Everything You Need To Know About Sourdough
By Sara Novak
You may recognize sourdough bread from its refreshingly sour and tangy flavor. But sourdough is not just a type of bread, it is a movement. I am sure that you remember when sourdough starter became a thing in the middle of the pandemic. And with good reason. It is fun to make and it is good for you. But what makes sourdough different from all the other artisanal breads out there? The answer, my friends, is fermentation. Here is everything you need to know about sourdough and why you should add it to your bread making repertoire.
Table Of Contents:
- What Is Sourdough?
- The History Of Sourdough Bread
- Why Is Sourdough Healthier
- How To Find The Healthiest Sourdough Bread
- How To Make Your Own Sourdough Starter
What Is Sourdough?:
Sourdough starter can be used to make bread, pancakes, and even cake. It contains a sourdough starter that is made by combining and fermenting a mix of flours and natural yeasts. The dough is made by combining lactobacilli and yeast. Lactobacillus is the most populous good bacteria found in the gut, responsible for helping the body run smoothly. Good bacteria can treat colic, irritable bowel syndrome, vaginal infections, inflammation, depression, and weight gain. The sour and tangy flavor of the bread comes from lactic acid produced as a result of the lactobacilli.
In its most basic sense, sourdough contains three ingredients including flour, salt, and yeast. The fermented starter is made by combining flour, water, and non instant yeast. Carbohydrates from the flour form ethanol and carbohydrates that are used to help the bread rise. It is the fermentation process of the starter that separates sourdough from other sorts of bread and gives it a sour flavor.
The History Of Sourdough Bread:
Sourdough is one of the oldest forms of leavened bread used as early as ancient Egypt. Many years later, the early settlers of the West carried sourdough starters with them as they mined in places like California. In a time when you could not buy instant yeast at the grocery store, Alaskan miners even slept with their starter to protect it from the cold Alaskan air. It should be noted that before instant and commercial yeasts existed and yeasts were wild, all bread was sourdough that naturally fermented on its own.
Why Is Sourdough Healthier?:
The fermentation process is the big reason why sourdough is healthier and the use of wild yeasts instead of commercially produced yeasts.
1. It Is One Of The Oldest Forms Of Bread Making
As mentioned above, sourdough is one of the oldest forms of bread making. The bread is naturally fermented using wild yeasts just by leaving the flour out and allowing the sugar and water to start the fermentation process. The lactic acid produced as a result of the fermentation process makes the nutrients in sourdough easier for the body to absorb. Sourdough bread takes its cues from the ancient art of bread making and has been around since the very beginning of bread leavening around 1500 BC.
Sourdough bread contains lactobacilli, one of the most abundant and important forms of good bacteria. Your microbiome depends on an influx of good bacteria to function well. Consuming a wide variety of foods containing lactobacillus as well as taking a high quality probiotic is important to maintaining positive gut health. It is crucial to be proactive with your lactobacillus when you are taking an antibiotic that can remove all the good bacteria at the same time as the bad bacteria. Lactobacillus are among the most common types of good bacteria found in the gut and luckily, they are also among the easiest to find in fermented foods. Lactobacilli helps with proper immune, gut, digestive, and mental health function. They help maintain a balance in the gut to keep you looking and feeling your best. An imbalance in gut bacteria can impact health in any number of ways. In recent years, gut health has been tied to mental health because of the gut/brain axis. That is why when you are stressed you are more likely to have digestive issues as well.
The gut has been called the second brain because of the enteric nervous system that is actually located in the gut. If you have ever been nervous and had butterflies in your stomach, then you know what I mean. Research has even shown this to be true. According to the Cleveland Clinic, “the enteric nervous system relies on the same type of neurons and neurotransmitters that are found in the central nervous system. The “second brain” in our gut, in communication with the brain in our head, plays a key role in certain diseases in our bodies and in our overall mental health."
Need a high quality gut bacteria?
Sourdough bread contains ample minerals including potassium, phosphate, magnesium, and zinc.
- Potassium - Potassium is an important mineral in the body that helps facilitate a host of bodily functions. What’s more, most Americans are deficient. It is important for dehydration and fluid balance, heart function, and muscle contractions.
- Phosphorus - Phosphorus is responsible for building strong teeth and bones. It also helps with the growth and repair of tissues in the body.
