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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. You don’t have to worry about letting it rise more than once or shaping it or anything like that because it is a simple sandwich-style loaf that doesn’t require much hands-on time or effort.
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.
Basic Information About Sourdough Baking
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:
- How to Make Homemade Yeast
- Tips for Using and Maintaining a Sourdough Starter ~ Part 1
- Tips for Using and Maintaining a Sourdough Starter ~ Part 2
- How Often Should You Feed A Sourdough Starter?
An Old-Fashioned Sourdough Bread Recipe
Once you’ve got your sourdough starter established, it’s time to move on to the actual bread-making itself. This recipe is adapted from one that I found in an old recipe pamphlet called Mrs. Winslow’s Domestic Receipt Book for 1869.
Note: Mrs. Winslow’s Domestic Receipt Book was a recipe pamphlet designed to advertise Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup for babies – a syrup that actually contained morphine as it’s main ingredient and was sadly associated with infant deaths during this time period. The use of morphine was common in patent medications of the time, and it was also unfortunately quite common for those taking patent medications to have little or no knowledge of the ingredients that those “medicines” contained. Many mothers would have given this syrup to their babies without having any idea that it could end up being addictive or even fatal.
There are many good recipes in the Mrs. Winslow’s Domestic Receipt Books including this one and they were most likely collected from bakers who had no knowledge of the potential harms of the soothing syrup. Because of that fact, I am leaving this recipe up for those who would like to make it. I will be looking in the future, though, to see if there are any other 19th century bread recipes that are close to this one that don’t have the same associations with such a sad and controversial history. If I find one, I will add an update here.
The way that I make this bread isn’t really quite the same as the original recipe because the original recipe just mentions “yeast” and doesn’t specifically say sourdough yeast. There were several different types of homemade yeast that people used back in this time period, so I don’t know exactly what type of yeast the recipe is designed to use. I also lately have been making this with a bit of sugar instead of molasses for a more neutral tasting bread. The molasses works well and tastes good, too, though, so it’s really a matter of personal preference which one you want to use. I also omit the baking soda because I want the full sourdough, and adding baking soda would alter the sourdough process.
“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
Important Notes About This Recipe
Any type of wheat flour should work fine for this recipe. Historically, this bread might have been made with whole wheat flour or with a more refined flour, depending on the economic status of the household and whether the bread was for company, etc. (Refined flour would have been more expensive.) You can also use an older, 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, you can reduce the amount of water by a small amount.)
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 8-10 hours to rise in the summer and about 12-14 hours to rise in the winter.)
Having cooler water in the summer can help to slow down the rising process a bit and using warmer water can help to speed up the process in the winter if you are concerned about the bread rising too quickly in the warm weather or not quickly enough in cold weather.
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.
- 3 cups flour (You any type of wheat, spelt, or einkorn flour for this recipe)
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 cup sourdough starter
- 2 Tbs molasses (or sugar)
- 1 tsp salt
- (Optional) 1/2 tsp baking soda
- In a large mixing bowl, combine flour and salt, stirring until combined.
- Add sourdough starter, molasses (or sugar), and water, stirring until combined. Unlike other bread recipes, the dough for this bread will feel wet and sticky rather than dry.
- (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. Be aware, though, that the bread will not be true sourdough bread with the addition of the baking soda.)
- 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. This type of bread doesn't need to be kneaded as thoroughly as other bread recipes.
- Place dough into a greased 9x5 inch bread pan. Cover with a damp dish cloth or tea towel, with another dry towel over it and let rise for about 8-14 hours, or until fully risen. 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 in the evening and then bake it the next morning.)
- 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.)
- Bake at 350 degrees for about 45-50 minutes or until bread is golden brown and sounds hollow when you tap on it.
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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.