The Rise of Sourdough
By Pasha Milburn
Sourdough bread, with its distinctive taste and texture, has surged in popularity in recent years. However, it is actually one of the oldest forms of bread, with archaeological findings of sourdough dating from Ancient Egypt. Before the invention of commercial yeast in the 1800s, all leavened bread was ‘sourdough’, rising due to naturally occurring yeast cultures in the air. The yeast element of sourdough is known as a ‘starter’, a mixture of fermented flour and water that also contains lactobacilli (lactic acid), which gives sourdough its ‘tangy’ flavour. As the yeast in sourdough starter produces carbon dioxide at a slower rate, sourdough takes far longer to rise than bread made with commercial yeast. Current research is looking into the extent to which these longer rising times could foster sourdough with additional health benefits.
Given sourdough’s recent rise in popularity, many supermarkets have also begun to stock their in-store bakeries with a wide range of ‘sourdoughs’. However, the Real Bread Campaign, (a charity run by the alliance Sustain and baker Andrew Whitley) has drawn attention to the ‘sourfaux’, or fake sourdough that pervades many supermarket shelves. This ‘sourfaux’ tends to be made from commercial yeast rather than a starter, and with supplementary additives that give the bread its trademark ‘sour’ taste. The Real Bread Campaign are currently lobbying for an ‘Honest Crust Act’, which demands that it should be legal requirement for all bakeries/retailers to be transparent with their labelling by including a full list of ingredients (including processing aids) when selling bread, and for sourdough to only be defined as such if it has been leavened through a live sourdough starter.
For more information or to get involved with the campaign, visit www.sustainweb.org/realbread. And as always at HIP we love to hear your views; do you think an ‘Honest Crust Act‘ is needed?
If you are interested in buying sourdough but want to avoid ‘faux sourdough’, try sourcing your bread from a local bakery, such as Judges Bakery (at 51 High St), and always make sure to ask at a bakery or supermarket what is in their bread. A basic sourdough needs to contain only flour, water, salt and starter. If you are up for a creative challenge, how about making sourdough yourself? You can find a wealth of resources both online and in print to help you on your sourdough journey. Hastings-based bread-making maestro Emmanuel Hadjiandreou (who currently bakes at The Crown pub, 64-66 All Saints St), has written three bread cookbooks for you to get your teeth into. Likewise, why not try a bread course? Rose Lam, who can be found on Instagram (@stleonardssourdough), is a home sourdough baker who runs informative sourdough making courses at her house, complete with a delicious locally-sourced brunch spread. Contact Rose directly through Instagram for more information about her upcoming classes.
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