Sourdough bread

What Is Sourdough Bread? Learn the Basics

What is sourdough bread and how can you make it at home? The ingredients are very simple, just water and flour. Microorganisms that are naturally present on grains will ferment the bread. The chemical processes involved in this 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 probiotic bacteria. The yeast and bacteria together create the taste and texture typical for sourdough bread.

But what exactly is sourdough?

What’s sourdough bread?

Sourdough starter
Sourdough starter

It refers to bread baked on fermented flour. It can be 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 high quality multi-purpose flour makes excellent sourdough bread. I normally bake a few times a month.

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 in a nice way. It’s usually crisp and crunchy with a robust crust. The taste is slightly tangy and more complex and rich than standard bread. It has character.

I often prepare a white, light sourdough bread for everyday use. Italian Focaccia is very nice as is sourdough pita bread. However, at times I also bake a full-grain, rustic 100% rye bread.

Sourdough bread is not really a separate bread type because you can make all breads using sourdough. It’s just swapping commercial yeast and use a 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 makes it more acidic. The natural, wild yeast in flour thrive in the acidic environment. And when the yeast dies, it’s consumed by the lactobacillus. The sourdough process is absolutely incredible!

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.