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!
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.