Easy Recipe for Sourdough Bread using a Bread Machine

I've been making a lot of sourdough bread using a machine. Here is my simple recipe.

First you need to get a bread machine. I think the main advantage of getting a fancy one would be so you could customize the times for each action (rise time, wait time, etc). I get along fine with my Sunbeam machine.

Next you need a sourdough starter. A starter is typically half flour and half water. You can create your own from the bacteria in the air by having a cup of flour and a cup of water in a glass jar. I like to cover it with a paper cloth so that it breathes, but not too much. This will start to go sour within a week or so and you will have a starter!

Or you can get a sourdough starter from a friend, an enemy, the Yukon, or a website.

Once you have a starter you need to care for it. I've never killed a starter - so I wouldn't worry about this too much. You need to regularly feed the starter with a mixture of flour and water (50/50). How often you feed it depends on how warm it is. If you are storing it in 80 degrees during the summer, you might want to feed it every day. Whereas if you are storing it at 60 degrees in the winter it can probably go for a week. If you store it in the fridge, the culture will slow its growth to near zero and you will be able to feed it even less.

I recommend putting your starter in a new container if it gets moldy. You may occasionally see some white mold starting - especially on the part of the starter that is dried up (and not covered by the acid liquid). In general, the acid in the culture will kill the mold.

Now to make bread I use half of my starter. I mix that with around 3 cups of bread flour (important to use - higher gluten than regular flour) and almost a cup of water. Normally you'd use 3 cups of flour and a little bit more than a cup of water (one cup and two tablespoons) - but if you are adding a watery starter mix you don't need as much water. I add a tablespoon or so of olive oil.

I mix this in the bread machine on any setting that does mixing for 1-3 minutes. The goal is to make sure it isn't too wet or too dry. I add flour/water as needed.

Once it is mixed, I add 2 tsp of yeast and 1 1/4 tsp of salt. I then let the dough sit for 3-8 hours before baking it (more in the winter, and less in the summer). If you let it sit too long in the summer then it will over-proof and the yeast will have used up its strength by the time it comes to bake. The Sunbeam bread machine lets you program it to wait - and this setting is extremely helpful as it lets the sourdough culture spread through the dough and maximize flavor.

I use the regular yeast, because in my experience the sourdough culture is either good at causing the dough to rise OR it tastes good - rarely does it do both. So the yeast is an insurance.

If you bake a lot of bread, you can buy a pound of yeast for very cheap on Amazon or possibly a co-op.

I've also made sourdough pizza (or regular pizza) and I love using the bread machine's dough setting to take care of the kneading and rising.

Now the best way to make bread is to use an oven capable of higher temperature, a bread stone and to create a humid environment for the crust by having some boiling water in the oven. There are great Youtube videos on this subject. However, you can make great tasting sourdough with a bread machine and I'm not sure if the extra work is worth it.