Kate’s Soft Sourdough Master Recipe
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 with plastic wrap or a plastic bag 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 with plastic wrap or a plastic bag 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 with plastic wrap or a plastic bag 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 with plastic wrap or a plastic bag 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 with a tea towel 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.
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.
I havent tried it yet but I want to. Let me know if you do!
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!
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
I use the same fresh ground wheat and it’s worked well for me.
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?
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.
When making the pre-ferment do you out in a jar and cover?
I put it in a measuring cup or bowl with cover.
Do you have a link for a starter recipe? So glad to have found your website!
I don’t have link, but in my stories on Instagram I go over getting a sourdough starter going. (It’s an older story)
Probably my favorite sourdough bread recipe. I had to ration it out so I will probably double.
Oh yes always double or triple!!
Is this dough supposed to rise much in the oven?? Just made a loaf and it rose perfectly through all the stages but didn’t rise at all during baking (even with slashing the top). Still totally usable, but i always struggle with getting a good sourdough sandwich bread for this reason.
It should rise in the oven.
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
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!
That is great to note the difference elevation can make.
How much starter did you use?
It starts with the preferment that uses 1/2 cup of starter
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.
I havent tried that but thats a great idea, let me know how it goes! I will try it too
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.
3 rise times? Thank you!
Yes its part of what makes it rise so good!
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.
I used stoneground wholemeal flour and turned out very dense. Maybe I should of used white flour for a better result.
Yes you need to treat wholemeal flour a little different…I’m working on those tweaks.
Have you ever used a gluten free flour? I’m new to bread making and usually just use a light 1 to 1 for baking/breads. Not quite ready to test our Gf sensitivities with reg flour.
No I haven’t ever made it gluten free and not aware of anyone who has.
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.
The milk fats and sugars do add to it, but I’m sure it will be delcious!
Mine didn’t seem to rise a ton overnight, is it still OK to try it?
I would still go through the process only punch it down that extra time (that you don’t normally need with an overnight rise)
What size of loaf pan do you use for the sandwich bread?
I use an 4×8 pan.
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.
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.
Sourdough doesnt freeze well unbaked, the yeasts get too weakened. Freeze them already baked and they thaw well
I’m going to try with my einkorn starter and einkorn flour…. fingers crossed
Let me know how you make out. It’s trickier using different flours but not impossible!
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 ?
Gotta make cinnamon buns, yes!!
I used this recipe to make a French bread today. It turned out so beautiful and yummy!!! Can’t wait for breakfast and some avocado toast!
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?
If your starter is just in the fridge but not deeply neglected in the fridge, just once feeding before hand should wake it up enough.
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!
You could totally use rye starter IMO
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!!!
Mmmm you’ve got me wanting a grilled cheese! Also, I’m pretty sure Grandma is older than 81…
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!
I don’t have mother dough. And I don’t have good experiences trying to make my sourdough. Is there a possible variation on this recipe using instant yeast instead of sourdough?
This is a great recipe.
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?
Do you have a sourdough starter?
This is my go to weekly bread. I’ve tried so many different recipes but this is my families favorite by far! Thank you!
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.
If I start the preferment at night, is it ok to let it rise overnight the next night or better to start the preferment in the morning if I want an overnight rise for the bread? I hope this makes sense.
Either way works great, sorry i missed your comment!
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!
This is so exciting to me! You’re way ahead of the game
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!
Has anyone tried making this with Einkorn flour??
Not that I know of. My understanding is einkorn needs less liquid if you need a starting point to test.
I’m wondering the same thing! Just got some organic einkorn as I just learned it’s so much better for us to digest with the enzymes in it?! Any updates from anyone who has tried?
Sorry, still no one using einkorn in this recipe that I know of.
If you are doing the overnight method, do you just leave on the counter or in the fridge?
Counter unless hot
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.
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!
Would whey (from strained yogurt) be a good milk sub in this recipe?
Any idea how this works if you make it dairy free? So sub dairy free butter and almond milk?
I’ve made this recipe about 5 times using an organic butter substitute called Melt and either Oat milk or Almond milk. I still get amazing results.
I used this recipe to make French bread last night. Sooooo good and beautiful too!
Is there a place in this process I could put the dough in the fridge for a longer fermentation (to reduce gluten even more)?
After kneading, pop in fridge.
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?
Thank you so much! And for dry milk, could you just mix with the water in place of milk?
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.
If you want to email me i could help troubleshoot it. I’m yet to have anyone else say it fails for them. firstname.lastname@example.org
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?
