Natural Yeast Bread Recipe for Beginners

So you’ve survived the sometimes brutal initiation process of bringing your own little natural yeast ecosystem to life. Hooray for you! Now that you have this lovely yeast bubbling happily away in your jar, what do you DO with it? How do you bake with natural yeast? Let’s start with the fundamentals, then put what we know into practice with a Natural Yeast Bread Recipe made just for beginning natural yeast bakers.

Don’t have a starter yet? Learn More: How to Make Natural Yeast from Scratch

How to Bake with Natural Yeast

How to Bake with Natural Yeast|via www.TheBreadGeek.com Let’s get one thing straight: Natural yeast CAN NOT be used in place of commercial yeast measure for measure.

Remember, we are not using lab-created Schwarzenegger yeasts-on-steroids. We’re using the real deal, and that requires a bit more yeast to leaven a loaf than we are accustomed to in commercial yeast baking. So here is our basic rule of thumb when it comes to using natural yeast in a bread recipe:

Use 1/4 cup starter for every loaf in the yield of your recipe.

For example, a recipe that makes two loaves of bread will require 1/2 cup starter. Of course, if you are baking from a sourdough or natural yeast recipe, follow the amount in the recipe, but when converting or creating your own recipes, this is the rule of thumb.

Learn More: Natural Yeast: Adapting Non-Starter Recipes

Wild, natural yeast will also take longer to leaven a loaf than commercial yeast. This is because the process we call “leavening” is so much more than it seems at first glance. The yeasts are eating, reproducing, and making the wheat easier to digest and more nutritious. This process is necessary for our health and should not be “hurried.”

Learn More: Natural Yeast (Summary) Natural Yeast Bread Recipe Yeast|via www.TheBreadGeek.com

What Does Naturally Yeasted Bread Taste Like?

Most people don’t realize that the bread they buy at the store often tastes more like commercial yeast than wheat. Your naturally yeasted loaves will have a more enhanced wheat flavor (especially if you are using 100% whole wheat), and will also bear the flavor of the starter. Depending on how healthy your starter is from regular feedings, the flavor of the starter in your bread can be as mild as you want it to be. When you are first getting started with natural yeast, it is not uncommon to have a few heavy, “sour” loaves. But with practice and good starter habits, your starter flavor will be consistently mild and unnoticeable (if you want it to be).

Learn More: 3 Critical Keys to Success

Natural Yeast Bread Recipe for Beginners (Finally!)

Natural yeast/Sourdough recipes written by professional bakers usually require 3 things the average person doesn’t have.

Hardcore Baker’s Recipes Require:

  1. A Food Scale.
  2. Knowledge of Baker’s percentages.
  3. 4-5 hours dedicated to multiple rises on a strict schedule.

As a mother of small children who’s only goal was nutritious bread, I had none of these things. What I did have was determination.

So I experimented. I tweaked and tested until I came up with a system that gave me all the nutritional benefits of natural yeast on a schedule that worked for me.  The result was a refrigerator-starter method that later became the basis for my first cookbook The Art of Baking with Natural Yeast.

The Bread Geek Uses:

  1. Tools found in the average kitchen
  2. Measured ingredients, not weighed or calculated
  3. One long hands-free rise during which you sleep/eat/work/play.

Does that sound as good to you as it did to me? Well let’s get to it then! Natural Yeast Bread Recipe|via www.TheBreadGeek.com

Natural Yeast Honey Whole Wheat Bread

Yield: 2 loaves

Ingredients:

1/2 cup start (stir before measuring)

2 ½ cups lukewarm water

2 tsp salt

1 tbsp coconut oil

¼ cup honey

5-6 cups whole wheat flour

Setting up the dough: (At least 10 hours before baking)

