There’s something special about the bread we call sourdough. It has a history. The first bread, a gift of nature from the days before yeast could become known—and the gift “ruinable” by man and his impatience for profit.
My sourdough starts with a water and flour slurry. Equal parts by weight. I feed it. It responds. There’s no yeast added because yeast is everywhere, a gift! A small amount of my bubbly little pet will be added to flour and water with a little salt to make delicious bread.
But here’s the amazing thing. Nature is conservative. I mean in a good way. So you make a bread with some recipe you’ve found on the internet. It’s good. But you want it more flavorful. More sour. You want it to be healthier, too.
You certainly don’t want your more squeamish friends to blame you for their self-diagnosed tummy aches.
What do you do to increase the goodness? You use less starter, say half. You put your rising bread in the refrigerator to slow the fermentation process way down. You step aside and let nature do the work.
The result is everything you wished for. Less is more, time creates the essence; you just let nature do its thing at its own slow pace. Meanwhile, you start wondering about becoming fully pagan so you can worship this perfect process by adapting the proper customs. By the time the bread comes out of the oven and its perfume fills the room you might be starting to carve a mask and wondering where you’ll find the moose antlers that go on top.
Let’s break this thing down while you salivate over your little pile of oak shavings. The sour flavors of which I speak are from those precocious lactobacilli, well known today as “friendly bacteria”. They need half a day to create a healthy little society ready for work. Too much time for the industrial crap food industry.
– While the dough ferments in its bowl, lactobacilli break down the sugar maltose contained in the flour. As a result it produces lactic and acetic acids, which slow the rate at which sugars are metabolised in our tummies. This means that sourdough does not “spike” the blood sugar like most bread. In fact recent studies show the steady, moderate glycaemic impact of sourdough equates to that of beans and whole grains, though not all breads are equal. White bakers yeast breads, by contrast, metabolise even more quickly than sugar. Alright once in a while, but a potential horror show when consumed regularly and long term – and one of the big contributors towards our culture’s diabetes rate — Why long-fermented sourdough bread is actively good for you
The long fermentation also reduces the phytic acid contained in grains, freeing minerals like calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc to be used by our bodies.
This transformation also boosts the levels of the amino acid lysine, which is often lacking in unstructured vegetarian diets. American Indians like the Pomo I’m familiar with solved this problem by burning fields and eating the roasted grasshoppers trying to escape, insects being a great source of lysine. Still, a nice slice of warm sourdough has got to taste better than an unsalted grasshopper, eh?
What do I do to use up the starter I didn’t use because less is more? It becomes an almost instant pizza dough. In less time than it takes to warm up my oven I can make a pizza ready to be slid onto the baking stone.
Sometimes slow food is pretty darn fast.