Top down view of sliced sourdough bread.
recipe,  Sourdough

Kate’s Soft Sourdough Master Recipe

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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?!

Print Recipe
4.85 from 32 votes

Kate’s Soft Sourdough Master Recipe

This one sourdough bread dough can be made into loaves, french bread, cinnamon buns or buns, all soft and fluffy like you didnt know sourdough could be.
Cook Time45 mins
rising time6 hrs
Total Time6 hrs 45 mins
Course: Bread
Cuisine: sourdough
Servings: 1 loaf
Calories: 187kcal

Ingredients

Pre-Ferment

  • 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

Dough

  • 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

Instructions

  • 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!

Pre-ferment

  • 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.

Notes

Variations:
Cinnamon Buns
Dinner Rolls
French Bread
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?!

Nutrition

Calories: 187kcal | Carbohydrates: 36g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 2g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 4mg | Sodium: 229mg | Potassium: 68mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 59IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 26mg | Iron: 2mg

80 Comments

  • Sarah Kenner

    I’m going to try this recipe-always looking to improve my bread baking! Any idea how it does with 100% freshly ground whole wheat? That is pretty much what I always use since I don’t bother keeping white flour in the house.

      • Sarah Kenner

        Alright, I tried it with the 100% freshly ground whole wheat flour. I made a triple batch and split it between cinnamon rolls, hamburger buns, and a loaf. Since I don’t really use white flour the dough texture and behavior (besides rising crazy fast) seemed comparable to other doughs I make. Cinnamon rolls were divine, buns were perfect, but something went wrong with my loaf. I shaped it according to the recipe instructions and within a half hour it started to rip on the top. It ended up ripping so bad that the whole loaf fell and was dense and hideous. It almost looks like I baked it in the shaggy dough stage. I have no idea what went wrong since the other things turned out perfectly. I think I’ll stick to my recipe I’ve been using weekly for six years for sandwich bread since I prefer the flavor of that anyways for sandwiches but I’m really excited to have this recipe for other things that normally need an enriched dough! I’ve never been satisfied with how my cinnamon rolls turned out until this batch!

      • kateschat

        Thats super interesting and I am so glad you shared your results! I tried it with 100% fresh ground yesterday and I definitely want to tweak a few things but it was still a really great loaf

      • Monica

        5 stars
        I used this to make hot dog and hamburger buns the other day, and I want to make a couple of loaves next. Do you have any pictures or videos of the loaf shaping method? I’m having some difficulty picturing how to fold the rectangle into a triangle… I’m also wondering why this shaping method?

    • Hope

      5 stars
      This recipe is great! Easy to make and the dough was perfect. Bread is delicious and so soft! I’ll definitely be using this recipe again and try it with some of the variations.

  • Sallie

    Mixed this up last night and just pulled my French bread and cinnamon rolls out a couple hours ago and can’t stop snacking on em… sooo fluffy and delicious

    • Chloe

      5 stars
      Great recipe for a soft sandwich bread! I doubled-mine and made one regular loaf as well as one cinnamon swirl. Didn’t do the pre-ferment either, just mixed the ingredients all together and it was delicious after sitting overnight, shaping in the morning, etc.
      I did want to note though that I made these in Arizona and because of our elevation, I only needed to bake them for ~28 minutes. In Utah I also find I don’t need to bake things for as long so adjust the times accordingly!

  • Kayla

    Do you punch it down and let it rise again after it has risen all night? Can I let it rise 3 hrs, punch it down, then let it rise over night, and shape in the morning? I want the cinnamon rolls for breakfast, don’t want to/don’t have time some days to wait the 4-6hrs for for extra rising time in the morning.
    I’m also making it with half fresh ground wheat and half all-purpose flour.

  • Katie Thompson

    Just want to make sure I’m reading this right…
    -Make the preferment. Sit on counter overnight.
    -Mix and knead dough. Let rise for 2-3 hours.
    -Punch down. Let rise for 2-3 hours.
    -Shape. Let rise 2-3 hours.
    Bake.

    3 rise times? Thank you!

  • Virginia Napoli

    Trying out this recipe! I am in the “Fold you rectangle so it’s now a triangle” step. Would love to see a picture or video of that next time you make it.

  • Wendy

    I made this bread yesterday. Light, fluffy and not sour, it is my new recipe of choice. I’m going to try it without milk but I think it should work great. Thank you Kate for another great recipe.

  • Katie T

    I made this a few days ago and I am in love! Made a regular loaf and rolls. This recipe is soo good. If you’ve been hunting for a soft sourdough recipe, this is it!! My whole fam is obsessed.

  • Charlotte

    Can I freeze this? It would be really nice to have master dough “ready” in the freezer to work with that I can just make cinnamon rolls or sandwich bread or dinner rolls with as needed.

