Sourdough Basics using Your Bread Machine

Bake a sourdough loaf and sourdough buns and then take it to a new level with sourdough soup bowls

Sourdough whole loaf alternate

Sourdough is a very popular bread that typically features a thick and crispy crust and a medium textured bread with a piquancy similar to a faint trace of vinegar. There’s actually no vinegar in any sourdough recipe because the unique taste and flavor comes from the activity of a yeast growing vigorously in something called a “sourdough starter.”

If you want to explore sourdough bread you’re going to have to master a new baking technique that takes a bit of time to prepare. It’s growing and feeding a bowl of sourdough yeast with the addition of flour and a bit of sugar and warm water. The bowl will need to be covered with a damp cloth in a warm place in the kitchen where it will multiply and grow while bubbling and rising.

It’s a strange extra step but required for any true sourdough recipe. You can make your own sourdough starter but if you want a heritage starter that could be generations old you might find it at the grocery store, or you can search for it online. If you want to make it yourself here’s an introduction to how to make your own sourdough starter and keep it growing for use time and time again.

You also need to get some experience with your starter.  In the bread recipe we suggest the addition of a teaspoon of yeast.  If you have a healthy and robust starter you won’t need this, but starters can fail overnight so think of it as a precaution.


Sourdough Starter Recipe:

1 - Sourdough starter batter 2 - sourdough starter batter fermenting


  • 1 1/2 teaspoons bread machine or quick active dry yeast
  • 4 cups lukewarm water (105°F to 115°F)
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour or bread flour
  • 4 teaspoons sugar


  1. You’ll need to make your sourdough starter at least 1 week before making your first loaf of bread. This is why many people prefer to buy their sourdough starter already made. To make it yourself dissolve 1 1/2 teaspoons of yeast in warm water in a large, glass bowl. Whisk in the 3 cups flour and 4 teaspoons of sugar and either continue to whisk or beat with electric mixer on medium speed for about 1 minute or until the thin batter is smooth. Cover loosely with a damp washcloth and let stand at room temperature for about 1 week or until the mixture is bubbly and has a sour aroma. Don’t worry about re-moistening the washcloth, but keep the bowl covered as much as possible. The bubbles that you’ll see in the starter are caused by carbon dioxide gas. This what is released by yeast every time we bake and causes bread to rise. Transfer the starter to a 2-quart or larger nonmetal bowl or large glass jar with a lid. Cover it tightly and refrigerate the starter until you’re ready to use.
  2. After you’ve used the starter you can replenish it by adding a teaspoon of sugar and about 3/4 cup of flour, 3/4 cup of water and stirring it all together. Cover loosely and store in a warm place for at least a day. After a day refrigerate again. Remember as well that you need to let any refrigerated starter come to room temperature before using. It will expand a bit as it warms up and that’s okay.
  3. Once you have your sourdough starter established you’re ready to bake your first loaf of sourdough bread in your bread machine.

3 - Sourdough starter bubbling 4 - Sourdough starter in its storage container


Sourdough Bread Recipe:

(Makes a 2 pound loaf)

5 - Sourdough loaf fresh from the machine 6 - sourdough loaf sliced


  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 cups bread flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon bread machine or quick active dry yeast
  • 1 cup sourdough starter


Add ingredients to the bread pan in the order indicated in the recipe. Select the Basic White cycle for a 2 pound loaf and a medium crust. When the bread is done, cool it on a wire rack for 10 minutes and serve.


Sourdough Soup Bowls

Many of us have had the pleasure of enjoying soup from a bread bowl. Sourdough bread makes an excellent bread bowl because of it’s very thick and crispy crust. This crust helps retain the integrity of the bowl especially when a broth-based soup or thin cream soup is added. In fact, the general advice is that you should never add a broth-based soup to a bread bowl, but with a sourdough bread bowl you just might get away with it.

This recipe starts in the bread machine using the dough cycle, but you’ll then need to remove the dough to shape the bowls and finish them in the oven.

Here’s the recipe:

Sourdough Bread Bowls Recipe:

(Makes 4 large bread bowls)

1 - Sourdough dough out of the machine 1 - sourdough bread bowl



  • 1⁄2 cup of lukewarm water (100-110 degrees° F./ 37° to 43° C.)
  • 3 cups bread flour
  • 1tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast or bread machine yeast
  • 1cup sourdough starter

For glaze:

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon water

sourdough bread bowls out of the oven 2


Add the ingredients to the bread pan in the order indicated and select the dough cycle. When the cycle is complete, remove the dough to a lightly floured work surface and cut into 4 equal pieces. Shape the pieces into a round bowl shape and place on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 1 hour. After the rise is complete, coat the bowls with an egg wash of 1 egg yolk mixed with a tablespoon of water. Preheat the oven to 350° F./175°C. When oven is heated bake for 15 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Let bowls cool on a wire rack and then cut a circle in the top of each bowl. Carefully pull and scoop out some of the bread to make room for the soup. Fill with your favorite soup or chili and serve the only bowl you can actually eat.

