Sour-Cream Bread


Emma Alter Photo
Emma Alter

Difficulty Level Easy

I have now successfully completed two full weeks of bread baking, without resorting to purchasing any bread or baked goods. It has been surprisingly easy, and there is no question that I have saved more money this week. Our output wasn't as large as last week, but my husband was away for three days, so our requirements were different. I made sour-cream bread, which yields two loaves, while my daughter made a dozen bran muffins, as well as chocolate-chip cookies. We had grand plans for making bagels, but you really have to eat them the same day, so scheduling problems have pushed that project off to week three of the challenge.

I have made this sour-cream bread recipe many times over the years, and I've always had great success with it. The flavour is reminiscent of sourdough bread, but the crust is soft, not crunchy. It is a remarkably moist bread, and it keeps longer than most home-baked breads. We used it for sandwiches and it also makes excellent toast. I had the bread rising while we were having dinner, and it turned out to be one of those evenings where my husband and I sat at the dining room table for hours talking. (I believe some wine drinking may have been involved.)

I should have set the bread into pans for the second rise and then baked them, but I completely forgot all about it until I was ready for bed. I tossed the bowl of highly risen dough into the refrigerator to deal with in the morning. When I got up, I formed the loaves and gave them the second rise, and then baked them and they were perfect. If you are pressed for time, I think you could do both the first and second rise in the evening, and then just bake in the morning, once the loaves have reached room temperature.

This recipe uses all-purpose flour. Always use the unbleached flour. Bleaching removes many of the nutrients in the flour, as well as leaving a chemical residue.


1 tbsp active dry yeast
3 tbsp sugar
1/4 cup warm water
2 cups sour cream, at room temperature
1 tbsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
4 1/2‑5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
(100°F-115°F approximately)


  1. Combine the yeast, sugar and water and allow to proof for 5 minutes.
  2. Put the sour cream, salt, and soda in a mixing bowl. Add the yeast mixture. Then add 4 cups of the flour, cup by cup to make a very wet, sticky dough, stirring hard with a wooden spoon.
  3. Scrape out onto a lightly floured board. Fold the dough over a number of times until it is less sticky and you can work with your hands. Add only enough flour to prevent sticking. Knead for about 10 minutes, or until you have a smooth, somewhat-elastic dough. Shape the dough into a ball and place in a buttered bowl. Cover with plastic or a dry, clean tea towel, and let sit in a warm spot to double in bulk, about 2 hours.
  4. Punch the dough down. Turn onto a lightly floured board and knead for a minute, then divide into two equal pieces. Butter two 9x5x3-inch loaf tins. Shape the dough into loaves and fit into the tins. Cover loosely and let rise again until doubled, about 1 hour.
  5. Bake in a 375°F oven for 30-35 minutes or until the loaves sound hollow when tapped on top and bottom. Cool thoroughly before slicing.

    From Beard on Bread by James Beard

This recipe appears in: Basic Dough
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