The Gift Of Bread



What is sourdough?

Mother Nature Knows Best

One way of answering is to say that sourdough is the natural way to make bread. The way it has been done for thousands of years.
That is until Mr Pasteur discovered and opened the door for the production of yeast. The baking industry said ‘ah-ha’ and so began the mass production of bread.

‘Sourdough’ is simply the natural grain used to make a bread, added to water. Mill the grain to a fine flour and mix with water. Every piece of natural grain contains a million and still counting, of microscopic organisms. Then there are the enzymes to take into account. The added water immediately starts off a reaction whereby a fermentation process takes place. This reaction is what makes bread the ‘staff of life’. Nothing more needs to be added (plus salt to taste) to make the most perfect bread.

David Attenborough continually points out, that wherever you look in this world – even down to the microscopic level, Mother Nature has taken care of every intimate detail. It is only ourselves that are responsible for messing the system up.


Sourdough verses Louis Pasteur

Yeast was 'invented' (discovered) by Louis Pasteur in the 1870’s. Until then bread was all ‘natural’. The ‘invention’ of manufactured yeast turned the baking industry on it head. Gradually bread worked its way to becoming a fully industrialised product.
Today there are up to a hundred chemicals added to make a modern production ‘replica’ of real bread – anything goes, as long as it can be produced in a couple of hours.

Even by the 1940’s a law had to be passed to add some nutrition back into the bread.

            “In 1943, the War Foods Administration issued the War Food Order No. 1, which made enriched bread the temporary law of the land”.

            “By law any white wheat flour that is milled in the UK has to have calcium, iron and thiamin added. After the war the government decided that white flour needed the same vitamins as wholemeal flour”.

Today the factory process has accelerated and the chemical industry has almost taken over.

Here is a more detailed version of what sourdough is:

What is sourdough?

Sourdough is a spontaneous fermentation of flour and water in which naturally occurring yeasts and beneficial lactic acid bacteria work in symbiosis to aerate and flavour bread, make nutrients more bio-available and improve digestibility. It is not an ingredient or an additive, but a process involving all the flour, and time is of the essence. Lactic acid bacteria work slowly, taking many hours to bring about the changes in dough which account for the growing popularity of this kind of bread – its distinctive flavour and texture and an ease of digestion which countless consumers contrast with the discomfort that can follow consumption of fast-made, additive-laden industrial loaves.

What we do at The Gift Of Bread is take that ‘time is of the essence’ and stretch it (the time) a lot further, gaining more and more benefits along the way.




Making A Starter From Scratch

Place equal parts of flour and water in a container and mix together. Try 100 grams of flour and 100 grams of water. (Dechlorinate the water by standing overnight, or use bottled water. The chlorine can kill the friendly bacteria we are trying to produce). Place a loose cover over it, you don't want a tight fitting lid. Let it sit for 24 hours at room temperature.

Remove half of the contents – this is only to stop accumulating too much. Mix some more flour and water but this time about half the quantity of what you started with. About an equal weight to what you have left to make up the same volume again. Allow it to sit for a further 24 hours.

Repeat the above process of halving and doubling for another 3 days. On day 6 the culture should show signs of bubbles forming in the starter.

During the first few days it may not be too inviting a smell. By the end, it will have developed a fresh tangy redolence.

You now have a starter. At this stage you could double the entire volume ready for bread making. In our extended fermentation process we use less than a 100 grams of starter per kilo of flour with 700 grams of water for a basic dough mix.
This leaves a hundred grams of starter to keep going with.

Temperature will dictate how often you feed your starter. If kept in the fridge, once every three days will be ample. In a warm kitchen it will need to be halved and doubled again every day.
If you should only require to use it once a month, then place it in the freezer. When bringing it out of the fridge or freezer for use, let it return to ambient temperature, feed it and wait a few hours until it is ‘ready’

When is it ready?

If it is ‘active’ and bubbling, place a small amount (teaspoon) in a glass of water and see if it floats. If it does, you are ready to go.
If it does not float, either it is not ready yet – gently warm it up a bit, or just wait another hour, and try again.

If it has ‘passed its peak’ then it will need to be fed again and another six hours or so should pass before running another float test.

The timing for ‘activity’ depends on temperature

In very warm rooms (25C, 80F or more) the cycle could be as quick as four hours. In cool environments (10C, 50F) it may take 24 hours.

Which flour?

It is not required to use the same flour as the bread you are making. However it should be a high protein bread flour rather than a pastry type (all purpose) flour.




What to do with the leftover…

More coming soon…

It does not need to be thrown away. Pancakes is one good use it can be put to.


Buying A Starter

There is plenty of choice on the internet or eBay.
They usually supply a very small amount in a sealed plastic packet. This is all you need. Take the amount supplied and weigh it. Double it with a feed of flour and water 50/50 and within a couple of days you have more than you need.

Here is one supplier I can recommend in the UK.

Freshly Fermented eBay shop:

Web site:

Freshly fermented also have good instructions on maintaining your sourdough starter.




Variations On Sourdough


More information coming soon…