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.

3 breads 25

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.

It’s all About Sourdough is a brand new cookbook that takes you step by step in creating a starter, caring for it, over 100 recipes using sourdough starter, and much more.

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 has affiliated links, if you purchase items through these links, I receive a small commission but your price doesn’t change. Your purchase help support this blog, keeps new recipes coming, and assist with our move to a mission outreach of our church. 

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 as it is lighter in the whole wheat taste and my family loves bread made with it. If your family is on the line about whole grain bread this is the flour to use to convince them! 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.
Prairie Gold White Whole Wheat Flour

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, pie crust, and crackers. 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.

Homestead Gristmill — Stone-ground Whole Pastry Flour (10 lb), Artisanally Milled from Certified Organic Soft White Wheat Berries

White Whole Wheat Pastry Flour

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 I use it strictly to feed my starter.  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 in your starter will give you about 1 1/3  teaspoon of flour per slice of bread in the recipes on this blog.  However, Pearl and Serene do recommend that we use all whole grains (purist) in both the starter and the dough. There is a recipe for a rye starter/bread in the THM Cookbook. While using some white bread flour in the starter is more of a personal choice on THM, I find that it works great for me for me and my family since it makes wonderful, soft fluffy bread that they will eat.

King Arthur Bread Flour

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.

Arrowhead Mills Flour Rye Organic, 20 oz (3 Pack)

Arrowhead Mills Rye Flour

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.

Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Oat Flour, 22-ounce (Pack of 4)

Bob’s Red Mill Oat Flour

Sourdough Starter —
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. If you have received a starter from me, here is a blog post telling you how to care for your starter…Caring for your Starter!

You can make a starter by following these instructions….Making a Sourdough Starter! Some people can make a starter and it is ready to bake bread in 3 weeks. Other times it may take 2-3 months to get a good starter going.  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. One thing I have discovered through trial and error that it takes a much more mature starter to be successful with using 100% whole grain flour. You can read more about  Sourdough Starter  at this link. 

 King Arthur Flour does have a good sourdough starter to purchase.  We also have sourdough starter that you can purchase individually or you can order it with the purchase of a cookbook. Our store is now live and you can check it out at this link…Around the Family Table Store.  Cookbooks can be order with or without a starter, you can just order sourdough starter, and we will be adding Sourdough Kits that include flours, vital wheat gluten, sourdough starter, etc. in the near future.

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 in the Honey Oat Recipes. Other recipes do not use oil but then they do have a reduced shelf life.

      California Olive Ranch Everyday Extra Virgin Olive Oil - 25.4 oz each (Pack of 2)

California Olive Ranch Oil

                                          Nutiva Organic, Refined Coconut Oil with Butter Flavor, 14-ounce (Pack of 2)

Butter Flavored Coconut Oil

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 activate the gluten. 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. SInce I have moved to an area without access to bulk food store I buy large bags of vital wheat gluten and use that in all my recipes. Dough enhancer often has some undesirable ingredients in it. 

                                  Premium Vital Wheat Gluten - Kate Naturals. High Protein, Low Carb, Vegan, Non GMO. Fresh. Perfect for Keto. 1-Year Guarantee (4lb).

Vital Wheat Gluten

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.

NOW Supplements, Sunflower Lecithin with naturally occurring Phosphatidyl Choline and Other Phosphatides, Powder, 1-Pound


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.

Fermenting Time to be on plan for THM the sourdough must fermented 7 hours at room temperature from the time you mix the dough until it is baked. You  can also do a combination of room temp and fridge ferment. One hour of room temperature ferment is equal to 3.5 hours fridge ferment. You can adjust the time of room and fridge ferment by using that guideline.

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. Take in consideration that a few recipes have added fat. The no-knead recipes do not but then their shelf life is shorter.

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.

Here is a blog post…. called Sourdough for Dummies! This may answer questions you have about sourdough and starter. 

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

Bighorn Exchange Baking Set

Just look at this lovely Baking Set from Bighorn Exchange. It has everything you need in one package!

You will find many more recipes in the spiral bound 600+ page Around the Family Table Cookbook. All recipes are sugar-free and label with the correct fuel. Books can be purchased using this link.  We have now added additional items to our store… Sourdough Starter Kits and more. Buy It Now.No photo description available.

If you purchase items through these links, I receive a small commission but your price doesn’t change. Below are a few of my favorites listed under the affiliate store I purchase them. I love my Bosch Mixer for kneading 5 loaves of sourdough bread. 



Bosch Mixer 

KitchenAid Mixer

KitchenAid 8 quart Mixer

PicMonkey Collage sourdough

Sprouted flour has already been fermented so we do not use it in sourdough bread. When you use sprouted flour with sourdough it can over-ferment which cause an unstable loaf. Save your sprouted flour for bread doughs using yeast which you bake with an hour or two of mixing.