Bread experiments

Bread experiments enable you to bake an even better loaf; it is fun too.

For me, as a busy person there are two non negotiables. First it must be a healthy, tasty loaf, and secondly it should be relatively quick; gone are the days when I had hours to commit to kneading and, approaching the last years of life, I am totally consumed with our food being good for us.

Bread seeds with ground almonds

This page was last updated by Bernard Preston on 22nd September, 2020.

Everyone nearing their seventies knows that something will get them, but life is so good that I have no desire to die unnecessarily long before my time, simply because I did not, or would not eat nutritious food.

That means the dough must be made from healthy flour; the refined stuff from the supermarket is the right way to constipation, obesity and an early demise.

Most of us have a sluggish bowel and so plenty of fibre is vital; I use only 100 percent wholemeal. There are no bread experiments with the non-negotiables.

But there are many things you can play with. One is when to add the yeast.

Traditionally, one places the yeast at the bottom of the baking tin, then the flour and lastly the liquid fraction.

But recently I've been experimenting with sourdough to make our bread more digestible; the longer the bacteria and natural yeasts are in contact with your wholemeal the greater percentage of the nasty proline chains are broken down.

Proline is the amino acid in gluten that makes us allergic to wheat.

So try preparing your sourdough without the yeast initially; just leave it on the countertop for a few hours, or even overnight in the refrigerator, and then sprinkle it on top and put the mixture in the breadmachine as usual.

There are many different sourdough starters on the web, so you play with them; most use rye flour for the lactobacillus that digests the proline. I like to use raw honey and spring water that has no chlorine. Try a few bread experiments.

Secondly, try putting a little more, or less, water in your dough. Too much and it tends to sink a bit, but you will have a lovely moist loaf; add less and it will rise better but may be rather dry on the second day.

Thirdly, work with different seeds; do grind them first by the way, or they are not digested in the gut. I always use flaxseed for its high omega 3 content; that is anti inflammatory and important to the DC. Sesame too are a wonderful source of lignans; then you can play with sunflower, poppy and pumpkin, and others.

You could grind some nuts into the seed mix too; I like half a dozen almonds, but pecans or any other would do. Preferably freshly cracked as they go rancid very quickly; from a vacuum packed container is okay.

If your bread machine has no seed dispenser, try adding the ground seeds after an hour; you will be surprised at the difference.


Are phytates bad, you may be asking? They are natural chemicals found in whole foods that reduce the glycemic index of starches; how quickly they are turned into sugar in the blood stream. Ask any diabetic and they will tell you how important that is.

There are phytates in the wholemeal flour and in the seeds and nuts you add. The lignans help reduce breast cancer and the anti inflammatory omega-3 in flaxseeds is especially important. These whole foods protect the initima of the blood vessels keeping them clean and free from atherosclerosis. Enhance this process with your bread experiments but reduce the effect on mineral absorption.

There is a downside though. Phytic acid binds to minerals, particularly zinc, but also iron and calcium, reducing the absorption. This effect is reduced by long soaking in the sourdough mixture.

Lemon juice

Adding acids, according to Bakerpedia, by reaction with basic substances in the dough releases more carbon dioxide and extends the shelf life of your bread.

I discovered this quite by accident after reading a recipe for beer bread which also called for the addition of vinegar. I decided to use lemon juice instead, since we have a plentiful supply, and voila it has definitely improved our sourdough bread. I am experimenting to find the optimal amount; currently it is haphazard.

Normally I do not recommend using the juice of lemons, but the whole fruit, since more than half of the important nutrients like vitamin C and citric acid are to be found in the pulp. So that will be included in our bread experiments.

Bread experiments

Grated zucchini for our bread experiments

Bread experiments are about fine-tuning your baking. If your machine has different times, try both the four and five hour; we prefer the latter.

See if adding honey instead of sugar makes a noteworthy difference, and olive oil in place of butter. In fact a little sour cream is lovely too.

One of the most important experiments for me is adding different forms of protein; they lower the glycemic index.

Homemade hummus is traditional fare in our home; it really makes a green salad, so when it has seen better days the balance goes into our dough. Actually I now add it daily; it has improved both the taste and the texture.


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Then you can add different types of fat; I have settled on butter and old cream as favourites as I am not afraid of cholesterol. With all the salads we eat, ours is dangerously low and some added dairy is not a fear.

Coconut butter is another good option.

You could add milk instead of water, and even beat an egg into the milk. Butter is back and the trans fat margarines are definitely out; bad stuff. 

Always make it healthy, and keep it simple. Add some chopped herbs, and olives, for example. Rosemary and thyme are my favourites, but sweet basil is great too.

