I came home from the sourdough and fermented food workshop and I wanted to try to make my first sourdough loaf right away, before I forgot what to do! Why am I so keen on sourdough? Well its the traditional method of making bread that was used before "bakers yeast" was isolated. It can be made from only flour, water and sourdough starter, so is a very sustainable method as long as flour is available. Because the flour is fermented for 12-24 hours before cooking, this allows the enzyme phytase to break down the phytic acid in the grain (phytic acid prevents mineral adsorption), it also allows microbes to begin to digest the nutrients so that they will be more available. (Although some of the science is debatable, and confusing, I believe that soaking grains and flour prior to cooking/baking has improved my digestion, see more here).
The sourdough that we made at the workshop was HEAVY! And I know that it was a really HEALTHY heavy, but I can't see us eating it regularly, so I decided to try to make something a little lighter to ease us into sourdough. The workshop sourdough was heavy because it used only wholemeal flour and lots of seeds (pumpkin seeds, sunflowers, linseeds, caraway). I decided to try a plain sourdough, with no seeds, and half/half organic wholemeal spelt and organic white wheat flour. My loaf was still heavy, but not as bad.
loaf cut open
Farmer Pete decided to get into the breadmaking as well. This is great, because I don't want to buy supermarket bread, but Farmer Pete's idea of good bread is different to mine! He likes white fluffy bread, which is impossible (as far as I can tell) with sourdough. His first loaf was made using a supermarket bread mix, which contained "bread improver" but no preservatives. It did taste really nice, and was extremely light, but not so healthy. I then persuaded him to try making his bread with just good quality white baking flour, oil, salt, yeast and water, no bread improver, and it was slightly less fluffy, but still quite nice.
Farmer Pete's white loaf
Finally, we tried a compromise loaf. This is a soaked flour wholemeal/white loaf that uses bakers yeast (from a free ebook that can be downloaded here). The flour and water (and honey and olive oil) are mixed with a little whey (I use kefir or yoghurt as well) 12 hours before baking and allowed to soak at room temperature. The bakers yeast and salt is added just before kneading and rising as per "normal" bread. I used the bread maker to mix the dough and baked it in the wood stove. The loaf was not as fluffy as the white one, but not as dense as the sourdough. It does have a slightly sour taste, but not as strong as the sourdough. I think its a delicious flavour and texture, and I think Farmer Pete is happy with it (he has been eating it, which is a good sign as he wouldn't eat the sourdough!).
The compromise bread
I think we might have found bread that suits both of us. As the flour is soaked before cooking the phytic acid should be removed, but adding the bakers yeast lets the bread rise to produce a nice texture. I know that some people think that eating bread made from bakers yeast can encourage yeast growth in your stomach (ie candida), but I don't understand how that works, if the bread is baked then the yeast is dead by the time you eat the bread. If anyone has any further insights on the pros and cons of bakers yeast, please let me know. In the meantime I'm just happy to find a bread that we can make at home from simple ingredients, with no preservatives, added folate or soy flour, that we both enjoy eating. I'm glad that I know how to make sourdough and it will be something that I can use if I ever can't buy bakers yeast (also if anyone has any advice on making less dense sourdough, I'm willing to give it another try :) although I did manage to kill my starter already and will have to start again!).