San Francisco-Style Sourdough Bread Recipe

I have spent much time experimenting with sourdough to come up with a recipe that I feel can rival the famous San Francisco Sourdough French Bread. I find that using my bread machine for the kneading process only, saves me a lot of time and saves my wrists.

I also find that working with a sourdough starter can be very time consuming. Especially if you follow what most sourdough books say and feed them everyday. That is too much work for me as I already have a cat! You even need a sourdough sitter when leaving town! Because I do not use my starter everyday, I store it, covered with plastic wrap, in the refrigerator until ready to use. When I decide I want to use my starter, I then remove it from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature (usually I let it sit overnight on the counter). I then feed it with 1 cup flour and 1 cup warm water. I let this sit 8 hours or preferably overnight. It is now ready to use in your sourdough recipes!

Bread Making Hints: Secrets to using the bread machine, About yeast in bread making, and Sourdough Starter – How to make a Sourdough Starter.


Sourdough Bread


More great Bread Recipes, Sourdough Bread Recipes, and Quick Bread Recipes for all your bread making.


San Francisco-Style Sourdough Bread Recipe:
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
20 mins
Total Time
35 mins
Course: Bread
Cuisine: American
Keyword: San Francisco-Style Sourdough Bread Recipe
Servings: 1 large loaf bread
San Francisco-Style Sourdough Bread:
  • 1 cup sourdough starter, room temperature*
  • 3/4 cup lukewarm water (110 degrees F.)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 cups bread flour or unbleached all-purpose flour**
  • Cornmeal
Cornstarch Glaze:
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
San Francisco-Style Sourdough Bread Instructions:
  1. Add all the ingredients except cornmeal in the bread pan of bread machine.  Process according to manufacturer's instructions for a dough setting.  Do not be afraid to open the lid and check the dough.  It should form a nice elastic ball.  If you think the dough is too moist, add additional flour (a tablespoon at a time). The same is true if the dough is looking dry and gnarly.  Add warm water (a tablespoon at a time).

  2. Bread Machine Isntructions:

  3. Add all the ingredients except cornmeal in the bread pan of bread machine. Process according to manufacturer's instructions for a dough setting. Do not be afraid to open the lid and check the dough. It should form a nice elastic ball. If you think the dough is too moist, add additional flour (a tablespoon at a time). The same is true if the dough is looking dry and gnarly. Add warm water (a tablespoon at a time).

  4. If you can not judge your dough by looking, stick your finger in and feel the dough. It should be slightly tacky to the touch. When the bread machine has completed the dough cycle, remove the dough from the pan to a lightly floured surface. Knead the dough several times and form the dough into an oval; cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 10 to 15 minutes.

  5. Stand Up Mixer Instructions:

  6. In a large bowl or in the bowl of a 5-quart stand mixer, add all the ingredients except the cornmeal.  Using a dough hook, mix all the ingredients together into a uniform dough.  It should form a nice elastic ball. If you think the dough is too moist, add additional flour (a tablespoon at a time).  The same is true if the dough is looking dry and gnarly.  Add warm water (a tablespoon at a time).

  7. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead until elastic, about 15 minutes.  In an electric mixer, it should take about 9 minutes.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rest for 10 to 15 minutes.

  8. After resting, knead dough (see kneading tips below) on a lightly-floured board by pulling the dough towards you and then pushing down and forward with the palms of your hands (kneading gives the bread the elasticity and lets it rise).


  10. Kneading Dough Hints and Tips:

  11. Lightly dust your work surface with all-purpose flour or bread flour.  Place a small mound or a measuring cup of flour near the work surface as you will use this flour to sprinkle over the dough as you knead to prevent sticking.  Also lightly dust your hands with flour to keep the dough from sticking to you.

  12. Gather the dough into a rough ball and place on your floured work surface.

  13. When you knead, you will use only the heels of your hands.  Push down on dough with your hand heels.

  14. Fold the dough in half.  Turn the dough about 45 degrees and knead with your hand heels again.  Continue to knead, fold and turn the dough for the required length of time or to the consistency suggested.  I usually knead the dough around 5 minutes.  Well-kneaded dough should feel smooth and elastic.  Press your fingertip into the dough; it should spring back.

  15. Place the dough in a lightly-oiled large bowl.  Place a damp towel over the bowl and then cover with plastic wrap (the humidity in the bowl helps in the rising process).  Let rise until it doubles in volume (when you can put your finger in the dough and it leaves and indentation and doesn't spring back out) approximately 4 to 8 hours (depending on the temperature and the starter used, the rising time can vary as much as 2 hours).

  16. Oven Bread Rising:  Sometimes I use my oven for the rising.  Turn the oven on for a minute or so, then turn it off again.  This will warm the oven and make it a great environment for rising bread.  If you can not comfortably press your hand against the inside of the oven door, the oven is too hot.  Let it stand open to cool a bit.  Sourdough rises more slowly than yeast bread.  Always remember, the longer the rise time, the more sourdough flavor.

  17. Cool or Refrigerator Bread Rise:  If I do not have the time to wait for the rise to finish or I know that I will be interrupted before the completed rise, I do a cool rise.  A cool rise is when the dough is place in the refrigerator and left to rise slowly over night approximately 8 to 12 hours.  I usually do this after the first rise and the dough has been shaped into a loaf.  As this is a longer rise time, it improves the sourdough flavor in your finished bread.


  19. After dough has risen, remove from bowl, and place on a lightly-floured board.  Knead in flour to feed it one more time before baking.  Shape dough into a loaf shape and place on a cookie sheet that is dusted with cornmeal or use the Silicone Baking Mats.  I personally recommend that you use the Silicone Baking Mats as nothing sticks to them.  Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot to rise until doubled in size, approximately 1 to 3 hours.

