seitan is my motor



December 2008



I’m done with yeast

Not really. But since I started to use a sourdough starter for my bread again, I realized how much better sourdough based breads are compared to yeast breads. When I grew up, I hated sourdough breads. Here in Germany, sourdough is associated with rustic rye breads. These breads have a dark colour and they have a really sour taste. When I was a kid, the breads I chose had to be jelly-compatible, which means soft sandwhich bread types were best. My father on the other hand loved real sourdough rye breads with caraway seeds, but how are you supposed to eat these with nutella or strawberry jam?

A couple of years ago I worked – only for a couple of months – at an organic bakery. The sold yeast and sourdough leavened breads. While the yeast leavened breads were light both in taste and appearance, the sourdough breads again were dark, rustic, and they had a distinct sourdough flavour. I still didn’t like them that much.

When I started to bake my own breads, I started with yeast breads. I thought that sourdough is a complicated matter and I never really considered to use it. One day I changed my mind and started to do a bit of research about sourdough. I bought a rye sourdough starter culture at a store and used a recipe from one of my bread baking books. The bread didn’t come out that great and I went back to yeast breads.

Bazu’s posts about sourdough baking changed my mind again. Her breads were made with sourdough, but they were light and fluffy. I started researching again and I realized that the bread baking traditions of Germany and the USA seem to be very different when it comes to sourdough. In Germany sourdough is often made from rye and it is used for rye breads because rye and yeast just don’t go so well together. (I wrote about this before here). Nobody that I know would associate a light and fluffy bread with sourdough. (Although I guess that you can find these breads. I’m just not aware of them because I haven’t got a clue about baking traditions in Germany.)

In the US and in other countries like Italy and France plenty of light and fluffy bread recipes based on sourdough can be found. Realizing this was a totally new and great experience for me. The most important thing  is to use a wheat sourdough starter, which is much milder than a ry starter.

My first wheat sourdough was a ciabatta which came out so fantastic, light and fluffy, that it finally came to my mind how versatile sourdough really is.

If you have a really good starter it will improve the texture of your bread a lot. The bread gets fluffy, elastic, and it will stay fresh for a long time. I keep my starter in the fridge and use it once a week by feeding  it for a couple of days, baking with it and then I put the starter back into the fridge. I also change flours quite often. When I got the starter from Bazu, it was made from all purpose flour. I refreshed it with whole wheat flour, which made the taste of the starter slightly sour. When I baked with it for the second time, the result was a bread that tasted almost like rye bread. For this bread I used whole wheat flour, ground amaranth flour, and soaked millet. I seasoned the bread with dill seeds, which taste similar to caraway. Not jelly-compatible but very, very tasty. Meanwhile I have changed my mind about rye sourdough breads. They are aromatic and they are special. They can’t be paired with jelly because they have their own will:

After that I started feeding the starter with all purpose flour. When it was almost 100 % all purpose I made the oatmeal sourdough bread from baking bites. I used half whole spelt flour/half all purpose flour, substituted the 1 T sugar for the honey and left out the oil. The result was a fluffy, elastic, and really comforting white sandwhich bread:

100 % jelly-compatible:

The bread was still fresh the other day and we not only ate it topped with jelly but also to accompany our soup and I snacked on it all by itself because it was so good.

I divided the batter into two parts and mixed 30 g (1/3 cup) of dried barberries into one bread:

These berries are very sour and they give the bread a very distinctive taste. Zereshk, as these berries are called in Kurdish and Persian, are often used for rice, couscous, or other grain dishes. The berries are commonly grown in the Middle East and used in the cuisine of those countries, but P. brought me a batch of local barberries, which he found in a supermarket. As bread is the most important “grain dish” in germany, it seemed obvious enough to throw them into the dough.

It’s really funny how the berries stick out of the bread all black, looking like black corinths.

Now you know the reason why I prefer sourdough over yeast. It’s a starter with a personalety which is very versatile. It’s taste can be very predominant in one bread and very retiring and cautious in another.



  1. jrsimon56
  2. gail
  3. jes
  4. tofuparty