Easy Homemade Sourdough Bread Recipe from 1869

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This is the easiest homemade sourdough bread recipe I've tried - just mix the ingredients together, let them rise, and you're ready to bake! | ourheritageofhealth.com

 

If you’re not used to baking homemade bread, making sourdough bread might sound a bit intimidating at first, but once you get used to it, this bread is really much easier than “regular” yeasted bread.

This easy homemade sourdough bread only needs to be kneaded once, and after that you can just put it in the same pan you’re going to bake it in and let it rise overnight. Then, the next morning when it has risen, all you have to do is put it in the oven and you’re done.

This sourdough bread recipe is also easier because sourdough yeast is much more flexible as far as time is concerned than store bought yeast is. You don’t have to watch it as closely to monitor the rising time. Rather than planning your time around being there to check the dough and knead, and let it rise and knead again, etc. all you have to do is prepare the dough the day before and let it rise overnight. And if you’re really busy and it rises a little bit longer than you had planned, it’s not a big deal, and most of the time the bread will still turn out perfectly fine even if the dough is a bit over-risen.

First Things First

This bread recipe calls for homemade yeast. There were different variations of homemade yeast back in the 1800s when the recipe was written, but I chose to use a sourdough starter for my homemade yeast since I think it’s the simplest to use and to maintain. In order to make this recipe, you’ll need an established sourdough starter.

If you’ve never used a sourdough starter before, you can find out more about how to begin and maintain one in these posts:

An Old-Fashioned Recipe

Once you’ve got your sourdough starter established, it’s time to move on to the actual bread-making itself. This recipe is one I found in an old recipe pamphlet from 1869.

~ Original Recipe ~

“One coffee-cup flour; two coffee-cups Graham flour, one coffee cup warm water, half coffee cup yeast, a little molasses, a teaspoon of salt, half teaspoon soda dissolved in the water. Make as stiff as it can be stirred with a spoon. Let it rise over night, and bake about an hour in a moderate oven. This quantity makes one loaf.”

~ Mrs. Winslow’s Domestic Receipt Book for 1869  ~ Pg. 4

~ Modern Adaptation ~

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups flour *
  • 1 cup warm water **
  • 1/2 cup sourdough starter
  • 2 Tbs. molasses (or whole cane sugar)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • (Optional: 1/2 tsp. baking soda)

 * To be historically accurate, you can use two cups of whole wheat flour and one cup of all-purpose flour. To be really historically accurate, though, the best flour to use would be an heirloom flour like spelt or einkorn. Einkorn flour is the one that I’ve been using the most of lately to make my bread.

** If you use einkorn flour, reduce the amount of water to about 3/4 cup.

Directions:

  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour and salt, stirring until combined.
  2. Add sourdough starter, molasses, and warm water, stirring until combined. Unlike other bread recipes, the dough for this bread will feel wet and sticky rather than dry.
  3. (Optional: If you do not want any sour flavor or tang in your finished loaf, add the 1/2 tsp. of baking soda and mix until well combined.)
  4. Knead the wet dough for a minute or two. This part will be messy. I usually just keep the dough in the bowl to knead it to avoid extra mess on the counter.
  5. Place dough into a greased 9×5 inch bread pan. Cover with a damp dish cloth or tea towel, with another dry towel over it and let rise for 12-24 hours. You want the dish towel touching the bread to stay damp because that will help to prevent the top of the dough from drying out and forming a crust, which could prevent the dough from rising as much. (I find it convenient to prepare my bread dough somewhere between afternoon and suppertime the day before and then let it bake the next morning while I’m having breakfast.)
  6. Once it has risen, the dough should be light and fluffy and form an indentation when you press your finger into it. (If you have a glass bread pan, you can see little bubbles in the dough through the sides and bottom of the pan.)
  7. Bake at 350 degrees for about 45-50 minutes or until bread is golden brown and sounds hollow when you tap on it.

