This Lemon Poppyseed Bread is a riff on a sourdough pullman bread. It is the dream bread of breakfasts. Yeah, I said it. It is soft like a sandwich bread, tangy from the sourdough starter, and zestfully lemony in all the right ways. Toast it up with some butter or jam. So, so good!
There is no yeast in this bread. It rises naturally by using a ripe sourdough starter. If you are new to sourdough and want to create a starter, check out my Sourdough Starter Guide where I explain how to create and maintain a starter. Apart from the starter, you likely have all the ingredients you need to make this Lemon Poppyseed Bread.
I adapted this recipe from a recipe my friend Susan (want.and.knead on Instagram — follow her!) shared with me. I love, love, love the softness of this bread and that it is made from a natural sourdough starter without any assistance from commercial yeast.
To make this lemon sourdough pullman bread, you will need a Pullman Loaf Pan. I use this USA Pan one, and absolutely love it. Make sure your Pullman Loaf Pan is 9-inches by 4-inches.
How to Sourdough Bread in a Pullman Loaf Pan
Just like any sourdough pullman bread, the key to success for this bread is nothing more than patience. It will take a few minutes to mix the dough, and that is the extent of your active time. Because the bread rises from a natural sourdough starter rather than yeast, it takes longer for the bread to ferment and rise. That is all inactive time where you can leave your house and do whatever you want! It’s also great because a longer ferment means better taste. Win/win!
Make sure your starter is active
The best piece of advice I can give anyone working with a sourdough starter is to make sure it is at its active point when you go to mix the dough. My kitchen temperature is usually around 74-75° F, and it generally takes 5-6 hours for my starter to be at its most active after I feed it. Depending on the temperature of your starter, the temperature of the water you feed it with, and the temperature of your kitchen, it could take less or more time. Generally, 4-6 hours should be the best time frame, but, again, that is dependent on temperature variables and the strength and health of your starter. I know people with cooler kitchens, around 72° F, who usually wait approximately 8 hours after feeding their starter to mix whatever dough they are making.
Get to know your starter. Spend a couple days checking on it every hour or half hour starting at the 4 hour post-feeding mark to see at what point it rises to the highest level. Observe the top to see how bubbly it is. Each time you bake with your starter, take note of what stage the starter was at. If you like your bread more sour, you will want to wait longer, like the 6-8 hour mark, to use the starter before mixing it in a dough. For a less sour and sweater flavor, use it sooner, like at the 4 hour mark.
If I feed my starter at 9:30 a.m., I usually mix this Lemon Poppyseed Bread dough between 2:30 pm and 3:30 pm.
Soak the poppyseeds
This recipe uses milk, which you want to be at room temperature, or slightly warmer than room temperature, when you mix the dough. When baking with poppyseeds, you get more flavor from them if they soak a bit in liquid. Soaking them also allows them to absorb some of the liquid so that they do not pull liquid from the dough. Heat the milk up just until it comes to a simmer. Add in the poppyseeds and allow the mixture to sit for an hour before mixing the dough.
Mix the dough
This dough is super easy to mix. I do not recommend kneading by hand, as it is slightly sticky at the beginning, and it is best to avoid adding additional flour into the dough.
To mix the dough, pour the cooled milk and poppyseed mixture into the bowl of your electric mixer. Add the flour, starter, and sugar. Using the dough hook, turn the mixer on low speed. Add the water in three parts. Add the salt, then the butter in four parts. The dough may seem too wet and may stick to the bottom of the bowl. Resist the temptation to add more flour. Instead, stop the mixer and, using a dough scraper or rubber spatula, scrape the dough from the sides of the bowl. You may need to to stop the mixer several times to scrape the bowl. Once the mixture is mostly combined (it is ok if there are still pieces of butter in the dough), add the lemon zest, kneading just a bit. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a tea towel, and allow the dough to rest for 20 minutes. This rest will allow the flour to absorb some of the liquid.
After that short rest, continue kneading the dough. You still may have to scrape the sides of the bowl, but as you turn the mixer up to the fastest speed, the dough should clear the sides of the bowl. Knead on high for 2-3 minutes. Perform a windowpane test to make sure the gluten is well-developed. (Just take a small piece of dough and stretch it with your fingers. If it stretches so it is translucent without ripping, it passes the windowpane test.)
Rest the dough
If necessary, give the dough several kneads by hand. Lightly grease a bowl, shape the dough into a ball, and place it in the bowl, covered with plastic wrap or a tea towel. Allow it to rise for 4 hours in the warmest part of your kitchen. Then de-gass the dough, re-shape into a ball, and place it back in the bowl. Cover the bowl tightly and pop it in the refrigerator overnight, for at least 10 hours. I have kept the dough in the refrigerator for up to 16 hours and it came out perfectly. I suspect you could keep in the refrigerator for at least several more hours if you run into scheduling issues.
