There’s nothing better than the smell and taste of fresh bread. I’m not sure about the exact numbers, but I estimate that sandwiches are about 1000% more delicious when they’re made using homemade sourdough loaves. You don’t have to be in the bay area to get your fix of some top quality sourdough. This delicious bread is easy to make at home by hand and, if you have a bread maker, it’s even easier!
What’s the deal with sourdough?
Sourdough is made via the fermentation of dough using naturally occurring lactobacilli and yeast. This is in contrast with the baker’s yeast used in the leavening of most breads. The fermentation leaves behind a slightly sour taste, so it is not hard to work out where the name came from!
A “starter” or preferment—which is flour, water, and a mix of wild yeast and lactobacilli—can be a liquid batter or a fairly stiff dough. The starters are topped up with water and flour as needed and some can last for years, decades, or longer. Starters usually make up about a quarter to a third of the overall weight of the dough after more flour and water has been added.
Sourdough, while certainly delicious, is also very nutritious. It is easily digestible, as lactic acids make the vitamins and minerals in the bread more available to us by helping to neutralize the phytates in flour that can hinder absorption.
Using a bread machine for sourdough
It is possible to make sourdough bread with most machines as long as you follow a decent recipe, but some models are better than others. The most important thing to check for is an adjustable rising timer. Sourdoughs take a lot longer to rise than breads made to leaven with commercial yeast. The time it will take to rise depends on the preferment, and this can be difficult to estimate when using a baking machine.
It is best to use a sourdough bread machine mix, such as Prepared Pantry’s Old World Whole Grain Sourdough Bread Machine Mix available from Amazon or in your local specialty shop.
Another good product that will make things easier is the excellent San Francisco Sourdough Starter Expert Baker Bread Maker Tool Kit. The kit includes recipes, a brush, a bread thermometer, and everything else you will need to get started baking sourdough!
Which bread maker is best for sourdough?
Many of the bread makers in today’s market will handle sourdough without any problems, but it’s definitely worth researching the various models before you purchase something simpler and cheaper. The three machines mentioned below are all around the $250-$350 mark, but are a great investment for bread-lovers.
Breville’s BBM800XLL is an excellent choice. It has four different size options making loaves (1, 1.5, 2 and 2.5 lb), making it one of the most flexible on the market when it comes to quantity.
The Zojirushi BB-PAC20 is also worth checking out. It features a crust heater on the lid to give an extra bite to your bread, menu settings for gluten-free and organic ingredients, and will quickly bake a 2 lb loaf. If you’re worried about how a bread maker will look in your home, this machine’s modern brushed metal exterior will complement any kitchen.
The best of the bunch is the Panasonic SD-BMT 1001-T. Talk about versatile! This model doesn’t just have the ability to make a great sourdough—it can also make cake, jam, mochi, udon, brioche, steamed bread, red bean bread, and melon pan. I don’t know about you, but I love multifunctional kitchen appliances that can do it all!
Bread or bust!
Overall, I recommend the Panasonic as the best bread maker for sourdough. It can do just about anything, and that versatility is a huge plus. I definitely suggest using it with the sourdough mixes, at least until you perfect the process.
Whether you’re making sliced bread for your morning skillet-fried eggs, sandwiches for your kid’s school lunch, or bread bowls for smoked salmon chowder, your bread maker will serve up some delicious, fresh bread whenever you want!