Recipe Notes:

  • The length of time the bread needs to rise may vary depending on the time of year and the temperature in your home. In warmer weather, it will take less time to rise than it will in cooler weather. (Mine usually takes about 14-16 hours to rise in the summer and about 18-20 hours to rise in the winter.)
  • The water for this recipe should be warmer when you bake during the winter months and cooler for the summer months.
  • True, authentic sourdough bread is usually made without the addition of baking soda. Many 19th century recipes call for the use of baking soda in yeasted breads and baked goods, though, as a way to neutralize the sour flavor and create a sweeter taste. Some sourdough starter strains are stronger than others, so depending on the region in which you live and on your individual preference, you can add or omit the baking soda as you choose.

This is the easiest homemade sourdough bread recipe I've tried - just mix the ingredients together, let them rise, and you're ready to bake! | ourheritageofhealth.com

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The information in this post is not to be taken as medical advice and is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease.

47 thoughts on “Easy Homemade Sourdough Bread Recipe from 1869

  1. Thank you! My bread came out tasty and with a great color! Lots of compliments from guests. I was doubtful because I haven’t had good experience with bread in the past but I’m a believer! I love the taste of Einkorn. I’ve heard it is hard to work with and yes, it is a bit sticky but not to much of a problem. I used a bread stone and made a free form round loaf with I believe added to the success. Great recipe for both the starter and the bread.

  2. The bread turned out wonderfully. I made 2 loaves and took one to the office for my coworkers and they loved it too. Thank you!

  3. I let my starter go about a week (feeding daily) then tried this recipe and it never rose. Tried again last night, same thing. So starting a new starter today. Hopefully it will work. Im excited to make bread without a yeast packet hahah 🙂

    • It’s possible that the starter didn’t quite capture the wild yeast from the air successfully, for whatever reason. Once you get a starter established they’re pretty resilient, but at the beginning they can be a bit finicky sometimes. I’ve also noticed that my starter can be less active in the winter time and that my bread takes longer to rise fully (sometimes close to 20 hours), so if you have a cold kitchen then that might have an affect on it too. I hope it works for you this time around, though!

    • It really depends on how warm or cold your house is (and how long you want to wait for it to rise.) If your house feels really cold and if you want your bread to rise faster, then it might be a good idea to place it somewhere warmer to rise. But if your house is already fairly warm, or if you have plenty of time and don’t mind leaving it a little longer to rise, then just leaving it out on the counter should be fine. Just to give you an idea, my house is around 62-64 degrees this time of year, and when I leave my bread out on the kitchen counter, it usually takes about 18 hours to finish rising. In the summer time, though, when it’s much warmer in the house, it usually rises in 12 hours or less.

  4. I began my starter last week. This was my first real attempt at baking bread and it turned out great!. My wife can’t get enough of it. I modified the recipe a little by adding a full cup of stater to it. The dough took only about 10 minutes to make ( I use a Dutch dough whisk to mix it. Very easy!) I started it at 1am and it was risen at 9am. I should have left it in the oven for the full 45 minutes, but I took it out at 35 because I thought it was done. It was a little doughy in the center, but still tasted amazing!I am a 51 year old man, just getting into baking bread and am so glad I stumbled upon your website. This will be just the start of my baking adventure. I plan on making your fruit cake in the near future. Thank you!

    • That’s exciting that your first time making bread turned out so well! And it sounds like you have a nice, active starter, too, since it rose pretty quickly!

  5. I also used Prairie Gold whole wheat flour and homemade (not by me though) molasses. It was delicious with real butter and all natural blueberry jam! I pulled it out of the oven at 12:45 and by 1:20 we had eaten over half of it. My wife told me thanks for ruining her low carb diet for the day and I told her she was fine, the recipe didn’t say to add any carbs to it! She didn’t appreciate my humor.

    • That’s really neat that you used homemade molasses, and the butter and blueberry jam sounds absolutely delicious! That’s right, this is a “carb-free” recipe, haha! My grandmother always used to say that food can’t be fattening if it’s homemade 😉

  6. I had the starter going for 2 days, nothing. So I put it on the drying cloth where we dry the wet dishes. Ta-da! The bacteria from the wry cloth and a few punches of sugar did the trick. Now it’s almost all froth! Hehe thanks for this starter! I don’t have molasses and am not ally to go but it so I’ll hunt around for an alternative, unless you have a few ideas? I don’t have brown sugar either. This is a great recipe for belt tightening families like mine!

