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This recipes requires water, salt, fresh whole-wheat flour, and naturally leavened (sourdough) starter. It is optional to add a cup of honey to it if you want to sweeten the bread; however, it is more efficient and you will use a lot less honey if you add the honey to each slice of bread that you want sweetened after it is baked.

To receive Naturally Leavened Starter and User Guide, see NL Pioneer Bread in the right-hand column of this website.

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Comment by Valerie Penfold on February 25, 2010 at 10:36am
I need help activating my starter please. I tried this a few days ago and think I had the Tbsp of water too hot and killed the 1/2 tsp of starter you sent. After the 12 hours (overnight) it had dried considerably so I added a little more water and nothing after 48 hours so last night I tried again using 77 degree water and the 1 Tbsp of flour was white wheat. I had it sitting in a room that was 71 degrees and laid a paper tissue over the top because I didn't want it drying out again. Well after 13 hours this morning, nothing has happened again except the top is a grayish color and the water is separated a bit on top...no bubbles. Please help I don't often have culinary failures because I cook a lot and this is frustrating me, but I never have worked with sourdough. I would like a video for activating the starter too!
Comment by James Simmons on February 25, 2010 at 1:35pm
Sourdough starter is easy to work with it, but hard to get an initial feel for. That is because it's one part instructions and two parts art. What do I mean? Humidity, kitchen temperature, and the wheat being used each must be considered. Below 50 degrees the friendly bacteria become semi-dormant; they seem to do best between 68 to 75 degrees. They go dormant again if they get hotter than 97 degrees. Heat and cold do not kill them; it just makes them go dormant and inactive. Last night we made bread with friends; their starter was fine, but the wheat they were using was not. The friendly bacteria grow in population in proportion to the food (fresh wheat flower) available to them. We have the best luck with hard white wheat; however red winter wheat has worked well for us as well. We brought over some new starter and wheat to our friends and voilla, everything is going as it should today. Dry starter takes patience unless you have large amounts of it. Whatever amount you begin with, double it with fresh flour and water after 24 hours; then double it again ever 12 hours until you have at least two cups worth of active starter. If it is at room temperature when you feed it, you should see it begin to bubble within an hour or two, unless it is cold in your room. We'll see if we can come up with a video that would help. Also, you can add a good active probiotic to the starter to help jump-start it. Most probiotics have several strains of lactobacilli.
Comment by Valerie Penfold on February 27, 2010 at 12:00pm
Thank you for the helps, I do have an active starter now and I am so excited! What a fun feeling :) Here are 3 more questions that will hopefully help others as well. Is it okay to stir the starter before it reaches the bubbly stage? For instance, I had to add 1/2 tsp more water and stir because it took over 12 hours for anything to happen and it just got dry. Should it be covered while it is activating? I kept a tissue over it because I thought it would help it not dry out so much but wondered if it might make it take longer. And last, now that I have 2 cups of it I am ready to make the bread. In the instructions it says to make the bread in the morning and put it in the fridge, then take it out and rise overnight on the counter. In the video it doesn't mention this fridge time. Do I need to put it in the fridge before rising? Also, I had ground wheat a day before (I thought that was fresh) and was using it when I was having trouble and only when I used wheat that I had JUST ground did it start growing. Here's to good bread making- wish me luck!
Comment by Valerie Penfold on February 27, 2010 at 12:34pm
Oops I forgot one question. Once it did start start to grow, the starter separated and a gray liquid came to the top (the vinegar and alcohol as described). I drained it off carefully each time it did this (and it was only just a small amount like a Tbsp) Is is good to get rid of this as it is growing?
A note for others, it took a long time (and I did add a probiotic) to get the small amount of starter going but once it was a greater amount (1/2 cup+) it went much faster like 4 hours instead of almost 24.
Comment by Kascia Lybbert on April 11, 2010 at 8:03pm
What if I don't have a bread mixer. I knead all my bread by hand. Can I still do that with this bread? Will it still turn out?
Comment by Eve Orr on April 11, 2010 at 8:58pm
I have successfully made NL bread by hand. It worked fine.

