Bread – the “staff of life”
We have been collecting seed grains, crushing them to make flour and mixing them with water to make bread for at least 30,000 years. In many cultures bread has become the ‘staff of life’, a dietary staple giving us protein, fibre, complex carbohydrates, essential fats and over 20 vitamins and minerals.
Bread was traditionally made at home and as towns developed the local baker became the heart of the community. Now bread making is the domain of big business, with farmers sending their wheat to large scale mills to create the flour. Bread manufacturers use this flour to bake bread in industrial quantities to supply supermarkets around the country. To create industrial bread in as little as 90 minutes, high intensity mixing is required and additives such as ascorbic acid, sodium metabisulphite, ammonium chloride and in the case of the US potassium bromate in bread improvers, shortening, emulsifiers and fungal enzymes are added to the basic ingredients of flour, salt, water and yeast.
This factory process does not have the time or space to create bread in the time honoured tradition developed over centuries. Sourdough bread making allows the bread to leaven slowly through the action of wild yeast and lactic acid bacteria drawn into the sourdough starter from the air and flour. As the yeast ferments creating carbon dioxide, the bread expands. This leavening process can take as long as 27 hours and the resulting bread tastes amazing and is better for you. The natural microbial flora breaks down the flour into chemical components that our bodies can naturally absorb. The additives often used in industrial bread have not been proven to be totally safe if used for a lifetime, whereas the traditional method has evolved over thousands of years and has proven to be the best and safest.
You can become your own artisan baker by selecting the best quality ingredients. We will show you how to create sourdough bread using natural processes that do not need additives and your bread will not only taste better but be highly nutritious.
Why is the sourdough healthier?
The bran in wheat grain contains phytic acid which can reduce the absorption of some minerals including calcium, zinc, iron and magnesium. When wholemeal flour is combined with baker’s yeast and baked quickly the rapid fermentation hinders the breakdown of phytic acid. In naturally leavened bread all phytic acid is eliminated, while in yeasted bread about 90% remains.
In the process of making sourdough bread, during the rising time (called dough to oven time – which includes proofing), bran in the flour is broken down, releasing nutrients into the dough. Complex carbohydrates are broken down into more digestible simple sugars and protein is broken down into amino acids. Enzymes develop during proofing which are not lost in baking since the centre of the loaf remains at a lower temperature than the crust.
Fermentation, partly from lactobacillus, makes eating good quality bread an aid to digestion of all complex carbohydrate foods. It helps restore the functioning of the digestive tract, resulting in proper assimilation and elimination. These beneficial bacteria help control candida albicans, whereas baker’s yeast is a pro-candida organism.
People with allergies to commercially yeasted breads may not have the same sensitivities to naturally leavened whole grain sourdough bread. The cause may be either the wheat and/or the yeast. Often, people who are sensitive to yeasted white bread do not react to whole wheat bread. Others, who are sensitive to whole wheat bread, do not react when the leavening used is a natural sourdough starter. Another approach is try spelt flour, rye or kamut flour instead of wheat flour.
The glycaemic index of sourdough bread is 54 compared to 71 for non-sourdough white bread, making sourdough bread a low GI food. A low-GI ranking indicates that sourdough is digested and absorbed more slowly by the body which produces a more gradual rise in blood sugar and insulin levels. This has been proven to provide many health benefits for medical conditions such as diabetes while also assisting in weight control by improving appetite control and delaying hunger.
Extended shelf life
Sourdough has extended shelf life compared with other breads due to the acid present in the starter culture during sourdough fermentation. The use of sourdough in bread production has been proven to be beneficial in improving sensory properties such as taste and smell, delaying firmness/staleness and preventing mould and bacterial spoilage. These attributes contribute to produce a superior loaf in both taste and quality to most other breads.
Other advantages of making your own sourdough bread at home are that you get to experiment with different flours, recipes, seeds, nuts and fruit. You can make sure that you get top quality organic flours. Once you have mastered bread making it is very hard to go back to commercial bread. The smell and flavours are sensational.
Also see the post on Gluten or not? that is the Question!