Hats off to you, my friend, for wanting to tackle a same-day sourdough bread. Is it possible? Absolutely. Will it take a bit of time, practice, and possibly a few failures? Almost certainly.
But don’t let that get you down. Not only are the dud loaves still totally edible and delicious, you also learn more from your mistakes than you do your successes. I’ve also got a trick card known as “commercial yeast” up my sleeve for the days when you need a lift.
As a sourdough baker who’s baked thousands of loaves and learned from many mistakes, I’m happy to share the details of making a successful same-day sourdough bread. Let’s dive in!
Can You Make Sourdough Bread in One Day?
Yes. It can be a little tricky to achieve this, but if you’re willing to commit to learning the process in your own environment, you can bake same-day sourdough bread that works with your schedule in just a few tries.
In this article, I’ll give you a basic recipe and timeline for making a successful sourdough, then I’ll go over tips for adjusting the process to fit your schedule. I’ll also cover some FAQ’s.
True Sourdough vs Yeasted Sourdough
True Sourdough Bread
A true sourdough bread will be leavened only with your sourdough starter. True sourdough is a fermented bread. As the starter begins to eat the flour in your bread dough, it goes through a fermentation process.
Over time, the dough will become puffy, bubbly, and begin to double in size. The fermentation process also breaks down the flour, making it easier to digest.
The trouble with this process is that fermentation takes time, and is affected by your environment. The fermentation process goes faster in a warmer environment, and slower in a cooler environment.
To achieve this process in one day, your sourdough starter needs to be extremely healthy and active.
A healthy starter should be doubling, or tripling in size within six hours of feeding it. If your starter is not doing this, it's not going to be able to leaven your bread quickly enough to do a same-day bake.
Yeasted Sourdough Bread
A yeasted sourdough bread will still contain sourdough starter, but the rising process can be hurried along by adding a very small amount of commercial yeast. Usually, a ¼ of a teaspoon per loaf.
Adding yeast can be very helpful in trying to achieve a same-day sourdough bread, especially if your starter is not rising quite as quickly as you’d like it to.
Lots of professional bakeries use this trick for same-day baguettes, and most grocery store bakeries make their sourdough with added yeast to ensure consistency.
There is no shame in adding yeast, but keep in mind, the bread will not be entirely fermented and may be harder to digest for people with gluten sensitivities. A yeasted sourdough will not have quite the same flavor as a true sourdough bread, but will still be delicious.
How to Get Your Sourdough Starter Ready for a Same-Day Bake
Your bread will mirror your sourdough starter. Whatever the starter is doing is what your bread will do too. If the starter is not rising very much, neither will your bread.
Your starter should be stored in the fridge when you’re not using it. If you haven’t used it in a very long time, feed it twice/day for at least a week before you ask it to leaven bread. If you’ve used it within the last few weeks, feed it twice/day for about three days before you use it.
Make sure your starter is doubling or tripling in size within six hours of feeding it before you begin making bread. To achieve this, just keep feeding it and be sure not to miss a feeding! Use unbleached flour for faster results.
I feed my starter 100g of flour (⅔ cup) and 100g of room temperature water (½ cup) twice a day.
When the starter is happy and active, feed it again the night before you want to bake with it. It should be doubled or tripled in size in the morning. If you gently scoop some into a cup of cool water, it should float. Then you know you’re ready to begin making your dough (Watch this video to see the float test in action!)
Same Day Sourdough Recipe:
Yields: 2 large loaves (1000g each)
900g (7 ⅓) Cups Bread Flour
120g (1 Cup) Whole Wheat Flour
750g (3 Cups) Slightly Warm Water (80 Fahrenheit is ideal)
200g (1 Heaping Cup) of Ripe Starter
20g (1 Heaping Tablespoon) Salt
¼ teaspoon instant yeast (optional)
Note: If using commercial yeast, the dough will rise faster than the times given below.
7:00 am: Reserve ½ cup of the water. In a mixing bowl, add the remaining water, the yeast (if using), and the sourdough starter. Swish to combine. Add all the flour and mix until a shaggy dough is formed. Cover the bowl, set it in a warm area (not warmer than 80°F), and allow it to rest for 30 minutes.
(This is known as the autolyse. A rest period that allows all the flour to become hydrated).
7:40 am: If using a stand mixer, mix on a 2 or 3 speed for 3 minutes (if the mixer begins rocking, turn the speed down). If mixing by hand, slap the dough on the counter, folding it over after each slap until it goes from shaggy to smooth. Do this for 3 minutes. (Watch this video for a how-to on slap & folds). Cover the bowl again and let it rest for 5 minutes. Repeat the entire process twice more. You are developing gluten and strengthening the dough. Keep a bowl of warm water nearby if mixing by hand. Dip your hands as needed to keep the dough from sticking to you.
