The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Salt Rising Bread Starter

Ford's picture

Salt Rising Bread Starter

I think I have found why there are many failures in culturing salt rising bread starters.  I believe it is the materials that may be added to prevent potatoes from sprouting.  The main sprout inhibitors registered for use on potatoes are 1-methylethyl-3-chlorophenylcarbamate (CIPC), maleic hydrazide (MH), 1,4 dimethylnaphthalene (DMN) and 2,6 diisopropylnaphthalene (DIPN).

The bacterial species that generates the gas for leavening salt rising bread is Clostridium perfringens.  This bacterium depends, in part, on ferrous iron to aid in its metabolism.  I seems to me that CIPC and/or MH may be responsible for tying up this iron and thus reducing the activity of C. perfringens.

There is a simple solution to this problem.  Use the so-called “organic” potatoes and “organic” cornmeal, and “organic” flour in beginning the culture for the starter.  So far, this has worked for me.  After the culture has demonstrated its viability, I use unbleached, non-brominated bread flour (King Arthur) in the recipe.

I would like anyone with ideas on this problem, solution, and/or opportunity to give me their thoughts.  I shall be happy to give my recipe for salt rising bread to anyone who desires it.

Ford's picture

I am not a fan of "organic" foods.  Other than the name being a misnomer, I feel that, in general, there is no advantage to eating them for taste or for health reasons.  I have had varying degrees of success in making the starter, and have sought a fool-proof means of generating the starter.  After seeing the chemicals in use to inhibit the sprouting of potatoes I began to suspect that in cases where the potatoes have recieved a large dosage of these particular inhibitors, the iron necessary for the metabolism of the C. perfringens may be unavailable.  The chemicals used do migrate into the tuber and thus are not removed by peeling the potato.  The chemicals would not be used for foods labled "organic", nor would they be used by the home gardner.

I do use cornmeal and whole wheat flour, as well as potatoes, in my starter.  I do keep the culture and the dough at about 95°F to 105°F.  I certainly agree with you that this bread does require patience -- more patience than sourdough bread, and that requires more patience than bread raised by commercial yeast.

I have read your website, Ms Brown, I have used it as reference and, I think it is great.  Thank you for your comments!

Ford (R. B. Thompson)

EvaB's picture

and one wonders just how "safe" it really is for humans to comsume as well, since its obvious that it doesn't allow the bacteria to grow!

I get my potatoes from a local organic grower, so know there is no pesticides, and so forth used on them, along with all his produce, and while it may not be any better to eat, its a darn site fresher than the stuff shipped up from California, Mexico and Florida not to mention Chile to the far north, and one wonders how fast that gets here, and from the warehouses to the stores, they tell me they get fresh stuff daily, but you can't tell me they can drive from California to Edmonton in one day, and then drive the produce to my local store in Dawson Creek so its less that two days old when it get here, not likely! And some of it is a darn site older than the "fresh picked" they claim.

I've never seen a recipe for the starter or salt raising bread either one. It sounds interesting, and like something I could do when its hotter than the hinges of Gehenna in the summer. We have temps of close to 100 sometimes days in summer.

Ford's picture

I do agree that home grown, fresh vegetables are the best and I also agree that much of the grocery store produce is not worth eating.  The same goes for commercial bakery bread.  That is the reason that I bake my own!

Here is my recipe for Salt Rising Bread.  I also have one for whole wheat.  This does require patience!

Though NOT a sourdough bread, it does use a naturally occurring bacterium to make the leavening.

2 medium, raw, peeled, thinly sliced potatoes, “organically grown” (~8 oz.)
1 quart (33.3 oz.) 190°F chlorine-free water
1/2 tspn. baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)
1/3 cup “organic” cornmeal (1.5 oz.)
1 Tbs. (0.5 oz.) sugar
1/4 cup (0.5 oz.) “organic” whole wheat flour
1 Tbs. dried starter reserved from past sponges, if available.
Note: This starter covers several options for the source of the bacteria that produces the rising.  If it doesn’t work, better try different sources for the cornmeal and the flour.  I have a strong feeling that using “organic” potatoes, cornmeal, and flour is most important for making a viable starter.

