Sourdough bread recipe

Sourdough breadloaf

Sourdough bread recipe is how the ancients made the daily loaf before the advent of commercial raising agents; this page is about making your own starter.

There are at least four kinds of sourdough starters, often called pre-ferments.

  1. Sponge starter. This is the type described below; it is a liquid pre-ferment and often used for enriched breads such as our artisan bread with added humus.
  2. Poolish starter. This is rather thicker with a little added yeast.
  3. Biga starter. This is stiffer still with a two to one flour to water ratio, and again a little added yeast.
  4. Pate fermentee. Keep back a bit of the dough each day, and use it to start the new recipe each day.

"For so basic a commodity, bread has a symbolic and metaphorical richness that few other foodstuffs can match."

- Darryl Accone

Both whole rye and wheat flour contain yeasts and bacteria which ferment the sugars in the carbohydrate, producing gas to make the dough rise. Remember that a starch is simply a very long row of glucose molecules joined together in different ways; some are branched making them more readily digested.

Whole dark rye flour is the best; lactobacillus and various natural yeasts get on with what they do best once you add water and put your starter in a warm place.

Chlorine will kill the bugs, so use natural bottled spring or rainwater; it should be warm, at around blood temperature.

This page was last updated by Bernard Preston on 20th August, 2020.

Keep your starter whilst you are preparing it as close to 30 degrees Celsius as possible; that is about 86. Thereafter it may live in the refrigerator, unless you want a strong and more sour fermentation, which is what I recommend. 

I put our growing starter in the battery room of our solar generator which produces a steady warmth. Cooler or hotter and the fermentation process slows down.

A teaspoon of raw honey will help the process along by providing more yeast cells and readily available sugars; the pasteurised stuff from the supermarket is probably quite useless. Try though if you have no other option.

The fermentation by the lactobacillus also reduces the effect of phytates in the bran that may bind minerals like calcium that our bodies need.

Talking of calcium, 100 percent whole meal flour is a good natural source of the mineral; taking it in supplemental form incidentally gets deposited in the intima of the coronary arteries which research shows increases the specter of heart disease.

Later we will consider kefir sourdough bread; that is even richer in calcium.

Sourdough starter used in making bread.

Sponge Starter

Foaming sourdough starter

For your starter you can either get it from a friend, or make your own. This is a very simple four-day process.

On day one, mix about three tablespoons of rye flour and a quarter of a cup of warm spring water in a plastic container with a lid; add a little raw honey.

Keep it in a warm place.

It is a bubbling, living creature; look upon it as a pet, but you only have to feed it now and then, depending on how often you make your sourdough bread recipe.

On day two, add a further three tablespoons of rye flour and another quarter cup of warm spring water to your mixture; again stir it into a sloppy paste. Press the lid of your container on firmly.

On the the next two days repeat what you have been doing. It will start to froth and bubble; luckily there should be no trouble.

On the fifth day your starter is ready. You could store your container in the refrigerator in yet another sealable plastic tub as the pressure of the gas liberated will pop the lid. I do not bother any longer.

There is risk of contaminating your starter, and stinking out the fridge; actually it is a very small problem. And in any case, except when the ambient temperature is very high, I no longer keep it in the cooler.

Maintaining your starter is very simple; every time you use a couple tablespoons of the paste, add more rye flour, spring water and honey. The quantities are not really important; it is very tolerant. Return it to the fridge in summer perhaps.

Do try to be as sterile as possible though; I keep my fingers out, for example, and use only clean cutlery.

For the average person, let us keep it simple; your sourdough bread starter is amazingly robust. You can not feed it for a month, and it will survive.

Gluten intolerant

Having started this page with a quote about the symbolic and metaphorical richness of bread, this so-called basic foodstuff is quiet serious under threat in our modern world. There are many reasons.

  1. New varieties are much higher in protein so that some are intolerant to high levels of gluten.
  2. Most bread today is junk food, made from highly refined flour.
  3. Low carb diets in an obese world recommend avoiding bread altogether.
  4. Sourdough bread, the way it was made until the last century or so, is still a rarity.

So if you are gluten intolerant, or suffer from Crohn's disease then you want an active and strong starter.

  • Keep the mixture as thick as possible with plenty of rye flour and raw honey; you want it sour smelling and bubbling. Do not keep it in the fridge.
  • Feed it every day with more rye flour, perhaps even oftener.
  • Leave the dough at least overnight, and even longer, before baking. This gives the bacteria plenty of time to break down those protein fragments that cause such trouble to some.

Gluten is in the protein in flour that enables the dough to hold its shape, allowing the baker to stretch and knead it.

Remove this gluten, as in refined cake flour, and it will fall flat as a pancake.

Gluten is definitely not public enemy, number one, and using a pre-ferment will help in completely digesting the protein fragments so that they do not cause havoc in the intestine.

Easy sourdough bread recipe

Now you have the starter for your easy sourdough bread recipe. A purist would knead it with no added commercial yeast.

