0 Easy, Soft Sourdough Sandwich Bread

I love a crusty loaf of artisan sourdough bread, but this soft, tender, sliceable sourdough bread is perfect for an every day sandwich bread! The dough is silky soft and so easy to work with. I have made several loaves and hamburger buns with it. It doesn't have the overly sour tang, but it still has a great flavor.
This recipe from King Arthur Flour. This is an easy and simple recipe, but has a couple of specialty ingredients that I did not have on hand, so I adapted it with great results.

It took me by surprise that this recipe calls for two teaspoons of yeast. The reason for this is two fold:
  1. It speeds up the rising process, and
  2. It keeps the flavor very mild (not overly sour).
So, why use the sourdough starter if yeast is used?
Sourdough starter adds flavor, increases dough strength, and enhances the shelf life of the bread. I'm also certain that the acidic qualities of the starter also tenderize the bread for a softer texture.
This recipe is also an "enriched" bread that has milk, butter and sugar, so it is possible that the addition of yeast helps.
Next time, I will omit the yeast (as long as my starter is active), and see how it turns out. I may also try adding 1/4 teaspoon of citric acid, which will increase the tang of the bread, allowing me a shorter rising time.
"Fed" starter on the left, Making Levain on my OXO digital scale.

The first thing the recipe has you make is a levain. Levain is French for "starter," but in this case, it means what you use for the recipe, not what you keep in the fridge to store as your starter. If you have never made a sourdough starter, you can find my step by step process here.

The levain uses a "fed" sourdough starter. This means using a sourdough starter that has been fed within the last 12 hours. I remove 2 oz of starter and feed it with a 1:1:1 ratio, meaning 2 oz starter, 2 oz water, 2 oz flour. Any remaining starter goes into a "Discard" jar for using in pancakes, waffles or crepes.
TIP: Using a digital kitchen scale is VERY HELPFUL when making bread, ensuring you get consistent results each and every time. If you don't have a kitchen scale, you can use this chart to convert the measurements. Be sure to stir or fluff up your flour before using a measuring cup!
TIP: Feed your starter in the morning, and use it to make the levain in the evening, the night before you want to make bread, as it can take up to 12 hours at 70°F to double or ripen. This will allow you more time to make your bread during the day. Use an elastic or hair ponytail holder on the jar to mark the initial level of your starter. You can see in the picture above that my "fed" starter has doubled, and is ready to make levain.

Levain doubled and ready to use. Dough smooth and elastic. Dough proofed and ready to shape.

Milk vs Dry/Instant Powdered Milk
Once the levain has doubled, you can make your bread dough by hand or in a stand mixer with a dough hook. The recipe calls for Special Dry Milk or instant powdered milk, but I choose to use fresh milk and warm it up in my microwave with the butter to 90°-100°F. A thermometer is handy, but not necessary, as you can stick a clean finger into your milk and see if it's "baby bottle warm," not too hot, not too cool.
Special Dry Milk is powdered milk that is heated to a higher temperature and used in many commercial bakeries. You can easily use powdered milk, if you have that on hand. Powdered milk is expensive where I live and goes rancid easily (I store it in my freezer for a longer shelf life), and using fresh milk worked well in this recipe.

The ingredients came together, making a soft, smooth dough that wasn't sticky.
TIP: If you find that your dough is sticky, try kneading it for an additional 5-10 minutes.

Proofing means letting the dough rise till double. You can find some great tips for proofing your bread dough in your microwave, oven, or even your Instant Pot pressure cooker here. Using an Instant Pot with a Yogurt setting has been so helpful for the first rise. Having a perfectly warm environment will help your dough rise more quickly.

