According to local baker, Holly Sobering, “Sourdough bread takes time…long and slow fermentation is the key to delicious healthy bread... it is an art.” So what exactly is sourdough and how is it different?
The Sourdough Starter Process
Sourdough is made by the ancient method of fermentation using naturally-occurring bacteria and wild yeast. In traditional recipes, all that is required is a sourdough starter (flour + water), salt and flour! The original sourdough starter mixture develops a harmonious symbiotic culture of yeast and bacteria through a 3-7 day cycle of feeding, stirring, discarding and waiting. Within this process both acid and alcohol fermentation occur as both yeast and bacteria have a preferred carbohydrate fuel from the grains. Essentially, the yeast produce ethanol and carbon dioxide and from bacterial action, acids are produced. The bacteria in sourdough provide the yeast with the acidity necessary to thrive. The dough rises as a result of the bubbles of carbon dioxide becoming trapped. This produces a delicious bread full of holes with a firm, springy crust. Sourdough bread has a mildly sour taste not present in most breads made with regular baker's yeast.
What’s The Difference?
The big difference between sourdough bread and regular supermarket bread you buy or bake today is the source of the yeast.
As of the 20th century reliable, specialized, ready-made baking yeast is now available for large commercial bakeries. The yeast used is very fast-acting and easy to produce commercially which has sped up production and lowered costs. However, it doesn’t adapt well and is intolerant of acidic environments. Other adjustments that have taken place in modern times are the incorporation of additives, extra yeast, extra gluten, fat for softness, emulsifiers to produce bigger, softer loaves, etc.
Traditional sourdough contains a complex blend of bacteria and yeast. These yeasts thrive naturally on the surface of grains, fruits, vegetables, and even in the air and soil. The exact strains of yeast and bacteria will vary depending on the origins of the starter.
What Makes Sourdough Better?
Improved Digestion & Nutrition - The fermentation process used in sourdough causes many of the simple sugars present in the grain to be eaten up in the process. Essentially, it is predigested for us. The process also makes the bread higher in nutrients, especially B vitamins, and easier on blood sugar levels.
Sourdough breads require a longer rising/soaking time. This allows for the breakdown of the proteins (gluten in wheat) into amino acids, making it easier to digest.
Finally, the bacteria present in the sourdough help activate the enzyme, phytase, which breaks down phytic acid, an anti-nutrient found in all grains and seeds which can bind with minerals and take them out of your body!
Holly mentions that “people are discovering that by switching to sourdough bread from supermarket bread they are experiencing positive health changes and no longer have bloating.”
Natural Preservative – The acid produced in the sourdough process is good for yeast but inhospitable to other organisms and therefore acts as a natural preservative, inhibiting the growth of molds.
Sustainable – Once established, a sourdough starter is easy to care for, can last indefinitely, and can be used to make a variety of baked goods such as pancakes, cookies, pizza crust, muffins, etc. All that is required is a single homemade starter as opposed to a yeast packet!
Holly adds, “Perhaps the best quality of sourdough bread is flavor! The crust provides a caramelized flavor that triggers your palette and the springy aromatic bread inside will be the most delicious bread you will ever try. Each loaf will reward you with chewiness, flavor and a satisfying depth that cannot be compared to Wonder Bread. Whether you eat your bread toasted or even stale-which doesn’t happen quickly-this bread will have you hooked!”
Look for locally-produced bread, made with organic, low temperature impact milled, whole grain flour made from Canadian grains for a highly nutritious product.
This column is sponsored by Good ‘n’ Natural in Steinbach.