Then you might like to cheat just a little; I add a tablespoon of regular bread flour. True, it is had a lot of the goodies removed, but it makes a less coarse loaf. That makes up only 5 percent of the whole.

World standards vary enormously. In the Netherlands bread that is described as whole grain must be 100 percent; but in Germany it is only 90.

But in the United States in essence only 50 percent of the grain must be whole meal.

And so of course there are many ways you can make bread experiments; it is good to make notes, not forgetting to add the conclusions.

Premixed dough

100 percent wholemeal flour can only really be obtained if you have your own wheat grinder.

There is interesting research showing that dough exposed to the bacteria, and perhaps yeasts too, for a longer period are better tolerated by our colons; the offending proline is better digested. This is just another bread experiment at this stage.

Sourdough bread ingredients.

Tufts university recommends this loaf that I have taken the liberty to adapt to include sourdough and the bread machine.

The sourdough bread divided in two parts makes this method cumbersome in my opinion.
  1. In your bread-maker oven dish mix half the water, one teaspoon of honey, and let it stand for a few minutes; add half the 100% bread meal and, using the paddle, mix the ingredients. Cover with a recycled plastic bag and allow to stand overnight at room temperature.
  2. Mix the remaining flour, water and the sourdough starter; and a teaspoon of raw honey preferably, in a separate bowl and stir. Again cover and leave overnight.
  3. Next morning add the sourdough mix from the second step to your oven-dish mixture; then a teaspoon of salt, a dollop of butter and another 5ml of honey. Include a shot of homemade hummus to turn it into a low GI loaf.
  4. Turn on your bread machine to its normal five hour cycle, not forgetting the ground seeds in the dispenser.
Leaving the sourdough bread overnight gives the bugs time to properly break down the amino acid chains that cause gluten intolerance.

The Tufts method is long and involved; I doubt either you or I have the time, nourishing though it may be. And I do not believe in baking one loaf of bread in the normal oven; it is wasteful of precious electricity. Their way you will do only now and then; it is arduous. Mine will take less than ten minutes one day, and three more the next morning; you can manage that daily.

Butter is back and, furthermore, researchers at the Spanish Ciberobn centre, using new techniques with biomarkers, say they have conclusively shown that dairy consumption is not associated with increased cardiovascular risk.

This sourdough breadloaf has improved the flavour and its digestability and made it more gluten tolerant.

Update: I follow now a similar process but which is much less labour intensive; I place all the flour and sourdough mixture in the baking dish with the water, and leave it overnight. Next morning I add the salt, hummus and yeast. It is just as good and a lot easier.

Healthy flour

Healthy flour is one of the non-negotiables remember; unfortunately for some bizarre reason, millers are allowed to label their product as wholemeal provided no more than 40 percent of the goodies have been removed; the best ingredients as it turns out, giving thought in your bread experiments.

It is not acceptable in my book that the millers can deceive us like that as we want all the bran, and vitamins and minerals, and especially the healthy fatty acids. Do not try such bread experiments; only 100 percent wholemeal. If you cannot get it, seriously consider a wheat-mill; they are expensive but ours is twenty years old and perfect. It is used daily without a hiccup.

On the subject of grinders, the manufacturer of the old Hawo has come with an upgrade called a Mockmill, using a composite instead of real wood and it has come down significantly in price; now around $350 and the flour is finer than ever.

Research published in JAMA reveals that adding smart bran to a refined grain has no value.

Lemon juice

Whilst reading about baking beer bread I discovered that bakers add some vinegar, so I tried adding freshly squeezed lemon juice. I am still experimenting but it appears to improve the loaf immensely.

Low glycemic index

Low glycemic index bread is vital; whilst your wholemeal loaf, especially with added protein has a moderate GI, the white slices, rolls and scones really are total junk. They cause the blood sugar to soar and that means obesity and the ever-present threat of diabetes and metabolic syndrome; keep them for high and holy days. It is not worth the time and effort to make bread experiments with poor quality ingredients. 

Does your family favour any bread experiments you make with white flour? They will love them and want more, but refuse to do it. In fact never make a start; it is the beginning of trouble for them, and you are sowing the seeds.

I am in the midst of a series of short stories by women; it is a lovely book of insights into those from Venus. Last night's lament was how the menopause caused her to become grossly obese, just like her mother. But one little dietary tidbit slipped through; they both loved chocolate donuts.

They have an extremely high glycemic index; the recipe was designed to undermine the American woman, and it has succeeded spectacularly well.

It is our experience that it can be retrained but it is a spiritual enterprise. Whether it is the words we say, or the love of refined baked goods, the tongue is a fire that corrupts the whole person.

One small experiment has been a great success, and that is to drop a tablespoon or two of our easy butternut squash soup into the dough; remember to reduce the liquid a little, or it will sink. It makes for a smoother texture and interesting flavour especially as I like to add a little curry powder. The fat from the coconut cream further lowers the glycemic index.

