Understanding Sourdough Bread – THM E

 Bread baking has always fascinated me every since I helped my Old Order Mennonite grandma bake bread at a young age. I have fond memories of kneading bread dough in her old metal dishpan. After baking most of our bread and any kind of yeast dough you can imagine for the last 30+ years, I ventured into the Sourdough world and I love it.  Fermenting the dough for 7 hours or longer breaks down the phytic acid in the grain making it so much easier for our bodies to digest. Have you ever wonder why certain ingredients are in bread, why they are necessary, and why certain flours are used? I will try to explain why I use the items I do in my recipes. There are 40+ recipes using sourdough starter, detailed instructions on feeding your starter, and troubleshooting tips in the 600 page spiral bound Around the Family Table Cookbook.

This post does have affiliate links with the products I love to use. 3 breads 25

White Whole Wheat Flour — White whole grain flour is made from hard white spring wheat, is lighter in color, and taste than regular whole grain flour. It has a 13% protein content. This is my preferred flour when baking sourdough bread. It comes in various names such as Golden 86, Prairie Gold, etc. I buy 50 pound bag of Prairie Gold White Wheat Flour from our local grocery store. Under Trim Healthy Mama guidelines this flour can only be used with sourdough starter as the starter ferments the grain making it easier for our bodies to digest or it can be used in Gwen’s Nest Bread which is fermented for 3 days in the refrigerator.

White Whole Wheat Pastry Flour — Pastry flour is made from soft white spring wheat and will have less gluten which makes it perfect for biscuits, pancakes, waffles, etc. This flour WILL NOT make a nice loaf of bread as it does not have the needed gluten required to raise a loaf of bread. I love using this flour to make soft, flaky sourdough biscuits. Under Trim Healthy Mama E guidelines this flour can only be used with sourdough starter as the starter ferments the grain making it easier for our bodies to digest.

Whole Wheat Flour — This flour is made from hard red winter wheat and has the classic whole wheat flavor. It has 14% protein content and is America’s top selling whole wheat flour. This flour does make a darker loaf than the white whole grain flour. I prefer to mix this flour with white whole grain flour when make 100% whole wheat bread as it is stronger in taste. Under Trim Healthy Mama E guidelines this flour can only be used with sourdough starter as the starter ferments the dough making it easier for our bodies to digest or it can be used in Gwen’s Nest Bread which is fermented for 3 days in the refrigerator.


King Arthur Bread Flour — This is the best flour I have found to feed sourdough starter and the only one I will use.  Bread flour is much higher in gluten than regular flour. Adequate gluten is needed to get an sufficient rise in bread loaves. When bread flour is mixed with liquid, the gluten swells to form a network of  strands and this forms the structure of bread loaf. The gluten can be seen in the elasticity of the dough. 100% Whole grain bread will need extra gluten to get an adequate rise simply because whole grain flour is heavier with the bran in it. Using white flour for the starter will give you about 1 1/3  teaspoon of flour per slice of bread in the recipes on this blog.

Rye Flour — I love rye bread and this is my favorite flour to use. Rye flour is much low in gluten and the gluten it does contain in lower in quality. So it is best to combine rye flour with wheat flour it you want an adequate rise with your bread.  Bread made with mostly rye flour will be very dense with much smaller holes than wheat bread. Rye does contain more free sugar than wheat flours so it will ferment and sour much faster.  When mixing bread dough with a high percentage of rye flour it will requires less mixing/kneading time because it is simply a more fragile flour than wheat.

Oat Flour —  The addition of oat flour to bread dough gives it a soft chewy texture. Oat flour has very little gluten so you cannot add a large amount. The more oat flour you add the more dense and crumbly your bread will be. Oat flour added to pancakes, waffles, English muffins add a wonderful texture. It does not need to be fermented by THM E guidelines so it can be used to rolled out biscuits, noodles, cinnamon rolls,  etc when extra flour is needed just before baking.

Sourdough Starter — 
Sourdough Introduction 2 This is the most important item in your sourdough bread.  A mature starter is a must when baking bread. I prefer a thick starter as you can see from the picture. It gives a much better loaf of bread and doesn’t get sour as quickly. I do not recommend starting your own starter unless you have months to feed it to get it mature enough to raise 100% whole grain bread. I bought a dried packet of sourdough starter and it took 3 months of constant feeding to have it mature enough to get a decent rise with 100% whole grain bread. You can read more about  Sourdough Starter  at this link.   King Arthur Flour does have a good sourdough starter to purchase.  I will also send a small jar of starter at your request for the cost of shipping/packing or if you order Around the Family Table Cookbook it will included free of charge. You do need to request it when you place your order. I love to use my Pampered Chef  measuring bowl to store my starter. I can see at a glance how much I have and how much I will need to feed it.