8:00 am: Mix in the salt. If the dough feels very sticky, do not add the remaining water. If you’re an experienced baker, you may add the additional half cup of water, but make sure the water is warm so as not to cool down the dough. Mix until incorporated. If doing this by hand, squish it until all the water and salt are absorbed.
The dough may come apart during this process but just keep mixing, it will come back together. Transfer the dough to a clean, oiled bowl and cover it. Place in a warm area and allow it to rise for one hour.
9:15 am: Wet your hands in warm water. Gently stretch the dough on all four sides. This will develop more gluten and redistribute the yeast. Cover and allow to rest for another hour (Watch this video for a how-to on stretch and folds).
10:15 am: Gently pinch off a bit of the dough and place in a cup of cool water. See if the dough floats. If it sinks to the bottom, you likely have two hours to go. If it sort of bobs around, but doesn’t quite float, you have about 1 hour to go. Stretch the dough again and allow it to continue proofing. Most sourdough takes 3-4 hours to complete the bulk (Watch this video for a guide to completing the float test).
11:15 am: Repeat the float test. You do not want to proceed to the next step until the dough blob is vigorously floating. Allow to proof for another 30 minutes to an hour if needed, or proceed if ready.
12:15 pm: When the float test is completed, dust your prepared bannetons with flour, or generously spray your loaf tins with cooking spray. Gently turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Use a coarse flour if possible for easier handling.
Divide the dough in two using a bench knife. Then, working with one dough at a time, fold each side towards the middle, and roll it up like a log. Pinch the seam together and pinch the ends as well. Dust with flour and place upside down in the prepared banneton, or right-side up in the loaf tin (Watch this video for a visual aid on shaping).
12:45 pm: Cover the banneton or tin and place in a warm area. Check the notes below on baking and go ahead and preheat your oven so it’s ready when the dough is.
1:45 pm: Check the loaf to see if it has doubled in size again. It should have risen almost to the top of the banneton or loaf tin and the dough should feel puffy when poked. If it’s not quite there, let it rise another 30 minutes. Determining when the loaf is ready takes practice, so don’t get discouraged!
2:00 pm - 3:00 pm: Bake the Loaf
To Bake in a Dutch Oven or On a Pizza Stone:
Preheat your oven to 450°F. You must preheat the oven for one hour with the stones or dutch ovens inside for this to work.
To Bake in a Loaf Tin:
Preheat your oven to 400°F. As soon as the oven is preheated, you may begin baking.
If baking in a loaf tin, score the top as you’d like and place in the oven. Place a pan of water on the rack below and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the water pan and bake for another 25-40 minutes, until the loaf is golden brown. Tin loaves generally take a bit longer to bake than free-form loaves.
If you sprayed the pan well, the loaf should slide right out and can be cooled on a cooling rack. If it sticks, use a table knife to carefully help you remove it and use more baking spray next time.
If baking in a dutch oven, cut parchment paper slightly bigger than the size of the dough you’re baking. Sprinkle the parchment with flour, then dump the loaves out onto the parchment, allowing them to sit upside down for a moment, before you try to release them from the bannetons. Score the loaves and then carefully retrieve the dutch oven. Transfer the loaf to the dutch oven using the edges of the parchment and put the lid on. Bake for 20 minutes, then remove the lid and bake for another 20-25 minutes.
If baking on a stone or sheet pan, cut parchment paper slightly bigger than the size of the dough you’re baking. Put the parchment on a peel, or use a flat baking sheet as a peel.
Sprinkle the parchment with flour, then dump the dough out onto the parchment, allowing the dough to sit upside down for a moment, before you try to release them from the bannetons.
Score the loaves and then carefully transfer them to the baking stone, or slide the pan into the oven. Place a pan of water on the bottom rack and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the water pan and bake for another 25-40 minutes, until the loaf is golden brown.
For best results, allow loaves to cool on a cooling rack for one hour before slicing.
The Float Test Fallacy
To check if your sourdough starter is ready to use, or if your dough is ready to be shaped, use the float test:
The Float Test
Carefully pinch off a blob of dough or starter and plop it into a deep cup of cool water. The dough/starter will float vigorously, bobbing at the top when ready. If it does not float, it needs more time to bulk.
The reason dough floats is because as it rises and ferments, gas bubbles are created and trapped inside. When enough of these are formed, the dough will float and is ready for the next step.
