Sourdough: It’s not just for crusty artisan breads.

When you think sourdough, you probably think crunchy-crackly-crusty artisan loaf, right?

Something you’d rip a piece off of with your hands, fresh from the oven. A big, round loaf, or picture-perfect oval boule.

But sourdough sandwich bread, baked in a loaf pan? Nuh-uh.

Well, it’s time to broaden your horizons.

Reader Clay Blackwell of Lynchburg, Virginia sent us the following note and recipe, via e-mail:

“Hi! I have really enjoyed using King Arthur products and look forward to the new catalog each month! About a year ago, I ordered the sourdough culture, and have been baking with it ever since! I make at least one loaf a week for my husband and me. I often make extras to give to friends… they make a wonderful hostess present!

“After several months of working with recipes, I have finally developed the one I like best for everyday loaves. This is a multi-grain sourdough, and it is absolutely heavenly toasted or for sandwiches! I thought you might like to try it. Hope you enjoy this as much as I do!”

While we did change this recipe slightly, we kept it pretty close to Clay’s original. It’s an unusual sandwich bread, in that it has the chewy texture of an artisan loaf, rather than the soft/tender texture of a typical loaf-pan bread.

Happily, this makes it perfect for sandwiches: easy to slice (no crumbling), and sturdy enough to pack for lunch. And its tangy, rich taste is perfect with grilled veggies, ham and cheese, chicken salad, and all manner of favorite fillings.

Made with a touch of whole wheat, a generous helping of our Harvest Grains Blend, and just 1 tablespoon of fat (olive oil), this is bread you can feel good about eating. Plus, like any sourdough bread, it stays fresher longer: breads higher in acid retain moisture better than less acidic loaves.

Make this loaf one of your breadbox regulars – and be ready to enjoy some of your best sourdough toast and sandwiches ever.

This is our King Arthur Premium 100% Whole Wheat Flour; new name, but the same great 100% whole wheat flour – the one in the brown bag – you’ve enjoyed for years. I like its grind; not too fine, but not so coarse that the bran is obtrusive.

Harvest Grains Blend is our best-selling blend of whole oat berries, millet, rye flakes and wheat flakes; plus flax, poppy, sesame, and sunflower seeds. It adds crunch and great, nutty flavor to all kinds of breads – including this one.

OK, start by getting out your sourdough starter, and making sure it’s in good shape. It doesn’t necessarily need to be fed, but it shouldn’t be in drastic need of TLC, either.

Wait a minute, doesn’t sourdough starter always need to be fed before using? Well – not always. So long as you’re using a recipe with added yeast, you can use sourdough straight from the fridge; just assume your rising times will be slightly longer.

One caveat: if your sourdough hasn’t been fed in a long time – e.g., it has a layer of dark liquid on top – best to feed it before using.

If you decide to feed your starter, take it out of its crock, and put it in a bowl. (This is a good time to wash the crock.) Add equal parts unbleached all-purpose flour and lukewarm water by weight, which is about 1 cup of flour and 1/2 cup water.

Stir to combine.

Several hours later, it’ll look like this: bubbly.

Take out the 2/3 cup you need for the recipe, and pour/spoon the rest back into the cleaned crock.

Now we’re ready to make dough.

Combine the starter with 2/3 cup lukewarm water.

Add the following:

1 tablespoon olive oil or vegetable oil
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 1/3 to 1 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour; start with 1 1/3 cups*
1/4 cup potato flour or 1/2 cup instant potato flakes
1/2 cup King Arthur Premium Whole Wheat Flour or 100% White Whole Wheat Flour
2 teaspoons King Arthur Whole-Grain Bread Improver (optional, but helpful for rise)
1/3 cup Harvest Grains Blend OR your favorite blend of seeds and flaked whole grains
2 teaspoons instant yeast

*You’ll probably end up using less flour in the winter, more in summer.

Mix until everything comes together.

Knead to form a smooth dough.

The dough may start out shaggy, then become stickier as you knead; if you use a stand mixer, by the end of a 7-minute knead it’ll be sticking heavily to the sides of the bowl (above).

That’s OK; if you can scrape it off the sides of the bowl and it feels firm enough to hold its shape, and doesn’t stick to your floured or oiled hands, it’s fine.

Put the dough in a lightly greased container; this 8-cup measure will let me track the dough’s progress as it rises.

Cover the dough, and allow it to rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours; it’ll become puffy, though it may not double in bulk.

Lightly grease an 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ loaf pan.

Gently deflate the risen dough, and shape it into a log. Place it in the pan.

Cover it lightly (love our cheap plastic shower caps!), and allow it to rise until it crests at least 1” over the rim of the pan, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

The bread doesn’t have much oven-spring (i.e., it won’t rise much once it’s in the oven), so be sure to let it rise fully before baking. A loaf risen 1″ over the rim of the pan will be denser and more close-grained; letting it rise higher will give you a “spongier,” lighter bread.

Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F.

Bake the bread for 30 to 35 minutes, tenting it with foil after 20 minutes if it’s as brown as you like it. When it’s done, the bread will be golden brown, and will register 190°F on an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center.

Remove the bread from the oven, and turn it out of the pan onto a rack. Run a stick of butter over the crust, if desired; it adds flavor, and an attractive sheen.

Let cool completely before slicing. I know, it’s hard to wait; but cutting hot bread not only releases a lot of its moisture, it makes for a very gummy slice of bread, due to the starches still being soft.

So – put down the knife; walk away from the bread… until it’s cool.

Read, rate, and review (please) our recipe for Clay’s Multi-Grain Sourdough Sandwich Bread.

New to sourdough? Find the help you need for all of your sourdough baking at our Sourdough Essentials page.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!

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