10 Victorian Bread Recipes Without Commercial Yeast

Victorian bread recipes without commercial yeast and without sourdough starter – you don’t need commercial yeast to bake a loaf of bread! In the Victorian era it was quite common to make yeast substitutes at home. Here you’ll find 8 recipes for homemade yeast substitutes: hop yeast, fruit yeast, grape must yeast, flour yeast sponge, pea yeast, bark yeast & salt rising bread.

Victorian Bread Recipes Without Commercial Yeast

I often make homemade sourdough bread, but since I made Victorian Graham bread (with commercial yeast) for the Historical Food Fortnightly two month ago, I was interested in historical homemade bread recipes which were made without commercial yeast. So here I compiled Victorian bread recipes which are all made without commercial yeast and without traditional homemade sourdough starter.

In the Victorian era, yeast was usually made at home with boiled hops and mashed potatoes. But nearly all Victorian yeast recipes made with hops say to add some commercial yeast as well; but finally I found two Victorian yeast recipes without commercial yeast, which you’ll find below. There are also recipes for Victorian salt-risen bread, Roman bread made with grape must, Turkish pea bread and Siberian bark bread.



10 Victorian Bread Recipes Without Commercial Yeast

Homemade hop yeast, bread without commercial yeast
Fresh hops as yeast substitute


Hop Potato Yeast – Good Substitute for Brewer’s Yeast (The Country Gentleman’s Magazine, 1869, p. 383)

  • 1 oz hops
  • 4 quarts water
  • 6 oz flour
  • 5 oz sugar
  • 4 lbs potatoes, ‘boiled and bruised fine’

Boil hops in water, ‘until the hops fall to the bottom of the pan; strain it, and when milk-warm’ add flour and sugar; ‘set the mixture by the fire, stirring it frequently’. After 48 hours add potatoes; ‘next day bottle the yeast – it will keep a month. One fourth of yeast and three of warm water, is the proportion for baking.’

-> tried


Flour Yeast – Another Good Substitute for Brewer’s Yeast (The Country Gentleman’s Magazine, 1869, p. 383)

  • 1 lb flour
  • 1/4 lb brown sugar
  • a pinch of salt
  • 2 gallons water

Boil all ingredients for 1 hour; ‘when milk-warm, bottle and cork it close, and it will be fit for use in twenty-four hours. 1 lb. of this yeast will make 18 lb. of bread.’

-> tried


Homemade bread without commercial yeast
Homemade bread made with fruit yeast


Salt Rising Bread (The Ohio Cultivator, 1859, p. 223)

‘Salt-rising, or rather milk-rising bread, to me now looks finer, tastes better, and is more healthy, beside being less work about making it than the common yeast bread. […] This bread if made aright, is white, moist, tender, [and] sweet’.

  • 1 pint new milk
  • 1 pint boiling water
  • flour
  • 1 tsp salt

Take milk, water and salt, ‘put together in a vessel sufficiently large, add flour very fast, until as thick as can well be stirred smoothly; put the vessel in another of water, as warm as the hand can be held in, stand by the stove or fire so as to keep up the water at the same temperature. Give it a slight stirring, and that but once, which should be done upon seeing signs of its rising, which will be after it has stood between three and four hours. Will be up in about five hours. Should not present a surface of fine bubbles, but look much as yeast.’

  • flour
  • 2 quarts (or less) warm, sweet milk
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1/2 teacup sugar or maple molasses

‘Mix moderately stiff, and mould out into pans, set by the stove to rise. May be ready to bake in an hour. Will bake a little quicker than yeast. […]

If the rising be set at six in the morning, the bread can be mixed at eleven, and all in the cooling room at two o’clock, so as not to interfere with the arrangements of the afternoon.’


Salt Rising Bread (Guide For Nut Cookery, 1898)

  • 1 cup water
  • white flour
  • 1 tsp corn flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 drop ginger extract

‘Take a perfectly clean bowl, and one that has not had any acid substance like cooked fruit in it. Put in it 1 cup of warm water, 1/2 teaspoonful of salt, 1 teaspoonful of corn-meal, 1 drop of ginger extract, and enough white flour to make a medium thick batter. Beat it very thoroughly, and set the bowl in a pan of warm water to secure a uniformity of temperature. It will rise in about five hours, sometimes more quickly. Much depends upon the flour.’

  • 1 pint water
  • flour

‘When it is light, take a pint of quite warm water, and add enough flour to make a rather stiff sponge. When lukewarm, add the rising, stirring it in well. If kept in a warm place, it ought to be light in one or two hours. When light, knead into loaves. It requires much less kneading than yeast bread. When the loaves have risen to twice their original size, bake in a moderate oven for nearly an hour.’