Indigestion and heartburn

Bread has long given me indigestion and heartburn. I cannot classify this as one of our bread experiments; it happened by chance. I forgot to add the yeast last week. Imagine my surprise when soup for supper demanded a slice of bread, and neither of us had the slightest discomfort.

In the past a slice or two with soup for supper was a definite harbinger of a bad night to come for me. Now we are doing bread experiments with less yeast; my initial reaction is that a heavier loaf with less yeast is giving less tummy troubles.

Finally though in these bread experiments causing indigestion, I have discovered that reestablishing the normal flora in the colon using these kefir benefits has completely solved the problem.

It is still all to be confirmed but I recommend that you too make bread experiments if you suffer from indigestion and heartburn; there are so many tiny variables with baking that can make a huge difference to the taste and texture, and their role in the happy tum.

This easy zucchini bread recipe is yet another.


Persistence in adversity and failure is essential; for no obvious reason last summer our bread flopped every day. I have no idea what the reason was; I thought it was the yeast, my wife blamed the humidity.

Again, for no reason, a month later all returned to normal; and I still have no idea why. I shudder to think that I might have quit had I a little less persistence.

Reducing the yeast in our sourdough and increasing the honey have helped too. What about the amount of salt, and when you add it? At the end of the day, remember that dough has a mind of its own, often undecipherable.

Yeast does seem like humans to have a sweet tooth. Sufficient honey preferably or a teaspoon of sugar will not kill is important.


I have alternated between using butter and non-deodorised coconut cream and frankly cannot tell the difference.

Although more expensive, I favour the vegetable coconut. I recommend you experiment with the amount of fat you want to add to the dough.


I have yo-yo'd on this subject. Certainly, unless you're a beekeeper yourself, I would use high quality raw honey in your bread; it would ruin it. So I've suggested using sugar in the past.

However, my bread rises better with honey, so I am back to using our best grade, simply because it is all we have. You will have to do your bread experiments; you can get a poor grade from the supermarket, but frankly I would not mess with it; it is such a labile product and so easily adulterated.

If you want to use honey in your kitchen, find a local beekeeper and buy a year's supply of raw honey straight from the bottling tank.


If your loaf sinks in the centre, try using less yeast; I now use about 3/4 of a teaspoon in our sourdough bread.

However you may find your yeast has a sweet tooth; try adding double the amount of sugar or honey and see if you get a better loaf.

Sticking in the oven dish

Sometimes it is quite difficult to get the loaf out of the oven dish; it sticks.

We have tried different experiments; three things have helped.

  1. Let the oven dish cool for five or more minutes.
  2. Before setting the paddle in the oven dish smear it generously with butter or coconut oil.
  3. Make sure that the oven dish and paddle are absolutely clean before adding the dough. If there is even a little of yesterday's bread stuck to the pan, you will struggle to get the loaf out.

A crochet needle with a hook is handy for getting the paddle out of the loaf; make sure you do not roughen it with the bread knife.

Baking time

If you like a hard crust then use the full baking time, but we have been experimenting with a softer texture in our bread experiments. There are two options; firstly just turn off the oven a few minutes early, leaving the baking tin in situ for the full time.

And secondly, we have tried turning off the oven earlier and immediately removing baking tin; there is a lot of fun to be had with experimenting.

Kefir as a fermenting agent

Sourdough breads not only taste better, to my mind anyway, but are also more healthful; the bacteria and yeasts in the fermenting agent help to predigest the gluten, making it more friendly for those who are intolerant to this very important wheat protein. It gives the bread dough its unique properties.

There are probably hundreds of sourdough fermenting agents. I am experimenting with using the probiotic known as kefir; it is the magic that cured my fifteen year bellyache of a heliobacter infection in my stomach that was stubbornly resistant to medication.

Teaming with bacteria and yeasts it is proving to be a wonderful fermenting agent in our artisan bread recipe.

Bernard Preston

The perfect bread machine loaf

Bernard Preston loves to bake, and these bread experiments keep it fun; but always it is nutritious flour, low glycemic index dough. High GI is kept for high and holy days.

For many years I had one bad habit, learned from my Lebanese mother; using sugar with the yeast. Imagine in one of my bread experiments my surprise when, using only honey instead, that the loaf rose so beautifully, and the texture was also much improved. The fungi are also allergic to sugar it would seem.

Then he is a semi-retired DC, kept busy every evening, flies gliders on Saturdays and is a layminister in the local church. Remember the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, says he; do not abuse the dwelling place of Almighty God. In any case it will cause you a lot of pain and cut your life short.

The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; thou holdest my lot.

The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage.

Psalm 16

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