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
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!
It is an amazing recipe!! We are so glad people are enjoying it as much as we do.
Could I use fresh bubbly starter instead of making a separate preferment? Would I just use 1 and 2/3 cups of it if so?
Yes, a preferment is essentially just that. Its a runnier ‘starter’ than I usually maintain is the biggest difference. I would normally feed my stareter muffin batter thickness, and this is thinner.
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.
Re-wet your tea towel and put it overtop for a few minutes and it will soften back up
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…
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.
Hands down, the best sourdough sandwich bread recipe I have ever used! My husband commented on how soft and “squishy” it is- like bakery quality white bread, which is super high praise from him! I love how simple this recipe is. Currently I’m making it in one day but treating it as overnight (I made the preferment last night).
I’ve made this recipe several time and it’s always delicious, but I’m not getting that incredibly high rise. It’s rising, but not nearly as high as in the pictures. I’m wondering if maybe i need to adjust the rise rime? My starter is good and strong and this isn’t a major problem, but I would like to see if I can make my bread taller. Thanks for any help you can give!
Would this work if baked in a Pullman loaf pan with the lid on? (13in x 4in size pan).
I’ve never tried!
We’ve never tried using a Pullman loaf. Maybe you could try and let us know?
Recipe sounds amazing as do the comments. Problem though, how do you make a starter?
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.
Hi. Have been making sour dough bread for years and just recently my Dentist told me to eat a softer bread so am looking forward to trying this recipe. You keep your house at 60 my wife wants it little warmer, 69. My preferment was done as you said but this morning it looks a little spent. Should I have put it in the fridge overnight. What do you do in the summer time with your preferment. Thanks. Jim
I would use cold water to slow it down.
I’m new to this. I have an established starter. Usually for bread I would do 1/2 cup flour 1/2 cup water and 1 heaping Tablespoon of starter. For this recipe I want to make sure that when making my preferment I use 1/2 cup four 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup STARTER (not the usual 1 tablespoon) is this correct? Then let it still out for 8-12 hours before you start mixing the dough?
I love the idea of softer dough ??
I quit. My starter is beautiful. But when I make the dough, what a dud! I’ve tried the overnight rise. Nothing. I’ve tried the baked in the morning. No rise. Nothing. Nada. Lump of dough in the bowl. Have machine kneaded. Kneaded by hand. Sat om counter. Kitchen is right around 70 degrees. Sat bowl on top of gas range thinking maybe the pilot would be warmer. Zip! Setting on a heating pad on low. Zilch. Frustrated beyond belief.
I’ve been on a quest to find a recipe that would produce a great soft sourdough French bread that is like the bread I grew up on in the San Francisco Bay Area. This recipes produces the soft sourdough French bread that I’ve been after. I bulked for about 6 hours and had a very happy dough that more than doubled. Preshaped and bench rested for 15 minutes, then shaped and put in bannetons and left for about 45 minutes. I could see it starting to rise a bit. Covered and refrigerated for about 28-30 hours. I got the extra sour flavor that I was after, but not a great rise. Any suggestions for adding a cold retardation in this recipe?
This is my go to weekly bread. I’ve tried so many different recipes but this is my families favorite by far! Thank you!
I have no idea why I waited so long to try this recipe. I got a perfect loaf on the first try! I even had to hand knead because I loaned out my dough hook. This will now be on regular rotation in our house. Can’t wait to try all the variations!
Wow well done!!!
what size pan are you using to make this loaf?
I use a 4×8 inch pan
Hi Kate, If I were only making one loaf, what is the best size loaf pan to use? Thanks for all you trials and experimentation to get us all such an awesome recipe!
I find my 4×8 pan works best.
Hey there! I’m so excited for this recipe! So I did the overnight method, but accidentally put it in the fridge to rise rather than the counter, and by this morning hasn’t risen much. Should I let it rise on the counter today and try baking it tonight, keep it in the fridge to see if it’ll rise, or start over?
Let it come up to room temperature on the counter. It should rise for you.
Will you be updating with freshly ground flour tweaks? Thanks, Kathy
Love this recipe! Has anyone tried spelt flour?
I’ve tried it in combination with organic white. I think Kate has played with the amounts and fermentation times using fresh ground wheat.
AMAZING recipe! I’m so happy with the results. It rose really well, was super fluffy, soft, and yielded big slices. Perfect! My family ate over half a loaf just with dinner. Hehe. I’m making 2 more tomorrow!