    • I’m glad you were able to get your starter going! The recipe should still turn out fine even if you don’t have molasses or brown sugar. If you have regular white sugar, that should work fine, too. You can even just omit the sugar if you want, although the taste of the bread may be a slightly stronger sourdough flavor.

      • I got up this am and realized I forgot to grease the bowl. Uh oh. It collapsed on me as I scraped it out of the bowl I WAS using and put it in a bread pan. Will it rise again? Should I add more yeast mix and wait till tomorrow? I was going to try a free form loaf on my pizza stone… is that still possible?

        • I’ve done that before, too, and unfortunately, once it’s collapsed like that there’s really not a whole lot you can do to make it rise again. You can bake it like it is on a pizza stone as a free form loaf, and it will probably still taste ok, but it probably won’t have a light of a texture. When I’m making this recipe, I usually mix up the ingredients and then place the dough right into the same pan I’m planning to bake the bread it to let it rise (after greasing the pan). That way you don’t even need to try to scrape the dough out of the bowl and worry about it collapsing. I hope your next bread-making attempt goes better for you! 🙂

  7. I have recently started baking with homemade sourdough starter and like looking for recipes. I came across your website and really like the older recipes that you have posted. Have you found this sourdough bread recipe to work well for sandwiches or is the texture too tender?

    • I’ve used this recipe for sandwiches before, but I wouldn’t say that it’s the best recipe for them. If I’m going to try to use this bread for a sandwich, sometimes I’ll lightly toast the bread first to give it a little bit more firmness and structure. It’s possible, though, that since sourdough starters can vary depending on where you live that the strains of wild yeast in your particular starter might produce a bread that holds up well for sandwiches.

      • I look forward to trying your recipe to see how it turns out with my sourdough starter. Even if it doesn’t work well for sandwiches, it should make great toast!

  8. Can the molasses be omitted or substituted? I don’t like the dark colour it seemed to give my bread.
    Also I accidentally used a cup of whole grain flour instead of wholewheat – mixes with one cup white and one cup spelt and it was dense and smallish but it did rise and had a great sour flavour . After many failed attempts I know recognize that keeping the cloth damp during the rise is what prevents that crust from forming prior to baking. Sourdough has proven difficult for me but this recipe worked so thank you !
    Could you use a round pan or Dutch oven as well for different shape?

    • Yes, you can just omit the molasses if you want, or you could substitute sugar or honey instead. The bread might taste slightly more sour if you have no sweetener at all, so if I’m not using molasses, I usually just use about a tablespoon of sugar instead. And, yes, keeping the cloth damp is definitely key for keeping a crust from forming. If the top of the bread dries out too much and a crust forms, that can actually prevent it from rising as much, too.(And thank you for mentioning that! I’ll make a note in the recipe so other people can be aware of that, too.) As far as using a round pan or Dutch oven, I’ve never tried them before, but I would think that would work just fine. The only thing that might be different is the amount of time it takes to bake in the oven, so you might just need to check it a bit more often as it’s baking to see if it’s done.

  9. Knead the dough with wet hands and it won’t stick so much. As a general rule, white flour bread is kneaded dry, with floury hands, and whole wheat bread is kneaded wet, with wet hands.

    Knead the dough for a lot longer to get a more elastic, resilient bread suitable for sandwiches. After kneading the dough should pass the “windowpane” test, which tells you that the gluten is fully developed and strong. Less kneading and undeveloped gluten will make a softer, more cake like crumb.

  10. Love this recipe!! I fed my starter before making this recipe, and then used a very generous 1/2 cup of starter. I used dark brown sugar for the sweetening. I baked for 40 minutes at 350. This bread came out so chewy and crusty. super yum! My favorite sourdough recipe by far, so simple and fits into my life well. Also, I have been making sourdough pancakes with the leftover starter, low fat, low sugar goodness. Made popovers with excess starter also, but more fat and sugar in popovers.

