You don’t have to hike to San Francisco, or even to the corner bakery, for a good loaf of sourdough. Make it yourself in an afternoon with this great trick that cuts time and risk but delivers big on flavor. Use this loaf for sandwiches, sliced thick beside a bowl of soup or just drizzled with butter and honey for an afternoon snack.
The secret? Two ways to make it rise.
Traditional sourdough bread uses only sourdough starter culture, a natural yeast. It yields a rich flavor. But natural leavening is much fussier than commercial yeast. It takes more time. The temperature has to be just right, and so does your starter culture. Any glitches along the way and sourdough can turn out more like a brick than a bread loaf.
Our recipe gives you the tangy flavor of sourdough starter plus the fast, reliable rise of active dry yeast. The result is two luscious loaves with light, airy crumb structure. The sourdough starter still will have to be made ahead of time, so build in a week to be safe (Step 1 below). But once it’s going, the rest is easy!
How to Make Easy Sourdough Bread
- 2 packages (1/4 ounce each) active dry yeast
- 1-1/4 cups warm water (110° to 115°)
- 1 cup sourdough starter, recently fed and roughly doubled in size
- 2 large eggs
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 6 to 6-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
- Melted butter
Step 1: Make a Sourdough Starter
Don’t be intimidated! Our Test Kitchen has a version that’s incredibly easy and quick to make. Once it’s ready, come back.
Step 2: Build Up Your Yeast
In a large bowl, dissolve active dry yeast in warm water. Wait for the liquid to get creamy, then add the sourdough starter. This should yield a foamy, rich-smelling mix.
Step 3: Blend the Ingredients
Add the eggs, sugar, oil, salt and 3 cups of the flour. Beat in a stand mixer or with a wooden spoon until smooth.
Step 4: Add the Remaining Flour to Make a Dough
Stir in the remaining flour a bit at a time until you have a soft dough. It should feel slightly sticky. As you knead, it will come together more.
Step 5: Knead
Turn the dough onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease the top of the bread.
Cover the bowl with a towel or loose plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about one hour.
Test Kitchen Tip: You can slow down this rising by putting the dough in a cooler place. The longer it rises, the more sour flavor will develop.
Step 6: Shape
Punch the risen dough down. Lightly flour a surface and turn the dough onto it. Divide in half. (We prefer a bench scraper for this.) With your palms, shape the dough into loaves. Place each in a greased 8×4-in. loaf pan. Cover.
Step 7: Second Rise
Let the dough rise again until doubled, about 45 minutes.
Test Kitchen Tips: Preheat your oven to 375° toward the end of the rising so you can slide the dough in at peak height.
To get the best rise when the bread is put in the oven, place a cast-iron skillet on the bottom rack as the oven preheats. After placing the bread on the rack above, carefully pour about 1/3 cup of water into the skillet. This will help to produce steam and create a moist environment, which will give the bread a better chance of rising to great heights and will help to brown the crust.
Step 8: Bake
Bake at 375° for 30-35 minutes, or until golden brown.
Step 9: Cool and Enjoy
Remove from pans to wire racks to cool. Brush the loaves with butter for an extra-rich flavor.