Part of the joy of bread-making, for me, is getting down and dirty with the flour and the water. But when my schedule won't allow it, I am not above taking help from a bread machine.
I'd never really considered buying a breadmaker until I came across one branded "Regal" four or five years ago at a yard sale. It was priced two dollars and the seller assured me it worked great. Besides, it appeared quite a steal compared to a plastic Iron Man face mask Jay pounced on that was priced a dollar more. 😉
I shelled out the money and brought the clunky contraption into my already crowded kitchen. Over the years I've pulled it out a few times to make bread when I don't have time to run to the store or make bread from scratch.
The machine, which does work very well, has been a pleasant revelation. I've made all kinds of breads in it, from white sandwich bread to whole wheat bread, and the result has usually been pretty good. Not so good that I was completely converted, but certainly good enough in a rush.
I had long been wanting to test out a sourdough loaf in the bread machine because some readers have asked for a recipe and also because it just seemed like an interesting idea. I was, once again, pleasantly surprised. The bread was delicious, with a cheesy, rich sourdough flavor and a lovely, tight-knit crumb that makes it great for sandwiches.
Why use a bread machine for sourdough bread?
For convenience. And for the fact that it's almost foolproof.
Making a sourdough bread can seem like a game of chance sometimes, because there are so many factors that go into making a successful loaf, from the weather to the flour you are using to the hydration of your sourdough starter. What works for one might not work for another.
With a machine, you don't really have to worry about any of that.
While newer machines have tons of settings, including manual settings that allow you to manage the rise time, the bake time and everything in between, a big part of the charm of making bread in a bread maker, for me, is the ability to just relinquish all control. If I have to worry about figuring out the timing for this and that, what's the point of automation?
How to make sourdough bread in a bread machine
It really couldn't be easier. I did some research into how to pull of an easy, hands-off sourdough bread machine recipe, got some inspiration from this one, and then waded smack-dab into the process.
I measured out two cupfuls of George, my precious, recently-fed sourdough starter, into the bread machine pan, along with flour, salt, oil and nondairy milk. Then, I shut the lid and set the bread maker to "French bread". Finally, I pushed the button.
Four hours later I had a fabulous loaf. It still needed to cool down, of course, but it was a real, true-blue loaf of sourdough bread.
Sure, it looks a bit weird, as most bread machine breads do. The baking pan of my bread maker is square, squat and chubby, and so are the loaves. But once you get used to them they appear rather cute and never fail to make me smile.
You can determine the color of your crust on most breadmakers and I'd recommend setting it to "light." Sourdough loaves tend to have great color but can be crusty. This way you will get a decent color but a softer crust, one that will work for sandwiches. The crust will harden up if your bread lasts more than a day, but read on to see how you can freshen it up again.
Why do you add yeast to this sourdough loaf?
To help it rise quickly. When you make a sourdough bread, you typically need two rises, including an overnight rise, because the natural yeast in sourdough are slower to act than those in added active dry yeast. The payoff with the slow rise is great flavor, but if you're strapped for time and need a loaf in a few hours, you can't really plan on making a sourdough bread the traditional way.
In this bread machine recipe you get the best of both worlds--a quick loaf with a great flavor--in a third or less of the time. Plus, you don't have to do any of the kneading, shaping, etc.
How long can I store the bread?
It's always best to consume homemade breads the day they are made, or within a day or two, as they do not contain preservatives, like storebought breads do.
That said, this loaf lasts in the refrigerator, wrapped or bagged, for at week or so. The crust is soft the day you bake it, but it tends to harden a bit over subsequent days. If that happens, place the bread in a brown paper bag, spray the bag with water, and place in a preheated oven. Heat five to 10 minutes or until the bread feels soft and fresh again.
Yes. You can use a sourdough discard that was fed a week or less ago, but not one that's been sitting around in the refrigerator for a long time without feeding.
You can try subbing a cup of the all purpose flour with whole wheat flour.
The oil--there are just two tablespoons in the recipe--helps keep the loaf soft. Making it without oil is possible but it will result in a crustier crust and a drier crumb.
This is an important question because it will determine how much liquid (milk) you will need in the recipe. My starter uses ¾ths cup of water for each cup of flour, and this recipe is designed for that hydration level.
If you use a sourdough starter with less or more hydration, adjust the amount of liquid accordingly.
More sourdough bread recipes
Bread Machine Sourdough Bread
- Add all the ingredients to the breadmaker pan in the order listed above.
- Set the breadmaker to the "French bread" setting,if it has one, or to the whole-wheat bread setting.
- Press start. Once the bread is done let it cool on the rack for a few minutes before unmolding. Continue cooling it on the rack.