Finally! Wild bread that ISN’T sour

recipe: feeding and build-up schedule for wild bread

wild yeast bread I did it!!! I did it!!!

(click on image for larger view and more photos)

After weeks of angst with babying my jar of wild yeast, feeling I would never be able to bake a loaf of bread that WASN’T sour (not to mention the several times I was going to throw in the towel altogether), I have achieved my goal.

How do I know? Here are the words from my main critic the other night at dinner as six of us demolished both loaves:

T: (thrilled) You nailed it! When are you making this bread again?

Not only was it not too sour; it wasn’t sour at all! And it was light!! Light as a feather!!

And here’s how I did it: I virtually started over with feeding. Early in the year, I experimented with a two day feeding schedule of

  • 1 tsp wild sludge
  • 2 Tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbsp water

That wasn’t really satisfactory. I wasn’t getting the bubbles; the smell was largely like yoghurt and the starter was breaking up into alcohol rather quickly.

So some time in March or so, I brought the thing out of the fridge and returning to McKenna Grant’s original formula, and started a twice a day regimen:

  • 2 Tbsp wild sludge
  • 3 Tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbsp water

And kept at it for days until finally finally, it began to look like a real starter again.

Now the question is whether I’ll be able to repeat the success.

Here is the recipe:

Wild Bread
based on the recipe for basic sourdough in Piano Piano Pieno by Susan McKenna Grant

wild yeast starter . wild yeast starter buildup . bread

wild yeast starter buildup

  • wild yeast starter
  • all purpose unbleached flour
  • water*


  1. Day before Baking – Morning Take 2 Tbsp of wild yeast starter (discard the rest) and stir in 2 Tbsp water and 3 Tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour . Cover and leave in a warm draftfree spot (counter in summer, oven with only light turned on in winter) til midday.
  2. Day before Baking Midday The mixture should have doubled and there should be lots of bubbling. Take 2 Tbsp of above mixture (reserve the rest to add to focaccia, naan, muffins, anything that doesn’t HAVE to rise). Stir in 2 Tbsp water and 3 Tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour. Cover and leave… etc.
  3. Day before Baking Evening Stir ⅓ c (85ml) water and ⅔ c (170ml) unbleached all-purpose flour into ALL of the above mixture. Cover and leave… etc.
  4. Baking Day Morning The mixture should have doubled and be a bubbling mass.

    Reserve a portion for future bread making: Take 2 Tbsp of above mixture (reserve the rest for making bread) and stir in 2 Tbsp water and 3 Tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour. Cover and leave for 2 hours on the counter. Put it into a covered glass jar and store in refrigerator. (Every 3 days: take 2 Tbsp of the refrigerated mixture – discard the extra – and stir in 2 Tbsp water and 3 Tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour. Cover and leave for 1 hour on the counter before putting back into refrigerator. To use the refrigerated starter for baking, begin at step #1.)

rest of the bread recipe


*Tap water is fine to use – just make sure that it has stood for at least 12 hours so that the chlorine has dissipated.

wild bread

This post is partially mirrored on The Fresh Loaf: Whoohoo!! Wild Bread that ISN’T sour!


This entry was posted in baking, food & drink, side, wild yeast (sourdough) on by .

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17 responses to “Finally! Wild bread that ISN’T sour

  1. Family Nutritionist

    Congratulations on reviving the yeast with TLC and a regular feeding schedule.
    Me, I’m looking for a sourdough. But I am also interested in light and fluffy. Or at least lightER and fluffiER. And less DAMP.
    So thanks for your comments on my blog. I’m getting a grip on proofing and handling, and will move on to getting the baking step right next.

    But I won’t start kneading no-knead doughs. That would defeat the whole purpose, wouldn’t it? If you start to tell me it makes a better loaf, I may be forced to cover my eyes and stick my fingers in my ears.

  2. ejm Post author

    Thank you both. I hope the bread continues to be sweet rather than sour too, Susan. My fingers are crossed (even though crossed fingers makes it harder to mix and knead dough and shaping is almost impossible! ;-) )

    Even though you don’t want to knead no-knead bread FN, maybe adding the folding step for slack dough development ( might help. And I hope the different baking temperatures do the trick to make your bread lighter and fluffier and less damp.

