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Sourdough Bread

May 4, 2018

Bread, in one form or another, has been one of the main staples for the man from earliest times. The trade of the baker is one of the oldest crafts in the world. About  8,000 BCE the first grinding stone, called a quern, was invented in Egypt. Bread loaves have been found in ancient Egyptian tombs. In the British Museum’s Egyptian galleries you can see actual loaves which were made and baked over 5,000 years ago.

In the Stone Age, people made hard “cake-like” bread from stone-crushed barley and wheat. That was the first type of bread mankind knew. Until they found leavening, that is. According to dictionary “leavening also called leavening agent is: a)  substance used to produce fermentation in dough or batter, b) the act or process of causing to ferment by leaven”.

The first leavened bread was most likely the result of a pure accident: some passing yeast making a home in a bowl of oatmeal or other cereal. The yeast began eating the sugars present in grain, and excreting CO2, producing bubbles that resulted in lighter, better tasting bread.

But there is more to sourdough bread than just the taste and texture!

  1.  Sourdough bread made with wild yeast is the oldest and most original form of leavened bread. Modern bread is made with bakers yeast (totally different kind of yeast!). That is not the kind of yeast you want in your diet.
  2. Sourdough bread contains the bacteria Lactobacillus in a higher proportion to yeast than do other breads. More Lactobacillus means higher production of lactic acid, which means less of the phytic acid. (Phytic acid prevents the absorption of some minerals and vitamins).
  3. Due to the fact that preparation of sourdough takes some time,  the bacteria in the leaven has the time to break down the gluten in the grain into amino acids making the bread easier to digest.
  4.  Another substance that is produced in the making of sourdough is the acetic acid which inhibits the growth of mold.  Basically, sourdough naturally preserves itself. Pretty neat considering the toxic preservatives that you find in most commercially produced bread today.
  5. If that’s not enough for you, let’s talk about the taste. To me, no other bread comes close to the distinctive, tangy taste of homemade sourdough bread. Freshly baked and smeared with salty butter – I’m in heaven.

You will find the recipe for the starter here. 

Print Recipe
Sourdough Bread
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Passive Time 8 hours
Servings
Ingredients
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Passive Time 8 hours
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 180C. Grease the baking pan with the butter.
  2. Place the starter in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Sift in the flour. Sifting will prevent any little bugs that sometime can be found in the flour from ending up in your bread. Add the salt.
  4. Slowly add water now. Start with half of the amount.
  5. Start kneading. (I do all the kneading in the bowl. That way the mess is contained to one bowl), (well, most of the time). The consistency of the dough should be much thicker than that of a cake dough but also not too dry. If too runny, add more flour. If too dry add more water. I will add a photo of my dough next time I bake the bread.
  6. Knead some more.
  7. Keep on kneading for about 15 minutes alltogether. I always do it by hand. If you have a bread machine you could just use that.
  8. Once you are happy with the dough consistency add the seeds and/or nuts (if using) and knead some more to incorporate them into the dough.
  9. Transfer the dough into the baking pan and smooth the surface.
  10. Sprinkle the cumin seeds on top of the bread, you can push them slightly into the bread.
  11. Leave in a warm spot under a tea towel to rise. Depending on weather it should take somewhere between 4 to 8 hours.
  12. Once the loaf has risen place in a hot oven and bake for about 50 minutes.
  13. Take out from the oven. Let it stand for a couple of minutes, but not much longer than that. Otherwise all the steam that should come out of the bread will go back into it making the texture a bit clay-like.
  14. The hardest part: let it cool completely before cutting.
Recipe Notes

P.S. The amount of the starter is approximate, really. Sometimes I have a bit less, sometimes I have more.

P.P.S. I like to prepare the dough in the evening, leave it to rise through the night and bake it first thing in the morning.

P.P.P.S. I bake my bread only with rye flour as it ferments into the leaven beautifully. I also like the slightly nutty taste of it. You can use other flours if you like, but do not use buckwheat or flours made out of nuts or seeds. They will not ferment and/or rise.

P.P.P.P.S. I save butter wrappers specifically to grease the baking dishes with. After the butter is gone I put the wrapper in the freezer where it waits for me until I bake.

 

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