| Sourdough Bread
by Stacey Tress
Nothing beats the smell of fresh bread baking in the oven (well, maybe bacon…). Homemade bread and sourdough bread have a lot of similarities: they both smell amazing being baked in the oven, they both freeze well, and both can be simple to make, or complicated, depending on the recipe you choose. But that’s where the similarities end and sourdough dives into another dimension!
What is a “traditional” sourdough? The sourdough process results from the fermentation reaction of two micro-organisms: wild yeast and beneficial bacteria. The yeasts are primarily responsible for leavening and bread texture and bacteria for the sourdough flavour. A traditional sourdough requires a culture (or starter) which contains both of these organisms. To make a basic sourdough bread, you take some of the sourdough starter and mix it with flour and water. This sticky mixture ferments for around twelve hours before baking. Sourdough is just a riser, not a style of bread. It can be ‘any’ bread from whole wheat to cinnamon-raisin to spelt.
The history of sourdough and community is one of health, quality, and charisma. In villages and towns around the world, bread was the staff of life, it literally supported life. People baked in their homes or took it to a local baker to bake. Everyone knew they needed to keep some of the previous batch to create a new loaf. The beauty of a culture or starter is that with proper care, it will survive and replicate forever. Bakers and people just like me, continue to keep starters alive (some are 100s of years old and more!) and we know them as “artisan” bakers. Industrial bread still dominates the shelves but now more than ever it is easy to find real, old-fashioned sourdough breads, or to make them at home.
Why the fascination with Sourdough Bread?
1. Sourdough often has a lower glycemic index than that of other breads—meaning, it doesn’t spike blood sugar as dramatically. Like all things fermented, the bacteria need something to consume, such as sugar, and in this case it would be the simple starch (carbs) in the wheat.
2. Sourdough bread contains the bacteria Lactobacillus in a higher proportion to yeast than do other breads. More Lactobacillus means higher production of lactic acid, which means less of the potentially dangerous phytic acid. And what does that mean? More mineral availability and easier digestion!
3. Easier digestion is made even more possible by the bacteria-yeast combo working to pre-digest the starches in the grains. Pre-digestion by sourdough = less digestion for you.
4. Sourdough preparation is more lengthy (soaking, rinsing, etc.), and this longer prep time results in the protein gluten being broken down into amino acids. Again, this translates to easier and more pleasant digestion, sometimes even for those who are sensitive to gluten. I will say here that if you have a celiac diagnosis and/or are very sensitive to gluten, that you should not consume sourdough bread. The fermentation breaks down the gluten making it easier to digest, but doesn’t actually digest the gluten. You can’t eat wheat but want to have bread? You can use a rice starter (or any gluten-free flour you like) and make gluten-free sourdough breads. Check out www.wholenewmom.com, www.culturesforhealth.com, and www.celiac.com for recipes and more on gluten-free sourdough bread.
5. Acetic acid, which inhibits the growth of mold, is produced in the making of sourdough. So, sourdough naturally preserves itself. Pretty neat considering the toxic preservatives thrown into the food supply today.
6. The fermentation process increases the content of beneficial bacteria in the bread and the gut. Health gut bacteria = happy body.
7. Additionally, these bacteria control yeast population in the gut, so yeast overgrowth and infection is less likely to occur.
8. The integrity of sourdough is so complex that it contains a host of goodness in terms of nutrients. In sourdough, you can find bio-available vitamins B1 to B6, B12, folate, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, vitamin E, selenium, iron, manganese, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, and potassium, in addition to uniquely balanced proteins and fatty acids. Whoa! This is in contrast to most commercially produced breads, which maintain only a fraction of their original nutrient content after all the processing they undergo.
9. Sourdough bread made with wild yeast, bacteria, and whole grain flour is the oldest and most original form of leavened bread. It truly is an ancient art that is crafted in harmony with nature. It’s only natural that we eat it as opposed to other breads.
