Soft sourdough sandwich bread

soft sourdough sandwich bread

Many variations of this soft sourdough bread already exist on this site, but not one for good old white sourdough sandwich bread. This recipe makes a wonderfully soft loaf that my kids gladly eat plain, but it makes a mean sandwich and french toast as well. Using sourdough adds depth of flavor and keeps it fresh for multiple days! You can see me mix a similar style of dough in my Instagram story highlights (“Swirl Bread”), and there are lots of tips in previous posts on how to successfully make this style of bread. In summary, a thorough kneading, proper shaping, and full proofing are key to getting the right “shreddable” texture. It takes a little practice but I think it’s well worth the effort!

Suggested baking schedule:

You can make this bread in one day (there are a couple suggested schedules in my book, Baked to Order), but my preference is to make this loaf over two days. Resting the dough in the refrigerator overnight makes the dough easier to shape and adds an extra depth of flavor. I suggest you try to follow this schedule a couple of times until you’ve made it successfully, then adjust to fit your schedule.

  • Day 1, morning: Build stiff levain (note that you need an active and fed 100% hydration starter to build the levain, so feed as necessary so it will be ready)
  • Day 1, late afternoon/evening: Mix dough and let rise at room temperature for 2 hours, then refrigerate overnight
  • Day 2, morning: Shape dough and proof
  • Day 2, afternoon: Bake


sliced soft sourdough sandwich bread

Baker’s notes:

  • The stiff levain is…stiff! It should resemble bread dough. I like using a stiff levain as it adds additional strength to this enriched dough, which helps for the extended periods of fermentation.
  • Due to the enrichments in this dough (which slow fermentation), the final proof for this loaf must be done at room temperature (ideally 78-80F).   
  • It is possible to knead this dough by hand, though it will take considerably longer and can be quite sticky especially once the butter is added. If kneading by hand, I suggest using a slap and fold technique as demonstrated here. Consider it your workout for the day! 
  • If you have a 13x4x4 pullman pan, make 1.5x this recipe. Baking time might be a few minutes longer.
  • Please note that as with all recipes (but particularly sourdough ones), timings are only estimates. The amount of time your bread takes to proof will depend on the strength of your starter, kneading, and dough/room temperature. Also, starters that are not sufficiently strong enough and dough that is under/overkneaded can result in bread that does not rise as high — though the resulting loaf is usually still delicious!  

Soft Sourdough Sandwich Bread

Makes one 9x4x4 or 9×5 loaf (I absolutely love using my Pullman Pan for this!)| Adapted from Baked to Order and The Fresh Loaf


For the stiff levain:

  • 18g ripe, active sourdough starter (100% hydration)
  • 31g milk
  • 57g bread flour

Final dough:

  • 142g bread flour
  • 142g all-purpose flour
  • 35g granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg (~50g)
  • 135g milk, cold
  • 21g milk powder
  • All of the levain, fully ripened
  • 7g salt
  • 35g unsalted butter, softened

To finish:

  • Milk, for brushing
  • Melted butter, for brushing


  1. Make the stiff levain: In a medium bowl, mix the starter, milk, and flour together to form a stiff dough. Cover the bowl and ferment the levain at warm room temperature until more than doubled in volume, puffy, and domed, about 8 to 12 hours.
  2. Autolyse the dough: In a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, mix together all final dough ingredients except the salt and butter until just combined. Cover and autolyse (rest) for 30-60 minutes.
  3. Mix the dough: Add salt, and knead dough on low until gluten is moderately developed, about 5 minutes. The dough will start out sticky and rough but should gradually come together and feel smooth and stretchy. Add the butter in two batches, mixing in the first portion completely before adding the second. Continue kneading on low/medium-low until the gluten is very well developed and the dough passes the windowpane test as demonstrated here. Timing will depend on your flours and mixer, but usually takes about 5-10 minutes after the butter has been added. The dough should be smooth and supple (and quite lovely to handle!). Desired dough temperature is ~76-78F.
  4. Bulk rise and refrigerate dough: Transfer to a clean and lightly oiled bowl, cover, and bulk rise at warm room temperature for 2 hours. The dough will be noticeably puffed, but not doubled. Stretch and fold once, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight (at least 6 hours, and up to 24).
  5. Bring dough to room temperature: The next day, take the dough out and transfer to a lightly floured surface. Divide it into 3 or 4 equal parts and lightly shape each into a ball. Rest for one hour, covered by lightly oiled plastic.
  6. Shape the dough: Using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll each ball into an oval and roll up (like a jelly roll). Rest for 10 minutes. Roll each piece into an oval again, along the seam, and re-roll as tightly as possible. Transfer rolls to a loaf pan, seam sides down. Cover loosely with plastic and allow to rise about 6-8 hours at warm room temperature (78-80F). The dough should roughly triple in volume and nearly fill the tin (if using a Pullman Pan).
  7. Preheat the oven: About 1 hour before baking, preheat oven to 400F with a rack in the middle. After the dough has finished proofing, brush lightly with milk, transfer to oven, and bake for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, reduce the heat to 350F and continue baking for 10-15 minutes, or until the internal temperature is at least 195F. If the loaf is browning too quickly, tent a piece of foil over the top to keep from burning. When the loaf is finished, immediately remove from the pan and turn onto a wire rack. Brush melted butter over the top and sides while the loaf is still warm, if desired (this helps create a soft crust). Allow to cool completely before slicing. Store leftovers in a sealed plastic bag.