Honey — I use raw honey to give just a bit of sugar for the bacteria in the starter to feed on. You can reduce the amount of honey in my recipes but I have found this amount works great. There is less than 1/4 teaspoon per slice of bread.

Olive Oil/Butter/Coconut Oil — Fats in bread will help it to stay fresh longer and it will not dry out as quickly. Oil will also keep the strands of gluten shorter resulting in a finer textured loaf. You can reduce the amount of oil in my recipes but I have found this amount works great in keeping the bread fresh for a number of days. There is less than 1/4 teaspoon per slice of bread.

Dough Enhancer/Vital wheat Gluten — When you are baking 100% whole grain bread you will need added gluten to assist in the rise. Whole grain flours have bran in them which makes it more difficult to work with. Gluten proteins need to work together to form elastic strands that form a strong mesh. That is what gives your structure in bread. Bran particles in whole wheat flour present a physical barrier to the strands of gluten coming together to form this structure.  Adequate mixing/kneading does help. As your dough is rising the gluten mesh forms and traps air but only the gluten stretches; the bran cannot. The bran particles can cause the gluten mesh to tear and become leaky. That is why it often is difficult to get an adequate rise with whole grain bread. Adding dough enhancer or vital wheat gluten does help with this although  you can make a soft, light whole grain bread without it with experience.


Lethicin —  Lecithin is an emulsifier which helps other ingredients mix more easily and remained mixed. It will also extend the shelf life of bread. You can make bread without it but you may want to freeze the bread if you will not be using it within a day or two.  Trim Healthy Mama Lethicin is a favorite to use.

Salt — You may wonder why I add salt 20 minutes after mixing the bread dough. Salt can inhibit the flour from absorbing water. Whole grain flour takes longer absorb moisture. than regular white flour.  When salt and yeast compete for water, salt will win. Salt slows down fermentation and enzyme activity in the bread dough. It also, plays an important part in tightening the gluten structure in the bread dough adding needed strength to the it.   Trim Healthy Mama Mineral Salt is a high quality salt to use.

Year ago I was given a Bosch Mixer  which I love. I have used it to make 1000’s of loaves of bread and it still works great. They are a wonderful investment for your kitchen and a great time-saver when kneading bread.  Sourdough isn’t as difficult as it sounds and with experience you will soon be making incredible tasty food.  I do keep my starter in the fridge and only get it out when I want to make something. I love to mix biscuit, cinnamon rolls, and pasta and store it in the fridge for 3-5 days until I have time to make them. The cold dough handles wonderful and you get a very nice fermentation period.

Does this bread work for the THM plan? This bread is considered to be an E fuel. You will need to be sure you don’t overdue the fats as each bread slice has 1/4 teaspoon of fat in it.

Why don’t you need to use sprouted flour? Sprouted flour already has the phytic acid broken done by the sprouting. Using sprouted flour with sourdough starter will break down the flour even further result in an unstable loaf that will not rise properly. It is also a more costly flour so save it to use in sprouted bread where you use yeast as a leavening agent.

Can I use yeast in sourdough bread? You can use yeast in sourdough bread but you do need to make sure you get the full 7-8 hours of fermenting time before you bake the bread for it to be on plan.

Can I refrigerate my sourdough and bake it another day? Yes, you can. The fermenting time must be double when you refrigerate the dough to get the fermentation you need.

When you discover sourdough baking, it opens a new world. Anything made with yeast can be made with sourdough starter. PicMonkey Collage sourdough

2 thoughts on “Understanding Sourdough Bread – THM E

  1. Thank you for this information ! It was well written and answered questions I had. I am starting over with sourdough starter and bread. About 15 years ago my husband and son decided to surprise me and clean the kitchen before I got home from work. They found my sourdough starter on top of the fridge . I always let it dry out between uses if it would be more than a month before I used it again, and then reconstituted it. They thought it was spoiled so they started chipping away at it to throw it away. Not only did I lose my 12 year old starter, but they broke the bowl I kept it in. I got discouraged so I never tried again. You got me interested!

  2. I have my starter, been feeding 3 days now in refrigerator covered loosely nothing but starter, fed and water fed now what??

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