let sit overnight. It will be gigantic and beautiful in the morning.
For Either Method: Continue as Below
- Punch your dough down, give it a few kneads. Yes, you are letting it rise twice before shaping. For more on this, read the blog post above the recipe card.
- Cover and let sit 2-3 hours until it's doubled. To test if your dough has doubled, dip your finger in flour and poke the dough. If the dough bounces back- it's got more to give and needs to keep rising. If the dough stays indented, it's given all it has to give and you can proceed.
To Shape your Loaf
- If you're using this recipe for French Bread, Cinnamon Buns, or Normal Buns, this is where you switch over to that recipe. To use as sandwich bread, proceed as follows.
- Dump your dough onto a lightly floured counter, press out with your hands to make a rectangle roughly the size of your two hands flat, side by side (roughly 6"x10"). Fold the dough like you were folding a piece of paper to go in an envelope, flip seam side down and let rest 10 minutes.
- This is called a bench rest or par-shape. It helps your dough keep shape in its final shape and your loaf of bread will be taller.
- After ten minutes, flip the dough seam side up, flatten out to the same size. This part is funny to describe but fold your rectangle so it's now a triangle, and then starting at the point of the triangle roll it inwards. When it's all rolled up, tuck any non-conforming parts in to make it a good size to fit in your loaf pan. Pinch the seam together, flip seam side down onto a piece of parchment paper. Pop it into your loaf pan.
- Cover and let rise 2-3 hours, until it's doubled. If your house is like REALLY cold- 60F or lower…I suggest turning your oven on for a minute or two (put a cast iron pan in there to hold some heat!), turn oven off, then put covered loaf pan in the oven to rise.
- When it's doubled and ready to bake, (don't forget to take it out of the oven!) preheat oven to 375F.
- Slash the top of the dough with a sharp knife to allow for expansion.
- Bake for 20 minutes, flip around and bake another 20 minutes.
- After the second round of 20 minutes (40 min total) check the internal temp of your loaves- this is the most reliable way to know your bread is ready. Your bread should be 190-200F, if not put it in for another 5 minutes.
- When your bread is done, take it out of the oven, leave it in the loaf pan to cool, and brush butter on the top. This can be melting and using a brush or just rubbing a stick of butter over the top. This step is technically optional but it REALLY makes a nice soft crust that stays soft.
- Now the easy part…enjoy your bread! I prefer to slice it all right away. Anything you wont eat within 2-3 days pop in freezer in a bag once its cooled.