sliced sourdough sandwich bread

sandwich bread slice

75 thoughts on “Soft sourdough sandwich bread

    1. 18g ripe sourdough starter (100% hydration)

      What does it mean 100% hydration of starter?

      And what does it mean ripe starter?
      Thank you in Advance for any advice.

      1. 100% hydration means equal parts water and flour (by weight). Ripe means it has been fed and has at least doubled in size in the last 8-12 hours.

  1. Hi Ruth! I made this loaf today (inspired by your Instagram to make a soft loaf to feed my baby daughter now that she’s into solids!) and it was awesome. Thank you for sharing!

    1. You’ll probably want to experiment but I made this loaf for years (from the original recipe on The Fresh Loaf) in my longer pullman and I increased it by about 50%. I would divide the dough into 5 rolls for shaping the loaf in the longer narrower pan.

  2. I already made this with 12 hours fermented since i am too lazy to wake up in the middle of the night just to bake one loaf. And yet it is still taste beautiful. I wonder if i follow the timeline, hmm.
    oh, and i just did slap and fold method a few times without achieving the window pane stage.

    i will try to make it again after we finished it with shorter period of fermented time. Thank you for sharing

  3. I have several dozen sourdough loaves under my belt. But this would be my first time baking a soft sandwich bread. I am really struggling to understand the rationale behind step#5. Why are we flattening the dough with a rolling pin over and over again?

    1. Hi! This shaping technique is to create a very even, “shreddable” crumb which is typical of soft Asian style breads. You can just shape it like a regular sandwich loaf but the crumb will probably be more irregular — not a bad thing, just different!

  4. Hi! Firstly – I love your feed in instagram and have two little girls myself. I often find myself doubling over at your stories.

    Very keen to try this soft sourdough for my girls. However I am unsure as to when the levain is ripe or mature enough to use.

    I bake from feeding my starter equal amounts of water and flour and then it’s ready in a couple of hours. I used 18g of this ripe starter to mix with the 56g of flour and 30g of milk. It’s very stiff and I can’t see any bubbles forming. It’s very dough-like as opposed to the very watery sponge I use for my loaves.

    Is it suppose to develop some air bubbles at some point? How many hours do you let it ripen?

    Thank you for all te info and inspiration!

      1. Hi Lauren, see my response to Elmarie above. It is a stiff levain but should still double to triple in size before using, usually within 6-12 hours. Good luck!

  5. Hi! Firstly – I love your feed in instagram and have two little girls myself. I often find myself doubling over at your stories.

    Very keen to try this soft sourdough for my girls. However I am unsure as to when the levain is ripe or mature enough to use.

    I bake from feeding my starter equal amounts of water and flour and then it’s ready in a couple of hours. I used 18g of this ripe starter to mix with the 56g of flour and 30g of milk. It’s very stiff and I can’t see any bubbles forming. It’s very dough-like as opposed to the very watery sponge I use for my loaves.

    Is it suppose to develop some air bubbles at some point? How many hours do you let it ripen?

    Thank you for all te info and inspiration!

    1. Hi there! The levain in this recipe is a stiff one, so what you’re describing is perfectly normal. You’ll know it’s ready when it’s roughly tripled in size and the dome on top is starting to flatten a bit — usually 6-12 hours depending on your environment. Hope that helps! Let me know how it goes!

    1. I use a 9x4x4 pullman pan (under the 3rd picture there’s a direct link to the pan I like), but a 9×5 loaf pan works too!

  6. Hi Ruth, I have tried baking the recipe and it turned out great! Soft, supple and milky slices that my family enjoyed. Thanks for sharing.
    – Jen –

  7. About how long would you say it takes to knead by hand to reach be windowpane stage??
    Thanks so much!!

    1. I would say at least half an hour the first time. It gets faster as you get more experience as to what to look for!

  8. Hi Ruth, ive been baking soft bread from just flour, water, dry yeast & butter. Just wondering if you have done one without the egg & milk? Would i still get a soft bread if i replace milk with water and omit the egg all together? Btw ive just started to make tartine sourdough bread but wanted to use my starter for a soft sandwich loaf so its easier for my kids to eat. Appreciate your reply!

