My Method & Tips for Shaping & Baking Sourdough Sandwich Bread

Sourdough sandwich loaves are our new go-to for weekly bread in our household. In this post I’m sharing my method and favorite tips!

Shaping Prep

Before you shape, make sure your dough is fermented enough. This post has tips and a video to show you what to look for.

Dough that has fermented enough will shape more easily. (Note: The dough in this video is sourdough whole wheat so it has a rougher appearance that a typical batch of white sourdough bread dough.)

After the preshape, make sure to let the dough rest for at least 20 minutes before the final shaping.

Preparing the Loaf Pan

While your preshaped dough rests, prepare your loaf pan.

In the video I’m using one of my cast-iron loaf pans, but my new favorite is listed on my tools page.

If you are on this page, it is very likely that you are learning how to bake sourdough as a way to bring healthy, real food in your home. So when it comes to preparing your loaf pan there are some considerations for health and functions for you to consider.

Health

Many quick bread and fermented bread recipes that use loaf pans will tell you to spray the pan with nonstick spray. However, these sprays are made with inflammatory, processed oils.

Coconut oil and avocado oil are stable oils that work for high heat baking and cooking. They can be rubbed into the pan with a paper towel, just make sure to get all the corners and edges so the bread removes easily.

Function

My preferred way of lining my loaf pan is using parchment paper. Sometimes rubbing coconut oil into a loaf pan is tedious and the bread gets stuck in a spot.

Using parchment paper makes your bread, even sticky sugary babkas or quick breads, come out of the loaf pan quickly and easily!

Cut a large piece of parchment paper, turn your loaf pan over, then make four cuts at each corner. Fit the cut parchment into the loaf pan by folding the long edges behind the flap. See the video for the step by step process.

Final Shaping & Proofing

For best results, slightly stretch your dough out before each fold. Once you’ve made the folds which has built structure inside your loaf, create tension with a dough scraper or by hand.

Once the dough is inside your prepared loaf pan allow it a generous amount of time to proof.

Usually, I recommend 1-3 hours, but find that sometimes more time is better. Gauging the proof by the dough’s volume and texture. Allow the dough to rise to at least the top of the loaf pan, I usually wait until it is about a half inch or so above the rim of the pan.

The texture shows readiness when a finger pressed on the dough leaves an indentation that slightly rises up.

Steaming the oven

Towards the end of the proofing time, begin preheating the oven to 500 degrees F with a metal pan filled with 1/2 to 1 inch of water on the bottom rack of the oven. Preheat the oven for at least 20-30 minutes to make sure the water is steaming enough.

Score your loaf along the edge or along the top of the proofed dough about 1/4-1/2 inch deep. Then place the loaf on the center rack of the oven.

Add some sprays of water to the walls of the oven before quickly closing the door to trap steam.

Turn down the oven to 470 degrees (if your oven runs on the low side keeping the oven up at 500 degrees works well) and bake for 20 minutes.

Baking with high heat and steam in the first part of the baking process is essential to get the bread to expand to get a good rise and interior crumb.

To complete the bake and produce a good crust, remove the steam pan and turn down the temperature to 450 degrees for 15 minutes. Remove loaf from pan onto a cooling rack.

Cooling

Cooling is an often overlooked step in the bread making process. However, when it comes to sandwich bread, I like to let it cool overnight. Once the loaf has cooled enough the structure of the bread is set it is easier to cut thin sandwich slices.

Baking at night is how I make sure the bread lovers in my house don’t try to get a slice before it has cooled enough.

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