  3. katie

    I am so impressed…
    And feeling so inadequate. I have a bowl of starter in my fridge that MUST come out and get to work… If only I could find that recipe….

    Very impressed!!!

  4. Leann

    Congratulations! It looks beautiful!!!

    Just thought I would surprise you with a little blog excellence award. If you have already been given this award I apologize but I think you have a great blog and wanted to share it with others.

    check it out here: Some Days There’s Pie | The Kindness of Others (

  5. ejm Post author

    Oh my!! Thank you Leann! What an honour and how nice to be awarded this just when the wild bread is working!

    Katie, you are too kind. I’ll be very interested to hear what you have in store for your starter. I must confess that one of the things that kept me feeding my starter was the fact that the Bread Baking Babes are making something with wild yeast this month and the thought that maybe, just maybe, I might be able to qualify as a Bread Baking Babe (I’ve always wanted to be a babe….)


  6. african vanielje

    Well done. FOr the fab looking (and tasting too, I gather) bread. And for persevering. Nothing quite as satisfying as making your own bread. Okay, maybe a few things Elizabeth, but bread is still up there!

  7. Alice

    I just took out a batch of this and am very happy. I did notice a teeny bit of soury aftertaste, but by far this was the best wild yeast bread I have tried. Did you use the starter recipe from Susan McKenna Grant or did you already have one going and adapt it to this bread? Have you made any other batches and how have they turned out? I am obsessed with making wild yeast bread that actually tastes good (not sour) and I salute all your efforts! Thanks so much for posting these instructions.


  8. ejm Post author

    I’m so glad to hear that you’re getting closer to your goal, Alice, and that my instructions have been helpful. I used the McKenna Grant recipe for capturing the yeast beginning in Spring 2007 and FINALLY managed to get a viable starter in July 2007. I have been maintaining that starter since then. Since January or so, I’ve gone through various feeding schedules (went through a phase of using only 1 tsp of sludge to 2Tbsp each of starter and flour every two days but I was STILL having problems with it turning to alcohol). I am now feeding every three days with 2Tbsp sludge, 3 Tbsp flour and 2 Tbsp water. That seems to be working out well.

    I’ve found that if I really DO leave the recently fed and mixed starter on the counter for an hour or so before putting it in the fridge, it makes a huge difference. Temperature really does count. If the kitchen is cold, I put the starter into the oven with only the light turned on.

    I haven’t had a chance to try to repeat the non-sour wild bread success yet but am hoping to do so tomorrow. I am building up today. Wish me luck!!

    All the best for your search for nonsour wild yeast bread, Alice!

    Thank you AV! You’re right, there are few things more satisfying that making your own bread. The only disadvantage is that most storebought bread is really rather dull in comparison.

  9. Alice

    Please let us know how the wild bread turns out. I started with a starter I already had that is very active. I wonder if it makes a difference, all of this is still pretty new to me. My husband actually ate some of it though, and he HATES sourdough, so I seem to be on the right track. I wonder if adding more whole grain flour to the recipe(I’m kind of a heath nut) would alter the taste and the great holes I got in the bread.

  10. ejm Post author

    My next wild bread is now rising and I’ll be baking it at some point late this afternoon. My husband must be related to yours because he too loathes sour bread. My starter is quite active now and there is no sour smell at all. It just smells fresh.

    I can’t see that adding extra whole grain would hurt. I’ve added a little to McKenna Grant’s basic loaf that calls for only allpurpose flour and it is still turning into really good bread.

    If you make this recipe but add more wholegrain, do let me know how it goes for you, Alice.


  11. Alice

    Hey, I have a question. When do you refresh your starter, on the third day or after three days? I am baking today, so if I put the starter away this morning (Friday), would I refresh on Sunday (the third day) or Monday (after three days)? I don’t know how big of a difference it makes, but I just want to make sure I’m doing it right. By the way, thanks to your instructions here, the batch of wild yeast bread I made a few days ago actually was the first batch of “sourdough” that was all eaten and not put in the freezer “for something else” later. Thanks again. I am replacing some more of the ap flour with whole wheat today (2 1/2 ap to 1 ww) , to see how that works out, I did notice that I needed to add more water to make the dough slack, but that is usually true whenever I use whole grains. I guess maybe I should weight the flour?