    1. Hi! There are definitely sandwich bread recipes out there with no egg or milk, though both these ingredients are tenderizers so they do add a lot in that sense. For this particular recipe I don’t know what result you will get if you eliminate the egg and milk as they are pretty key ingredients. You might want to start with a recipe that is already egg and milk free. If you do try it, I would replace the egg with additional water. Hope that helps!

  9. Oh, my! This is the most amazing silky soft bread dough I have ever made and the bread, itself, is unbelievable! Thank you for sharing your recipe and for your beautiful step by step process. This recipe is easy to understand & follow and the results are so worth the time and effort that go into it! I will admit that the very stiff levain seemed a bit hard to mix and work with so I borrowed 10g of milk from the final dough amount and everything worked beautifully! My levain was still stiffer than what I’m used to working with but it puffed up just like it was supposed to and gave me a beautiful loaf! I’m already mid process on a twisted loaf with a banana filling…yum!

    1. I’m so happy to hear you enjoyed the recipe! The levain is definitely stiff but it helps with the long fermentation times. Your banana twist sounds delicious!

    1. Hi there! Due to the long ferment times I think the sugar really helps keep the sourness in check and also adds softness. I’ve never tried it without to be honest!

  10. Can you cold proof this, shaped in a loaf pan?
    So it will be ready to bake in the morning? Do you know of any recipes like that? I’ve made this as directed, and it is WONDERFUL.

    1. Hi Courtenay, I’ve never tried cold proofing this dough; I suspect it would at need at least some time at room temperature. If I want this fresh first thing in the morning, I usually shape it last thing before going to bed and leave it out at room temperature (somewhere slightly cool, but not cold). It’s usually just right when I get up in the morning!

  11. Hi Ruth,

    My starter is always on ratio 1:2:3, do u think it gonna be work? And also can you share on your method #3: Fold, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight. What is fold? Sorry as I am still v noob in bread making. Hope to hear from you soon. Thank u

  12. Wow wow wow this bread is amazing. I was looking to make a soft sourdough for sandwiches for school. Made a loaf and we inhaled most of it the same day. Saved some for today and it’s still so soft kids had sandwich for school….This is it, thank you.

  13. Hi – I don’t have milk powder and can’t find it anywhere here. Can I just leave it out? Or do I need to substitute it for something else?

  14. Question – Does the dough have to be baked the next day? Could it be made the same day the dough is mixed or even two to three days later? Thank you!

    1. You could bake it the same day, though I would leave it to bulk ferment at room temperature for longer. I find I get the best rise and flavor with the schedule as written, but you can definitely play around with it. I’d hesitate to wait two or three days to bake as I think it would be a bit too sour, but that’s personal preference.

  15. I made this. . . . used my Kitchen Aid. . . . .and I am wondering how long it typically takes to get to windowpane if using the KA for the knead? Never achieved the 80% pan volume. Had to leave it in the fridge for bulk rise a good 14 hours. . . . but I think the problem was the under kneading.

    1. Hi Marcele — the entire kneading process usually takes me about 20 minutes. Underkneading, a starter that’s not active enough, and too cool temperatures would be the main reasons for not getting a good rise. Did you let the dough rise at room temperature before putting it in the fridge for bulk fermentation?

  16. Any substitute for the eggs?? Please let me know as I am on the verge of giving up sourdough bread as they always turn hard crusted

    1. I have not tried any egg replacers in this recipe, but you can try omitting it and adding more milk by weight. The egg, milk, and sugar in this recipe help create softness. If you have a hard crust this could be due to the nature of the recipes you’re trying (no enriching ingredients) or too hot an oven.

  17. Hi there! A noob who is growing his own starter here and baking his first bread. Hope you can help with a couple of questions

    1. Step 5 “ Transfer rolls to a loaf pan, seam sides down”… what does seam side down mean?

    2. Do you bake with the cover on or off?

    1. Hello! When you roll each section, you’ll want to place the parts were the rolls end (the seams) on the bottom, touching the pan. Otherwise the rolls will unravel during baking. Hope that makes sense!

      I bake with the cover off.

  18. Thank you Ruth! Will try to make the dough today. 1 more question. Which rack do you place the tin in the oven?

  19. Can I replace the flours with wholewheat flour? If yes then the quantity of the other ingredients stay and?
    Also I don’t eat egg so can I replace it with something else may be like flax seed powder?

    1. I’ve replaced up to 25% of the flour with whole wheat with good results, no other changes needed. I haven’t tried any egg replacements so sorry, I can’t advise on that!

  20. Hi Ruth,

    Thanks for the recipe! I’ve made this bread once in a regular loaf pan and the whole family loved it! Would you recommend any quantity if I use a pullman loaf pan WITH the lid on? Thanks again!