Salt Rising Bread (Meatless Cookery, 1914)

  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup scalded milk
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 cups milk and water
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • flour to make a stiff dough

‘Scald the meal and salt with one-half cup of milk, and let it stand in a warm place over night. In the morning, set the bowl in water, as warm as the hand can bear. During the whole process keep the bread at this temperature; when this is light, add it to the remainder of the scalded milk and water which has been allowed to cool. Add the butter, sugar, salt and flour, and beat this batter thoroughly. Set it in warm water again to rise; when light, add the flour to make a stiff dough, knead well, put in pans, and when risen again, bake for about 45 minutes.’


Fruit yeast, apple starter, bread
Fruit yeast


Pliny’s Grape Must Bread (Naturalis Historia, 77) (The Natural History of Pliny, 1856, p. 38)

  • millet or fine wheat bran
  • three days old white must

Knead millet with must, ‘it will keep a whole year.’ Or knead bran with white must and dry it in the sun, ‘after which it is made into small cakes. When required for making bread, these cakes are first soaked in water, and then boiled with the finest spelt flour, after which the whole is mixed up with the meal; and it is generally thought that this is the best method of making bread.’


Raisin Potato Fruit Yeast (Guide For Nut Cookery, 1898)

  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 1/2 pints water
  • 4 potatoes
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp sugar

‘Take 1 cup of raisins, wash them well, and put them to soak in 1 1/2 pints of warm water, keeping them in a warm place for two or three days, or until fermentation takes place, which can be told by the bubbles on top of the water. Then make a potato yeast by boiling 4 good-sized potatoes until tender; mash fine, or sift through a colander or vegetable press. Add 1 teaspoonful of salt, 1 tablespoonful of sugar, and when cooled to blood-heat, add enough of the raisin water to make of the right consistency, which will be about 2 cupfuls. Let it rise until light, and then put in clean glass cans, and keep in a cool place. It is better to be a few days old before using.’


Turkish Pea Yeast (The Family Receipt Book, 1819, p. 87)

  • small teacupful of split or bruised peas
  • 1 pint boiling water

Pour boiling water over the peas, ‘and set it in a vessel all night on the hearth, or any warm place. The next morning the water will have a froth on it, and be good yeast, and will make as much bread as two quartern loaves.’

-> tried


White bread without yeast, with honey water, sourdough alternative
White bread made with honey water


Siberian Bark Bread (Vollständige Brod-Bak-Kunde, 1832, p. 85)

‘The Siberian ermine hunters, when their yeast, which they carry with them, to make their quass, is spoiled by the cold, digest the inner bark of the pine, with water, over the fire, during an hour, mix it with their rye-meal, bury the dough in the snow, and, after 12 hours, find the ferment ready’. (The Gardener’s Magazine, 1828, p. 378)

  • inner bark of larch, pine, fir, birch or elm
  • water
  • flour

Choose ‘a tree whose trunk is even, (for these contain the least resin), and strip off the bark in the spring when it separates most readily’. (The Medical and Physical Journal, 1807, p. 460) The ‘innermost bark of young fir (or elm) […] is first hung up in the air to dry, and then baked. This is beaten on wooden blocks, pounded as fine as possible, and afterwards ground in a mill.’ (Norway, the Road and the Fell, 1864, p. 33)

Simmer the inner bark for half an hour with water, then add flour and knead into a dough. Bury the sourdough for 2 hours in the snow.


How To Dry Homemade Yeast (Miss Leslie’s Complete Cookery, 1851)

Stir into the yeast ‘sufficient Indian meal to make a moderately stiff dough. Cover it, and set it in a warm place to rise. When it has become very light, roll it out into a thick sheet, and cut it into little cakes. Spread them out on a dish, and let them dry gradually in a cool place where there is no sun. Turn them five or six times a day while drying; and when they are quite dry, put them into paper bags, and keep them in a jar or box closely covered, in a place that is not in the least damp.

When you want the yeast for use, dissolve in a little warm water one or more of the cakes, (in proportion to the quantity of bread you intend making,) and when it is quite dissolved, stir it hard, thicken it with a little flour, cover it, and place it near the fire to rise before you use it. Then mix it with the flour in the usual manner of preparing bread. This is a very convenient way of preserving yeast through the summer, or of conveying it to a distance.’


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Victorian Bread Recipes Without Commercial Yeast

12 thoughts on “10 Victorian Bread Recipes Without Commercial Yeast

  1. I tried the Siberian bark bread recipe. I kind of eyeballed the slippery elm powder and rye flour and it turned out pretty tasty. I’m also fond of plain bread so I can’t say if others will agree.

  2. Very Educational👍🏼 Just learning about sour dough yeast, and now so many other ways to make yeast and experiment with recipes ~~Thank You~~ 😊

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