It's been over a year since I baked my last sourdough loaf. I am hoping to re-commence soon.
Here's some photos of my last sourdough adventure here in my Sydney kitchen, and some rationale behind sourdough as opposed to commercial yeasted bread. It might re-enliven any old sourdough bakers out there.
Firstly I start with my flour. In this case I added flax seeds and black sesame.
Salt is a very important addition for successful leavening.
Purified water goes in next.
Then the most important ingredient is added - the starter culture.
I commence mixing.
The flour is stirred in with a spoon rather than my hands, in a beating motion - I prefer a moist dough.
I think that's sufficient.
The dough must be left for many hours to double in size.
Meanwhile I oil my bread tins. There is no oil in my dough.
Then I flour the tins so my bread does not stick.
Finally my dough is spongy and more than doubled.
I divide the dough carefully into two and pop it in the tins. One kilo of flour makes me two medium loaves.
After the required time my dough has again doubled in the tins.
There's a couple of nice loaves!
And it's sliced, ready for consumption.
Natural Leaven or Commercial Baker's Yeast?
There are two methods for leavening bread and they differ totally in the way
they act on the flour, as well as on the taste and nutritional effect of the
resulting bread and, in the end, on the health of the consumer. The aim of
bread fermentation is to transform the various nutrients freed by the
milling of the grain and to modify them for optimum assimilation during
A Definition of Natural Leaven
Wild yeast, or multi-micro flora are the natural air-borne ferments that are
generated or seeded in a dough left exposed to a clean and cool atmosphere
under specific conditions of moisture and temperature and the exclusion of
larger specimen. Within that fertile medium, lactic bacteria of the various
beneficial types are found: B. Pastorianum, B. Delbrucki, B.Ternoas well as
saccharomyces such as S.Pastorianus, and S. Cervisiae. This type of
microflora consumes little energy and multiplies quite slowly. Its growth
duplicates the cycle of human breathing and that of wheat embryo
germination. Wild yeast also naturally enriches the bread, due to an
additional development of nutrients by the beneficial enzymes and ferments.
Baking by Principle
In baking as in all natural processes, the laws of life must be respected;
it is vital for the fermented bread to retain the dynamic character that
originally develops within the wheat berry as it evolves toward its
germination. Just as the breathing cycle consists of an oxidation, followed
by a reduction, the same cycle is reproduced in the five day cycle of the
germination of wheat. Natural leavened bread (seeded with wild yeast or
natural leaven) also duplicates this cycle: The rising of the dough
corresponds to an oxidation (like wheat germ growth), followed by a
reduction (during the baking of the loaf) identical to the development of
the miniature sprout of wheat. We readily see that of the two methods
available for leavening bread, only natural leaven faithfully follows God's
laws of the universe.
Beware of White Sourdough
There is also the question of sifting out the bran: Today, many loaves of
sourdough 'French' bread are being offered but they are made with white
flours that are almost totally demineralized. The pseudo mycelium
(vegetative part of the thallus of the fungi, composed of several filaments)
cannot feed on such debilitated flours and the bread tastes excessively sour
which tells us that, besides lacking the essential nutrients, it is
unfavorable to the digestive process.
Another problem sometimes occurs in natural baking: An excess of lactic
bacteria may develop and give the bread a definite sourness. Although these
bacteria are natural, they have proliferated in excess because the starter
or sour dough sponge was not cared for daily. Excess proliferation is a
result of a lack of aeration or scrupulous daily feeding (refreshing) or
else is due to the storage of the starter in warm areas or areas
contaminated with vinegar or other acetic acid products. Since lactic
bacteria are anaerobic, they can only develop in the absence of air. When
these have exceeded their limit, a "lactic bread" or "acetic bread" is
obtained, excessively sour that becomes more sour with aging, with
definitely harmful results.