    1. Hi Veronica! I bake with the top off because I like a tall loaf. The same quantity of dough might be ok with the lid on. I’d just bake when the pan is around 75-80% full. Or you could try reducing the amount in the pan by ~15-20% and baking the remainder off as buns or something. Sorry I don’t have a definitive answer for you!

  21. Hi Ruth! Loving all of your recipes and photos Lots of inspirations here – thank you!
    I’ve tried your milk bread recipes (the twist ones) twice so far. Although the taste was great, the crumb turned out both times a little wet/gummy/dense (when cut with a bread knife, it sort of forms tiny wetty spots here and there) + there’s some sourness (not much but still) to my taste. Trying to think what I have done wrong.. would love some tips please
    – My stiff levain rose well & bubbly inside. So I think I’m fine here
    – I cut sugar content by 20-30% both times because.. just my habit. Can this be a problem?
    – I hand kneed my dough. I thought i had a fairly good window pane test results, but it could be my tired arms distorting it :/
    – When cold proof overnight, I don’t see my dough risen much. Should I expect it to rise at all?
    – Final proofing was never so dramatic rise for me i.e. I’ve never seen it going beyond the depth of my loaf pan, maybe almost reaching but never beyond, even after 8-9h. Then I usually just bake it because I really don’t want it to be more sour.
    – I don’t have a thermometer so possibly that I’m under baking it? Both times the color was nice (almost scared it would burn).. possible inside wasn’t cooked through?
    Thank you!

    1. Hi! It sounds like a combination of underproofing and underbaking, though it is hard to say without seeing a photo. Also, cutting into the loaf before it has cooled completely can cause gumminess as well.

      Underkneading is a definite possibility, especially by hand. The windowpane should be very strong and this takes awhile to achieve by hand. The dough generally doesn’t rise a whole lot in the fridge. You might try proofing in a warmer area and see if that helps. And I recommend NOT cutting the sugar in this recipe — because of the long fermentation times the bread will definitely taste more sour without it.

      1. Hey Ruth, I tried the milk bread recipe again with the full amount of sugar & prolonged kneading and proofing time. Happy to report that it came out much better this time!
        I felt asleep during the first bulk fermentation & it fermented for 5 hours instead of 2. And the final proofing lasted about ~9 hours. I was afraid it would get too much tang but it turned out just fine. Will need to do more experiments to find the balance.

        Thanks for your recipe and tips!

  22. This bread was absolutely delicious! I simply wish there was a time recommendation with the recipe.

    For example:
    3:00pm- mix dough
    3:30pm- add salt and butter
    It was challenging to plan my baking schedule around the many rests and ferments.

    1. I agree with Ally and would very much appreciate if there’s a suggested time schedule for such a variety of instructions.

      1. When you say refrigerate overnight, how many hours would you say? Also, can I leave it in the refrigerator longer. Thanks

        1. I do anywhere from 6-24 hours (I prefer 6-12). I don’t recommend too long or the loaf gets a bit more sour than I prefer for this style of bread.

  23. For people who like to have a timetable, I worked up a tentative one for myself. If you can understand my abbreviated language, I’m happy to share it:

    Day 1 –
    A 7am Levain 8-13H
    B 8pm (if step A was 13H)*
    Final dough autolyse :40

    * Note: If you gave an 8, 9, 10, 11, or 12H rest for the levain, everything else will be earlier by the
    amount of time you saved. So you could put it in the fridge at 6, 7, 8, 9 or 10pm instead of 11.
    You could probably still start Day 2 at 7am or thereabouts and be ok. I’ve left dough refrigerated
    for longer. No guarantees!

    C 8:40pm +butter, then salt, pretty long mix time: windowpane
    D 9pm In oiled bowl 2H (not double)
    E 11pm Fridge overnight

    Day 2 –
    F 7am Pre-shape & rest one hour
    G 8am Roll oval, then jelly-roll. Rest :10.
    H 8:10am Roll oval, then jelly-roll again. In pan.
    Triple and nearly fill pan. Rest 6H.
    I 1:10pm Hour ahead, set oven 400°.
    J 2:10pm Bake :20, reduce to 350°, bake :15-20 to 195° internal.

    Done at about 2:45pm
    To rack, brush melted butter.

  24. Regarding previous comment, it was WAY easier to read in its formatted text, but it got destroyed when I hit enter. Sorry.

  25. Eek I just realized I underproofed my levain. I am at the final proof stage in pan. It doesn’t seem to be growing as much as it should. How can I save this?

    1. If your starter is weak to begin with, the loaf may not rise as tall as it should. But I would place it in a warm area and let it proof a little longer — a few degrees can make a big difference!

  26. I made this bread since no matter how many rustic sourdough loaves I make my kids don’t like it more than their regular white sandwich bread. It was a hit! I had the large Pullman with lid and I doubled the recipe but used half sugar and half the butter, it’s the best sandwich bread ever and my kids are impressed!

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