Sourdough

BREAD

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Bread is a staple food prepared from a dough of flour and water, usually by baking. Throughout recorded history it has been popular around the world and is one of the oldest artificial foods, having been of importance since the dawn of agriculture.

Bread is one of the oldest prepared foods. Evidence from 30,000 years ago in Europe revealed starch residue on rocks used for pounding plants. It is possible that during this time, starch extract from the roots of plants, such as cattails and ferns, was spread on a flat rock, placed over a fire and cooked into a primitive form of flatbread. Around 10,000 BC, with the dawn of the Neolithic age and the spread of agriculture, grains became the mainstay of making bread. Yeast spores are ubiquitous, including on the surface of cereal grains, so any dough left to rest leavens naturally.

SOURDOUGH

sourdoughThe preparation of sourdough begins with a pre-ferment (the “starter” or “leaven”, also known as the “chief”, “chef”, “head”, “mother” or “sponge”), a fermented mixture of flour and water, containing a colony of microorganisms including wild yeast and lactobacilli. The purpose of the starter is to produce a vigorous leaven and to develop the flavour of the bread. In practice there are several kinds of starters, as the ratio of water to flour in the starter (hydration) varies. A starter may be a liquid batter or a stiff dough.

Sourdough-bread is a type of bread produced by a long fermentation of dough using naturally occurring yeasts and lactobacilli.

Sourdough breads are made with a sourdough starter. The starter cultivates yeast and lactobacilli in a mixture of flour and water, making use of the microorganisms already present on flour; it does not need any added yeast. A starter may be maintained indefinitely by regular additions of flour and water. Some bakers have starters many generations old, which are said to have a special taste or texture. At one time, all yeast-leavened breads were sourdoughs.

Recently there has been a revival of sourdough bread in artisan bakeries.

Traditionally, peasant families throughout Europe baked on a fixed schedule, perhaps once a week. The starter was saved from the previous week’s dough. The starter was mixed with the new ingredients, the dough was left to rise, and then a piece of it was saved (to be the starter for next week’s bread).

Why Sourdough?

italian breadThe primary reason is the quality of the end product.

Commercial bread production has been streamlined to cut costs to the point that we find ourselves eating the classic sliced white loaf. The rapid production needs a cocktail of additives and stabilizers (not on the ingredients list) to produce a loaf that will last for weeks on end, and is mainly air. This is not bread.

The resurgent interest in naturally leavened, sourdough breads has been driven by the disaffection felt towards these modern ‘bread’ products. Sourdough breads are leavened by a natural yeast culture, in the same way that bread has been made for all but the last hun dred years or so. This process is rather slow, but it is this time fermenting that gives a sourdough loaf its distinctive flavor and texture. There is also mounting evidence that the process aids the digestion by partly breaking down the complex carbohydrates and proteins in wheat flour.

A classic sourdough loaf takes up to 48hrs from start to finish.

Gluten

glutenGluten (from Latin gluten, “glue”) is a composite of storage-proteins termed prolamins an glutelins found in wheat and related grains, including barley, rye, oat, and all their species and hybrids (such as spelt, khorasan, emmer, einkorn, triticale, etc.). Gluten is appreciated for its viscoelastic properties. It gives elasticity to dough, helping it rise and keep its shape and often gives the final product a chewy texture.

Gluten is a protein complex that accounts for 75 to 85% of the total protein in bread wheat. Gluten is prepared from flour by kneading the flour under water, agglomerating the gluten into an elastic network, a dough, and then washing out the starch. Starch granules disperse in cold/low-temperature water, and the dispersed starch i s sedimented and dried. If a saline solution is used instead of water, a purer protein is obtained, with certain harmless impurities departing to the solution with the starch. Where starch is the prime product, cold water is the favored solvent because the impurities depart from the gluten.

Why is sourdough bread healthier than ordinary bread?

beetroot breadThe wild yeast and lactobacillus in the leaven neutralize the phytic acid as the bread proves through the acidification of the dough. This prevents the effects of the phytic acid and makes the bread easier for us to digest. These phytic acid molecules bind with other minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc, which make these important nutrients unavailable to us. Long slow fermentation of wheat can reduce phytates by up to 90%. The sourdough bacterium pre-digests the flour, which releases the micronutrients. This process takes place over a long slow fermentation, which gives your loaf a superior taste and texture. Sourdough bread also takes longer to digest; studies have shown that rye flour added to sourdough can help regulate blood sugar levels which helps ward off diabetes.

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