  • Heather Amendt

    I love this recipe! I’ve made your sourdough sandwich bread for over a year and while my hubby liked it he said sometimes it made for a really heavy sandwich at lunch time. This bread loaf is SO light and soft, he loves it and the kids have been big fans so far too, can’t wait to do some more experimenting with it. Cinnamon buns are next on the agenda ?

  • Elizabeth

    So the sourdough for the preferment should be bubbly and active? I keep mine in the fridge since I don’t bake everyday, but for this recipe I’d want to feed it a few times before mixing the preferment, correct?

  • Janina

    Hi, that sounds delicious and I would love to try. Just one question: does anybody have experience with using rye starter and go on with wheat?
    Thank you for your help!

  • karenmouat@gmail.com

    Easy enough if you are used to making sourdough to incorporate the extra step. Totally worth it to be able to make bread for my mom who, at 81, finds regular sourdough bread crust hard to chew. Made the best grilled cheese sandwiches!!!

  • Katy

    Very pleased with the results from this recipe! Gorgeous loaf and a beautiful crumb, with a nice light barely sour flavor. I’m thinking it’ll make great grilled cheese and French toast! Next time I’m going to try adding some whole wheat bread flour for a little more substance, but I really like the method. Thanks!

  • brendamoore59

    I am so confused! What is the original starter? This sounds like you already had the starter made and now using it for your bread recipe. Was this preferment already feed for how long?

  • Amanda Fox

    I have been making double batches of this recipe for a 3 weeks now. The first week I was a little nervous about learning a new sourdough recipe because sourdough can still be overwhelming to me, but it really wasn’t that difficult. Another bonus is that my family loves it and they can be picky about sourdough.

  • Bella Jones

    I am a teen just learning how to do this homemade stuff (since I want to live like Kate when I’m grown and have a family) so this easy stuff is all such a great help. Thank you for making this so easy! I love you, Kate!

    ~Bella~

  • Janice Annau

    This is the best sourdough bread recipe I’ve ever tried and I’ve tried quite a few. The bread always turns out soft and perfect every time. Thank you so much!

  • Chaela

    Made this two days in a row! So good. First time with milk and two hour rise times. Second time with water and three hour rise times. Need to make two loves next time to have one wrap to make the crust softer and one to eat.

  • Charlotte Moon

    This is my absolute favourite bread recipe! Turns out great every time. I love that I can start my day with the good intention of baking bread and then by afternoon when I’m feeling like a delicious snack I can switch to baking cinnamon buns.. our cinnamon bun consumption has sky rocketed thanks to this recipe!

  • Jodie

    Is there a place in this process I could put the dough in the fridge for a longer fermentation (to reduce gluten even more)?

  • Krissy Burke

    I haven’t made this yet but first I’d like to say: Your directions are the most straightforward and unconfusingness (yes, I just made that word up) I’ve ever read.

    Second – can you use bakers dry milk in this, and if so, how?

  • Tiah

    1 star
    I’ve tried this recipe a couple times now but it just will not turn out for me. I get a beautiful rise each time (and I use a proofing box so it has a stable environment) but when I bake it, it doesn’t rise and it becomes this dense brick. Very disappointed… followed directions but something keeps going wrong.

  • Amanda Kay

    5 stars
    I tried this the other day and it was absolutely perfect!! Can’t wait to use it for more loaves and buns!
    The first time I did the preferment overnight and baked the loaf in one day. This time I already did a preferment this morning and would like to make the dough tonight to rise overnight. Just to clarify your overnight tweaks… I’ll mix the dough, knead 10-15 min, and then set out to rise overnight. Then In the morning I’ll punch down and move straight to the shaping instructions?

    • karenmouat@gmail.com

      Yes, you don’t have to do that other step if you’ve done an overnight ferment. Just made it last week and it worked perfectly. Even though I had to text Kate to confirm too!

  • Valerie Grace Putnam

    5 stars
    Literally my favorite Sourdough recipe! I love how this can be a “regular” loaf bread, how forgiving this dough is, and how I can adapt it in SO many ways to work with food sensitivities in my family! The size of the loaf is insane and gorgeous! Fantastic tasting bread that my whole family enjoys!

  • Kendra

    I am new to sourdough and am just making this recipe. I did the overnight rise and the top of my dough is stiff and crunchy. Did I do something wrong? The dough under looks amazing and isn’t sticky it’s just the top layer.

  • Cece

    Oh no! I did a pre ferment and then the next night I did an overnight rise… when I woke up the dough which was a beautiful kneaded lump ready to rise- was completely flat, and sticky! What happened?! I couldn’t even salvage it… it seems my starter eats so quickly?! Could that be it?!

    I am going to try again but maybe do the non overnight methods…

    • karenmouat@gmail.com

      Did it rise at all? Could it haven’t risen and fallen? If so try a shorter rising time and using cold milk to slow it down.

    • karenmouat@gmail.com

      This recipe is amazing. If you go to my instagram account and look in my highlights you will see a tutorial on making your own starter.

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