I don't drain the liquid off my starter when it separates, I just stir it back in. I'm no expert, but my family likes the NL sweet bread very well. I found that once my starter started bubbling up, it no longer had a problem with drying out.
Comment by James Simmons on April 12, 2010 at 5:57am
During the past few weeks the weather in Utah Valley has been all over the map, Several members commented or sent me messages wondering if their starter had gone bad because it was taking so long to leaven. Again, to help understand why we say that much of your success will come as you become familiar with the nature of working with the starter, I want to share what happened to us one day last week. It was cold and drafty and it took 35 hours for the bread to leaven properly. The final product was wonderful bread; however, even in a home with a thermostat, if your home is subject to drafts, temperatures, and so forth, the time to leaven the dough is going to vary considerably throughout the seasons of the year. We took a quick trip to St. George Friday. On Saturday morning we mixed up a batch of bread that leavened and was ready to be formed into loaves in about seven hours, using the same starter that took 35 hours in Utah Valley the week before. The friendly bacteria loved the St. George weather and were very active. Thought you might enjoy this perspective. Jim
Comment by James Simmons on April 12, 2010 at 6:01am
When you are making the dough without a mixer, by hand, just knead it a little longer. Fifteen minutes of kneading by hand should be sufficient. Your hands, arms, and shoulders will love you for making your bread this way. Jim
Comment by Sue Crosby on April 21, 2010 at 12:33pm
I just tried making naturally leavened bread for the first time. I had the same issues named below getting my starter going. Finally after letting it sit for about 2 days I noticed that it was bubbling on the bottom (it was in a glass mason jar) even though it looked dry on top. I went ahead and doubled it--following the recipe until I had 2 cups of starter. It worked great through the remainder of this process--but I wondered if I had damaged it in some way letting it sit so long at the beginning. Is this possible?

I went ahead and mixed up my bread dough following the instructions. I put it in the refrigerator and took it out when I went to bed. The next morning it had not risen. I realized that the temperature in my kitchen was very cool through the night, which might have been the cause. I let it sit out for several hours--still without any sign of rising. I finally put it in the oven with some warm water under it and it rose a few inches. I then made up my loaves and some flat bread. The flat bread turned out fine--but again the bread dough in the bread pans did not rise. I let it sit for 36 hours with no results. (During this time I put it in the slightly warm oven after it had cooled down from making the flat bread, with no results.) I kept it in the oven (no heat) through the night to keep it a little warmer in my cool kitchen. This morning I gave up and went ahead and baked it. It tastes good--though a little sour. And of course slices are very small since it didn't rise.

Next time I try I know I need to monitor the temperatures a little better. What else do you suggest? Should I have just let the bread continue to sit until it actually did rise--even if it took a few days? Would it become more sour by sitting out longer? Do you think I should try making a new starter that I don't let sit so long at first? (My other one seems fine but maybe something went wrong with it.) In the video, didn't Colleen actually put more than a level cup of starter in the bread dough? Would adding more starter to the dough help?

Though I have made whole wheat bread for years, I have never tried sour dough. I really want to make this work. I will appreciate any suggestions you might have.
Comment by Eve Orr on April 21, 2010 at 1:12pm
My observation (after 2 successful batches of NL bread, so I'm no expert!) is that it is nearly impossible to mess up the starter. If it isn't rising well, feed it until it does. My starter never dries on top; I use about half and half flour and water. Just make sure it is really working (I like the yeasty way good starter smells).

I have never refrigerated my bread dough. I mix it before bed, using lukewarm water so it is a little warm already (by hand, because I don't have a Bosch), put it in a protected place where it can stay warmer, and it rises overnight. Then next day it is ready to be shaped into loaves by mid-day sometime, and before bed (at least in theory, I'm still getting this timing down) it is ready to be baked.

I believe the longer the bread takes to rise, the more sour is it likely to be. My family doesn't really appreciate that sour flavor, so I always make the sweet bread, and they enjoy it. Once I become more experienced with making this bread, I intend to experiment with the recipe a bit, to see if I can make bread with a less sweetener in it that my family will still eat.

I think James has the right of it. There are so many variables that affect how this bread rises - differences in the flour, the temperature, the starter, humidity, etc - that it is more of an art than a science. I imagine that variations in the amount of starter, etc, would be worth experimenting with.


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