These Sourdough Sandwich Loaves have become part of the weekly rhythm in my kitchen this winter. I’ve been working hard to gather step-by-step pictures and tips for success so that you can make it too. If you’ve been wanting to learn to make sourdough bread, I would encourage you to go for it! It’s the most delicious bread I’ve ever made. I find the slow but steady process of letting the bread come together in its time very therapeutic.
Sourdough requires much more patience than other breads, and you just can’t rush it. Over time, you will learn to get to know the right look and feel of your bread at each stage, and you’ll come to find comfort in the steady, faithful rise.
If you are just starting out your sourdough journey, these are some great places to begin your research. Emilie from The Clever Carrot has a very helpful post about getting started, and a great cookbook to add to your collection. King Arthur Baking has well written articles, baking supplies, and many recipes.
Let’s make bread! To start our dough, we mix active, bubbly sourdough starter with lukewarm water, measuring precisely in grams with a kitchen scale. Tare or zero the scale in between each addition of oil, flour, salt, and dry malt powder.
These are all the ingredients we need to make sourdough bread! Whisk the ingredients together to form a shaggy dough. You may still have some bits of flour that won’t quite incorporate. You don’t have to worry about getting everything perfectly smooth at this point. Cover the dough, and let it rest for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes have passed, we will start our “stretch and folds”. This will strengthen the gluten in our bread, allowing it to have a good structure and rise well in the oven. I think of the dough in four quadrants for this part. All you need to do is pull each corner of the dough up as far as you can, and then fold it over the top and tuck it under.
Repeat this for the remaining three “quadrants” or corners of the dough. Then cover the dough, and let it rest in a warm place for another hour. Repeat the “stretch and folds”, cover, and rest. And then do it one more time for a total of three “stretch and folds”.
After the third “stretch and fold” the dough is ready for its bulk rise. Cover the dough, and let it rise for 4-12 hours. It needs to double in size, and the warmer the environment is, the faster it will rise.
Note: You can also pause or delay your bread proofing process if needed by keeping the dough in the refrigerator. You can keep it chilled for up to three days before resuming the process and baking. This time in the refrigerator will count as your “bulk rise”, so when you take it out it is ready for shaping.
Once the dough has finished its bulk rise, use a dough scraper to pull it out of the bowl onto a lightly floured surface. Pull it into a loose rectangle shape, trying not to flatten the air out of the dough. Fold the short ends of the rectangle toward the center, and then roll the dough from the long end closest to you to the opposite side. Place the shaped loaf into the greased loaf pan.
Note: This is another point you can delay baking the bread if needed. If you didn’t place the dough in the refrigerator for the bulk rise, you can place the shaped dough into the loaf pans, cover, and chill until ready to bake for up to three days. I usually bake one loaf that day and place one shaped loaf in the fridge to bake three days later.
If you want to bake the same day, then cover the loaf pan, and let it rise in a warm place one more time. This time we need the dough to rise about an inch over the top of the pan.
When the dough is ready to go into the preheated 375 degree oven (move the rack down to the center or lower third), sprinkle a bit of flour over the top and gently spread it over the surface. Use a bread lame or very sharp knife to cut a 1/2 inch deep slash into the top of the bread (from short end to short end).
Our bread will take about 30-33 minutes to bake. Can you believe the rise on that beauty!?! Patience pays off, my friends! At this point, our bread is baked through, crusty and golden brown, and ready to come out of the oven. I let it cool in the pan for 5 minutes, brush the top with butter, and then turn it out onto a cooling rack to cool completely before cutting. So hard to wait!
If you prefer a crispier crust, skip the step of brushing it with butter. I find it makes cutting the bread easier when the crust is softer.
There is nothing like a thick slice of freshly baked sourdough bread with butter and jelly. I look forward to it every morning and it makes me so happy to know that there’s always a happy little loaf waiting for me on the kitchen counter.
So that’s how we make sourdough bread! This post is extra long because I’m trying to give you every helpful bit of information I can think of, but please don’t be overwhelmed! While baking sourdough bread does have a learning curve, requires patience, and happens slowly, the actual hands-on time is very short. Most of the time is spent letting the dough do its thing while you go about your day.
I’ve made this recipe at least 25 times this winter, and it’s become very second nature to me. I hope you’ll find the instruction and encouragement you need here, and that it will bring you joy to learn a new skill.
Kitchen scale – I would not attempt to make sourdough bread without a kitchen scale.
Dough Whisk – This tool is very helpful in bringing any dough together, not just sourdough.
Bowl scraper – I love using a dough scraper because there is less dough waste, and it makes cleaning up easier.
Bench scraper – This tool is helpful in cutting dough into portions, transferring shaped loaves to the pan, and cleaning up a floured work surface. I use this tool almost every day!
Bread Lame – This tool will give you sharp cuts in the top of the bread so that steam can vent as it bakes.
Dry Malt Powder – This ingredient is very helpful in giving your breads better lift in the oven. It also helps with flavor and browning. I keep it in the fridge and it lasts a very long time. Some bread flours may already have malt added to them, so check your ingredient label.