  • Combine water, start, coconut oil, honey and salt in mixer. Natural Yeast Bread Recipe Ingredients|via www.TheBreadGeek.com
  • Add flour 2 cups at a time, allowing mixer to incorporate flour before adding more. Continue adding flour until dough “cleans” the sides of your mixer bowl. (There may be residual bits near the top, and here and there along the sides, but the lower half of the bowl should be clean)
  • Once the sides have cleaned, allow the dough to knead for 10-20 minutes, or until dough is smooth and strong. Natural Yeast Bread Recipe dough strong|via www.TheBreadGeek.com
  • Dampen a large work surface with water and pull the dough out of the mixer bowl onto your work surface. (You want just enough water to keep the dough from sticking, but not enough to water-log your dough) Natural Yeast Bread Recipe Dough|via www.TheBreadGeek.com
  • Dampen your hands with water, and knead the dough a few times, until the texture is uniform.
  • Place dough smooth side up into a pre-greased bowl or container (remember to choose a container that allows your dough room to double in size. You can also split your dough and use two smaller bowls)
  • Cover your bowl with greased plastic wrap or with a thick, damp kitchen towel (thin towels dry out too quickly and stick to the dough). Place on countertop to rise overnight, (or all day) for 6-10 hours. Natural Yeast Bread Recipe Cover and Rise|via www.TheBreadGeek.com

Shaping and Final Rise

  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  • After a minimum of 6 hours rise-time, turn dough out of bowl onto wet work surface. Natural Yeast Bread Recipe Dough Craters|via www.TheBreadGeek.com
  • Wet hands and use dough scraper or sharp serrated bread knife to cut the dough into 2 equal pieces.
  • Set pieces aside on a damp surface and grease your pans. (This gives your dough time to “relax” before shaping)
  • Take one dough section and pat it out on your damp work surface.
  • Shape each piece individually into sandwich loaves, artisan boules or rolls.
  • Allow the loaves to rise in a warm place for 2-2 ½ hours, or until the dough slowly returns a gentle fingerprint.
  • Bake for 30-35 minutes at 375 degrees F, or until a thermometer inserted into the bottom of the loaf reads at least 180 degrees.
  • Remove immediately from pans and allow to cool completely before cutting.

You will have many questions along the way of your natural yeast journey, and I will do my best to answer them through posts and comment replies here on the blog. Be sure and post photos of your Natural Yeast Bread Recipe loaves on my facebook page The Bread Geek so we can all ooh and ahhh over them. You deserve it! For more Bread Geek Natural Yeast recipes, search the blog and be sure to pick up copies of my natural yeast cookbooks (scroll down for amazon links at bottom of post). What are some tips and tricks you have for newbie natural yeast bakers? Natural Yeast Bread Recipe-24| via www.TheBreadGeek.com

5.0 from 2 reviews
Natural Yeast Bread Recipe for Beginners
 
Author: 
Recipe type: Naturally Yeasted Bread
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
This is a fantastic recipe for those new to baking bread with natural yeast.
Ingredients
  • ½ cup start (stir before measuring)
  • 2 ½ cups lukewarm water
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 5-6 cups whole wheat flour
Instructions
  1. Yield: 2 loaves
  2. Setting up the dough: (At least 10 hours before baking)
  3. Combine water, start, coconut oil, honey and salt in mixer.
  4. Add flour 2 cups at a time, allowing mixer to incorporate flour before adding more. Continue adding flour until dough “cleans” the sides of your mixer bowl. (There may be residual bits near the top, and here and there along the sides, but the lower half of the bowl should be clean)
  5. Once the sides have cleaned, allow the dough to knead for 10 minutes.
  6. Dampen a large work surface with water and pull the dough out of the mixer bowl onto your work surface. (You want just enough water to keep the dough from sticking, but not enough to water-log your dough)
  7. Dampen your hands with water, and knead the dough a few times, until the texture is uniform.
  8. Place dough smooth side up into a pre-greased bowl or container (remember to choose a container that allows your dough room to double in size. You can also split your dough and use two smaller bowls)
  9. Cover your bowl with greased plastic wrap or with a thick, damp kitchen towel (thin towels dry out too quickly and stick to the dough). Place on countertop to rise overnight, (or all day) for 6-10 hours.
  10. Shaping and Final Rise
  11. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  12. After a minimum of 6 hours rise-time, turn dough out of bowl onto wet work surface.
  13. Wet hands and use dough scraper or sharp serrated bread knife to cut the dough into 2 equal pieces.
  14. Set pieces aside on a damp surface and grease your pans. (This gives your dough time to “relax” before shaping)
  15. Take one dough section and pat it out on your damp work surface.
  16. Shape each piece individually into sandwich loaves, artisan boules or rolls.
  17. Allow the loaves to rise in a warm place for 2-2 ½ hours, or until the dough slowly returns a gentle fingerprint.
  18. Bake for 30-35 minutes at 375 degrees F, or until a thermometer inserted into the bottom of the loaf reads at least 180 degrees.
  19. Remove immediately from pans and allow to cool completely before cutting.