    • I’m so glad to hear that the recipe turned out well for you! And making sourdough pancakes and popovers with the extra starter is a great idea! 🙂

  11. Love the recipe BUT somewhere along the line my starter died. And it was smelling and tasting sour too.

    But being frugal, I tried something and it worked! Maybe not as authentic as this could have been but it still worked.

    I added 1 packet of FLeischmannn’s rapid rise yeast to c 1 cup of warm water (115 Degrees F), waited 10 minutes and then proceeded to add all the other ingredients INCLUDING the failed starter for the flavor. Set it into the loaf pan just like your directions said after I kneaded it in the bowl. I let it rise 30 minutes and then baked it at 350 Degrees F.

    I got a nice tangy sourdough STYLE bread, that although is not authentic it still tastes good.

    NOW Back to the drawing board. I may have made a mistake using AP Flour for the starter, so I am going down to the farmer’s market today where I can buy unbleached, organic flours. Even Spelt.

    Our BIG farmer’s market here( Houston TX) is very into organic products, so it is off to get some truly unprocessed flours.

    I will keep you posted about my next attempt at making the starter

    Thanks

    Larry

    • That sounds like a great way to be resourceful and make a sourdough-style bread! And that sounds like an amazing farmer’s market that you have! Besides the flour, a couple of other things that can also sometimes make a starter die are if it’s not fed often enough or if the water you’re using has chlorine in it like a lot of tap water does. I usually use either spring water or filtered water for mine just to be safe. I hope your next attempt at making a starter goes well!

      • I fed the starter religiously, every 24 hours. I even had a timer set to feed it on a schedule so the “baby” wouldn’t go hungry. And I used filtered water, since I have both a reverse osmosis water filtration system for the whole house (our water here is H-A-R-D!) and a secondary filtration system directly on the tap.

        I have obtained the organic white bread flour, unbleached and unbromated and have a new starter batch cultivating now. I may try to increase the air flow over the jug (using a gallon glass jug for the starter) by turning the ceiling fan in the kitchen up from low to medium and will be feeding it on the same schedule.

        I DID notice on the last batch that it stopped producing the “hooch” at about day 7, so maybe instead of going longer then 7 days, I will attempt to use it at 7 days.

        If this fails, I may BUY a package of starter, but I am bound and determined to make my own wild yeast starter yet! 🙂

        • SUCCESS!

          I used the unbleached unbromated flour, followed the rest of the recipe and I had one very nicely risen bread today.

          The sourdough starter had really fermented nicely. Heck, f I had drank the “hooch” I probably would have gotten a buzz from it.

          So take it from me folks, and Lori had already mentioned this……do NOT use bleached flour!

          • Oh that’s really exciting! I’m so glad to hear that that your sourdough starter fermented nicely and that your bread rose well this time!

  12. I’ve been using this recipe to make a few loafs and I love it! Thank you very much. I was wondering if you have tried making pizza dough using this recipe and if you have any tips?

    • I’m so glad to hear that the recipe turned out well for you! I’ve never tried this recipe for pizza dough before, so I’m not sure exactly how it would work for that. You could certainly give it a try if you don’t mind experimenting, but since it’s not designed to be a pizza crust recipe it might not have the same texture as what you would normally expect pizza crust to be. It might still taste good, though, even if it doesn’t turn out like “normal” pizza.

  13. We just learned from my 1.5 yo sons allergist that he is Allergic to bakers and brewers yeast (saccromyces).
    Does the naturally occurring yeast in a sour dough starter qualify as saccromyces?
    We’ve been trying to find a bakers yeast free bread he can eat.

    Thanks!

    • Hi Emily, I’m sorry, but I’m really not qualified to answer that question. That’s not a topic I’ve ever done any reading or research about so I really don’t know the answer to that. I know that there are differences between bakers and brewers yeast and sourdough, but I wouldn’t be able to tell you whether or not a homemade sourdough starter contained saccromyces. And since allergies are involved, I’d recommend talking to your allergist about that or to another medical professional who might be able to give you a clear answer about that.

