Are you baking bread at home? The world is making homemade bread more than ever right now! We are spending a lot more time at home, which gives us more time to tend to projects that require some attention every few hours– like bread. Also, in many areas, yeast has been sold out and people are googling “how to make bread without yeast”. We are really getting back to our roots and back to basics here with less access to fresh ingredients and store-bought bread. The bonus is that your health will thank you for it! The sourdough method results in beautiful loaves of bread that are fluffy, flavourful, and better for your body. Keep reading to learn about the health benefits of sourdough vs. typical bread, learn how to make your own sourdough starter, and get a recipe for easy sourdough bread.
What’s so great about sourdough?
Sourdough is made by creating a “starter” that takes in natural yeasts and bacteria from the air, which then feed on the flour and water mixture to grow (the process of fermentation). They create a bubbly mixture that continues to grow, so long as it is taken care of, and can be mixed into flour, water, and salt to create a bread dough that rises and has a slight sour taste. Because sourdough is made from wild yeasts in the air, sourdough from different places tastes differently. San Francisco is famous for its sourdough and you can buy sourdough starter from bakeries in San Francisco and have it shipped to you around the world.
Sourdough is easier for your body to digest. The way it works, is that the cultures in the sourdough starter feed on the glutens in the flour of your bread dough. Essentially, they eat some of the gluten for you! Some people with gluten sensitivity (not allergy) are able to eat sourdough bread without the digestive symptoms they typically get from eating bread.
It’s important to note that most commercially produced sourdough bread is not true sourdough. Many of them contain some sourdough starter but only for the characteristic flavour. They contain dry yeast for the rising process because it’s quicker, so the sourdough starter doesn’t get to do its job of breaking down the gluten. If the ingredient list contains yeast, it’s not true sourdough and doesn’t have the same benefit for your digestion. It’s not all that surprising that the way things were traditionally made are better for our health. Just like using vinegar in pickles instead of taking the time to ferment them creates a product that tastes similar but lacks the probiotics, bread made with commercial dry yeast creates a fluffy loaf of bread, but it doesn’t have the health benefits of the sourdough method. Sourdough starter is a living organism, which requires regular feeding and time, making it unfortunately unideal for mass production in our fast-paced world. Luckily, it’s really easy to make your own!
Make your sourdough starter
A sourdough starter is the yeast-containing culture that allows your bread to rise and have a lovely fluffy interior with that classic crusty exterior and a subtle sour taste. When you make bread with a different leavening agent, like baking powder or baking soda, think: banana bread, you get a much denser end result. The yeast breaks down the gluten, like you read above, which creates air pockets in the bread. That’s why gluten-free flours or bread without yeast won’t yield that fluffy result.
Growing your starter takes about a week before it’s ready for baking beautiful loaves of bread. You’ll notice that the flavour develops more and more. Baby starters give bread a slight sour taste, but mature starters give that depth of flavour that you expect from a loaf of sourdough from an amazing bakery. So keep with it!
If you need a break from taking care of your starter friend, you can store it in an airtight container in the fridge for about a month, or you can even freeze it. If you are refrigerating it, you’ll need to bring it to room temperature and return to feeding it regularly again for a couple days before it’s fully active again. If you’re freezing it, you’ll need to thaw it at room temperature, then feed it for a few days. You’ll know it’s ready when it begins to consistently double in size a few hours after a feeding.
Your starter needs to be fed approximately every 12 hours, so work that into your schedule wherever it makes sense for you. I like to feed my starter while I make breakfast (7am) and after dinner (7pm).
What to expect:
Easy sourdough bread recipe
Feel free to experiment with all kinds of flours that contain gluten like rye, whole wheat, sprouted wheat, and white. You can substitute some of the flour for buckwheat as well, but because it doesn’t contain gluten, you don’t want to use all that much if you still want a nice fluffy loaf. I like this recipe because it yields a nice fluffy loaf, it doesn’t require much effort on my part so I can start the dough in the morning and shape and bake at dinner time without tending to it throughout the day, and it contains some whole grain flour for fibre and nutrients.
100 grams / ½ cup of active sourdough starter (make sure it has recently been fed, about 3-4 hours ago, and has just doubled up in size, that means it’s active)
270 grams / 1 ¼ cups of warm filtered water
225 grams / 1 ½ cups of organic whole wheat flour
225 grams / 1 ½ cups of unbleached organic white flour
8 grams / 2 teaspoons of himalayan pink salt or sea salt
Notes: if you don’t have a dutch oven or pot with a lid, you can bake your loaf on a baking sheet instead. If you measure your ingredients in volume (cups/teaspoons) you may have dough that seems a bit too dry or a bit too sticky because these measurements are not as precise as grams. Add a tablespoon of flour at a time if your dough is too sticky, or a tablespoon of water at a time if it’s too dry, until you get a soft and slightly tacky dough that doesn’t stick to your hands.
Contributed by Melanie Maxwell, R.H.N.