How Baker's Yeast Works
Commercial yeast is an isolate "mushroom-type" microorganism whose cells are
high in moisture and consist of vacuolated protoplasm. Their reproduction
cycle is extremely rapid and thus one gram of compressed yeast contains
several trillions of yeast cells. In a dough seeded with 1% of commercial
yeast, the number of these cells can double in 6 hours at 80 degree
Fahrenheit. If the fermentation is allowed to continue, the proliferation
will reach a concentration of 150,000,000 cells per cubic centimeter
regardless of how little seeding was done at the start.
With commercial yeast, rising of the dough is lightning fast, coupled with a
reduction (baker's yeast is a strong reducer), followed by a strong
oxidation during the baking and often accompanied by an alkalinization. This
is increased even more when a portion or all of the bran is removed. We
witness here a phenomenon totally opposed to the normal laws of life. The
end result of this biological decay (staling of bread), is a deficient
oxidative energy that changes into a glycolysed energy, as evidenced by
monster, or anarchistic, cells that are an exact duplicate of human cancer
cells, according to the research of Dr. Warbourg, M.D.
Candida and Anemia are Related to the Consumption of Yeasted Bread
Rickets and anemia can be caused by the consumption of yeasted whole wheat
bread. These chronic calcium deficiencies are corrected and even totally
eliminated when the whole wheat bread is naturally leavened. In the natural
leavening process, the phytic acid and the phytates are hydrolysed by the
phytases of the bran in an acid environment and transformed into phytin and
soluble phosphatic acids of magnesium, calcium and iron which are totally
assimilable and beneficial.
In the case of yeasted bread, with a pH varying from 5.9 to 6.5, the
reduction by hydrolysis of the toxic phytic compounds is insufficient, no
better than 50%, a level that causes yeasted bread to be detrimental,
especially for anemic people.
A full hydrolysis is possible only when the pH remains between 4 and 5.6
maximum, which is the case for natural leaven bread. At the median pH of 4.8
in a dough kept at a temperature of 64 degrees Fahrenheit; there remain only
0.78% (less than 1%) of the phytic acid compounds, which is a totally safe
Sweet Tasting Bread Made with Sourdough Starter
It is quite easy to obtain a sweet tasting bread with a natural leaven
fermentation for a base. The slower proofing of the dough at temperatures
between 62 and 64 degrees Fahrenheit, made from a leaven always stored at
low temperatures of 47 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit and regularly refreshed,
will totally prevent the characteristic sour dough taste often associated
with natural leavened bread.
Two Extra Benefits from the Natural Leaven Process
The limited growth of friendly lactic bacteria and the presence of other
micro-organisms will add little to the acidity, yet will create a good
swelling of the gluten as evidenced by small but regular air cells in the
crumb. As it ages, natural leavened bread will retain its moisture and keep
well without refrigeration, quite opposed from the yeasted bread that stales
and dries out within hours after its baking. With natural leaven, no dried
out bread need ever to be thrown out.
The high mineral and enzymatic value of bran is widely known and needs
little elaboration. It is necessary however, to discuss the little known
phytic acid and its detrimental effects on the body metabolism. Phytic acid
is inherently present in whole rice and whole wheat and it can cause
allergies and other severe illnesses. This toxic substance can only be
neutralized and eliminated by the skillful fermentation of those cereal
grains through highly principled baking. Thus, the natural baking method
that drastically reduces phytic acid must be adopted universally if one is
to obtain the most beneficial bread.
Bread and grain-based diets, especially at the beginning, give the illusion
that they do not readily digest. Natural leaven bread, because of its
inherent beneficial ferments, slowly recreates the population of friendly
lactobacillus digestive bacteria in the absorption tract. The end result is
a recovery of digestion and proper elimination by the effective action of
friendly bacteria. Natural leaven bread provides more stable nutrition than
that obtained mechanically by non-fermented (and thus non- pre-digested)
bran and other raw or cooked roughage diets, since these only succeed in
physically abrading and irritating the colon.