Plain white, simple sourdough bread. A great starter recipe to use if you are new to sourdough baking. The dough cycle of the bread machine can be used to prepare the dough, if you like. Prep time does not include proofing time for starter.
Before measuring out your 2 cups of starter culture, it must be proofed: To proof, I usually start with 1 cup of starter and stir into it equal parts of flour and warm water (for this recipe, 1 1/2 cups of each would be more than enough).
Let mixture sit, covered loosely, for 8 to 12 hours-- the longer it sits, the sourer the flavor will be.
At this point, measure out the 2 cups required for recipe, and return leftover starter to refrigerator for next time.
Pour starter into mixing bowl.
Melt butter (microwave works well).
Add milk to butter and warm briefly (85 degrees F).
Add the salt and sugar, stir until dissolved.
Add this mixture to the culture and mix well.
Add the flour, 1 cup at a time, stirring until the dough is too stiff to mix by hand.
Turn onto floured board and knead in the remaining flour until the dough is smooth and satiny.
Pat dough into a 1-inch thick oval and form loaf by rolling oval up from the long side, pinching the seam together as you roll the dough, tucking ends to form the loaf.
Place in lightly greased loaf pan (I spray with cooking spray), and let rise, covered, at 85 degrees F for 1 1/2 to 3 hours.
When the dough rises 1 to 2 inches above the edges of pan, it is ready to bake.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees F and bake an additional 30 to 40 minutes (baking time varies according to your oven and your personal taste--some like a darker crustier bread than others).
Remove loaf from oven and brush the top lightly with melted butter; turn loaf out of the pan and cool on wire rack.
If you prefer, you can shape this into a round or oval loaf and bake on a baking sheet.