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Easy Homemade Sourdough Bread Recipe from 1869

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Loaf of sourdough bread on a plate with a slice cut out of it.

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:

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 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

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.

Loaf of sourdough bread on a plate with a slice cut off.

Easy Homemade Sourdough Bread Recipe from 1869

Yield: 1 loaf
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Additional Time: 8 hours
Total Time: 9 hours 5 minutes

This homemade sourdough bread recipe is based on an old-fashioned 19th century bread recipe, and it is a very easy recipe to make. You only have to knead the bread lightly once and the timing for letting it rise is more flexible than with yeasted bread recipes.

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour and salt, stirring until combined.
  2. 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.
  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. Be aware, though, that the bread will not be true sourdough bread with the addition of the baking soda.)
  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. This type of bread doesn't need to be kneaded as thoroughly as other bread recipes.
  5. 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.)
  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.

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 8 hours to rise in the summer and about 12-14 hours to rise in the winter.)
  • It can help with the rising times if the water for this recipe is warmer when you bake during the winter months and cooler for the summer months. Cooler water will help to slow down the rising time a bit for very hot days, and warmer water will help to speed up the rising time a bit for very cold days.
  • 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.
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    Loaf of sourdough bread on a plate with a slice cut out of 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.

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    Joy Roxborough

    Sunday 24th of July 2022

    Does this bread end up sticking to the pan if u let it rise in same pan you bake it in?

    Lori Elliott

    Monday 25th of July 2022

    I've found that as long as I grease the pan before putting the dough in then it doesn't usually stick. The only time that I find that it sticks to the pan is if I let it rise too high where it starts to overflow the pan. Otherwise, as long as I grease the pan well, it doesn't stick for me.

    Lee

    Thursday 28th of April 2022

    I made my 1st loaf of this recipe. It taste great, but it is not as fluffy or did not rise to high as I would have hoped for, but I do like the crispy crust and the chewy texture. I did not include the baking soda. I wonder if it would have had a better rise if I would have included the soda. Has anyone tried it with the baking soda? Mine was not rising at all at 1st, even into the night it was not doing much, but it was not the warmest in the house being spring time here. So at night I placed it on top of my radiator heater with the heat on low, and it did start to increase in size after that. I made sure it was not getting too hot, but think I got cold in the night and turned the heat up just a smidgen. I think I may have partialy cooked it on the heater because the crust on top would crack just a little bit when touched after I got up in the morning...not spring back like dough does before you bake it. Maybe this is the reason it didn't rise much? It only raised 2 1/2" at the highest point in the middle.

    Lori Elliott

    Friday 29th of April 2022

    If your bread didn't rise much, my guess would be that the sourdough starter might not have been active enough. If a sourdough starter hasn't been fed recently and isn't bubbly then it won't do a very good job of working as a leavening agent for the bread dough. If you were using an established starter that has worked well with other things in the past, though, then the temperature could have been part of the problem. The crust you mentioned on the top could also have been part of the issue, too, because if there was a hardened crust then that could have prevented it from rising more. Covering your bread while it is rising could help to keep the top part from drying out and forming a crust. I've made this recipe both with and without the baking soda, and I haven't personally found that the baking soda makes a significant difference. It might increase the rise by a little, but my bread still rises ok without it. I hope you can figure out what was causing the issue and have better success in the future!

    Kym

    Tuesday 5th of April 2022

    Help please. I guess I am over looking it but how do you make the starter to begin with?

    Lori Elliott

    Tuesday 5th of April 2022

    This is a link to the article where I describe the process for how I made my starter with just flour and water: https://www.ourheritageofhealth.com/how-to-make-homemade-yeast/

    Linda

    Tuesday 28th of September 2021

    You are my favorite source for sourdough info. I have made bread that was fairly successful; edible but not quite what I'm aiming for. I have seen a number of sourdough recipes and I hope you can clear up a confusion for me. When you are ready to mix the dough, do you feed the starter first then measure the amount needed for the dough, or do you measure the starter first then feed the starter after? The latter seems most logical to me, but I've seen it described both ways. P.S. Glad to report my healthy starter was fridged for quite a while, took it out and fed it and it only took a couple of days before it was very active. Yay!

    Linda

    Saturday 2nd of October 2021

    @Lori Elliott, Thanks, Lori, for that clarification. That's what I've been doing. My thoughts were same as yours, the starter would be "diluted" if it was fed before measuring. I'm looking forward to mixing some dough this afternoon. Have a great day!

    Lori Elliott

    Tuesday 28th of September 2021

    That's a great question. What I usually do is to measure out the amount of starter that I need for my recipe and then I feed it afterward. I agree that that seems to be the more logical way to do it, and it seems to me like feeding it before measuring out what you need for your recipe might sort of dilute the activity of the starter since you would be adding flour and water that haven't had any time to ferment. And that's great that your starter bounced back nicely after being in the fridge for a while too!

    De

    Saturday 6th of March 2021

    I would like to try this recipe with flour from wheat I grind myself Would you be able to suggest which type of wheat? I have hard white wheat berries and hard red wheat berries. Thank you

    Lori Elliott

    Tuesday 9th of March 2021

    Either one of those kinds should be fine to use, so the choice would really be up to your preference if you like the flavor of one over the other, or if you have a larger supply of one type over the other, etc.

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