2 - sourdough bread bowl hollowed out 3 - sourdough bread bowl hollowed out
4 - sourdough bread bowl with cream of broccoli soup 5 - sourdough bread bowl with soup topped with cheese


Sourdough Buns

The great thing about sourdough buns is that they’ll stand up to the most ambitious sandwiches and burgers. In fact, in the food trade there’s a term defined as “bun integrity.” This is the ability of a bun to contain a large main ingredient like a juicy hamburger, and copious condiments and toppings without falling apart in your hands. Once again, it’s sourdough to the rescue. Sourdough buns add their own flavor as an additional condiment to any sandwich and will stand up to the juiciest, messiest toppings and condiments.


Sourdough Bun Recipe:

(Makes 8 buns)

buns 2 buns 8


  • 1⁄4 cup milk, warmed (100-110 degrees° F./ 37° to 43° C.)
  • 1teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1egg, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 3/4 cups bread flour or all-purpose flour
  • 1⁄2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon bread machine yeast or active dry yeast
  • 2 cups sourdough starter

For glaze and topping:

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoon water
  • sesame seeds


  1. Add all of the ingredients to the bread pan in the order indicated and select the dough cycle. If the dough looks too dry, add 1 tablespoon of water at a time and scrape flour out of the corners of the bread pan with a spoon. If the dough is too wet, add 1 tablespoon of flour at a time until you get a dough ball consistency.
  2. When the cycle is complete, remove the dough from the bread pan to a lightly floured work-surface. Cut the dough into 8 equal pieces and shape them into a bun shape. Place the buns on a lightly greased cookie sheet and cover with the plastic wrap and allow to rise for 1 hour. Preheat the oven to 350° F./175°C. Remove the plastic wrap and glaze the buns with glaze made from 2 eggs mixed with 2 tablespoons of water. Top each bun with sesame seeds. Bake for 15 to 25 minutes or until buns are golden brown. Let rest for 10 minutes and then serve.

buns 1



There are many other variations on sourdough bread recipes from a sourdough pizza crust to sourdough dinner rolls and sourdough breadsticks. What makes them all sourdough is the addition of the sourdough starter as an ingredient. However, you may have to go through a period of trial and error with any sourdough recipe. The curious fact of the matter is that every sourdough starter is unique, particularly if you’ve kept and fed it for a while. As a result, the level of rise you get with any recipe may vary. It’s the primary reason the recipes above all call for the addition of a teaspoon of yeast. If you find that your sourdough recipes are rising too much, omit the yeast and take satisfaction in the fact that you have a very healthy and robust sourdough starter living in your refrigerator.

Steve Nubie

Steve Nubie has been writing professionally for 38 years. He is a Chef and has traveled across Asia and Europe studying language, culture and cuisine. He instructs culinary classes in the Culinary School at the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, Illinois and has written extensively on cuisine, cooking, diet and nutrition. He is a published author of 10 books including a cookbook and continues to write on subjects related to culinary trends.

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  1. Reply
    Sue Williams November 29, 2018 at 3:33 am

    Hi, if I take 2 cups of sour dough starter, how much do I replenish the starter with? I am new to this, and I have just made my fist one. So hopefully it will be successful. (fingers crossed) 🙂

    • Reply
      Steve Nubie January 13, 2019 at 9:09 am

      Hi Sue,

      1 cup of flour and a tablespoon of warm water.

  2. Reply
    Jeremy June 2, 2018 at 1:38 pm

    About halfway through the week with my first attempt at starter! Question: it’s sorta separated, alot has settled to the bottom and it’s clearly more liquid-y at the top. Should I stir it? It was smooth and mixed when I started it a few days ago… still has 3 or 4 days to go. Thanks!

    • Reply
      Admin June 12, 2018 at 8:05 am

      Hi Jeremy,

      Stir away. It’s tough stuff!

  3. Reply
    Summer Spees January 29, 2017 at 9:05 pm

    If I have a good active starter, why would I need to add additional yeast for a sourdough bread recipe? Shouldn’t the starter contain all the yeast I need?

    • Reply
      Admin February 4, 2017 at 3:44 pm

      Hi, sorry for the late response –
      If you have a good, active starter you don’t need the additional yeast. Some starters get diluted over time and need a little help. It’s more of precaution as you get used to working with sourdough.

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