Since this bread makes two loaves, I decided to use half of the dough to make hamburger buns. I cut 4 oz portions and shaped them into balls, another great reason to have a digital scale! Dough is ready to bake with it has risen about 1" above the rim of the 8x4 loaf pan or doubled in size.
Bake in your preheated oven for 30-35 min (15-20 min for hamburger buns)
TIP: Lightly spray your clean counter with oil spray instead of using flour while rolling and shaping. If you have a natural stone (granite) counter, make sure it is sealed; otherwise it will soak up the oil. For a "floured" look, I dusted the tops of my shaped dough with all purpose flour.
TIP: Cover the dough lightly with plastic wrap while shaping, to prevent them from drying out.
Allow the dough to come to about double in size and bake in your preheated oven.
TIP: Use the correct loaf pan size for your recipe. I really like the medium 8"x4" loaf pan size, as the slices fit nicely in a sandwich size baggie. Lightly grease your pans, even if they are non-stick.
TIP: Immediately remove your bread from their pans and place them on a cooling rack. Resist the urge to cut into hot bread as it is still cooking inside. Cool completely before slicing!

I love, love, LOVE this bread and will make it many more times! It is giving me an incentive to keep my starter fed weekly (Friday Feed Day) and experimenting with new recipes.
Egg Salad Sandwich
Juicy Hamburger Patties
Corn Chowder
Egg Salad Sandwich using hard boiled eggs made in my Instant Pot

Juicy Hamburger Patties on a Soursough bun

Corn Chowder made with frozen corn cooked in my Instant Pot

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Sourdough Sandwich Bread-
This soft, tender & chewy sourdough bread is perfect for sandwiches, hamburger buns or dinner rolls. Refresh (feed) your starter (2 oz of each: starter, water, flour) in the morning and make your levain with it the night before, allowing you to bake your bread the next day.
  • 3 Tablespoons (44g) fed sourdough starter
  • 1/2 cup +1 Tablespoon (128g) room temp water
  • 1 cup +1 Tablespoon (128g) unbleached all purpose or bread flour
  • All the levain
  • 1 1/2 cups (360g) milk*
  • 4 Tablespoons butter or margarine, cut into 4-8 pieces
  • 5 1/4 cups (631g) unbleached all purpose or bread flour
  • 2 teaspoons of instant yeast**
  • 1/4 cup (50g) granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
1. Make the levain: Mix the fed starter, water, and flour together in a glass or food safe plastic container (with room to double), and cover lightly with plastic wrap. It will take about 12 hours to double at room temperature.2. Make the dough: Put the levain in a bowl or stand mixer.3. Put the milk and butter into a medium bowl and warm it in the microwave (50% power 4 minutes), until butter is almost melted. You can also use the stove warm the milk, if desired. Temperature should be between 90°F- 100°F.4. Pour this mixture into the bowl of levain.5. Add the flour, yeast, sugar and salt on top.6. Using a dough hook and the lowest setting of your mixer, gradually increasing to the next setting, knead the dough until dough cleans the sides of the bowl & you have a smooth and slightly tacky dough (not wet or sticky).7. Place the dough into a lightly greased bowl, turning over to coat, and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise in a warm, draft free place until doubled, about 1-2 hours. 8. Divide the dough in half and shape into two 8" logs, pinching seams closed. Place dough seam side down into lightly greased 8"x4" loaf pans. Cover lightly with plastic wrap. Let the shaped loaves rise until they are about 1" above the rim of the pan, about an hour.10. Preheat the oven to 375°F and bake for 30-35 minutes, covering the tops loosely with aluminum foil during the last 10 minutes to prevent over browning. Immediately remove from loaf pans and place on a cooling rack. Let cool completely before slicing.
Hamburger Buns: Divide dough into 12 equal portions (4 oz), forming into balls, pinching seams closed and placing on lightly greased baking sheet, seam side down. Bake in preheated 375°F oven for 15-20 minutes.
Dinner Rolls: Divide dough into 24 equal portions (2oz), put on lightly greased baking sheet, and bake in a preheated 375°F oven for 12-14 minutes.
*Replace with instant powdered milk (6Tablespoons or 50g) and 1 1/2 cups room temp water

**Can omit instant yeast, but plan on adding more rising time, about 4-5 hours till double.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 2 loaves, 12 buns or 24 rolls


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