What is a slow food practice that you can start right now, with things you already have in your kitchen? Sourdough baking!
Sourdough bread is made from fermented dough. The level of fermentation can vary. Basically, the dough that's used in sourdough bread is a mix of water, flour, and natural, or wild yeast derived from the air. That’s right, no packaged yeast is needed!
You can begin your own sourdough adventures by making a starter, also called levain. You mix flour and water together, (some people add sugar) and let it sit. You can choose to store it in the fridge, or out, depending on how tangy you like it. If you want your bread a little more mild, Shirley Corriher, a food scientist and author of BakeWise: The Hows and Whys of Successful Baking, says to “keep your dough chilled, or feed it fresh flour every two hours”.
Once the water and flour are combined, the mixture will start deriving bacteria from its surroundings and will start to ferment. Some people even prefer sourdough from certain locations, claiming that one place yields a better tasting sourdough bread than others. For instance, San Francisco has a reputation for delicious sourdough, dating back to the gold rush days when baked bread was a staple for the huge influx of gold seekers to the area.
[Attend the Sourdough Starter Workshop at the Lady Farmer Slow Living Retreat on November 16th and 17th]
Sourdough bread making has become super popular lately, but don’t be fooled. This yummy and natural alternative to grocery store bread has deep roots. The idea of leavening agents in dough can be traced back to early ancient Egyptian times.
This age old technique has stuck around for good reason. When your water and flour are mixed together, the fermentation process begins as bacteria are forming. But don’t worry, they're good bacteria! And they produce lactic and acetic acids, which are the things that create those tasty sour flavors in your bread. Lactic acid also boosts the nutritional value of the bread beyond conventionally baked bread by decreasing the levels of phytic acid. Phytic acid interferes with the absorption of certain nutrients, so in its function as a pre-digestive, sourdough helps other nutrients become more readily available, digestible and absorbable into your system.
So, why make your own sourdough starter? Because it's healthy and sustainable, and it's something that links us to our our human ancestors from thousands of years ago as a way to feed ourselves and the people we love, over and over again.
The best kind of learning is hands-on, especially when it comes to dough. So come to our Sourdough Starter Workshop at our Slow Living Retreat, led by our friend V Orban. She’ll teach you the basics, the nuances, and you’ll leave with your very own starter!