Comments

  1. Dee says

    I just want to clarify; whether you make 2 sandwich loaves in pans or a free formed boulle the baking time /temp is the same?

    • thebreadgeek says

      Dee thanks for your question. Time can vary for many reasons (true oven temp, elevation, humidity, etc) but for the most part the bread should cook about the same time at that oven temperature. A food thermometer can be a fantastic and inexpensive investment that will help you always bake for just the right amount of time.

  2. Julissa Jumper says

    Melissa, I have recently purchased both your books and tried refrigerating my starter because your method sounds very freeing. I am tired of maintaining my counter starter with all the feedings and I like the idea of a milder start. But I don’t understand how your starter bubbles in the fridge. Mine almost comes to a stall and is not active in 24 hours, not even after a few days. That makes perfect sense since the cold of the refrigerator slows down all ferments. That’s exactly how I put my other ferments like kefir and veggies to go dormant. By refrigerating. How is it that your start actually becomes active? Even after a fresh feeding mine won’t bubble as long as it’s in the fridge.

    Any insight? I really want to do your method.

  3. Julissa Jumper says

    Hi. I left a comment yesterday but somehow it’s not here now. I hope this one sticks. I have purchased both your books and love the idea of a refrigerator start. It sounds very freeing. I am tired of maintaining a counter start with the constant feedings and am looking for the milder taste you mention with your method.

    My problem/question is that I don’t understand how you are able to get your start to bubble and get active in the refrigerator. The cold of the fridge slows down bacteria activity of my start to the point where it doesn’t bubble and increase in size within the 24 hours in the fridge. When I tried it, it didn’t get active even after 3 days.

    I ferment kefir and veggies and when I need to slow down fermentation activity I place it in the fridge. So I don’t quite understand how it’s working for you to place your start in the fridge and still have it bubble and be active.

    Any thoughts on anything I may be missing or doing wrong?

    Please help me with this. I scoured your books trying to find the answer but just can’t seem to find why my starter won’t work that way.

    • thebreadgeek says

      Julissa, I have my comments on an “approval” setting so that is why you didn’t see the first one :). As for your starter, it can sometimes take up to 9 days to get your starter acclimatized to the cold. On rare occasions longer. What I suggest is taking 1/4 cup of your countertop starter, feeding it in a separate jar and then putting it in the fridge. Feed it over the next few days using the Power-Feeding cycle I blogged about recently and let your starter grow healthy without taking anything away. See how it goes and then let me know!

  4. says

    Hi! Thank you for sharing your wealth if knowledge – I’m just getting started on my natural yeast bread journey. Have you ever made a sprouted wheat flour natural yeast bread?

    • thebreadgeek says

      I haven’t done a sprouted wheat flour, because in so many ways, the process of the natural yeast fermentation is quite similar to sprouting. I feel it is redundant when using natural yeast. I did make a recipe for a sprouted wheat loaf in my cookbook The Art of Baking with Natural Yeast, where the sprouts are included whole in the loaf. Very tasty!

  5. CJ says

    Hi! I am new to your site and am fascinated with your approach to bread making. What is the difference between sourdough starter and natural yeast starter? I am excited to learn more from you. Thanks CJ

  6. Sarah says

    This says for ‘begginers’, but I must say that it is even a little more advanced. I had to stop reading at the ingredients. I am definitely a beginner, unexperienced beginner or more likely a ‘newbie’. Those friendship bags that get passed around that everyone raves about….I NEVER make it to the ‘rise’ phase of the recipe. I am an experienced cook. I also bake often. However the extent of bread making for me is my own banana bread recipe which everyone knows doesn’t require any skills other than patience for it to cool down in order to eat it! =) With that said…what is ‘start’ ? Do you buy it? Do you make it? If you do make it, what is the process?

