Updated: Sep 27
In all of bread baking, no method seems to capture people's imaginations and curiosity like sourdough. Little mysterious organisms, seeming to come from nowhere, not knowing exactly how they are feeding and multiplying in a jar - what could be more fascinating? Even after the excitement wears off in creating the sourdough starter, called the “mother”, bakers around the world cherish feeding it regularly and keeping it active for decades. My experience with these microorganisms in a jar began a long time ago. Please, check out my previous post on sourdough starter. (I highly recommend that you do not skip reading it!)
Sourdough Bread Is The Oldest And Healthiest Way To Make Bread!
Sourdough bread has many health benefits and that is why people have been making it for hundreds of years. The magic is in the yeast and there are numerous varieties used through out the world even though the most common sourdough yeast is Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Yeast is responsible for the diverse tastes and textures of each culture’s sourdough bread. For example, German bakers insist on the one-to-one ratio of acetic acid to lactic acid, but the French are not quite that precise giving their sourdough bread a different taste and texture. The kind of density the Finish people prefer for their sourdough bread is something that the Italians wouldn’t understand with their love for a soft consistency. Also what amazes me is how the climate effects the flavor and further enhances the uniqueness of each culture’s sourdough bread.
Sourdough’s healthy bread reputation is due to its lengthy fermentation process, which changes the composition of the wheat creating easily digestible bread. In the US before the 1950s, most bakeries had two different shifts when preparing sourdough bread because the dough fermented slowly throughout the night using the culture that contained the lactobacillus bacteria. If not processed correctly, it could have the potential to be a highly allergenic food. Even today in preparing sourdough, the result of the lengthy fermentation period allows complex carbohydrates to break down into digestible forms, proteins break down into amino acids and enzymes are allowed to develop during the rising process. Fermentation creates a lower glycemic index being beneficial for those suffering with blood sugar issues; it also produces vitamin C and can increase the content of B vitamins, such as B2, B5, and B6.
What Is The Problem With The Modern Way of Growing Wheat?
There is a chemical process being administered to our wheat before harvesting. According to wheat farmers, applying the herbicide Roundup (glyphosate) just before harvesting is commonplace. The manufacturer of Roundup, Monsanto, claims that applications to plants at over 30% kernel moisture results in Roundup uptake by the plant into the kernels. This allows the farmers to harvest their wheat earlier due to the wheat plant being killed off by the Roundup. The introductions of these chemicals into our wheat supply are contributing culprits regarding the devastating effects on our gut. It is my belief that use of chemicals, soil depletion, the lack of consuming fermented and probiotic foods, are wreaking havoc on our guts. It is no wonder that we are witnessing a rise in all kinds of food allergies. Our diets are a dim reflection of the nutrient-dense whole foods we used to eat years ago. Pharmaceuticals are the norm and not the exception, while food allergies and gut issues are rampant. The average consumer is unaware of these changes in our food supply. Gluten in our bread is labeled as the enemy when the actual culprits are from the dramatic changes with how are food sources are grown, processed and produced.
For those who are severely gluten intolerant, I would recommend trying the ancient wheat flour called Einkorn flour. All wheat that we consume today is descended from Einkorn wheat, which contains about 14 chromosomes as compared to other kinds of wheat having 28-42. This is important since some studies show that ancient wheat, with its fewer chromosomes, has lower levels of gliadins. Gliadins are proteins that can cause sensitivities in those who struggle with gluten. Einkorn does not contain the troublesome D genome, only the A genome, and most testing for gluten intolerance is based on the D genome. And while Einkorn does contain gluten, it is a different type of gluten allowing for easier digestion and nutrient absorption. In the future, I'm planning to share with you, my dear readers some recipes using this flour. Meanwhile, please check out my recipes for sourdough bread I posted a while ago:
Or consider these quick and easy recipes, using ripe or discard starter:
Many countries, not just the USA, are giving up their culinary heritage. In the pursuit of ease and speed, we surrender culinary treasures for fast food and comfort food. And what do we gain? Besides having more time to view brain-rotting drivel on TV or social media, we gain additional sodium, sugar, and unwanted chemicals from those fast and comfort food choices. And what do we lose? We lose the ingesting of crucial food fiber, high quality tasting foods, as well as experiencing actual family meals. Even more importantly, we lose the growing and deepening love that happens when food is shared during those family meal times. It’s a bad bargain that we make choosing the road of fast food. Being a “not-so-secret” health food advocate, I certainly am a strong advocate of family meals together and families experiencing cooking together.
I often hear it said that there is no time for cooking because of demanding activities and responsibilities, and therefore, what is considered “convenient” takes precedence. I can agree with this philosophy, but only in a tiny degree for nothing, absolutely nothing, can be better than a homemade meal prepared with love for those who you love. Nothing can be healthier than sharing the meal as a family.
Interestingly, Dr. Andrew Weil one of the gurus of the alternative health movement, recently wrote an article in which he talked about "health food”. He concluded that any food that is prepared with love, and shared with friends and family in a spirit of love is “health food”. Baking bread is another level of love that you are able to give to your family, especially when it is sourdough bread!
What Do I Love About my favorite sourdough bread?
Sourdough bread is excellent for your digestion!
You can use it for breakfast, lunch, or dinner!
Stays fresh for up to 5 days!
The tasty crust will give you joy in each bite!
The ratios of all-purpose flour and whole-wheat flour create the perfect color and texture!
