Sourdough Sheepherder Bread Recipe


Sourdough Sheepherder Bread is more dense than regular sourdough bread and makes a wonderful bread for toasting and sandwiches. My husband especially likes this bread.

History: The Basque people lived in a tiny region that straddles the border of Spain and France before immigrating to the United States in the early 1900’s. This immigration to the American West was inspired by the discovery of gold in California. Many Basque sheepherders were also included in the immigration. It is said that the sheep industry in Nevada and Southern California owes its growth to Basque immigrant labor. As most of the cooking was done in cast iron pots, also known as Dutch ovens, they also made their traditional bread in cast iron pots buried in pits they dug in the ground.


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


Sourdough Sheepherder Bread Recipe:
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
25 mins
Total Time
40 mins
Course: Bread
Cuisine: Spanish
Keyword: Sourdough Sheepherder Bread Recipe
Servings: 1 large round loaf
Prepare the bread according to your choice of techniques below.
  1. Bread Machined Instructions:

  2. Add all the ingredients except the sesame seeds 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).

  3. 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.

  4. Stand Up Mixer Instructions:

  5. In a large bowl or in the bowl of a 5-quart stand mixer, combine sourdough starter, lukewarm water, olive oil, sugar, salt, baking soda, rye flour, and bread flour.  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).

  6. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead until elastic, about 15 minutes.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rest for 10 to 15 minutes.

  7. 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).

  8. Kneading Dough Hints & Tips:

  9. 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 dust your hands with flour to keep the dough from sticking to you.

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

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

  12. 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.

  13. 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 does not 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).

  14. Oven 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 nott comfortably press your hand against the inside of the oven door, the oven is too hot.  Let it stand open to cool a bit.

  15. Cool or Refrigerator Rise:  If I don't 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.

  16. After kneading, shape dough into a into a one-inch high circle and place on a jelly roll pan or cookie sheet that is dusted with cornmeal (I use the Silicone Baking Mats instead of cornmeal).  Press sesame seeds into the surface of the dough and brush with olive oil.  Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot to rise until doubled in size, approximately 1 to 3 hours.

  17. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  After rising is completed, bake for 10 minutes.  Reduce heat to 375 degrees F. and bake and additional 15 minutes or until loaf sounds hollow when tapped. (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.) Remove from oven and place the bread on a wire rack to cool.

  18. 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).

  19. Makes 1 large round loaf.

Recipe Notes

* If you don't presently have a sourdough starter, either make your own sourdough starter or purchase Packaged Sourdough Starter Mix by mail-order.

** 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.

Sponsored Content


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. 

sponsored content



Sourdough Bread   

Comments and Reviews

Leave a Reply