In celebration of @UKSustain's Sourdough September, we thought we'd share a few tips we've been taught and learnt through babysitting our own sourdough cultures over the past couple of years. Sourdough bread is the epitome of Slow Food and the older, more cultured (excuse the pun) version of our modern Kingsmill's and Hovis' i.e. Chorleywood bread.
I want to start this series of articles by telling you a little bit about the differences between Chorleywood bread and Sourdough bread. By all means, these are not the only two methods when it comes to making bread but they are probably the two that are polar opposites of each other.
You're probably thinking Chorleywood sounds like some quaint town in Middle England - and you wouldn't be far wrong. Over 80% of our modern bread - including all the sliced loaves, supermarket baked goods and even those more expensive loaves of seeded bread baked in house that you have to slice yourself - are made by a process known as the Chorleywood process. Essentially it is a time-saving method to create consistent bread items on a mass scale. This obviously has its advantages, do not get me wrong, we can use lower protein, cheaper, wheat (considered by bakers to be inferior for making bread); products can be created to satisfy cheap calorific requirements for a large population; and they can also be fortified with vitamins and minerals.
So what downsides do we see - Typically for me, as a chef, taste. This is a key factor as to why people still make bread themselves, why you still get artisanal bakers and also why we have had a continually growing resurgence of sourdough baking since the world has become more and more globalised and as a nation, we in the UK, realised there were others out there creating completely different loaves than what we were used to.
So what is a Sourdough loaf?
A Sourdough loaf is a naturally-leavened loaf of bread, resulting from a carefully maintained culture of yeast, bacteria and enzymes. This is not a case of adding some instant yeast to a dough to make it rise, it is a case of an almost wild fermentation occuring as you give your Sourdough starter food in the form of Flour and it, in turn gives you waste gases that prove your bread up. This culture of various 'good' yeasts and bacterias produce a certain amount of lactic acid from their consumption of the bread dough and this gives the loaf a slight acidity (not to mention tons of flavour), and hence the term Sourdough was coined.
Okay, so how do I make a sourdough starter?
Well you'll have to read next weeks' Sourdough September article for our full run down on how we went about creating our first 'baby' or culture! A.