Merlin's Magic Sourdough Bread

star rating (27) rate this recipe »
Recipe photo

Merlin's Magic Sourdough Bread

star rating (27) rate this recipe »
Published prior to 2008

This bread will stay fresh longer than most loaves you'll make, due to both the olive oil, and the sourdough starter: breads higher in acid retain moisture better than less acidic loaves.

1 cup sourdough starter
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 tablespoon active dry yeast or 2 teaspoons instant yeast
3 tablespoons vital wheat gluten
1 tablespoon salt
1/4 cup olive oil
6 to 8 cups (approximately) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

In a large bowl, mix together the starter, water, yeast and vital wheat gluten. Add 3 cups of the flour. Cover with a damp towel, and let this sponge sit overnight. At this point, you may let the sponge sit for as long as 24 hours; the longer it rests, the more sour your final bread will be.

Add the salt, oil, and enough of the remaining flour to make a soft dough that cleans the sides of the bowl. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured or oiled work surface, and knead it, adding more flour as necessary, until it's smooth and resilient. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover it with lightly greased plastic wrap, and let it rise for 2 hours. The dough should double in size. Again, you may let the dough rise for as long as 12 hours at this point, to develop flavor.

Punch the dough down and divide it into two pieces. Knead each piece briefly on a lightly floured or oiled work surface. Form each piece into a round ball, and place each ball on a baking sheet that has been greased and sprinkled with cornmeal. Cover the loaves with damp towels or lightly greased plastic wrap, and allow them to rise for 1 hour (or more), or until they've just about doubled in size.

While the loaves are rising, preheat the oven to 375°F. Make three slashes in the top of each loaf (this helps the loaves to rise evenly in the oven). Bake the bread for 35 minutes, or until it's golden brown and sounds hollow when thumped, or until its interior measures 190°F to 205°F on an instant-read thermometer. Remove the bread from the oven, and cool completely on a wire rack. Yield: 2 large loaves.

Tip: Need some sourdough starter to get started? See our step-by-step directions for creating your own sourdough starter from scratch. Or, if you’re looking for a head-start, check out our classic fresh sourdough starter, a simpler path to fresh, ready-to-use sourdough starter.


1 23  All  
  • star rating 04/22/2015
  • LadyBaker59 from KAF Community
  • I was on day five with my starter and decided to try this recipe as I love sourdough bread. I made the sponge last night omitting the vital wheat gluten and it came out great. I left it in my six quart kitchen aid bowl and I'm glad I did because it grew to be of great volume. This morning I added all the other ingredients adding 1 1/2 cups bread flour, 1/2 Tbls salt because I read another review that commented that a whole Tbls was too salty, but next time I'm using the whole Tbls as I felt the bread tasted bland and I will add two cups of bread flour I felt the dough may have been a bit too sticky. I first mixed using the paddle in my kitchen aid until well blended then switched to the dough hook and ran it for ten minutes. Placed it in a greased stainless steel bowl. I will make this bread again as it was easy to make and it had risen nicely. I do think my starter needs to age more so that I can get a stronger flavor. I did brush the loaves before baking with a beaten egg and they browned nicely.
  • star rating 04/22/2015
  • Mary Ann from Lockport NY
  • I am a newbie with a brand new starter. I had trouble with this bread rising for the oven. And it didn't get much color. The flavor is wonderful and so is the texture. Maybe next time I will add sugar or brush with an egg wash.
    You might consider the Rustic Sourdough recipe or the Extra Tangy Sourdough recipe to start anew with your sourdough journey. We welcome your call to our baker's hotline (855-371-2253)so we can guide you and your sourdough to recipe success you can be proud of. Happy Baking! Irene@KAF
  • star rating 03/22/2015
  • Lisalou from KAF Community
  • I made this exactly as written but I baked it in regular sandwich loaf shape pans. It's perfect for my kids lunches--just like sliced sourdough from the store but much, much yummier and all the ingredients are pronounceable! It has stayed fresh long enough for my family to go through a loaf (4 kids lunches a day and sometimes mine too). I like it for toast, but it does get very crisp--so my kiddos don't like that. I'm looking forward to seeing how it thaws out, since I froze 4 of the loaves.
  • star rating 03/20/2015
  • Karen from
  • Bread was very dense and heavy. Only used 5 cups of flour and uncooked dough was very stiff. I was reluctant to add more water as I had used considerably less flour than recipe stated. The extra tangy sourdough recipe is much better.

