How to Make Sourdough Bread
As I stated in some previous posts, I do not believe grains are bad. Grains have been eaten for centuries and there is evidence as far back as Egypt that bread was a part of the ancient’s diet. It appears that some of this bread was even made with refined flour.
With the advent of industrialization the way bread was made and processed changed. Demand for bread grew and the way it was made needed to be sped up to meet this demand. Commercial yeast is one of the things which helped to speed up production time and caused the most problems with modern bread.
Until the development of commercial yeast, bakers used wild yeast to make their breads. Wild yeasts work fine for those used to working with them but they are not predictable, they do not work quickly, and they vary from region to region. This is the reason we have San Francisco Sourdough.
Benefits of Sourdough
Wild yeasts are not the only microbes that make their way into the dough when culturing bread in this way; also lactobacilli join in.
Lactobacilli are part of the family of good bacteria that we want in our guts so this is a good thing. In fact these wild yeasts and bacteria are critical to our health and are the main thing we need to look for in our baked goods. Bread made with wild yeasts and lactobacilli take much longer to make and rise and in that time they make significant changes to the dough, altering the gluten and increasing the nutritional content.
In 2002 a study was done on sourdough that was 30% wheat flour. After 24 hours of fermentation the bread was tested and the gluten was almost completely hydrolyzed. Celiac patients were able to consume this bread without any problems. The sourdough had consumed and changed the gluten aspects of the bread. (Vintage Remedies Guide to Bread, Jessie Hawkins)
Additional Benefits of Sourdough:
- Phytate digestion
- Nutrients more bioavailable to the body
- Antioxidant and anti-cancer properties
- Longer shelf life
- Gluten reduction and possible elimination
Because of the reasons I have posted above I believe one of the solutions to much of the troubles with grain in our modern diets is to make our baked goods with sourdough. The sourdough method combines the best of several worlds: soaking, natural yeast, and great taste and texture when the baked goods are prepared.
I make and prepare only sourdough breads for my family at this point (especially since I have 2 members of my family who are gluten intolerant). I have found the resource The Vintage Remedies Guide to Bread by Jessie Hawkins to be a really helpful book that not only lays out the science and superiority of sourdough, but also gave me some great recipes to with.
Before reading the Guide to Bread I used to make sourdough but it was not true sourdough because only some of the grain was soaked. I would make a “sponge” and that grain was soaked but then would add lots of wheat several hours before baking.
Now I have changed things dramatically and find that this bread is the easiest I have ever made and the healthiest.
- 2/ 3 cup starter
- 4 cups flour - I use about 75 % whole wheat or spelt (or sometimes a combo of flours like millet, oat, wheat, rye) and about 25% white. I find it is rises better and is just a nicer loaf of bread.
- 1 2/ 3 - 2 cups water
- 1 T honey
- 1 T fresh olive oil
- 1 t salt
- This recipe is from The Vintage Remedies Guide to Bread.
- Before using the starter I would have pulled it out of the fridge and fed it with equal amounts of flour and water. Then I let it sit out on the counter for 4-6 hours and look for some bubbling action to show me that the starter is active and ready for use. (Starters can be obtained from a friend with an active culture, starting your own, or purchasing a starter.)
- Then I take a ceramic bowl and mix up the above recipe (usually I double it.). I stir it well but usually do not knead it at all because it is often too sticky to knead. (To make sourdough this way you must throw out everything you used to know about bread baking.) Then I cover the bowl and let it sit for 12 hours. If I mix this in the morning then I let it sit until evening. When I poke my finger into the dough after the 12 hours the indentation should stay in the dough for several seconds; this way I now it is time to move on.
- Then I grease my bread pans and put the bread out. This recipe will make 1 -2 loaves in a normal size pan. Again I cover the pans and let them sit another 12 hours.
- Then I put the pans into the oven. 450 for 10 minutes and then 350 for 30 to 35 minutes. If the bread is browned and firm I will pull it out. It usually has risen nicely, although not as tall as bread with added commercial yeast.
Bread is not the only thing that can be made with sourdough. I have also made a wonderful chocolate cake, donuts, rolls, and pancakes. The sky is the limit on what can be done with baked goods and sourdough.
I encourage you to try it out. If you have successfully used sourdough what have you made that you were happy with.? Please feel free to share in the comments below.