  20. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  After rising, slash the bread with a bread razor (lame) or a very sharp knife making three 1/2-inch deep diagonal slashes.

  21. Brush or spray the top of the bread with cold water and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until nicely browned.  A good check is to use an instant digital thermometer to test your bread. The internal temperature should be between 200 and 210 degrees F.

  22. When the bread is cooked, remove from oven and place the bread on a wire cooling rack to cool.  Let baked loaf cool for 30 minutes before cutting (this is because the bread is still cooking while it is cooling).

  23. Makes 1 large loaf.


Cornstarch Glaze Instructions:
  1. This is a typical mixture that professional bakers use to get that characteristic sheen on breads.  I keep this mixture in my refrigerator to use on all the breads I bake.

  2. In a small saucepan, with a small whisk, stir together water and cornstarch.  Heat mixture to a gentle boil.  Stir, reduce heat, until mixture thickens and is translucent. Let cool.

  3. Brush on loaf about 10 minutes before baking is finished and again 3 minutes before bread is completely done.

Recipe Notes

Sourdough Starter* If you do not presently have a sourdough starter, either make your own sourdough starter or purchase Packaged Sourdough Starter Mix by mail-order.  This is the easiest way to get on starter.

** The thickness of your sourdough starter can determine how much flour needs to be used.  If you think the dough is too moist, add additional flour (a tablespoon at a time).  The same is true if the dough is looking dry and gnarly.  Add warm water (a tablespoon at a time).


Thermapen Internal Temperature Cooking ChartI get many readers asking what cooking/meat thermometer that I prefer and use in my cooking and baking. I, personally, use the Thermapen Thermometer. Originally designed for professional use, the Super-Fast Thermapen Thermometer is used by chefs all over the world.  I only endorse a few products, on my web site, that I like and use regularly.

You can learn more or buy yours at: Super-Fast Thermapen Thermometer.

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Did you know that the name sourdough comes from San Francisco and their famous sourdough breads? It is thought that French bakers brought sourdough techniques to Northern California during the California Gold Rush in the late 1800s. If you don’t want to make your own sourdough starter, you can buy a San Francisco sourdough starter from Amazon. 

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Sourdough Raisin BreadComments from readers:

I just wanted to share photos of my bread I made using your sourdough recipe as my guide.

I had starter that I was wanting to try out and came across your site.  My goal was a take on cinnamon raisin bread, but I was wanting to use dried cherries, blueberries, and cranberries instead.  After the first rise, I kneaded in the re-hydrated fruit and cinnamon/sugar and formed the loaf.  I then let it rise in fridge overnight.  Baked it this morning….oh so good!  Thanks for the detailed instructions for the bread.

Now I am going to make rolls for Thanksgiving using your recipe again.  Best regards – Jennifer Trent (11/24/14)



Sourdough Bread   

Comments and Reviews

11 Responses to “San Francisco-Style Sourdough Bread Recipe”

  1. Pamela Bishop

    I see that your San Francisco sourdough bread is not calling for yeast to be added. Is this correct?

    • Whats Cooking America

      It’s the sourdough starter that makes the bread rise because it has active cultures in the starter.

  2. Tracey

    Can I use my clay pot cooker for sourdough in baking

    • Linda Stradley

      What do you consider is a clay pot cooker?

  3. Olga

    Hi! I just started making bread and came across this recipe. The bread came out delicious, however it did not really brown. Do you have any suggestions or a reason as why you don’t think it browned? Just looking for advice. Thank you!

  4. Cathy Andreasen

    I’ve tried this recipe several time and they’ve all been successful except I’m not getting a good crumb and the sourdough flavor is not as prevellent as I’d like.
    I’m wondering if the baking soda and high amount of salt could be a factor?

  5. Elaine

    Someone gave me dry sour dough starter, now how do I use it in a recipe?

    • Nancy

      You’re going to have to revive the dry starter and build it up and maintain it over several days before you use it. Use about 2 teaspoons of dry starter and add 2 tablespoons of lukewarm purified or spring water. Stir it up to moisten it then add 1 tablespoon of four, cover and let sit overnight until it starts bubbling. Then add 1 tablespoon of four and enough purified or spring water to maintain a consistency like pancake batter. Do this for several days keeping the starter in a warm place, covered with a cotton towel or cheesecloth. Only stir your starter with a wooden spoon. After a few days, add a 1/2 cup of flour and about a 1/4 cup of purified or spring water (enough water to maintain a consistency like pancake batter. After this starts to bubbling (24 hours) you should have enough starter to make some bread.

  6. Craig

    Sadly, I’m on a strict super-low salt diet. Can this be adapted to be made without salt? If not, how little salt can I get away with using? In yeast breads I’ve reduced the yeast when I’ve done away with salt. Do I do the same with sourdough starter since salt is a yeast retardant?

  7. Jonas Öhman, Sweden

    I’ve justr made this bread completely with the help of a breadmaker. I used a small amount of fine ground all bran floue, else I followed the recipe to the letter.
    After a inital 10 minutes knead I löet the dough rest one hour, then I gave it a second 10 minutes knead. The first raise was 10 hour over night.
    I made a last 10 minutes knead after adding some more flour and the last raise to 4 houres to complete. The 1 hour baking only cycle of the breadmaker made the loaf perfect.

    • Nancy

      Sounds like it was a labor of love for your loaf of bread. It really makes you appreciate store bought loafs! Thanks for letting us know how it turned out. – Nancy


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