  14. Thank you for the great recipe! I’m using it in Denmark now, I even bought US measuring cup and tablespoon/teaspoon set! 😀

    I made 3 breads so far. All was good, but I have some questions:
    The wet towel that touches the dough always sticks to the dough and it’s hard to separate/remove.
    Is it supposed to be like that? (I guess probably not.)
    How wet should the towel should be?
    Would it be enough to spray some oil on top of the dough to prevent it from drying out?

    Thank you

    • I’m glad to hear that the bread recipe worked well for you, and it’s nice to “meet” someone from Denmark! 🙂 I’ve had the towel stick to my dough a few times before too – usually in the warmer weather when my dough is a bit stickier. The towel isn’t really necessary, though. I just use it because it’s the most old-fashioned method and this is an older recipe. You could try putting some oil on top of the dough or you could also just use a modern cling wrap or plastic wrap (I’m not sure what name you use in Denmark for it) to cover it and keep it from drying out.

  15. I can’t imagine what went wrong here. I made both recipes, one with baking soda and molases and one without. I left the to rise 12 hours, then 24 and then decided to let it go another 12 hours because it hadnt risen much. I had it covered with the damp tea towel with another dry kitchen towel on top of that. I pressed a finger to it and got the indentation that stayed. Decided to bake it after the 36 hours and it is only an inch in height. I used my 9 x 5 pan. Any ideas what could be the problem?

    • Hi Kathy, I’m really sorry to hear that your bread didn’t turn out! It sounds to me like your yeast might not have been active enough for the bread to rise. The amount of time that you let it rise should have been plenty of time if the yeast was active, but if your yeast isn’t active, then no matter how long you leave it it isn’t going to rise much at all.

      Is this your first time baking with a homemade sourdough starter? If you just recently made a sourdough starter and this was your first time baking with it, then you might need to keep feeding the starter for a couple more days to see if it gets more active because it might not be ready enough yet. Does the sourdough starter have any bubbles in it? It should look bubbly and “fluffy” for lack of a better word. If it just looks kind of like a flat flour/water batter with no visible air bubbles then it might not have picked up any yeast from the air yet.

      If after a week of feeding your starter you don’t see any air bubbles at all, then for whatever reason your starter might not have picked up any yeast and it might not be active. Sometimes starters can be hit or miss like that. If that’s the case, then you might need to think about starting over with the sourdough starter to see if you can capture the wild yeast from the air this time around.

  16. Hi, so I made my first loaf and it came out pretty crunchy. Did I overbake? It didn’t seem to dry out much with the damp cloth on it. It was still good just a bit too crunchy. Any tips or tricks?

    • If it was crunchy, then my guess would probably be that it was overbaked. If the dough was still sticky feeling (and not dry) when you took the damp cloth off before you baked it, then it was probably something that happened during the baking rather than before. When I use this recipe, my dough is usually quite sticky when I take the damp cloth off, and after baking it the outer crust is crisp and crunchy, but the inside is soft. It’s possible that your oven heats a bit differently than mine does, so you could try cooking it for less time to see if that makes a difference. And, if cooking it for less time doesn’t work, than you could also try adding just a bit more water to the dough to make it a bit “wetter” to begin with.

  17. hello
    thank you for sharing!!!
    That’s great!
    Here is another fact: from an Ancient Greece till today,
    a couple of fresh not washed Basil leaves has a fantastic yeast appearance and works perfectly for the sourdough making.
    Amazing!

  18. Made this bread this weekend. It took 24 hours to rise and came out beautiful. It is so delicious – had just a hint of sweetness from the molasses and a slight nutty flavor from the wheat flour. I used white whole wheat flour and unbleached bread flour. I occasionally misted the towel on the bread with water to keep it from drying out. Worked great. Will be making this one over and over.

    • I’m so glad that the bread turned out well for you! And that’s a great idea to mist the towel with water to keep it from drying out!

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