The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Rogue use of starter

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janniethebaker's picture

Rogue use of starter

I've been a lurker, but am convinced that the wisdom of this wonderful group will provide me the way to proceed.  My husband, a Type2 Diabetic, is always trying to control his blood sugar.  I read somewhere along the line, both on this site and in some research studies,  that naturally leavened sourdough has a lower glycemic index level and I've been aiming to correct my faulty sourdough skills to produce that wonderful kind of bread.  As I understand the problem, the yeasties and beasties tend to consume most, if not all, of the starch in the flours.  That's a very simplistic statement, but that's where my knowledge level is.


Having had the usual run of successes and failures in the quest for sourdough, I was having better success with baking in pans than with artisan shaping.  One day I was making the Struan bread posted by one of the TFLers, which is not a sourdough bread, but I, without even thinking, threw in a cup of my mixed starter (made from white, wheat and rye starter discards.)  Not only was and is the bread delicious, but also my conscience is somewhat salved regarding the starch consumption by the sourdough bacteria.


Now the question is this.  What have I actually accomplished?  The starter would have reduced starch, in essence, but the actual loaf which is not fermented as long, may have more.  Here's where I get into ignorance of the biochemistry involved.  Further question, what if I take any recipe, yeast rolls for instance, mix up the dough and mix in a cup of starter that is well fed and ready to go.  Reduce the yeast, or maybe eliminate, then follow the rest of the recipe.  The flavors produced in these breads are quite nice and subtle, and the texture seems a tad lighter.


Anyone have any thoughts on what is going on?  Or experimented in the same way?  I appreciate any and all wisdom, some guffaws from the real pros and I promise to not be offended by any comments.  Many thanks to a great group of dedicated breadmakers.


janniethebaker's picture

Thank you all for your feedback.

Dave323's picture


I am also diabetic. I am not yet into making sourdough, though that is my goal. Still, I bake a lot of bread. The bread I make for daily use is called Cornell Bread. This is the basic recipe. I alter it, using 100% whole wheat, a tad more water, using honey instead of sugar. I find that this bread causes only a very small rise in my blood sugar. You may, of course use any combination of flours you like. I am not a doctor, I’m an old geezer who bakes bread. I hope this information is some use to you.


Mrs. McCay helped write a book about Cornell baking, now out of print, but available used at Abe’s Books, here:



Cornell Bread

This widely known Cornell bread is high in protein with its nutritionally enriched combination of flours. It was created in the 1940s to act as a staple in the low-cost diets of the days of war rationing. The nutritional merits are important, but what fueled the popularity of the Cornell Formula was its pleasing taste. The Cornell Bread recipe was developed by Cornell professor, Dr. Clive M. McCay (see below for details).

Cornell Formula White Bread
3 cups warm water (+ a bit more if using WW flour)
2 packages active dry yeast
2 tablespoons honey or sugar
3 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
6 cups unbleached flour (or whole wheat flour, as I use)
1/2 cup full-fat soy flour
3/4 cup nonfat dry milk
3 tablespoons wheat germ

1. In a large mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Stir in honey, salt, and oil.

2. Combine three cups of the unbleached flour with the soy flour, dry milk, and wheat germ; add to yeast mixture. Add more flour, 1/2 cup at a time, to make dough stuff enough to knead easily.

3. Turn dough onto a lightly floured board. Knead about ten minutes or until smooth and elastic, adding flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking.

4. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, turning to oil the top. Cover with a clean towel and let rise in a warm place until double; about one hour.

5. Punch dough down and turn onto lightly oiled board. Divide dough into three equal portions and shape each into a loaf. Place in greased 8x4- inch pans. Cover with a clean towel and let rise until double; about one hour.

6. Preheat oven to 400. Bake 30 to 35 minutes, or until bread sounds hollow when tapped. Remove from pan and cool on wire rack.

YIELD: Three 8x4 inch loaves.


The recipe originates from Dr. Clive Maine McCay who was a well known and somewhat controversial Cornell professor of Nutrition in the 1930s and 1940s.


Ford's picture

I would treat sourdough bread as any other bread in a diet.  Don't add sugar.  Let your husband's blood sugar measurement determine whether he is eating too much.  There might be a minimally reduced carbohydrate in sourdough, but I would say it is not significally reduced.


PaddyL's picture

I've taken regular bread recipes and switched them to sourdough, just by adding a cup of starter and adding more flour.  Sourdough breads do make a difference to diabetics, in that they do not make the blood sugar spike the way a regular yeasted bread would.  You have me as proof.  After reading about the effect of sourdough on blood sugar, I very carefully tested my own sugars after eating the bread and it turned out to be quite true for me.  And I don't reduce or eliminate the sugar in my breads.