Starting out in the world of sourdough
Thinking you’d like to start producing your own homemade bread? Here’s some information to help you appreciate the interest in sourdough, and what differentiates slow-fermentation breads.
Sourdough is a symbiotic mixture of wild yeast and good bacteria that transform flour, and in so doing produce more digestible breads. This method of manufacture has been in use for millennia. Yeast turns carbohydrates into ethanol and into carbon dioxide, which will produce bubbles in the dough. That’s what makes it possible to have a honeycombed and tender bread. Next, the yeast bacteria transform the ethanol into lactic acid. And that’s what lends bread its characteristic taste and makes it longer lasting (bad bacteria don’t care for acidity).
What characterizes a sourdough long-fermentation bread?
- Long fermentation (8 to 24 hours) gives the sourdough all the time it needs to weaken the gluten present in the flour. And thus we end up with a bread that's easier to digest. Some people who are gluten intolerant manage to consume sourdough bread with no problem at all!
- Since you can set aside a little sourdough for later use, it’s an economical solution: there’s no need to buy more yeast every time you feel like making a recipe. It’s enough to have a bit of your old sourdough on hand.
- As the fermentation process involves a transformation of sugars, sourdough bread causes a lesser increase in blood sugar. This is therefore a bread favored by people with diabetes. In addition, fermentation makes certain nutrients more easily assimilated by the body.
Basic principles in the use of sourdough
Allow enough time
Making sourdough bread is quite a simple process, but one that requires you to take the time to do things properly. First, you have to set aside a few periods to make sure that your sourdough is well fed. To learn how to do this, refer to the article “Using and conserving your sourdough.”.
Next, you have to allow for the necessary time to produce the bread itself. As you’ll discover in the recipes suggested in the above article, there are a few handling periods throughout the fermentation of the bread, but these are quite short.
Varying the type of flour used
The type of sourdough depends first of all on the type of flour you’ll be using to feed it. A whole-wheat sourdough will have been fed with whole-wheat flour, a rye sourdough with rye flour, and so on. There’s nothing to stop you from gradually changing the type of flour used to feed your sourdough – an original way of changing the taste of your breads and discovering new grains.
The same principle applies in your recipes. If, for instance, a bread recipe calls for 1,000 g of flour, you could choose to put in 500 g of spelt flour and 500 g of kamut flour. In the course of your experimenting you’ll make some happy discoveries!
Varying the uses of sourdough
Sourdough is highly flexible. Used above all for baking bread, it can also go into recipes for crepes, muffins and waffles, among other things.