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.
But 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, and basically pay for themselves when you think about how much you spend in a given year on loaves of bread.
Breville BBM800XL Custom Loaf Bread Maker
Breville’s BBM800XLL is an excellent choice. It has four different size options for 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.
Other unique features of the Breville Custom loaf include an automatic fruit and nut dispenser, which sense the right time during kneading to integrate extra ingredients into the dough for you. The collapsible kneading paddle inside the machine then thoroughly and uniformly kneads the dough into the perfect loaf, and collapses before baking to avoid that hole at the base of the bread that you find with many other machines.
The user-friendly LCD interface screen lets you keep track of the progress of your bread, and customize to your liking with 13 automatic settings, 3 crust colors, and 4 loaf sizes. It even has a delayed timer option, letting you select what time you want the bread to be ready – perfect for waking up (or coming home) to a beautiful fresh baked loaf of bread.
This machine is made out of durable, sleek stainless steel and even has little holding posts at the back for easy and neat power cord wrapping. It also comes with 46 step by step recipes to take the guesswork out of your bread making process.
The only drawbacks of the Breville are its noise levels and its tendency to wander around the counter while it kneads. Most machines aren’t supposed to operate like this, as it can be a mess if you have small counter space and the machine falls right to the ground.
Reviewers have remedied this issue by wiping the feet of the bread maker and the counter its perched on with a damp cloth before operating. If that’s not a huge deal-breaker for you, you’ll get great bread loaves with this pick.
Zojirushi BB-PAC20 Home Bakery Virtuoso Breadmaker
The Zojirushi BB-PAC20 is also worth checking out. It features a crust heater on the lid to give you a perfectly browned, even crust every time, 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.
In terms of the mechanics of this machine, it’s unmatched in performance. With dual kneading blades (as opposed to the Breville’s singular paddle), you can be assured that your bread will be thoroughly and evenly kneaded every time. It also has a very quick baking cycle. Your bread will be ready in about 2 hours. Even with this quick performance, it also has a delayed start timer up to 13 hours ahead of time.
Customize your bread 10 pre-programmed settings (everything from basic to cake to sourdough) and 3 crust settings, and watch its progress through the machine’s large, clear viewing window. When it’s ready to go, use the convenient handles on the baking pan to easily and ergonomically remove and transfer the loaf. Even better, the bread pan is nonstick, so you’ll have no trouble finalizing your beautiful bread (and cleanup will be nice and easy, too!)
As if all of that isn’t enough, your purchase of the Zojirushi breadmaker comes with a double ended measuring spoon, an 8 ounce measuring cup, and a manual with a few recipes included! This is a machine definitely worth checking out.
Cuisinart CBK-100SSFR Programmable Breadmaker
From a reputable household kitchen brand name, this bread maker is as reliable as it is effective. Made with silver stainless steel, it’s a durable machine that also looks great with all your other kitchen appliances. It’s also a fairly affordable option to boot.
The Cuisinart is an extremely versatile breadmaker. It bakes 1, 1 and a half, or 2 pound loaves. On top of that, it has 12 pre-programmed recipe options, 3 crust settings (like most other machines), and another 13 hour delay timer. Keep track of the progress of your loaf with a viewing window as well. With a removable lid and pan, and a removable kneading paddle, cleanup is quick and easy.
What really makes this machine unique is its power-failure backup and its stay-cool handles. The power backup is great in the event that you’re without power for a few days and need some simple meals. Stay-cool handles make transportation and handling safe and easy for anyone.
Accessories that come with your purchase include a measuring cup and spoon, as well as a variety of bread recipes to follow.
The only downside users found with this machine is that any mix-in ingredients you want to include in your bread must be added in at the very beginning of the kneading cycle, whereas other machines do it gradually for you throughout the cycle. This isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker for me, but if you want added convenience and make a lot of personalized loaves, this might not be the pick for you.
Panasonic SD-BMT 1001-T Home Bakery
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 multi-functional kitchen appliances that can do it all! It’s also a fairly quiet machine, which is a great advantage if that’s a concern in your household. It also has an easy to clean, non-stick pan that the bread sits on. This is a great all-around machine.
Bread or bust!
The best bread makes the best sandwiches. Here are my recommendations for the best meat slicers for the kitchen.
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 lunch for work or 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!
Time to take that sandwich to work? Check out these awesome lunch boxes for adults.
And remember, homemade bread deserves the royal treatment. Get one of these bread boxes I found just for keeping bread fresh or go industrial with a stainless steel bread box. Fancy!