10. It tastes amazing. Sourdough has a unique, tangy taste to it. It’s nutritious and delicious!
11. The starter is super versatile. Besides making bread, you can also use your culture, or starter, in muffin, pancake, waffle, tortilla, pizza crust, cinnamon bun, and cake recipes and more! How cool is that? (I make a chocolate waffle that uses the starter in the preferment that is so amazing! I got the recipe from Donna Schwenk’s Cultured Food Life book. You can see pictures of those waffles with the attached recipe on the facebook page, “Garden Therapy Yorkton” under my album “Bubbly Goodness our love affair with all things fermented.”
12. This is kind of a nostalgic reason, but I just think it’s so cool that you can pass a starter down from generation to generation. I envision myself giving my girls their own piece of my starter to take with them when they leave home. It also brings great satisfaction to know that I’ve shared my starter with folks all across Canada and that it will continue to live on past my time here on this earth.
1 cup (240 ml) sourdough starter
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup (240 ml) water
3-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
Dough Proof: Pour the starter into a mixing bowl. Dissolve the salt in the water and stir it into the culture. Add the flour and stir until too stiff to mix with a spoon. Turn out onto a floured board and knead in the remaining flour until the dough is smooth and satiny.
Proof the dough overnight (8–12 hours) at room temperature, in a large bowl covered with plastic wrap. During this time, the dough should double in size in the covered bowl. After the proof, use a spatula to gently ease the dough out onto a floured board. Allow the dough to rest for 30 minutes. If marked flattening occurs during this time, knead in additional flour before shaping.
Loaf Proof: After the 30-minute rest, shape the dough. Flatten it slightly, then lift a portion from the periphery and pull it toward the centre. Continue this around the dough mass to form a rough ball, then shape as a French loaf by gently patting the dough into a rough rectangle, then folding over and pressing the edges together to make a seam.
Place the shaped loaf, seam side down, on a baking sheet and proof for 2 to 4 hours until it doubles in bulk.
Baking: Place the baking sheet with its shaped loaf in a cool oven, then turn the temperature to 375ºF (190ºC) and bake for 70 minutes. Or transfer the loaf to a preheated baking stone in a 450ºF oven and bake for 40 minutes. For a firm, chewy crust, place a pan of boiling water below the loaf or spritz the oven with water every 5 minutes for 15 minutes while the oven is at baking temperature. When the loaf is baked, remove it from the pan and let cool on a wire rack for at least 15–20 minutes before slicing.
Basic Overnight Ferment for Chocolate Chip Zucchini Sourdough Muffin Recipe
2 cup active sourdough starter
1 cup water
1-1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1-1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl and mix really well. The dough will be very stiff.
Cover with a cloth and allow to sit until morning.
Chocolate Chip Zucchini Sourdough Muffins
Basic Overnight Preferment
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/3 c cocoa
1/3 c honey
1/3 c brown sugar
1/2 c butter, melted
1/3 c milk (I use milk kefir here)
1 tsp vanilla
2 c shredded zucchini
1 c chocolate chips
1 c nuts, chopped (optional)
- In the morning, preheat the oven to 400ºF.
- Whisk together the baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cocoa in a small bowl.
- Place the honey, brown sugar, butter, eggs, milk, and vanilla into a mixer and blend thoroughly with the paddle attachment.
- Add in the dry ingredients, mixing well.
- Add the overnight sourdough ferment and stirring until well combined.
- Mix in the chocolate chips, zucchini, and, if desired, nuts.
- Fill greased muffin tins.
- Bake for 20 minutes or until the muffin springs back when lightly touched.
Classic Sourdoughs: A Home Baker’s Manual, Ed and Jean Wood
Stacey Tress, a Holistic Nutritional Therapist (HNT), lives in Yorkton, Saskatchewan, with her husband and two daughters. She is the owner of Garden Therapy Yorkton which offers skill-building workshops, design work, organically-grown produce, and more! To learn more, please contact Stacey at 306-641-4239, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, www.gardentherapyyorkton.ca, or on facebook. Also, see the display ad on page 9 of the 20.6 March/April issue of the WHOLifE Journal.