    • thebreadgeek says

      Sarah thank you so much for your insight into how I can better adapt the post and blog to those who do not even have a starter. I think my next post will need to be on starting your own starter, which is not hard to do! In the mean time, you can order starter flakes that come with instructions from Calebwarnock@yahoo.com. I also suggest checking out my first book The Art of Baking with Natural Yeast from the library for an in-depth explanation of what a starter is and how to keep one successfully. There are also a number of posts that detail the process on this blog. 🙂 Hope that helps some, Keep posted for that new post!

    • thebreadgeek says

      I love doing a slow retardation on the second rise, especially if something comes up and I don’t have time to bake right away when I want to. For those who have never done this before, you shape the loaves in their pans (or lined and floured baskets for free-form loaves), then cover them and refrigerate them overnight. Warm them up a bit before putting them in the oven to bake. This method usually also renders pretty little blisters on the skin of the loaf, and a more pronounced flavor.

  7. Jen says

    This is really fascinating– we did a RS night last month on it and many ladies are trying it– you’re famous in our little Southern Alberta town. I have a starter made from whole wheat that I haven’t been taking anything out of– just adding more when the liquid gets on top. How soon after I feed it can I use it (I haven’t had the courage to make a loaf yet)?Your wheat looks white– is that the difference between white and red wheat? My parents’ food storage wheat is all brownish–so the flour turns out brown. Is this the only difference? (lots of questions and I WILL go buy your first book really soon-but I’m hoping I can get started with the youtube videos and blog!)

    • thebreadgeek says

      After you feed your starter you want to wait for it to bubble well before using it. I did a post on this called Bubble or Double. Check it out for some good hints on that. There isn’t much difference between white and red wheat other than color and a slight flavor difference. I use hard white. Have fun with your new “pet!”

  8. Jacqui says

    Being fairly new to natural yeast baking, I knew I needed to allow for a learning curve. I started at the new year. It took me a bit to get my starter less sour, once I did I had 2 baking cycles that I was pleased with – not as sour bread, a nice looking loaf and getting close to a good second rise. I’m grinding my own flour, using Azure Standard White Wheat Berries and use good quality ingredients. However, in the last 3 weeks I’ve had a lot of frustration. No matter how I shape my bread or score it, the loaf splits terribly, has a white finish and has a crunchy top. Buttering the loaf after it comes out of the pan helps, but it still tears or crumbles when slicing. I took a picture, but I can’t upload it. I’m sure you have a good idea of what I’m talking about. I’ve made Grammy’s Bread, Honey Wheat and I just baked Adam’s Bread recipe today. All with the same result. Help! Thanks 🙂

    • thebreadgeek says

      Absolutely! If you are using standard GF bread flour mixes, they will work great with this recipe. You can start your own starter with GF grains, or order a GF starter from cultures for health.

  9. Kristina says

    Can you give more info on proofing. Why 6-12 hours? Why would you do 6 and not 12 or vice versa. What are you looking for? Can you over proof on first rise within the 12 hour time frame? Does over proofing on first rise exhaust yeast and produce bricks? Alas my bread is always bricks.

    • thebreadgeek says

      Kristina, you bring up a very good point. Your rise should be at least 6 hours to allow for the starter to work on the antinutrient properties of the wheat. Time can vary from that point, and in most cases, around 8 hours is prime. Overproofing the dough can lead to “bricks” since the gluten can get overworked and then refuse to hold up in the final rise. If your dough is rising too quickly in the long rise, try proofing it in a cooler location to slow down the activity.

  10. Kristina says

    My yeast doubles + in fridge within 8 hours after feeding. However, my bread has all the symptoms of white cap. Can white cap exist in such an active yeast? (I thought white cap happens when lactobacilli over power the yeast.)
    If so can you suggest any other helps for white cap beyond feeding regularly. I have fed it regularly for a month.
    I should note that my yeast only doubles when it is a very thick batter– a lot more flour than the 1-1-1 ratio you recommend.
    Thank you.

