Sourdough bread

What Is Sourdough Bread? Get the Basics

What is sourdough bread? How to make it at home? The ingredients are simple and we use only the microorganisms naturally present to ferment the dough. This sounds simple, but the chemical processes involved in breadmaking are intriguing.

Water and flour form an astonishing number of interconnected chemical compounds that is still not fully understood. Responsible for this are wild yeast strains and bacteria that together create the taste and texture typical for sourdough bread.

But what exactly is a sourdough?

What’s sourdough bread?

Sourdough starter
Sourdough starter

It refers to bread baked on fermented flour. The starter can be made on wheat, rye, barley, or a mix of grains.

The microorganisms involved are wild yeast strains and beneficial bacteria that thrive in the simple blend of water and flour. So a sourdough is teeming with good microorganisms!

Different grains can contain a slightly different mix of bacteria and yeast and therefore mixing grains will have a more diverse composition.

Organic flour is a good choice, but any flour will work. A good quality multi-purpose flour makes great sourdough bread. I have two sourdough starers at home – one based on wheat flour and another based on rye flour.

How does sourdough bread taste?

Sourdough bread
Freshly baked sourdough bread

You can make all types of bread using a sourdough starter. The bread is often somewhat elastic, slightly rubbery but in a nice way. It’s usually crisp and crunchy with a robust crust. The taste is slightly tangy and more complex and richer than standard bread. It has character.

I often prepare a white, light sourdough bread for everyday use. Italian Focaccia is nice as is sourdough pita bread. However, at times I also bake a full-grain, rustic 100% sourdough rye bread. This is a bit more demanding but when you succeed it’s a great tasting bread.

The bread to the right is made from wheat flour but using a rye starter which creates a greyish looking bread with much more taste.

Sourdough bread is not really a separate bread type because you can make all breads using sourdough. It’s just swapping commercial yeast for a natural sourdough starter.

What goes on in a sourdough?

The microorganisms in a sourdough starter chew and predigest the flour. This increases bioavailability and creates a number of new compounds. This process also seems to render gluten more digestible.

The lactobacillus bacteria (as in yogurt) consume starches (sugars) in the flour and create lactic acid which is why sourdough bread tastes a bit more acidic. The natural, wild yeast in the flour thrive in an acidic environment. And when the yeast dies, it’s consumed by the lactobacillus. The sourdough process is intriguing!

Give the sourdough a try

There are many places where you can buy excellent sourdough bread.  However, don’t rob yourself of the joy of making your own. It’s really not that hard.

How can you get started?

  • Prepare a sourdough starter at home. You can also buy a starter or get it from a friend.
  • Making your first sourdough bread together with someone with experience speeds up the learning curve. However, it’s not very hard to do it yourself.

The best way to really learn what sourdough bread is, is to make it yourself.

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