   Put the thinly sliced potatoes in a large bowl (about 2 1/2 quarts), and then pour in hot water.  Sprinkle on the sugar, soda, cornmeal, and flour.  Stir briefly.  Cover the bowl.  At this point, the temperature of the mixture will be about 140°F.  Place the bowl in a warm (about 95 to 105°F) spot where the temperature remains fairly constant.  After an hour add the dried starter reserved from past sponges, if it is available.  Let the starter sit undisturbed for about 10 to 20 hours.  The starter should then be foaming, with some corn meal and perhaps even a few slices of potato floating.  It should have a strong cheese-like aroma.  If you do not have the cheese-like aroma, your starter is not active and your bread will not rise.  Quit now, and get a different brand of cornmeal.
   If the aroma is present, remove the potato slices, discard them, and continue with the sponge.

starter from above,~36 oz. (less the potato slices)
1 2/3 cups (14.2 oz.) scalded, tepid milk
1/2 tspn. baking soda
3 1/2 (14.9 oz.) cups unbleached, bread flour
1/2 tspn. (0.1 oz.) sugar

   Scald milk (190°F) then cool to 110°F.  Pour the starter into a large mixing bowl.  Stir in baking soda, milk, sugar, and unbleached flour, some lumps may remain.  Cover with a plastic wrap and again set in a warm (95 to 105°F) place, and let the sponge rise.  This may take as long as 4 hours, or as short as 1 1/2 hours.  When ready, the sponge will have doubled in volume, will appear creamy, foamy, and still have the strong cheese odor.  Remove about a 1/4 cup of starter and spread it out on a sheet of parchment paper to dry.  When dry (about a day) break it up and store in a zippered bag.

all of the above sponge, ~65 oz.
9 to 9 1/2 cups (38.3 to 40.4 oz.) unbleached bread flour
1tspn. (0.2 oz.) sugar
1 1/2 Tbs. (1.0 oz.) salt
1/4 cup (2.0 oz.) melted and cooled butter
melted butter for greasing the pans and for brushing the dough

   Put 4 cups of flour, 1 tspn. sugar, and 1 1/2 Tbs. salt into bowl containing the sponge, and blend.  Stir in the melted butter. Then add enough flour (4 - 5 cups, or more) to make a soft, manageable dough that you can knead.
   Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead for a minute or two, adding flour as necessary.  Let it rest for ten minutes.  Resume the kneading until the dough is smooth and elastic, adding flour as necessary.  Divide into three loaves (about 2 lb. 1 oz. each), and shape each piece to fit 5“ x 9” loaf pans.  Place each into a greased loaf pan, brush with melted butter, and cover with plastic wrap.  Set loaf pans in a warm place (100 to 110°F) to rise.  This final rise takes about 2 hours, and the loaves should double the original volume.  Let the loaves rise until just above the top of the pan, and do not slash the loaves.

   Preheat oven to 450°F (with a pan of boiling water on the bottom shelf) and the middle shelf reserved for the bread pans.  When the dough has risen, spray the dough with water, and place immediately into the oven.  After 15 minutes reduce the oven temperature to 350°F.  Bake until the interior temperature of the loaves is 195° to 200°F.  There will be little or no oven spring.  They should sound hollow when thumped with a finger on the bottom, about 40 minutes.  It is better to over-bake than to risk under-baking.  Turn out on to a cooling rack, brush with butter, and cover with a damp cloth until cooled.  Bread may then be packaged and frozen.

