I love bread. I come from an Irish family where no meal was complete without bread and butter. As a child I craved Mother's Pride spread with ketchup and topped with fish fingers. As I became a little more sophisticated I progressed to baguettes with tuna mayo.
Disaster struck at around the age of 50 when I found that bread made me feel awful. I was bloated and gassy and sometime in terrible pain. I resolved I had to give up bread. Then I discovered Sourdough and my life became whole again.
Cut the bloat
I used to suffer from bloating and terrible indigestion when I ate bread but I can eat delicious wholegrain sourdough without any problems. That's because sourdough is fermented for much longer, reducing some of the phytates and lectins which can cause bloating and discomfort.
Sourdough bread contains lower amounts of gluten and its prebiotic- and probiotic-like properties may help improve digestion. The probiotics themselves don't survive the baking process, but the lactic acid bacteria produced during fermentation remains and provides the benefits. The presence of lactic acid bacteria in sourdough has shown to also contain antioxidant benefits, which is always a good thing!
It's pretty wild!
Most of the breads you can buy or make rely on standard baker’s yeast to help the dough rise. Traditional sourdough is different in that it uses 'wild yeast' and bacteria that are naturally present in flour to help the bread rise - a process known as natural leavening.
What the heck is wild yeast? This amazing stuff is all around us. It is in the air, on our skin, in your flour; quite literally everywhere. These very simple organisms feed on carbohydrates, and as they do so they release carbon dioxide, B vitamins, and alcohol. Our ancestors used this natural process to brew beer and alcohol and make bread and it's still widespread in many cultures all across the world.
How does it work?
Leaving a mix of flour and water in a warm place gives the wild yeast the opportunity to get going.
Sourdough bread contains lower amounts of gluten and its prebiotic- and probiotic-like properties may help improve digestion.
As the yeast works on the flour, it produces carbon dioxide - lots of bubbles and lactic acid. It needs 'feeding' with more flour and water until, after a week or so, it becomes a 'starter'. During the breadmaking processing the starter ferments the sugars in the dough, helping the bread rise and acquire its characteristic tangy taste. Watch an expert at work.
How long will it last?
One of the clever things about sourdough is that it needs no preservatives. The lactic acid in the starter kills off any unwanted bacteria which means your bread should last four or five days at least. It freezes well and resists mould so you can toast it even after it's gone a bit hard.