An easy-to-make soft sourdough sandwich bread that turns out every time using only your wonderful starter. Choose to make this in one day with just a single rise or overnight in the fridge for a longer ferment.
3 cups(378 grams) flour*plus 1-2 tablespoons for kneading
1cup(227 to 241 grams**) active sourdough starter,reliably doubling in 6 hours or less
1/2cup(4 ounces) milklukewarm
2tablespoons(28 grams) butter, meltedplus more for pan and top of loaf
2teaspoons(1/2 ounce) honeyor maple syrup, or cane sugar
2teaspoons(12 grams) salt
Combine all ingredients*** in a large mixing bowl and stir with a spatula or wooden spoon until all the flour is mixed in and you have a shaggy dough. Cover and let rest for 30 minutes.
Using a dough hook on a mixer, knead for 5 minutes until the dough pulls away from the sides, but still sticks to the bottom, adding a bit of flour as needed (up to 1 to 2 tablespoons). Alternately, you can knead by hand about 8 minutes or use a dough cycle on a bread machine. ****See notes for overnight rise instructions at this point if desired.
Grease a 8.5 x 4.5 inch loaf pan with butter, coconut oil, or avocado oil.
On a floured surface (I use a tea towel for easy clean up), shape dough by patting into a rectangle the length of the pan, rolling up tightly, and pressing the seam together. Pull the short sides under to create tension on top of the loaf. Place shaped dough into prepared pan.
Using a pastry brush, spread some melted butter over the top to help keep the cover from sticking as it rises. Cover the bread with a plastic "shower cap" or wrap (a damp tea towel will dry out over the long rise, so plastic is best to keep the top soft). Optional: Before covering you can slash the top of the bread if you'd like to minimize cracks on the edges of the bread.
Place loaf pan in a warm area (I use the oven with the light on which is 95-100 degrees) and let rise 3-5 hours or until dough is 1 to 1½ inches above the pan. Warmer kitchens will need less rise time, cooler will need more.
Heat oven to 350 degrees (remember to remove your pan if you're using your oven light!). Bake loaf for 40 minutes, rotating as needed for even cooking, until brown and bottom sounds hollow when tapped. You can also use an instant read thermometer inserted in the middle of the loaf - it should read 195 to 200 degrees.
Cool in the pan 5 minutes before turning out onto a rack to cool completely before slicing.
Slice and use within 1 to 2 days at room temperature or freeze slices for longer storage.
*The bread pictured was made with whole wheat starter and 3 cups of unbleached flour. You can use any combo of unbleached all purpose flour to whole wheat, depending what your starter is made with. The more whole wheat, the denser the loaf.**The weight of a cup of starter varies with how much the starter is stirred down before it is measured. I measure my mature 85-90%-hydration starter after being stirred at about 240 grams per cup of starter.***For a salt-free autolyze, you can combine all the ingredients except the salt, let rest, and then add the salt in right before kneading.****Steps for a longer fermented overnight rise:
After step 2, place dough in an oiled bowl, cover, and place in the refrigerator overnight, 8-12 hours.
Remove dough from fridge, shape into a loaf, and place in pan as in step 4.
The cold dough will need a bit more time to rise, 4-6 hours.
Once the dough is above the edge of the pan, bake as directed.