   This is NOT a sourdough bread.  On the contrary, the organism responsible for the leavening prefers a near neutral pH, slightly on the basic (alkaline) side.  The baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) is added is to obtain that pH, not to leaven the dough.  Were the baking soda not added, the acid produced by the bacteria would greatly slow the growth of the bacteria, if not kill them.  Another difference is that this organism prefers a much higher temperature, 95 to 105°F (35 to 41°C).  This temperature would kill the sourdough yeast and lactobacteria.  The bacterium responsible for leavening salt rising bread (SRB) is anaerobic, i.e., it thrives in the absence of air, whereas the yeast and lactobacteria of sourdough can metabolize their nutrients either aerobically or anaerobically.
Clostridium perfringens is reported to be the bacterium responsible for the leavening of salt rising bread.    Apparently, the spores of this bacterium are wide spread and present in all grains and other plant material.  Nielsen2 has reported making salt rising leavening from many different starting materials viz., various grains, cheese, and even the bark of white oak, and the bark of black locust.  Apparently, it is the high temperature of the milk or water that activates these spores and then the continued temperature of about 105°F that promotes the metabolism of the bacteria.  The gas produced is said to be mostly hydrogen.   Juckett, Bardwell, McClane, and Brown  state, “SRB starter samples were cultured at the University of Pittsburgh and abundant C. perfringens, type A grew out of all samples. However none of the cultures were positive for enterotoxin and thus would be unlikely to cause human food borne disease. While this does not preclude the possibility of other starter mixes containing enteropathogenic strains, the baking process appears to reduce bacterial contamination to safe levels and SRB has not been implicated in causing any human disease.”
   A proofing oven is ideal for the various rising steps.  One can be made of a large cardboard box with a light bulb for heat.  (Do not let the bulb touch the box.)  Our oven with the oven light on and the door slightly cracked gives a temperature of about 105°F, perfect.  A gas oven with only the pilot light on may work.  Be sure to measure the temperature of the proofing oven (or area) — too high a temperature kills the organisms and too low (below 95°F) will not permit fast enough growth.  A temperature of 95 to 105°F seems to be about ideal for proofing.  This organism likes a higher temperature than does yeast.
   As the dough matures it looses its elasticity.  The risen dough in the baking pan will jiggle like a bowl of jelly as it is placed in the oven.  This is probably due to the bacteria having metabolized the gluten and thus destroying the network that retains the gases and gives structure to other breads.  The metabolites of this nitrogenous compound may well be the source of the cheese-like aroma.
   Do not use any product that has a live culture in it such as sweet acidophilus milk, yogurt, or buttermilk.  Or, at least scald (190°F) such a product to kill any active organisms.  The organisms may be antagonistic to the leavening organism.  Do not add any acid product at any stage.
   Be careful of preservatives that may be in the various ingredients.  They may kill the leavening organism.  Salt is a preservative; too much will slow or stop the leavening process.  Since the bacterium is anaerobic, avoid beating air into the starter, the sponge, and the dough.  Getting the culture going has long been a problem for me while others seem to have no problem.  Could it be that those people just raise their own potatoes or buy only those foods that are “organically” grown?  On this premise I made my starter with “organic” potatoes and “organic” cornmeal, and “organic” whole wheat flour.  The starter took off within six hours!  I have found that “non-organic” potatoes are treated with several chemicals that could very well inhibit bacterial growth  I have not been one to advocate “organic” foods, but I do believe that they just might be necessary for salt-rising starter.
   If at any time in the process the product does not appear to be working, i.e., generating the gases needed for proper rising and having a cheese-like aroma, discard it, and start over.  The starter and the sponge must generate foam, and the dough must at least double in bulk.  The most likely cause for failure is either too high or too low a temperature during proofing.  Saving out some of the sponge and drying it at room temperature for later use, is a means of providing some assurance of success of the fermentation.
Do not overproof the loaf – let it rise until it is just above the top of the loaf pan.  Do not slash the top of the loaf.
   Jenny Bardwell & Susan Brown, eHow Presenters, made a video on methods for making salt rising bread. (

  Reinald S. Nielsen,
  West Virginia University School of Medicine, W V Med J. 2008 Jul-Aug;104(4):26-7

Ford's picture

Recipe is above in this thread.  I have had many failures, and have sought a "fool-proof" recipe.  All I can say is to keep plugging.


swtgran's picture

I have successfully used recipe #5 from Susan R Brown's salt rising bread project, many times.  I think the key is the constant temp. of the starter and the dough.  I always use a quart size yogurt maker, much like the one sold at King Arthur.  It keeps the starter at a perfect 110 degrees.  I have yet to have that particular recipe fail.  Terry R.

Ford's picture

Ms Brown is the expert on Salt Rising Bread see:


Buster1948's picture

After ca. 40 years of periodic frustration, surrender , exile and repatriation, I finally produced four actual loaves of SRB on January 30, 2013. This last effort required an impromptu vacation of about 12 days, careful attention to each failed starter and failed sponge; using care to limit possible variables from one attempt to the next, e.g., making separate starters from potatoes and corn meal, rather than throwing in the kitchen sink, until I was sure that I had good potatoes and good cornmeal; treating each stage in the process as a project unto itself; and probably the most patience I've ever exercised. 