- Magnesium - Magnesium is an important mineral in the body responsible for nerve function and regulating blood sugar levels as well as making bone, DNA, and protein.
- Zinc - Zinc is important for immune system functioning. It helps the body fight off bacteria and viruses.
Read More: How To Reconcentrate Your Minerals
4. Lactic Acid
Sourdough contains lactic acid, a main ingredient in some of the other super healthy fermented foods that you know and love. Think of kefir, kimchi, kombucha, yogurt, and others. Lactic acid is important for improving gut health, which helps the body’s immune, digestive, and even mental function. But when it comes to sourdough specifically, the story is even more exciting. Bread contains phytates which bind to minerals in the bread and make them more difficult for your body to absorb. However, lactic acid breaks down phytates, which makes it easier to absorb the important minerals found in the bread.
The lactic acid in sourdough bread also helps to break the gluten down so that it is easier for the body to absorb and digest. This is especially true if you are gluten intolerant. It may be slightly easier for the body to digest. This is not true of those that have Celiac disease because they are completely intolerant to even a tiny bit of gluten or even gluten residue.
How To Find The Healthiest Sourdough Bread:
Not all sourdough breads are created equal. You will want to choose an artisan variety that is as close to the source as possible.
- Few Ingredients - In the most basic sense sourdough bread is flour, water, and yeast. It should not contain a host of additives like preservatives, sweeteners, and leaveners.
- No PUFAs - short for polyunsaturated fats or nut and seed oils. PUFAs are an unstable fat. This means that the fats oxidize which results in free radicals that can do damage to your body, causing aging and a host of diseases.
- Avoid Enriched Flours - Additives can also come in the form of enriched flours. For example, flours that are enriched with iron. Iron enrichment is not healthy in that you may end up getting more than you need because you do not realize that there is half of your daily allowance in one serving of flour. Overdoing it can be toxic because the extra iron just sits on your internal organs causing major damage.
- Organic - Make sure that you use organic flour. Non-organic flour can contain bleaching agents and pesticide residue, which is not something that you want included in your homemade bread recipe.
- Homemade - The best bread is homemade. It can even become an artistic endeavor. Have fun with it and be creative.
How To Make Your Own Sourdough Starter:
If you want the best, you are probably better off making it yourself. Not to mention that bread making is a Zen activity. When my husband was in law school, he took to bread making as a form of stress relief and he loved it. First of all, you will need to get yourself a sourdough starter. Sourdough starter is simple to make but takes around six days. Here is how:
- Start with 1/2 cup of filtered water
- 1 cup of whole grain flour or 120 grams (You’ll want to use whole grain the first round because it contains more bacteria to help with fermentation.)
- Mix together into a thick paste and until all the flour is incorporated.
- Add to a jar and put the top on. You do not want the top to be screwed on too tight.
- Let sit in your kitchen in temperatures that range from 70-80 degrees. If it is too cool, it will take a lot longer for your starter to ferment, in which case you may want to move it under a light or near an appliance to heat things up.
- The next day. Pull the starter out of the jar. Add 1/2 cup filtered water and 1 cup flour (bread, all purpose, or whole grain) to your starter. It is called “feeding your starter”. Clean out your jar and add the newly fed starter back in.
- By day 3, you will start to see that the starter is alive. It is bubbling and there is evidence of movement. Take 1/2 cup of starter and add 1/2 cup filtered water and 1 cup flour. By day 3, you will need to feed the starter twice daily, every 12 hours.
- Each day, add it to a clean jar and mark where it started so you can clearly see its progress.
- By day 4 it should start doubling in size.
- Look at your starter to see if it is hungry. That is, it looks like it is risen and then has fallen again.
- Once the starter has doubled in size and can float (1 tablespoon of starter in a few cups of water), it is ready to go.
- If you take care of your sourdough starter, it will last for months and even years. To revive your starter after it has been stored in the refrigerator, feed it 1/2 cup filtered water and 1 cup flour and let sit. It is ready to use if it smells yeasty and sweet and doubles in size after 12 hours. Sadly, sometimes this does not work and your little pal the sourdough starter has to be put to bed. If it does not double in size within 12 hours it may no longer be worth saving.
Great videos and websites for making sourdough bread