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12 Steps to Successful Sourbread


We all need to include more fermented foods in our diets for their considerable health benefits, including beneficial bacteria to balance your intestinal flora and make for easier digestion.

One way we can do this is to start eating (and baking) sourbread. You may take a little time to adjust to the taste but it is this taste that gives the bread all its nutrition.

You will benefit from

  • pre-digesting starches for easier digestion

  • lowered insulin response and/or improved glucose tolerance

  • protecting Vitamin B1 from the damage of the heat of baking

  • breaking down gluten

  • freeing up minerals such as zinc, iron, magnesium, copper and phosphorus

But first and foremost you need to make a sourdough starter

Mixing flour and water and allowing it to ferment creates a starter that takes a few days to develop but when it is ready, it can be used to make bread in a more healthy way because you will not be using baker's yeast.

I know of someone here in Cape Town whose forte is sourdough bread. He nurtures the starter culture (made from fermented Cabernet grapes) for his recipes as if it were a pet in the house as it has to be fed with flour and water every few days. If he and his family go away, they have to arrange for a baby sitter (for the culture) or take it with them!

Apparently, there are some starter cultures in bakeries in Europe that have been going for over a hundred years. But don't let that put you off!

Here is the recipe for the starter

Day 1 – mix 1 tsp of strong white flour with 2 tsps of water in a clear jar which should be sealed and left to stand overnight.

Days 2, 3, 4 and 5 – add 1 tsp of flour and 2 tsps water each day and stir. You will notice that more and more bubbles will form on the surface.

Day 6 – mix ¾ oz from the jar with 5 oz flour and 5 fluid oz warm water in a large bowl. Cover and ferment overnight.

Day 7 – you are ready to bake and use the amount of starter needed for your recipe.

How to maintain your starter

Add 1 teaspoon of flour to the remaining ferment in the jar, seal and refrigerate for use next time. It is ideal to make your sourdough bread every week because then the starter will not become dormant.

If you do leave it for a long period, throw away the acidic liquid on the surface, stir in 1 oz flour and 1 fluid oz water, mix to a paste, seal and leave to stand overnight. You will have saved your starter if you find bubbles have formed overnight.

Treat your sourdough with lots of TLC and it will serve you indefinitely.

How you make the sourdough bread

(this recipe is for wholegrain sourdough)

Ingredients and equipment

  • 7 oz chopped or cracked wheat
  • 13.5 fluid oz warm water
  • 14 oz wholemeal flour
  • ½ oz salt
  • 5 oz sourdough starter
  • wheatgerm and bran mixture for coating
  • Plus you will need a large loaf shaped proofing basket
  • 1 small bowl and 2 larger bowls
  • wooden spoon


Step 1. Mix together wheat and 8 fluid oz water in a bowl and leave to soak.

Step 2. Combine the flour and salt in another bowl (dry mixture). In a large bowl, mix the sourdough starter with 5.5 fluid oz water and stir in the soaked wheat. (wet mixture).

Step 3. Add dry mixture to the wet mixture and mix first with a wooden spoon and then your hands until the two mixtures come together to form a dough. While mixing, make sure all the ingredients are thoroughly mixed.

Step 4. Cover with the bowl that contained the dry mixture and leave for 10 minutes.

Step 5. This is the fun part – leaving the dough in the bowl, pull a portion of it up from the side and press this into the middle. Turn the bowl slightly and keep repeating this process for some 8 times. The dough will be starting to resist.

Step 6. Cover again and leave for 10 minutes.

Step 7. Repeat steps 5 and 6 twice, then step 5 again. Cover the bowl and leave for an hour.

Step 8. Lightly dust a clean worktop with the bran and wheatgerm mixture. Roll the dough in the mixture with your hands until it is roughly the shape of the proofing basket. Sprinkle more of the bran and wheatgerm mixture in the basket and lay the bread inside and leave to rise until doubled in size (anything from 3 to 6 hours).

Step 9. Preheat the oven to 240 degrees C and place a roasting dish at the bottom of the oven to preheat too.

Step 10. When the dough has doubled in size, tip out of the basket on to a lined baking sheet and put into the oven.

Step 11. Pour a cupful of water into the roasting dish and lower the temperature to 220 degrees C and bake for about 30 minutes.

Step 12. You can tell if the bread is ready by tapping the bottom which should sound hollow. Cool on a rack. You may think that this is too complicated and drawn out to do on a regular basis but that is the whole point – practice makes perfect and it becomes a way of life with a healthy loaf of bread to use at home every few days.

I have already got my husband interested in becoming the family home baker. Perhaps you can encourage a family member to take on the task too!




Bakery nutrition facts. (n.d.).
https://www.wegmans.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/bread-wegmans-nutrition-facts.pdf(Accessed, 6 October 2021).

Bartkiene, E., et al. (2020). Lactic acid bacteria isolation from spontaneous sourdough and their characterization including antimicrobial and antifungal properties evaluation.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7023352/. (Accessed, 6 October 2021).

Capurso, A., et al. (2020). The Mediterranean way: Why elderly people should eat wholewheat sourdough bread—a little known component of the Mediterranean diet and healthy food for elderly adults.
https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40520-019-01392-3#(Accessed, 6 October 2021).

Costabile, A., et al. (2014). Effect of breadmaking process on in vitro gut microbiota parameters in irritable bowel syndrome.
https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0111225(Accessed, 6 October 2021).

Dees, J. (2020). The sourdough microbe.
https://asm.org/Articles/2020/June/The-Sourdough-Microbiome(Accessed, 6 October 2021).