I used to do it that way but now, with time restricted, I use a bread machine and cheat with a little commercial yeast to make a lighter loaf. You do it according to your preferences; there are so many options.

One thing is sure; having made your own sourdough bread, you will never readily go back to eating the commercial loaf. They are like chalk and cheese.

This sourdough bread recipe makes a beautiful loaf.

Pretty please, do not spoil it with margarine.

An enormous research project putting 80 of the main butter-margarine researches into one, show there is absolutely no benefit changing to hydrogenated oils. In short, butter is back.

It is the hydrogenated fats that have now been shown to be the villain of the piece, not the saturated fat in butter. What foods have trans fat is a very important question.

But still, enjoying your at least half a dozen coloured salads and fruits every day is the solution to keeping your cholesterol down and enjoying a body without inflammation and pain.

A lunch rich in phytosterols and sourdough bread encourages a healthy microbiome in the gut.

Low GI bread

To make low GI bread all you need is the above sourdough bread recipe to which you add extra fat and protein. I use a good scoop of our authentic hummus recipe and another dab of butter.

Then you have a low GI sourdough bread recipe. Actually that should read lower glycemic index. Real wholemeal flour consists of 16% resistant starch, compared to two percent in cakeflour.

But it still has 84% carbohydrate that is digested in the small intestine forming glucose, and possibly a spike in blood sugar, especially if you are diabetic, or on the way.

I am prediabetic and even our low GI bread produces a less than healthy spike; glucometer testing has shown that taken with a large green salad, or being physically active after lunch prevents that unwelcome rise in blood glucose.

Gluten intolerance

Celiac disease, or gluten intolerance in the gut, is a not uncommon; roughly 1/200 people suffer from it, causing chronic diarrhoea. It is one of the autoimmune diseases that occurs in certain genetically susceptible people. Total abstinence from wheat, rye and barley is generally recommended.

Proline in sourdough bread is less likely to form undigested short chains of amino acids.

Interesting research published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology PMC348803 reveals that 13 of 17 patients with Celiac disease in a double blinded study did not react to sourdough bread. Lactobacillus bugs in the sourdough starter were able to break down these gluten fragments high in proline. Note that the exposure time was 24 hours, much longer than our four hours before baking.

On a personal note, I find ordinary supermarket bread often gives me severe indigestion, and it is tasteless, but I am far more tolerant of sourdough loaf. I can even have half a slice at night, which I have not been able to enjoy for years.

Better still is since enjoying kefir every day, a probiotic, both the kurds in the dough, and the raw whey which you drink, I am now able to eat this sourdough bread recipe freely at night.

We might be tempted to curse proline but, along with betaine and choline, it is one of those protector molecules in whole foods that keep our cells from damage by reactive oxygen species (1), read lessen the risk of getting neoplastic diseases.

For the majority of us, proline is a friendly amino acid, but not for coeliacs in whom the gluten fragments are hugely problematic.

There are concerns however that gluten avoiders show an increased risk of heart disease, probably because of lower consumption of whole grains.(2) Researchers commenting in the British Medical Journal conclude that those not suffering from Coeliac disease, even if they are intolerant of supermarket bread should NOT be encouraged to go on a gluten-free diet.


Here is an update; I am now in the process of reducing the industrial yeast added to my sourdough bread recipe; so far I am down to 1/2 of what I use in my Panera bread menu recipe and it has had no obvious effect on the leavening process; the wild yeasts and lactobacillus in the sourdough starter are doing their trick.

If you have a serious gluten intolerance, remember you must use a much longer time, at least eight hours, before baking your dough.

Also, because of that very interesting research on how lactobacillus breaks down the proline rich fragments of gluten that make wheat indigestible and toxic for the bowel for many, I am extending the leavening time. Basically, I mix the dough, and then wait several hours before adding the yeast and switching the machine on to its bake cycle. In summer one would need perhaps to keep it in the fridge whilst it is curing; bread experiments continue. It is fun.

The aim of the exercise is to reduce the need for industrial dried yeast, quite a large part of the expense of your homemade bread, improve its digestibility whilst still keeping the process simple and hassle free. Slow food, made fast, remains our slogan; in this instance, made simply might make more sense.


Sourdough is given its name with good reason; whilst proline has a sweet taste, its breakdown products may have a bitter, or acid flavour once acted upon by the bacilli in your starter. Much research has been done on this in the making of cheeses.


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These proline-rich fragments of gluten are the fly in the ointment, so breaking them down is what we are after; I recommend you gradually increase the time that your flour is exposed to the starter, getting used to the taste, until you find your happy medium.

And only leave it overnight and longer in the fridge if you have a specific gluten intolerance. I like the sour taste, but she who must be obeyed does not enjoy it when it gets too strong.

There are some concerns about the absorption of minerals from bread, particularly if there is added smart bran. Phytic acid binds to iron and calcium for example, reducing their absorption in the gut.

