Homemade bread without commercial yeast is possible. Very possible!
As a matter of fact, it’s been done for centuries without the help of “rapid rise” yeast. All you have to do is capture the wild yeast in the air around you, and create a sourdough starter.
Yes, there is yeast all around you, and you can capture it and make your own bread and bread products with it! It’s called sourdough! And, it’s so simple to do for yourself, you’ll wonder why you didn’t try it before!
Plus, the act of “fermenting” or souring the dough helps to make the doughs and breads easier to digest and the added sour taste is very pleasant.
Making your own breads without commercial yeast is fun and easy to do once you get a starter going. Here’s how I do it with just 2 ingredients!
Benefits of Sourdough Starter
Sourdough is one of the oldest kinds of bread around – in fact, there is some evidence that it originated in ancient Egypt!
It’s a great thing to have on hand for the homestead because it doesn’t require yeast. Instead, it uses lactic acid bacteria and wild yeast, both of which are found in flour.
You may have heard of lactic acid before, as it’s the same thing found in other fermented foods like yogurt and kimchi.
Calorie-wise, sourdough is about the same as other types of bread.
However, its bacteria lower its pH, meaning it has higher levels of nutrients like zinc and potassium and it’s also easier to digest since it has probiotics.
My favorite part about sourdough? You only need flour and water to make it. If you’re on a budget or living off-the grid, it is the most economical choice for meeting your bread quota!
Sourdough Starter Recipe
All you gotta do is start with equal parts of water and flour.
They are “best” measured by weight, versus volume. So, instead of adding 1/4 cup of flour and water, I use 28-30 grams of each measured by weight. This will help get a more consistent bread baking in the future.
If you have city water that has flouride or chlorine in it, you’ll want to use filtered water, or leave it out for 24 hours to allow the chlorine to evaporate.
These chemicals can kill of the natural yeasts. Just take a wide mouth jar, or other glass vessel and add the flour and water.
I’ve heard that metal can interact with the yeasts and plastic can leach into the starter. I honestly don’t know much about that, but better safe than sorry, right?
With a wooden spoon or fork, stir like crazy, and get some air into the mixture. Cover loosely with a cheesecloth, or natural coffee filter. I add a canning band to keep the filter in place, and to keep bugs out.
Add in new flour and water and mix it every day for about 3-4 days.
However, after the second day, you’ll want to remove about a quarter to a half of the mixture before adding fresh flour. This will help your starter mature faster.
Don’t throw that extra starter out, though!
You can save it (I store mine in a tub in the refrigerator) and use it to make all kinds of delicious baked goods, like sourdough pizza crust, zucchini bread, chocolate chip cookies, biscuits, and more.
For more sourdough discard recipes, you don’t need the starter to be active, so storing it in the refrigerator is fine.
After all, there’s no reason to waste all that flour!
You will likely find that the time it takes your starter to mature depends on the temperature in the room.
I have always found that my starter matures the quickest when I feed it twice a day and temperatures are warm in the summer. In the winter – or when I only feed once a day – it matures more slowly.
After a couple of days, you’ll see this action happening:
And that’s a sign that it’s working!
I knew this jar of starter was ready when it started bubbling so much that it blew the coffee filter off the top and exploded all over the counter.
It was a serious mess to clean up when I came home, but at least I knew I could make some bread!
Your starter will often need 11-14 days of feeding to be ready for use in all sorts of applications, breads, rolls, crusts and even cake!
This is so that it is fully strong and mature and gives you a proper bread rising. It’s really worth the wait on this, trust me.
You can bake bread any time after the sourdough starts bubbling. However, your bread will rise better and have more of that light, fluffy texture the longer you wait.
The first few times I made sourdough bread, I got too impatient and didn’t leave enough time between starting my starter and waiting for it to mature before baking.
As a result, my bread was dense and heavy. I like dense bread, so that was okay, but it didn’t work as well for things like sandwiches. So give it some time!
Sourdough Starter Tips
When making your sourdough starter, you can use either regular all-purpose flour or whole-grain flour. I’ve used both and found that the two produce different – albeit equally delicious – products.
If you make your sourdough with whole-grain flour, you are probably going to have a starter that is more active and rich.
That’s because the wild yeast found in sourdough starter is more common in whole grain flour than it is in all-purpose flour.
All-purpose flour takes a bit longer to get going, but I prefer it’s milder flavor, personally.
If you want to give your breadmaking a break, you can simply stash it in the fridge or freezer.
Once you’re ready to start baking again, you’ll just need to spend a week or two getting the cultures going again. You can also dry your starter, although is a somewhat more complicated process.
Remember, the conditions at which you prepare your starter will be different depending on where you live and where you are allowing the starter to culture.
Sometimes, you’ll take seven days to get a culture going, some days, it will only take a few, sometimes, it will take several weeks. It all depends on the temperature . the higher the temperature, the better.
If your kitchen doesn’t tend to stay warm – like mine – you can always put your sourdough starter in a warmer position, like on top of a heater or a refrigerator. Even on top of the oven is a good choice – it will pick up a good amount of ambient heat there.
Finally, keep in mind that it’s really important to discard some of your starter. I know it seems wasteful, but it’s crucial in order to get the culture going.
As you keep the volume down, you’ll give the yeast more food to eat each time you provide a feeding. There won’t be quite as much competition!
Despite the name, though, you don’t actually have to throw out the starter. There are plenty of ways you can use it up. If you really don’t want to deal with discard, you can always just maintain a much tinier starter, too.
So, get your sourdough starter going and join us for some recipes and fun things to do with it!
Making Bread with Sourdough Starter
When you’re ready to make your sourdough bread, all you need to do is follow these simple instructions. There’s no ingredient list because (besides salt) you really don’t need anything besides the starter, flour, and water!
Begin with your mature starter. Add a heaping tablespoon to a mixing bowl, then ¾ cup of flour and 1/3 cup of water. This will be your leaven.
Mix the ingredients together, removing any clumps. Cover the mixing bowl with a towel and let it sit on the counter for at least 12 hours (sometimes a bit more, sometimes less, depending on the temperature inside).
After 12 hours, add five cups of flour and two and a half cups of water to your mixing bowl. You can use a whisk or beaters to combine the ingredients, but just get them combined and then stop. Knead for five minutes with your fingers, then let the dough rest for a couple of hours.
Return to the dough, kneading it for five to ten minutes at a time every few hours or so. Add a pinch of salt each time you do so.
After about six hours, you can form the dough into loaves and leave it on the counter to rise. I usually let it sit out for about 12 hours, or overnight.
When I’m ready to bake, I lightly coat the loaf in flour and preheat the oven to 500 degrees. In goes my cast iron Dutch oven with the lid on. You don’t have to use a Dutch oven or even a cast iron pan, but I find it is helpful to get a nice, crispy crust on my bread.
I let the oven fully preheat, then add my loaf before replacing the lid on the Dutch oven. It bakes for 20 minutes with the lid on, then another 5 to 10 minutes with the lid off to brown the crust.
Remove from the Dutch oven – carefully, so as not to burn yourself! – then let it cool before slicing. It freezes well, too!
Have you made a sourdough starter? What is your favorite thing to use it for? Be sure to pin this for later!
Heather’s homesteading journey started in 2006, with baby steps: first, she got a few raised beds, some chickens, and rabbits. Over the years, she amassed a wealth of homesteading knowledge, knowledge that you can find in the articles of this blog.
Learn more about Heather and the rest of the writers on this page.