Tips and Tricks
Oven Proof Setting
Whenever the dough is rising, it needs to be in a warm place (about 85 degrees). I find that using my oven proof setting is perfect. Usually, I will turn it on for the first hour or two of the rise, and then turn it off, but leave the oven door closed to hold in the warmth. You can also try just keeping the oven light on.
Keeping the Dough From Drying Out
If the top of the dough dries out, it will form a crust and prevent the dough from freely rising. I have tried a few different ways to keep the dough from drying out. A damp kitchen towel is an option, but it can dry and stick to the top of the dough. Plastic wrap is another option, but it can also stick to the top of the shaped loaf and you have to be very careful when lifting it off that you don’t deflate the dough.
I tend to use the lid to one of my pots to cover the bowl during the bulk rise, and then when the shaped dough is rising in the loaf pan, I place it inside one of my old Tupperware bowls. Just be careful not to accidentally turn the oven on with it inside! Since I make the bread so often, I like using something that isn’t disposable.
When your starter is active and bubbly, you know it’s ready to use. If it has doubled in size since feeding, it’s ready. It will also float on top of the water when you are making your dough.
Bread Flour Versus All-Purpose Flour
I always use bread flour when making sourdough. It has a higher protein content, which will help with gluten formation. This results in a better texture in your baked bread.
Freezing Sourdough Bread
You can freeze a completely cooled, well-wrapped loaf for up to three months with great results. I like to slice my loaves into thick slices and freeze them so that I can just take one slice out at a time and put it straight into the toaster to thaw and toast.
Possible Timelines – One Day
8am – Dough is mixed together
8:30am – Dough has its first rest
9am – Stretch and Fold #1
10am – Stretch and Fold #2
11am – Stretch and Fold #3 and then bulk rise
4pm – Dough is shaped and placed in loaf pans, then second rise
7pm – Dough is ready to bake
7:30pm – Bread is cooling overnight and ready to slice in the morning
Possible Timelines – Two Days
8am – Dough is mixed together
8:30am – Dough has its first rest
9am – Stretch and Fold #1
10am – Stretch and Fold #2
11am – Stretch and Fold #3 and then bulk rise (4-12 hours)
4pm – Dough is shaped and placed in loaf pans, then covered and placed in the fridge until ready to let rise and bake (1-3 days later)
When ready to bake anytime in the next three days, place the shaped dough in a warm place to rise, then bake as directed.
The dough can also be placed in the fridge anytime during the bulk rise, to resume rising at a more convenient time.
Did you make this recipe?
Please let me know how it turned out for you! Leave a comment below and share a picture on Instagram with the hashtag #lovelylittlekitchen
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- 400 grams lukewarm water
- 225 grams active bubbly sourdough starter
- 40 grams oil (I use olive or avocado)
- 750 grams bread flour
- 15 grams salt
- 8 grams dry malt powder
- Use a kitchen scale to measure 400 grams of water into a large bowl. Add 225 grams of active bubbly starter to the water (it should float on the water) and whisk together.
- Add 40 grams oil, 750 grams bread flour, 15 grams salt, and 8 grams malt powder. Whisk together until a shaggy dough forms.
- Scrape down the sides of the bowl, and then cover and place in the oven with the light on, or the bread proof setting for 30 minutes.
- Uncover the dough, and do a series of “stretch and folds”, pulling one edge of the dough as high as it will go, and then folding it over the top of the dough and tucking it under. Stretch and fold each “quadrant” of the dough in the bowl, and then cover and return to a warm place. Repeat the “stretch and fold” process two more times, allowing the dough to rest an hour in between each “stretch and fold”.
- After the third “stretch and fold”, let the dough proof for 4-12 hours, covered, in a warm place.
- Scrape the dough out of the bowl and pour it onto a floured work surface. Divide it evenly into two parts (750 grams each).
- Press the dough sections into a rectangle shape (don’t use a rolling pin), then fold the edges toward the center and roll into a log shape. Transfer the dough to a surface without flour, and tighten the shape of the loaf by pressing the dough against the counter as you pull it toward you. Repeat with the other half of the dough.
- Place the shaped dough into a greased, standard sized loaf pan. Cover and let rise until the dough is about an inch over the top of the loaf pan, about 2-6 hours. Be patient!
- Move the oven rack to the center or lower third so the top of the loaf won’t brown too much, and then preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- Dust the top of the bread loaves gently with a bit of flour, and then slash the top with a bread lame about 1/2 inch deep.
- Bake the loaves at 375 degrees for 30-33 minutes. Let them cool in the pan for 5 minutes, brush the tops with butter, and then turn them out onto a cooling rack.
- Allow the bread to cool completely before slicing with a serrated knife. We find it is easier to cut when the loaf is turned onto its side.
- Depending on the humidity in your climate, this bread will stay fresh for 2-3 days. It can be sliced, frozen, and then toasted with delicious results! You can also freeze a whole loaf, cooled completely, and wrapped airtight, for up to 3 months.
- Serving Size: 1 Slice
- Calories: 145
- Sugar: 0.3g
- Sodium: 244mg
- Fat: 2.3g
- Saturated Fat: 0.3g
- Unsaturated Fat: 1.7g
- Trans Fat: 0g
- Carbohydrates: 26g
- Fiber: 1.1g
- Protein: 4.3g
- Cholesterol: 0mg