However, if you take a dough that is ready and smash all the air out of it, it will not float even though it's ready to use. Make sure you don't deflate your dough or starter when performing the float test (Watch this video for an example of a float test fallacy).
Adjusting the Sourdough Process to Work with Your Schedule
Not everyone can spend all day babysitting their dough. I do recommend completing the process on a day you can be at home at least once or twice so you really understand the stages of the dough. Then, you can start to make changes.
Making Sourdough While You’re at Work
Let’s say you go to work early in the morning and you want your dough to be ready to bake when you get home. Let’s assume you’ll be gone for 10 hours.
Main adjustment: Keep everything cold to slow down the fermentation process. Mix your dough first thing when you get up with cold water (You could also mix your dough the night before and just wait to add your starter till the morning). Develop the gluten as much as you can since you won’t be doing stretch & folds throughout the day. The dough should feel really strong when you’re done.
Cover the dough and keep it in a cool place in the house. Do not store it in the fridge or it won’t rise at all (the exception to this is if you used commercial yeast. Yeasted dough will likely need to be refrigerated if you’re going to be gone all day, and it may rise a little despite the cold temperature).
When you get home, check the dough with the float test. Let it rise in a warm area until a float test is successful. Then shape the dough and let it rise in the banneton or loaf tin in a warm spot while your oven preheats. Bake the loaf and away you go!
As You Understand How the Process Works in Your Environment, You Can Make Even More Modifications.
Perhaps you want to mix your dough, go run errands, and bake it when you return. You can absolutely do this, you’ll just need to time the bulk fermentation with your errands. To adjust for this, you might use warmer or cooler water, or bulk the dough in a warmer or cooler place depending on how long you want the bulk to take.
What if You Get Started Too Late or Your Starter is Laggy?
No problem, maybe this time you add a little yeast to speed up the process.
What if You Get Interrupted and Can’t Finish the Dough That Day?
No worries! Stick that dough in the fridge at any stage and pick up where you left off later. Dough can be held in the fridge for up to two days.
When you’re ready to work with the dough again, keep in mind you’ll need to give the dough time to come up to room temperature before you can expect it to start rising again. This usually takes about an hour for true sourdough, and thirty minutes for yeasted sourdough.
Benefits of Making Sourdough the Same Day
- A milder, sour flavor
- Less time consuming
Benefits of a Two-Day Sourdough
- More sour flavor
- More time for the loaf to proof, bake, and cool
Frequently Asked Questions
My Starter Isn't Doubling in Six Hours, Can I Still Use It?
Whatever your starter is doing is what your bread is going to do. If it’s not really rising, your bread won’t either. Keep feeding the starter until it’s happier, or go ahead and use it, but add some commercial yeast to the dough as well.
I Made My Own Starter, but It’s Not Working
Have patience! A new starter can take anywhere from 1-3 weeks to become established enough to bake with. Using bleached flour can really slow it down, try feeding it an unbleached flour and see if that helps. Be sure you’re feeding it at least twice a day or it won’t get very strong.
I Think I Killed My Starter
I said that same thing to a professional baker when I was learning. This was her response: “Oh, it’s never dead.” And she was right. The only way you can kill a starter is by heating it above 140°F. They are very resilient and will always come back with enough regular feedings.
My Dough Isn’t Rising, I’m Getting Worried
First, check in with the starter. Was it active enough to leaven your bread? If not, mix in some yeast and start the bulk again.
If the starter was active enough, your dough is probably cold. Move it to a warmer place and give it about an hour to warm up. Then you should start to see some bubbles, and it will eventually rise.
My Dough is Sticky, and Climbing Out of the Mixing Bowl, HELP!
Your dough is over-proofed. There’s not a lot of ways to fix this except to shape it quickly, stick it in the fridge to slow it down, and bake it as soon as you can.
It will still be yummy, it just might be a little flat, and denser then you’re used to.
You can absolutely make a same day sourdough bread that works with your schedule. You will simply need patience and practice to achieve this.
Your starter must be doubling or tripling within six hours of feeding it to make a true sourdough bread successfully.
You can add ¼ teaspoon of commercial yeast to a sourdough bread to help speed along the process.
Use the float test to determine when your starter is ready to use, and when your dough is ready to be shaped. Be careful of the float test fallacy.
You can bake your loaves in a dutch oven, on a pizza stone, or in a loaf tin. All bread should have steam added to the oven for the first half of baking.
All bread made with love and care is good bread. Enjoy it to the last bite.