    Karen, we're sorry to hear this bread did not turn out as you wish. We recommend treating the flour and water measurements in recipes as guidelines, especially sourdough, because the hydration rates of starters can vary considerably. If you have a dry starter, this could have made your dough more stiff. Feel free to add enough water until the dough is soft and tender, or you can stick with the Extra-Tangy Sourdough Recipe if you have had great results with that in the past. Happy sourdough baking! --Kye@KAF

  • star rating 03/07/2015
  • FrankB from KAF Community
  • I have made over 20 bread recipes from the King Arthur site and this one is my favorite so far. I always make sure my starter is healthy and fed a number of times prior to starting the sponge. The first rise is usually good, and the second rise is not very strong. But then I am amazed at the oven spring. The bread is very flavorful. I have got similar results using both the all-purpose or bread flour.
  • star rating 06/21/2014
  • Judy from Reno, Nevada
  • I have mixed feelings about this bread. It looked good, smelled good, had a good bite, but the taste was a sour that tasted "bad" sour. Not like sour milk or moldy bread where you can't swallow it you need to spit it out. It was from a two week old sourdough starter. The starter did not have a pink or off color, very active, and after the second piece of bread it tasted better. Will the starter change in taste with time?

    Hi Judy- It definitely sounds like an old starter issue to me. You should feed your starter at least once a week, discarding all but 1/2 to 1 cup, and definitely feed it at least 1 time (a few is better) before using it to bake. The important part of feeding is discarding a good deal of the old starter and giving it some fresh unprocessed flour and water to re-balance the "sourness" in your culture. Hopefully, if you feed it before using it and get rid of a good deal of the old starter before building it up to bake, your next loaf should have a much more pleasant flavor. If you have any more questions, please feel free to contact our Baker's Hotline at 1-855-371-2253. Happy Baking! Jocelyn@KAF

  • star rating 12/27/2013
  • julesverne1966 from KAF Community
  • I made this sourdough recipe earlier in the week. It had a wonderfully balanced sour taste without the citric salt. Another great sourdough recipe! Thanks, KAF.
  • star rating 11/05/2013
  • Terri from Chicago
  • Made this bread for the first time yesterday. I was expecting some ugly looking loaves after reading a couple of the reviews, but was pleasantly surprised at my two nice boules. Not too crusty or dark, but generally nice looking. Used exactly six cups of flour. They dough was very nice. Second rise took over two hours and had not doubled, so I decided to put it in the oven anyway and got a nice rise. Flavor was good. Even better with a shmear of butter! This was the first time I have ever gotten sour flavor when using yeast with the starter. I am attributing it to the overnight sponge. Made nice toast for breakfast. I will definitely make it again.
  • star rating 07/20/2013
  • jarobo from KAF Community
  • These were definitely not the prettiest loaves I've baked, but they were among the tastiest. Made the dough in the KitchenAid mixer and the final loaves had a lovely texture.
  • star rating 05/29/2013
  • Mel H from Arkansas
  • My husband and I both love this recipe! We make it together at night before bed and later the next day finish the recipe and bake. We bake it on our pizza stone with a hot water steam from a cast iron skillet. (The first time we made it, I forgot to slash the loaves and well, you know what happened! But it rose well, not too pretty looking, but tasted so great we made it again the next night! So it's very forgiving!) It's just the two of us so it takes a few days to eat it all, but this bread will crisp up around the outside when toasted. I have never made homemade bread that after it loses its crunchy top, gets it back when toasted! Amazing! Crusty top and chewy interior along with great flavor. Perfect for panini's ,grilled cheese sandwiches or just plain toast for breakfast! I make it every week, easy way to keep my starter fed. Our favorite recipe from now on! Thanks!!!
1 23  All