    • thebreadgeek says

      Kristina you are spot on in all your observations. Sometimes the overgrowth of bacteria can be one other than lactobacillus. There is another strain of bacteria that is typically found in cheese-making that can also come to inhabit your starter. It is not harmful to consume, but does affect the overall rise of your finished loaf. I have been doing lots of research about the best ways to filter out this strain but there is not a lot of information to be found. It sounds like you have read the powerfeeding post from a few months ago, is that right? Have you taken your starter through a powerfeeding cycle? That is always my first line of defense. If that does not work, I have heard some people say that adding some drops of lemon juice to your starter can help combat this particular problem, since the bacteria does not survive at higher acidity levels the way the yeasts/bacteria we want do. Your starter will appear to slump initially (since the unwanted active bacteria will decline) but should pick up again with the right organisms. I wish there were more concrete answers, but alas, only guidelines. :).

  11. Marcie says

    Hello! After spending TONS of money on artisan breads (because, YUM), I finally decided it was time to make my own 🙂 I bought your book and things have been going GREAT … until the second proofing period 🙁 My first proof ended up being a full 12 hours, it had definetely doubled and it would slowly come back after touching with my finger, but then when I went to do the second rise (in my oven with light on) my loaves (boules) just spread out like a pancake and didn’t rise into a beautiful loaf. Any thoughts on what I did wrong? I’m going to go ahead and bake them, but I would love to avoid this problem in the future. Is it possible to over-proof during the FIRST proof? Or do you think it was a shaping problem? THANKS!

      • Marcie says

        Actually I have no idea since I dump the bag into my bin in the pantry after I buy it! I’ll look out for that when I go shopping, Thanks 🙂

    • thebreadgeek says

      Yes Cris I have seen that video too! A great one! The post coming this week will have my own documentation of the method, along with links to other methods. Thanks for the reminder of that one!

  12. Sinda says

    Hello! I’m so excited to start my natural yeast journey. I have learned a bit in culinary school but it was over 5 years ago so I’m basically starting over. Anyway, you said to let it rise in a warm place, but I live in a basement apartment and it is rarely warm anywhere. My butter doesn’t even get very soft. So do you think my first rise would be closer to 12 hours since it is kinda chilly down here? I haven’t tried baking anything yet because I’m scared, but I have a friend that is close that is helping me through it!

    • thebreadgeek says

      Hi Sinda! Just keep an eye on it your first time. Even in colder times, I rarely have to let it go longer than 10 hours for the long rise. Some other options are to put the dough in your oven with the oven light on for a little heat, or on top of your refrigerator (it tends to get warmer there) or inside your microwave. Sometimes if it is chilly I will microwave a cup of water for 2 minutes, then take it out and put the dough in to rise in there. The air will be moist and warm in there and the appliance is a fair insulator. Good luck!

  13. Lyndsey says

    Hi Melissa!

    I’m just learning how to use natural yeast. I finally mastered making a great loaf of bread with commercial yeast but recently found out my son is allergic to wheat (along with several other foods) so I’m trying to learn to use natural yeast in the hope that he will be able to handle wheat baked with it. So far, my loaves have been pretty brick-ish and it’s beating up my kitchen aid. So this evening I have been trying out the bread machine recipe. I usually use my bread machine anyway but I just use the dough setting and then bake it in the oven. My question is, the recipe says it makes two loaves but how do I do that with the bread machine? Do I just use the dough setting (like I normally do) and then divide the dough and let it raise again? I just did that and the dough was pretty wet and sticky and really hard to form. I had dough up to my arm pits by the time I wrestled it into my pans but now I have no idea how long they need to raise or if I was even supposed to do that. I hope this isn’t an idiotic question–but if you could clarify I would so appreciate it. 🙂 Thank you!

    • thebreadgeek says

      Lyndsey thanks for the question. The Bread Machine recipe was actually one of the few in the cookbook that I didn’t write, so questions on it will have to go to my coauthor Caleb Warnock (calebwarnock.blogspot.com). I have actually never used a bread machine! Shocking I know. Is your son allergic to wheat or does he have Celiac’s disease? Sometimes even with allergies it can be helpful to give the stomach a rest for a few months to recover before attempting to troubleshoot.

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