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The home-made bread compromise

I came home from the sourdough and fermented food workshop and I wanted to try to make my first sourdough loaf right away, before I forgot what to do!  Why am I so keen on sourdough?  Well its the traditional method of making bread that was used before "bakers yeast" was isolated.  It can be made from only flour, water and sourdough starter, so is a very sustainable method as long as flour is available.  Because the flour is fermented for 12-24 hours before cooking, this allows the enzyme phytase to break down the phytic acid in the grain (phytic acid prevents mineral adsorption), it also allows microbes to begin to digest the nutrients so that they will be more available.  (Although some of the science is debatable, and confusing, I believe that soaking grains and flour prior to cooking/baking has improved my digestion, see more here).

The sourdough that we made at the workshop was HEAVY!  And I know that it was a really HEALTHY heavy, but I can't see us eating it regularly, so I decided to try to make something a little lighter to ease us into sourdough.  The workshop sourdough was heavy because it used only wholemeal flour and lots of seeds (pumpkin seeds, sunflowers, linseeds, caraway).  I decided to try a plain sourdough, with no seeds, and half/half organic wholemeal spelt and organic white wheat flour.  My loaf was still heavy, but not as bad.

loaf cut open
Farmer Pete decided to get into the breadmaking as well.  This is great, because I don't want to buy supermarket bread, but Farmer Pete's idea of good bread is different to mine!  He likes white fluffy bread, which is impossible (as far as I can tell) with sourdough.  His first loaf was made using a supermarket bread mix, which contained "bread improver" but no preservatives.  It did taste really nice, and was extremely light, but not so healthy.  I then persuaded him to try making his bread with just good quality white baking flour, oil, salt, yeast and water, no bread improver, and it was slightly less fluffy, but still quite nice.

Farmer Pete's white loaf

Finally, we tried a compromise loaf.  This is a soaked flour wholemeal/white loaf that uses bakers yeast (from a free ebook that can be downloaded here).  The flour and water (and honey and olive oil) are mixed with a little whey (I use kefir or yoghurt as well) 12 hours before baking and allowed to soak at room temperature.  The bakers yeast and salt is added just before kneading and rising as per "normal" bread.  I used the bread maker to mix the dough and baked it in the wood stove.  The loaf was not as fluffy as the white one, but not as dense as the sourdough.  It does have a slightly sour taste, but not as strong as the sourdough.  I think its a delicious flavour and texture, and I think Farmer Pete is happy with it (he has been eating it, which is a good sign as he wouldn't eat the sourdough!).

The compromise bread

I think we might have found bread that suits both of us.  As the flour is soaked before cooking the phytic acid should be removed, but adding the bakers yeast lets the bread rise to produce a nice texture.  I know that some people think that eating bread made from bakers yeast can encourage yeast growth in your stomach (ie candida), but I don't understand how that works, if the bread is baked then the yeast is dead by the time you eat the bread.  If anyone has any further insights on the pros and cons of bakers yeast, please let me know.  In the meantime I'm just happy to find a bread that we can make at home from simple ingredients, with no preservatives, added folate or soy flour, that we both enjoy eating.  I'm glad that I know how to make sourdough and it will be something that I can use if I ever can't buy bakers yeast (also if anyone has any advice on making less dense sourdough, I'm willing to give it another try :)  although I did manage to kill my starter already and will have to start again!).


  1. I thought I was going really well with my starter until it suddenly died last week and I realised I was just not giving it enough attention. Luckily I kept a bit from the original mix in the freezer and was able to get it going again over a few days, so perhaps you could try that with you next batch. I've also been trying to work out how to get lighter loaves. I found one recipe online but tried to turn it into a loaf and it didn't really work, but should try again making the rolls as suggested. You can find it here:
    Will look fwd to hearing tips from others!

  2. my hubby really doesn't like sourdough either - what is it with men? I have found a wonderful recipe with soaked oatmeal and we both are are really loving it. I will post the recipe over the weekend.

  3. I’ve been baking sourdough bread for about a year now. There are many combinations of flour that I use, all nice but all very different.

    For our everyday bread:
    300gr bakers flour, 300gr of wholemeal or rye flour, 500ml of water, 1 teaspoon of salt and 250gr of sourdough starter.
    Mix it all (I use the dough setting on my breadmaker) then let it sit until doubled in size. This will depend on the temperature. Right now about 8 hours. Punch back a little and put in a oiled bread pan. Let sit for about another 1,5 to 2 hours. Then bake on 180degrees (C) for 50 minutes.

    I buy my rye, buckwheat and wholemeal flour from Kialla. You can get sourdough very nice and fluffy, not as fluffy as with yeast. But I find that yeast breads don’t agree with me anymore anyway. Sourdough needs time to rise, heaps of it, but no need to soak anymore. It will rise in the fridge as well, slowly. But it might make it just possible in your routine. Like making the dough in the morning, and baking in the evening or the next morning.

  4. I think I've cracked the sourdough code! I use the starter that Elizabeth does (I got it out of a magazine - yoghurt, milk, flour) but I use a no knead method - you need to plan ahead! I got this method off the Nourished Kitchen blog and I feed it as per Cultures for Health. Maybe I'll do something on my blog one day and write about it! It has worked out pretty good and my husband will eat it (most of the time). You just have to train them!

  5. Good post, as I'm just starting to look into soaking grains and have started doing that for quick breads. My husband doesn't like sourdough either, so I'll continue to use yeast and appreciate the link to the free e-book so I can pre-soak my flour. Regarding yeast, I've read yeast in your body feeds off of sugar, so I'm thinking that if your diet is pretty healthy to begin with and you're not injesting a lot of sugar, using yeast in baking is probably not going to kill you in the end. :) I'd love to hear some other perspectives, though, too.

  6. Good work with the sourdough bread... we prefer to bake our own bread too as opposed to buying them from the stores...

  7. I'm a regular bread maker and haven't made the leap to sour-dough yet either. I do find it interesting, but like Farmer Pete find it hard to go past the white fluffy stuff :)

    Even working with shop bought yeast I struggled to get really consistent results for over a year until I saw and adapted a recipe from this video -

    Of course I don't have the equipment featured in the video (kneading by hand) and I make loafs instead of sticks but it works. The key within it to the consistency I think was mostly in working with the weight of the flower and water instead of cup measurements, as one blog I read said, not all cups of flower are created equal. This page talks about getting the weight balance right, apparently chefs never measure for bread in cups and always weigh the ingredients -

    Great post :)

  8. thanks for the comments everyone, seems that men don't like sourdough :) oh well, at least we can still buy bakers yeast! I'm really happy with the bread and haven't bought any from the supermarket for a couple of months now. Just have to find a recipe that works and keep to a routine.

  9. I make a sourdough loaf every few weeks or so and in between I keep the starter in the fridge. You're told that it will only survive for a couple of weeks in there but I've found that it can do go on for a month or more if you reduce the amount of liquid in the mix.

    My husband prefers sourdough and I like the not as healthy white bread so we're the opposite of you two. We compromise by making different types on a regular basis - sometimes white, sometimes white mixed with spelt or wholemeal and then sometimes Sourdough. Variety is the spice of life :)

    A bit of advice I can give on creating a non-stodgy sourdough is to allow it to rise at least three times before moving on to the proofing stage. Another thing is to not let it rise in a bread pan - it doesn't seem to hold itself up as well when it's forced to expand upwards. Probably invest in a wide, shallow proofing bowl. Hope this helps!

  10. I have just discovered your blog and adore it! I've been making my own slow fermenting bread for a little over a month now and love it so much!
    Fermented sourdough is actually next on my list! Loved this post x


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