Shape the dough
In the morning, remove the dough from the refrigerator, leaving it covered, allowing it to sit for 1½ – 2 hours. Roll the dough out into a rectangle so the width of the rectangle is no longer than the size of your pullman pan. (Mine is 9 inches.) Roll the dough up like cinnamon rolls or a jelly roll, but make sure to roll it up tightly to avoid air gaps. Pinch the seam closed and place the dough, seam side down, into the prepared pullman pan. Cover and allow to rise until the dough has just about reached the lid. This generally takes at least 4 hours. Start checking on it at the 3½ hour mark. On days when my kitchen is slightly cooler, it has taken 5 hours.
Bake the the sourdough Pullman bread, with the lid on, for 20 minutes. Then, very carefully and with good oven mits, take the lid off the top of the bread pan and allow it to bake an additional 25 minutes. The bread is done when the internal temperature reaches at least 200° F. Let it sit in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then remove the bread from the pan and allow it to cool completely on a wire rack before slicing it.
Frequently Asked Questions About Making Lemon Poppyseed Sourdough Pullman Bread
Do I need to use a Pullman pan for this recipe?
This recipe is written specifically for use with a Pullman pan. I have not tried baking it any other pan or shape. That said, it may be possible to shape the dough into individual rolls and bake them on a baking sheet.
Where can I buy a Pullman pan?
Most kitchen type stores, such as Williams Sonoma and Sur la Table, sell a Pullman pan. I bought mine from Amazon because I specifically wanted a USA Pan brand one. Make sure to use a 9-inch by 4-inch Pullman pan for this recipe.
Why are the ingredients only in weights?
I bake all my recipes by weighing the ingredients. For many of my recipes, I include equivalent measurements. When baking bread, especially with sourdough, precision is too important to risk errors with measuring the starter and the flour. To ensure that you obtain the desired results of this recipe, the ingredients are only listed by weight.
How do I store the bread?
If eating the bread over the next day or two, simply wrap it in plastic wrap and leave on the counter. This bread also freezes beautifully. Once cooled, I like to slice the bread up, wrap each slice individually in plastic wrap, place each piece in a Ziplock freezer bag, and freeze. This way I can pull out a slice or two in the morning, pop it right in the toaster, and have a delicious breakfast.
Lemon Poppyseed Sourdough Pullman Bread
- 9-inch by 4-inch Pullman Loaf Pan with Lid
- 135 grams whole milk, at room temperature
- 18 grams poppyseeds (2 Tablespoons)
- 350 grams all purpose flour
- 25 grams sugar
- 100 grams ripe starter (fed 4-6 hours earlier)
- 100 grams water, at room temperature
- 10 grams fine sea salt
- 55 grams butter, at room temperature
- Zest of 2 lemons
- Approximately one hour before you plan to mix the dough (which is one hour before you anticipate that your starter will be ready to use), heat the milk in a small saucepan just until it comes to a simmer. Pour heated milk into the bowl of an electric stand mixer. Mix in poppyseeds. Allow to sit for approximately one hour.
- Add the flour, sugar and starter to the milk and poppyseeds. With the dough hook of the mixer, mix until combined. It will be clumpy. Add the water in three parts, continuing to knead with the dough hook. Add the salt and continue kneading. If the dough is not lifting from the sides and bottom of the bowl, turn the mixer off and use a bowl scraper to help move it towards the center of the bowl. Add the butter in four parts, just until fully combined into the dough. Add the zest and knead in for a bit. It is ok if the butter and zest are not yet fully incorporated into the dough. Stop the mixer, cover the dough, and allow it to rest for 20 minutes.
- With the dough hook, continue kneading the dough for about 3-5 minutes. The dough should just clean the sides of the bowl when the mixer is turned to its highest speed.
- Remove the dough from the bowl to a lightly floured surface. Knead the dough for a minute or two until it is smooth. Shape into a ball and place in a lightly greased bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a dish towel. Allow the dough to rest for 4 hours in the warmest part of your kitchen. The dough should almost double in size.
- De-gas the dough and roll it again into a ball. Place in the bowl with a tight cover or plastic wrap on top. Refrigerate overnight, at least 10 hours.
- In the morning, remove the dough from the refrigerator and allow it rest at room temperature for 1½ - 2 hours.
- Lightly grease the pan and the bottom of the pan’s lid. Lightly flour your work surface and roll the dough out into a rectangle the width of the length ofyour pan. In other words, the width of the dough should be no bigger than 9 inches, and the dough should be approximately ¼ inch thick. Roll the dough up tightly like a cinnamon roll, pinching the horizantal end into the rest of the log. Place the dough into the prepared pan and secure the cover in place. Allow the dough to rest in a warm place in your kitchen until the dough just about reaches the top of the pan. This usually takes approximately 4-6 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 350° F. With the cover on the pan, bake for 20 minutes. Carefully remove the cover and continue to bake for an additional 25 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the internal temperature is at least 200° F.
- Allow the bread to cool in the pan for 5 minutes before releasing it. Let bread cool completely on wire rack.
- Rather than continuously stopping the mixer and scraping the sides of the bowl, try mixing the dough with the paddle attachment prior to the 20 minute rest in step 2.
- Make sure to roll the dough up tightly to avoid any air pockets.