Make This Easy Sourdough Bread Recipe and Leave Store Bread Behind

With its chewy crust, airy crumb structure and soaring rise, this easy sourdough bread may just become a regular in your rotation. Our Test Kitchen's recipe uses a clever trick to make the bread foolproof.

By Kelsey Mueller, Senior Digital Editor and James Schend, Food Editor

A loaf of sourdough bread on a wooden cutting board with slices resting next to it. Behind it is a piece of toast smothered in jam.

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

You'll need:

  • 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.

Sourdough starter sits in a large glass bowl beside an open yeast packet

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.

person pouring sourdough starter from a measuring cup into the mixture

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.

person testing bread dough consistency with their hands

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.

person kneading bread dough

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.

bread dough sits in a large glass bowl rising

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 8x4-in. loaf pan. Cover.

bread dough sitting in two metal bread pans to rise

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.

two loaves of bread sit in an open oven as a person pours water in a skillet below

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.

While this recipe yields a crusty sandwich bread, you can use your sourdough starter to bake all types of bread, from French loaves to biscuits.