Lessons learned include, among others, don't make SRB, make a starter; if that succeeds, don't make SRB, make a sponge; if that succeeds, THEN make salt rising bread.

Final lesson learned -- Think like a project manager at a shipyard or construction site.  Expect success; that is, make sure that your materials, tools, personnel (you) and favorable worksite will be immediately available, if you succeed at each step.  A good starter does you no good, if you aren't prepared to proceed with the sponge then and there; and a successful sponge is no good, unless you have enough flour to make dough and pans to bake it in. Of course, plan your baking backward, so that you don't wind up making a sponge at midnight and baking bread at 3 in the morning.  (On the other hand, if you have failed to ascertain whether your wife plans to have her church friends over at the same time you hope to be building the USS SRB in the kitchen and dining room, you will wish that you had wound up baking at 3 a.m.)

I also have two new friends who don't know I exist, Mr. Ford and Susan Brown.  If you haven't watched her on Youtube, you should.  In several short videos, aside from her perfect knowledge of SRB, Mrs. Brown also provides a marvelous demonstration of diplomacy, restraint and patience, betrayed only by the most expressive eyes on the planet and the baker's answer to the pool shark's "body English", as she helps her colleague navigate the dangerous waters of baking without measuring.

What prompted this comment, however, was that I just noticed that Ford's directions appear to call for using the same vessel throughout the process -- making the starter, expanding it to the sponge and then expanding the sponge into dough.  I will try that next time, because washing up afterward took almost as long as making the bread. (Of course, until now, I have needed several jars to experiment with starters and bowls for different species of sponges.)

Ford's picture

I too congratulate you.


WhenDoWeEat's picture

I am happy to report that my first attempt at baking SRB has been a resounding success! I followed the recipe above to a  Tee: 

2 medium sized organic Red Soda potatoes, peeled and sliced very thin with my mandoline

1 qt. Evian water

Bob's Red Mill Organic Stone Ground Whole Wheat flour and organic corn meal (bulk, from the health food store.)

I placed mixed starter ingredients on a folded kitchen towel on my warming tray, set to lowest temperature and put another towel on top of the lidded bowl, on Saturday morning at about 10:30am.  Sunday morning I was up at 6, and could faintly smell the "bad cheese" odor all the way in the bedroom! I was geeked! Onto the sponge!  I proceeded as directed, and in about 2 hours the sponge was threatening to over flow the bowl. And it was a big bowl, the biggest one I own. (Note to self: Buy a REALLY BIG Bowl.)  I added the flour as directed and I could tell when I was kneading the dough I had something good going.  I divided the mass into 3 loaves, and placed in the pans to rise.  I initially warm the oven ten minutes or so on the lowest setting (170 F), switch off and keep the oven light turned on.  After roughly 2 hours, I had these:

 Then into the oven (450F - 15 mins, 350F - 35 mins)...............

Et voila! Finished!

Can't wait for them to cool!  If I knew it was this easy, I would have started doing salt rising bread a long time ago.  On to sourdough!


rubyyarn's picture

Yesterday I made salt rising bread from a recipe I got from the Internet.  The starter worked (yay!), and I made dough OK.  This recipe didn't use a sponge.  My question is, how do you tell when the bread has risen enough?  Does it hurt for it to rise overnight?  I would like to make SR bread for our farmers market, but not if rising times are so iffy.


I will try Ford's recipe next.  It might be more reliable.

Antilope's picture

The food website Serious Eats has an interesting article about using a blender to make DIY Cornmeal from Unpopped Popcorn. With this method, you get a whole grain cornmeal.

They use a Vitamix blender to do this, but you could use a grain mill. I wonder if this homemade cornmeal would work to make Salt Rising Bread starter?

Here's a link to the article:

Pc46032's picture

Although I've been baking for years, I just tried the above recipe for salt rising bread this past weekend.  My friends think I'm a genius!  Thank you for all the great guidance.  

Emadallouf's picture

I bought  rising bread recipe from the Rising Creek Bakery and i tried it and it worked. And from when i was a child i worked on it with my dad, anf im still working on it. My dream is to isolate Clostridium perfringens bacteria and dry it, then use it in the future to make bread. Is there anyone that can help me with that or any company or website that can help. If you have an experience or know someone that has an experience please email me at Thank you!