Okay – so what’s the deal with sourdough?
Over the past few months, home sourdough bread baking has reached epic proportions. This “trend” is far more than just a hobby. It represents empowerment. Ever since the pandemic hit there has been an increasing uncertainty over the resilience of our modern food system as certain shelves in the grocery store, emptied through crisis hoarding, remained bare for weeks. And, it happened with more than just toilet paper. In fact, the lack of availability of commercial dried yeast was the impetus for many home bakers to make the switch to sourdough bread because they could create the sourdough mother (which contains yeast) from scratch in their own kitchens with nothing more than flour and water thereby alleviating the reliance on commercial yeast for their baking.
Creating a sourdough mother at home that could be refreshed and reused indefinitely was a liberating FU response to the failure of the modern food system – and I LOVE this!
Home-baking is on the Rise!
In fact, it is symbolic for what shortening your food chain, sourcing raw ingredients directly, and cooking from scratch can provide across the entire spectrum of our diets – insight, control, and resilience. And, take control they did! For months, home bakers who latched on to the sourdough trend grew increasingly competent and I was continuously amazed at the gorgeous loaves decorated with stenciled patterns and intricate scoring techniques that showed up in my instagram and facebook feeds each day. Some bakers even created their own colored powders out of ingredients such as dried beets to paint intricate designs on their bread before they went into the oven to bake.
Lack of availability of commercial yeast might have been the impetus for the trend, but it seems that people were drawn to sourdough baking for a variety of other reasons as well. Articles in the popular media reported that newfound sourdough baking popularity was due to factors including: it’s fun, it’s photogenic, and it’s time consuming – all important factors while isolated home during a pandemic. However, all of these factors miss the point and fail to realize the most powerful things that sourdough bread can offer… genuine sourdough creates the safest, most nourishing, and most delicious bread possible. Period.
The real value in the sourdough mother does not lie in the yeast. True, the wild yeast that is a component of the sourdough mother does leaven the bread by creating carbon dioxide as a by-product of fermentation. However, using yeast is just one way to leaven the bread; there are other mechanisms to introduce air into dough in addition to the biological process of yeast fermentation including chemical, like baking soda and hartshorne; steam, the primary leavening agent in puff pastry; and, even physical, as with the case with Maryland beaten biscuits where air is literally “beaten” into the dough. BUT, the most important component of the sourdough mother and that which makes it special is the wild bacteria it contains. A real, genuine, sourdough mother contains a combination of both wild yeast and bacteria. The billions of wild bacteria in a sourdough mother are actually the workhorse of the entire sourdough process and provide a crucial function that does not occur in any other baking!
Should I Eat Bread?
The human body is not designed to eat grains – that is, at least not without properly processing them first. However, the long, slow lactic fermentation that takes place in sourdough bread production introduces wild bacteria into the dough and creates the environment in which they thrive and chemically and physically transform grains into their safest and nourishing forms possible for our bodies. Sourdough bread is a completely different food than any other baked good on the planet. And, your body deals with it in a completely different way too! The bacterial fermentation which occurs in sourdough baking but DOES NOT happen in modern commercial bread making.
Compared to all other bread, sourdough bread is:
- safer because the fermentation process deactivates the antinutrients such as phytic acid and detoxifies lectins and other toxins,
- more nutritious because the fermentation process makes vitamins and minerals more accessible to our bodies,
- easier to digest because the fermentation process chemically and physically breaks down and pre-digests the grains before we even eat them,
- has a lower glycemic index which prevents spikes in blood sugar when we consume it,
- more delicious because it is full of increased flavor, texture, and character,
- unique since the exact combination of wild bacteria and yeast that create the nuances in character are specific to each place its’ made.
Sourdough bread is not a type of bread, it IS bread.
It should be the standard by which we judge all breads. But, here is the thing…. There is a lot of fake sourdough bread flooding the market in our modern industrial food system and these imposters do not convey any of the health benefits outlined above. Unfortunately, almost all bread labelled sourdough in the grocery store falls into this category. There are really only two ways to ensure you are feeding yourselves and your families genuine sourdough bread. Either make it yourself at home or purchase it from a trusted source. Thankfully, our Modern Stone Age Kitchen can you get started with both! Interested in learning to make long fermented sourdough bread in your own home with nothing more than flour, water and salt? Then check out our classes and other resources here. If you are interested in purchasing delicious and nourishing sourdough bread already made check out my 16 year old daughter’s business – RISE by Brianna!