In very simple terms, sourdough is bread made from natural occurring yeast and bacteria (also known as “wild yeast”). In traditional sourdough recipes you’ll find four ingredients:
- sourdough starter (which consists of flour and water);
- flour; and
There is no yeast, milk, oils or sweeteners. It’s about as natural as you can get when it comes to bread.
Anyone who has eaten sourdough will tell you that the tang is what makes sourdough special. In fact the tartness of sourdough comes from the same bacteria that gives yoghurt and sour cream their tartness too. This bacteria is found naturally in flour and comes to “life” when the flour is mixed with water.
You start the sourdough process by mixing flour and water and over time, when nature is allowed to take its course, you end up with a mixture (starter) that contains enough yeast to make bread rise.
Most people are aware of the health benefits of the good bacteria (Lactobacillus) in yogurt, kefir, sour cream, buttermilk, etc. It is the same bacteria that ferments flour/water mixtures and creates lactic acid, which greatly increases the nutrient profile of sourdough, making its nutrients more accessible in a form that our bodies are able to use.
The long soaking/fermentation required for sourdough breaks down much of the phytates that binds the good minerals in grains, so with the phytates gone our bodies can also grab those nutrients and use them.
During the fermentation process the gluten (protein) in the flour is pre-digested by the bacteria so many people that are sensitive to gluten are often able to tolerate sourdough made in the traditional manner (long fermentation).
Sourdough is also less likely to go stale, retains much of its moisture as it ages, and its acidity helps prevent the growth of mold.