Exposing the dough to the affect of the bacteria in the starter greatly reduces this effect; it is not really a problem in whole foods, only when there is added smart bran. Are phytates bad is the question occasionally heard.

If you leave the dough plus starter for a longer period, for some reason the paddle in the breadmachine doesn't always stir up the corners of the baking dish. Use a rubbermate to get into the nether parts before baking.

Have fun, this baking stuff is really interesting, and the subtle changes of flavour are truly remarkable, and more healthful. Interestingly our hens go crazy over our stale sourdough bread, but often turn up their noses at the supermarket loaf; they are more discriminating than we humans are it would seem.

Smart bran

Smart bran is to be found by using only 100% wheat flour, and frankly it is difficult to find. Do not be fooled by smoothing talking millers who describe their product as whole grain meal; they are allowed to do that, even though up to 40 percent of the goodies have been removed. The bacteria in the sourdough bread recipe ameliorate the influence of any phytates.

If you want a nutritious sourdough bread recipe do not use added smart bran; but you may have to grind your own. The 100% wholemeal is from our twenty year old Hawo electric flour mill; expensive but still going strong. It has paid for itself many times over.

100 percent wholemeal flour makes the best bread using this sourdough starter.

Research indicates that the bran your 100% wholemeal is far more effective than that added to cereals and cookies.

Nutritious flour

Does nutritious flour go bad, is a question often heard; it is certainly a concern if you are baking a sourdough bread recipe.

Wholewheat flour certainly does go bad.

Store it in the deep freeze in an airtight container and, if you are serious about baking spend the money and buy a wheat grinder. They are expensive but they last for ever; ours in twenty years old and works every day.

Then you will have a ready source of freshly ground 100% wholewheat flour at about half the price of refined meal. Plus you will never again have to buy bran or vitamin E capsules; it pays for itself in cash eventually. In the short term your wellness will benefit within weeks; how much do you store by that?

  • Does flour go bad?

Whole wheat vs full grain gives new insights into the deceit of the food manufacturing industry. There are a lot of hidden details when it comes to making your sourdough bread recipe.

Are you concerned about all the carbs in bread, and how fattening it is? If you are using refined flour, the way the bakers do it in the main, with a few small specialist shops doing it the right way, then you need to be worried; it certainly does add on the pounds.

But if you use 100% wholemeal, the bran and essentially fatty acids in the wheat flour turn it into what is known as resistant starch; it passes through the small intestine largely undigested, producing no blood sugar rush, instead being fermented in the colon.

There is fascinating research being done on the connection between the healthy bugs in the colon, known as the microbiota, and prevention of the serious neurodegenerative diseases.

If you want to know more about the whys and wherefores then read more about resistant starch.


You may be concerned that our sourdough bread recipe will make you obese; relax, you need have no fears if you are using 100% wholemeal flour. It is the simple sugars and refined carbohydrates that get the hunger centre in the brain excited.

Just one slice of this nourishing loaf, with butter but no jams or jellies, will leave you satisfied, and with no hunger pangs a few hours later like the supermarket bread does.

Do some reading too on the subsequent meal effect of legumes.

Bread Matters by Andrew Whitley

Bread matters by Andrew Whitley is a must for serious home bakers; it is been a great help to me when wanting to understand the inner details for example of sourdough bread recipes.

Then perhaps you want to see how Jamie Oliver makes Sourdough bread recipe.

More sourdough starter recipes

There are 101 sourdough starter recipes; they all have one thing in common; a living culture of bacteria and fungi to make your bread rise.

Some like to use milk, others apples and grapes; I suspect they all work, though the living bugs in your starter will vary.

BBC's Paul Hollywood makes a starter from green grapes; perhaps you might like to try it. He is an engaging character, and his enthusiasm comes through for making sourdough bread.

Our recipe has a lower glycemic index, but that is not necessarily true of all sourdough bread recipes. This is made from 100% wholewheat with added protein in the form of our homemade hummus. So you can without guilt enjoy a little butter and gooseberry jam recipe on it.

I am a great believer in probiotics. You can either make your own, like these kefir benefits, or you can pay quite a lot of money every month for them in capsules. It is basically a strong yoghurt with far more strains of friendly bacteria and yeasts. It has totally cured me of the heartburn and indigestion that I have suffered from for years if I have a carbohydrate-rich dinner.

This low GI bread and butter with gooseberry jam is a delight.

Useful links

  1. Bernard Preston
  2. Panera bread menu recipe
  3. Sourdough bread recipe

Bernard Preston

Bernard Preston is a lover of the mysteries and complexities of life; this sourdough bread recipe is just one of them. Plus he loves great food; the healthy kind, and this tastes so good that he bakes it every single day.

Sometimes he bakes it twice a day; yesterday he gave a loaf to a friend who's son is severely asthmatic. Research shows that 100% whole wheat and fish are greatly beneficial  for those who wheeze.

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