I love sandwiches, but the perfect sandwich bread has always escaped me. For years, I’d try recipes that promised amazing sandwich bread, but every time, something would go wrong. The bread would crumble when sliced, making the slices unusable for BLTs and PB&Js. Or the bread would have too much flavor, so the deli meat, cheese, and other toppings would have to compete with the bread for my attention. Or worse yet, the bread would have no flavor at all, and my sandwich would taste like I had made it with two pieces of cardboard.
But today I am pleased to share with you the ultimate sourdough sandwich bread.
It slices beautifully, no matter if you like thick chunks of bread or pieces so thin you can almost see through them. It has a subtle, yet complex sourdough flavor, just enough to leave you craving more but not so much that you can’t taste the rest of your sandwich. And better still, even amateur bakers like myself can make it with a little time and patience.
Just look at that slice!
It has those delightful air pockets that make the bread soft and fluffy and chewy. But it also has a tight structure, so it holds together when you cut it.
My husband and I love this sourdough bread so much, we’re considering on making it every week rather than buying bread from the store.
Prep time: 20 to 30 minutes
Rise time: 3 to 4 hours
Cook time: 35 to 40 minutes
Total time: Approximately 4 to 5 Hours
This recipe doesn’t require any fancy seasonings or fruit to give it flavor. Rather, all the flavor comes from the starter. All you need for this recipe are the following:
- 2 Cups Sourdough Starter*
- 1 1/2 Teaspoons Dry Active Yeast
- 1 1/4 Cups Water
- 1 Tablespoon Kosher Salt
- 4 Cups All-Purpose Flour
*Almost any sourdough starter will work for this recipe. However, you may need to adjust your flour and water ratios to match what I use. My starter ratio is 1:1 with equal parts water and flour.
Furthermore, If you don’t have kosher salt, you can use regular table salt, though you’ll want slightly less than a tablespoon. You’ll also want a little extra flour for dusting your countertop while you knead the dough.
If you want to make sourdough sandwich bread, you’ll need a few tools to get the job done:
- Standing Mixer
- Small and Large Mixing Bowls
- Wooden Mixing Spoon
- Measuring Cups and Spoons
- Two 8-Inch by 4-Inch Bread Pans
- Bread Lame
- Cooling Rack
If you don’t have a standing mixer with a paddle attachment, you can also make this recipe by hand. When I made this recipe the first few times, I didn’t have a mixer and I was still happy with the result.
To begin, dissolve dry active yeast in the water.
In a large bowl (or the bowl of a mixer), combine the water and yeast with the 2 cups of starter. Stir until the starter dissolves (a few strings of starter are okay).
Add the 4 cups of flour and the salt. Stir until a loose shaggy dough starts to form. If you have a mixer, continue to mix for another 8 minutes or so. Don’t have a mixer? Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead the dough until it becomes soft and smooth.
If the dough seems especially sticky, feel free to work in an additional tablespoon of flour until the dough reaches the right consistency. It should feel slightly tacky to the touch, but it shouldn’t stick to your fingers like bubblegum.
No matter if you use a mixer or knead your dough by hand, you’ll need a clean bowl for the next step. Either wipe off the mixing bowl or grab a new one and then lightly coat the bowl in oil. Place the dough in the bowl, and turn the dough over a few times to coat it in oil. Cover the bowl and let it rise at warm room temperature until it doubles in size, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
After the dough has finished its first rise, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the two in two, and shape each round into a ball. Let rest for 20 minutes.
Lightly grease two 8 1/2 inch x 4 1/2 inch loaf pans. Gently shape the balls of dough into a sandwich loaf and place in the pan. I was in a hurry, so I squashed and stretched my loaf until it fit in the pan, as you can see in the picture below. It still tasted lovely, but if you want a professional appearance, take the time to shape it properly.
To shape your dough into a sandwich loaf, flatten the ball into a rectangle. Fold the bottom third up and the top third down, as if you were folding a letter. Fold the dough in half, and pinch to close. Place the loaf with the seam facing down. This folding technique creates some nice air pockets that give your bread a lighter texture.
Let the dough rise until it starts to puff over the ridge of the pan, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. If you want a stronger sourdough flavor, put the loaves in the refrigerator over night so they rise more slowly.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Slash the top of the loaves with the bread lame, or a sharp knife. Although the pictures below show 4 horizontal slashes, I later tried the recipe again and found that 3 diagonal slashes looked a little prettier. The number or direction of slashes won’t affect the baking process, but the slashes themselves will allow some of the fermentation gases to escape the bread and help your loaves cook more thoroughly. Additionally, the slashes will help prevent your bread from bursting in other weaker areas and distorting your loaf.
Although the pictures below show 4 horizontal slashes, I later tried the recipe again and found that 3 diagonal slashes looked a little prettier. The number or direction of slashes won’t affect the baking process, but the slashes themselves will allow some of the fermentation gases to escape the bread and help your loaves cook more thoroughly. Additionally, the slashes will help prevent your bread from bursting in other weaker areas and distorting your loaf.
Bake for 10 minutes and then reduce the heat to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake for another 25 to 30 minutes. The tops of the loaves should look golden brown, and if you tap the bottom of the bread, it will sound a little hollow.
Take loaves out of the pan and let them finish cooling on a cooling rack.
Slice your bread and make the best-tasting sandwich of your life!
Secrets to Success
Although this sourdough takes a long time to make, it doesn’t require too much effort on your part. A lot of the breadmaking process simply involves waiting and letting the dough rest or rise. You don’t need any special tools or secrets to create a fantastic loaf.
However, you should make sure that your starter is completely ripe before baking. If you use your starter too soon, you won’t get a lot of rise or much of a flavor.
Additionally, if you want a crisper, thinner crust, you can spritz the inside of your oven with water before baking. Alternatively, if you want a softer crust, brush your loaves with butter after baking or cover the bread and let it sweat.
This sourdough has very few ingredients and no extra sugars or oils, so you don’t have to worry about extra calories. However, it does involve a lot of flour, so you will want to keep track of how many slices you eat at once.
I cut each loaf into 12 slices, and my nutrition label reflects that. However, the calories per serving will be different if you make bigger or smaller slices.
Did You Try It?
This was the first sandwich bread that I’ve ever made successfully, so I was excited to share it with everyone I knew. I’d love to see how your bread turned out, so share your experience in the comments below. If you have any tips and tricks for better bread, don’t hesitate to add them, too!