Ground flaxseeds are a great addition to this bread plus blackstrap molasses (contains lots of minerals) which provides a tiny bit of sweetness that you probably won't directly taste but the microbes in the bread are happy to receive it!
Remember, sourdough bread is the oldest way of making bread, so it isn’t complicated! It is easy and fun to make. Each loaf that I bake brings a smile to my face and puts joy in my heart!
What Do You Need To Make Sourdough Bread?
First of all, you need patience and love, which are necessary to complete the entire process.
Second, a few tools to assist in the process:
- electric mixer with a hook attachment (optional)
- bread proofing baskets (optional)
- baking stone (pizza stone)
- spray bottle for water
- lame (a super sharp knife that was designed to make slashes in bread)
Notes On Dough for sourdough bread:
You may feel overwhelmed during your experience with kneading because you may think it takes too long, or there are too many folds. I promise you its well worth the effort. Kneading the dough increases its elasticity and assists in building the structure of the bread. Please, watch my video, and learn two ways to knead the dough: one using the mixer and the other by hand.
I love to work with dough for it relaxes me and seems like a form of meditation. For me it is most enjoyable to play with dough. An electric mixer certainly speeds up the process. By hand or by mixer, the choice is entirely yours to decide.
How Do I know if the Kneading Process is Complete?
First of all, I’d like to say that everyone’s experience is unique and different regarding the kneading process. For some it takes a longer time to knead the dough, and others a shorter period of time.
I like to do it this way:
Knead by mixer or hand for about 2 minutes.
Then let dough rest for 20 minutes, no less! It's important!
Then knead for another 2 minutes.
By this time the dough should be ready. Remember, there isn't an exact formula because too many factors are involved with the process. For example each brand of flour produces a different result, as well as humidity, room temperature, and last but not least, the speed and temperature of your own hands. Even the surface where you knead the dough can make a difference. The ideal temperature for the dough to rise is 68F: you can control the temperature by adding liquid (water - either cooler or warmer).
At this point, check the dough to determine if it is ready to rest by using the “The Window Test”. The dough should be like fabric: very strong but still have some elasticity. Take a piece of dough and try to pull it apart. If the dough stretches without breaking, and you can see through "The Window”, then you are finished kneading! If you can't see through “The Window”, try mixing again for 2 minutes (repeat 2 minutes mixing with 20 minutes resting as needed, but this shouldn't take to many cycles).
Notes about Proving Dough:
When it's ready, cover the dough with a damp kitchen towel, or plastic wrap, and let it rest for 3-4 hours. It should double in size. The first rising of dough before your first fold takes longer, feel free to leave it on the refrigerator overnight. Also it is ok to leave the dough to ferment overnight in the refrigerator during the last proving stage, in proving baskets. At this point, the dough is very strong and with the little extra time in the cooler temperature, the dough will continue to rise but slowly and develop in flavor.
Let's do it...
Prep time: 5 minutes
Inactive time: 8-10 hours
Active time: 20-30 minutes
Total time: 10-12 hours
Author: Inna of innichkachef.com
Yield: 2 loaves
600-gram all-purpose flour (strong wheat)
200-gram whole-wheat flour
10-gram Celtic salt
2 Tablespoon ground flaxseeds
2 Tablespoon blackstrap molasses
320-gram active and ripe starter (see this post)
480-gram warm water or whey
1. Using your mixing bowl, add starter, water, salt, flaxseeds, and molasses.
Mix on medium speed for a minute. Add the flours and mix the dough for 2 minutes on medium speed using the hook attachment. Then, let the dough rest for about 20 minutes. Next, mix again for 2 minutes. At this point, you should be able to check if the dough is done. See the note about "The Window Test." If the gluten has developed then the structure of the dough should be ready. It's time to move dough to a bowl greased with a little bit of oil and cover the dough with a damp kitchen towel or plastic wrap and let it rest for 3-4 hours. It should double in size during that time.
2. To make the first fold, simply pull the dough and fold inside, repeat 3 more times, the dough will look like a square with 4 folds on each side. Cover and leave again for 2-3 hours. Should double or even triple in size.
3. To make a second fold repeat direction #2. Cover and leave again for 2-3 hours. Should double or even triple in size.
4. Make a third fold and divide dough with a dough cutter in half.
5. On a well-floured working space, working with one half of the dough at the time: Roll each half of the dough into a rectangle, fold each side and tuck inside, pull slightly, and fold, by pulling and scratching the dough make sure not to break the surface. You should stop when you feel it's not letting you go farther. I recommend watching the video for this step.
6. Place each piece of the dough in the proving basket (well-floured) with the seam down. Cover and let prove for 1-2 hours. Start preheating the oven. The pizza stone has to be very hot.
7. If the dough has doubled in size, sprinkle with flour and gently roll onto the pizza stone.
8. Make a few deep slashes in each loaf. If you have a lame (a super sharp knife that was designed to make slashes in bread) use it but if not, use a serrated knife. Those slashes are called the "baker's signature," so come up with your design! Though these slashes have artistic attractiveness, they are necessary in causing the bread to not break open due to the speed of its expansion during the baking process.
9. Create steam, which can be achieved a number of ways. In the video, I created steam by spraying water on the dough. Steam gives the bread a perfect crunchy crust and extends its shelf life. Close the oven door and let bake for 35-45 minutes. Keep an eye on it!
10. Use oven gloves to take bread out of the oven and transfer the bread to a cooling rack.
Even though it will be difficult to maintain patience, do let your bread cool for at least 45 minutes before slicing!