*Sourdough Bread in a Breadmaker*
Edible Bread Without Commercial Yeast
By: Osage & Mrs. Osage
24 January 2006

Bread is a basic staple of human civilization. It’s a lot more than a clever packaging of starch (aka ‘complex carbohydrates) in a manner suited to hold peanut butter. The yeast used to ‘rise’ bread produces vitamins while it makes the loaf a lot fluffier than your average chunk of hardtack. Nothing does this as well as sourdough yeasts, because they partner with bacteria. On top of that they produce a wonderful flavor in the bread.

Sourdough is a mixture of yeast and bacteria which you grow yourself. It will be the only reliable source of bakers yeast after TSHTF. You can either make your own or pay someone else to grow it for you. The mixture of yeast and bacteria is grown in a thin batter of flour and liquid (I use milk). You add the yeast to a dough or batter by adding a portion of this thin batter (called a ‘start’) as you mix it up. Details of how to do that will have to be found in another article.

Rising is caused by the carbon dioxide (CO2) bubbles, produced by the yeast, being trapped in the bread dough. This gives the final bread a pleasant texture, allowing us to eat it without resorting to either jackhammers or axes. However, yeast needs time to produce the right amount of CO2.

One problem with sourdough yeasts is that they generally ‘rise’ slower than commercial strains of powdered yeast. This is not a problem if you have a flexible schedule (aka plenty of time). But if you want to use a bread machine you need the yeast to rise the bread within the time limits of the machine. While some bread machines have the ability to be programmed by the user, most have pre-programmed schedules you must meet, and these are typically too short for sourdough yeast to work properly. Bread machines are a viable post SHTF item since they use relatively little electrical power (see Making Bread in A Bread Maker (By Warlord, PaleHorse, Marsha3, Warbabe) ).

In discussing this problem with a friend who is an excellent baker he recommended I use a ‘sponge’ (a batter of flour and water or milk) to allow my sourdough longer to grow the necessary amount of yeast. The time problem is merely that the sourdough yeast grows more slowly than commercial yeast. If I started out with more yeast, the greater amount of sourdough yeast at the beginning could produce as much CO2 as a smaller amount of commercial yeast.

With commercial yeast the use of the sponge is merely a way of making mixing in the ingredients easier. With sourdough yeast the sponge is prepared with half the flour, some sugar or honey, all the main liquid (I always use milk), and the sourdough ‘start’. No other ingredients are added right away. The sponge is then set aside in a warm place to ‘work’ for several hours (full instructions below). This allows the slower-growing sourdough yeast extra time to grow enough to produce enough CO2 to produce good bread. In using a bread machine we merely add the sponge to the machine, add the remaining ingredients, and press ‘Start".

After experimenting a bit (which required that we dispose of several batches of homemade bread in a proper manner) we settled on letting the sponge work for 12-14 hours. BTW: my favorite "proper manner" involves significant quantities of butter & honey, but that’s a local decision.

Our Procedure


- Pick a bread recipe which works well for you with your machine. If your machine has the option for long cycle use it.

- Mix half the flour, all the water or milk (I always use milk), 2-4 tablespoons of honey, and ½ cup of start. Stir well. NOTE: Use a bowl large enough that this mixture only fills the bowl about 1/3 full.

- Refresh your start (by adding flour, liquid, & honey and letting it sit a few hours). Then refrigerate it.

- Place the bowl in a warm place with a cloth or paper towel covering this sponge. Let sit for 12-14 hours.

- Stir to release bubbles. Pour this sponge into the bread machine.

- Add remaining ingredients from the recipe you’re using.

- Start the bread machine cycle as normal.

The Product


The bread made this way will be a good strong sourdough bread. You can make the taste somewhat milder by shortening the time the sponge sits, but if you shorten it too much the bread won’t rise properly. Also, this bread will likely be a bit denser than bread produced by commercial yeast.
Osage & Mrs. Osage

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