  12. ejm Post author

    That’s great news that you are making bread that everyone likes, Alice!

    I’m not sure that what I’m doing is right but it has turned out to be right for me. So, in answer to your question, I would refresh the starter on Monday – after three complete days.

    Susan ( weighs all her ingredients and she is the one to ask about that aspect. I too would be weighing our ingredients but our scale is an ancient spring-loaded one that isn’t the most accurate. I’m a little surprised though that you’d have to add more water with the substitution of whole wheat for all-purpose.

    I’ll be really interested to hear how your bread with extra wholewheat turns out.


    P.S. I did successfully make Wild Caraway Rye Bread with the starter early last fall after building up the starter with dark rye flour. The bread is made with dark rye, whole wheat and all-purpose flours. Here is the recipe:

  13. Alice

    I just took out batch number 3 and each time the bread seems to be better. The increase in the whole wheat flour did not make a big difference and I will probably try to add more in subsequent batches. I did notice that since my kitchen is very warm right now (about 75 degrees F) the bread is rising/proofing faster and is less sour than the first batch. I think I can really work with this bread and am just thrilled that the wild yeast bread is finally eatible. I have been working on this off and on for a couple of years and it is so great to have a method that works! Thanks for the link to the rye/caraway bread, I LOVE rye bread and that is also a repeated failure of mine, so I will be trying it!

  14. ejm Post author

    Whoohoooooo!!! This is great news, Alice. I’m glad to hear that my suspicions about making sure the temperature is warmer rather than cooler seem to be the key. (Hard lesson for me to learn because of making sure to do cold rises for flavour development in bread made with commercial yeast.)

    If you do decide to start weighing ingredients, I looked again at McKenna Grant’s instructions for refreshing the starter. She suggests using 28gm starter, 28gm water and 28gms unbleached allpurpose flour. Next time I refresh – using 2Tbsp water (30gm) , I’ll weigh out (as best I can with my cheap little spring loaded scale) 30gm starter as well as 3Tbsp flour to see how far off of 30gm it is.

    Hope you like the caraway rye; I love it….


  15. Alice

    Hello again,

    It’s been about a year since I started making this bread with the instructions you posted here. I am very happy with the results and make a couple of batches of this a week. It is never sour, but sometimes has a slight twang (but is perfectly acceptable). I just wanted to thank you again for these instructions or I would still probably be trying to figure out the ‘wild yeast’ thing. I have also recently adapted this to make my pizza dough as well. In fact, I have not used any commercial yeast in the past few weeks! I hope you are continuing to enjoy bread making :)

    This is great news, Alice! I’m so pleased that your wild yeast is working out for you. How thrilling that your pizza dough is now made with wild yeast! Thank you for your report that the instructions work well. Sadly, I accidentally-on-purpose murdered my starter last fall when the kitchen temperatures were consistantly ridiculously low and haven’t yet got the nerve to try again. (We’re making do with commercial yeast. It has been ages since we purchased store-bought bread.) -Elizabeth

  16. Janey W

    Your blog makes for delightful reading on a cool/cold evening. I am allergic to store-bought yeast and would very much like to find a non-sour bread recipe that is eat-able.

    Previous experiments with online soda bread recipes have all been too dense and heavy to lift.

    DH tried to make a wild yeast recipe for bread some months ago.
    The black spots, that appeared during the overnight, caused him to throw the whole lot out. (I probably would have soldiered on and made the bread, but I live on the edge of poisoning myself most of the time.)

    I will have to save your wild yeast recipes until the spring however. Wintertime in Nova Scotia Canada is not the best time for a beginner bread maker to make a successful start.

    Thank you for something to look forward to.

    Thank you, Janey! And I think you are wise to wait until the weather is warmer before attempting to capture wild yeast. I haven’t done it in ages (it’s just too cold in our kitchen). One word of caution, do make sure you get good flour for the feeding. And when you do tackle it, DO consult Susan’s (Wild Yeast) post, Raising a starter. She has WAY more (and better) experience than I with using wild yeast. -Elizabeth


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