Sourdough, the heart of true bread
In recent years we can see along the country more and more retail chains that sell “industrial bread”, frozen or demi-baked. This happen mostly in multi-purpose shops more than in bakeries or similar. Usually we find this sophisticated bread as baguettes. The main part of those baguettes is not eatable anymore just few hours after the purchase, because they become incredibly hard. These baguettes give us an idea of unhealthy food. They are also prohibited in any kind of diets.
A simple suggestion: avoid low-cost bread. There are several reasons for that: it will become like a fossil the day after, it is un-healthy, it doesn’t have simple carbohydrates – quick release energy – and so generates difficulty in the digestion phase. Why eating a low-cost baguette from Paki when you can buy a genuine bread, made with sourdough, naturally leavened? A bread that maintain the same nutritional properties, the same taste and consistency for several days? The bread with spelled flour made by Pa Serra, for example, it’s a clear case of a healthy bread.
It’s more expensive than the low-cost ones, indeed. This maybe can be a good signal. The artisanal bread-making craftsmanship costs more than the industrial processes, but it worth it. The price could be an incentive to start to distrust bad quality bread. When we talk about food, quality matters, and this should be recognised also from the price tag.
For sure there still is in our collective memory the taste and smell of the “authentic” bread that was popular long time ago in any street corner around the city.
Those breads were real ones, made only with high-quality flour and wheat, with sourdough – which natural yeast strain was well-preserved as the most precious value among the generations. We claim that kind of bread as our bread: one with the best possible taste, growth within the capable hands of wise artisans. Artisans like the ones we hosted in our previous editions of VellaTerra.
In this video you can see how our bread-makers work, exactly in the moment of preparing process of the sourdough.
We are also going to show you the work of a premium extra-virgin olive oil maker, pioneer in the biodynamic agriculture sector. All of them share the same philosophy, based on the honesty and passion for their work: this represent their way to show us respect for the nature and its products.
An “ancient” bread
At the end of XIX sec. the “industrial wheat mill” born: since that period started the decadence that we see today in the bread world.
Using more and more sophisticated mechanical processes the flours get more refined every time, destroying the grain germ (part of the wheat grain). The result of this process is to have long-lasting flours.
Today we can buy bread almost everywhere, going to a supermarket or just to the small convenience store nearby home. Many of them even claim to sell “artisanal baked bread” – with low-cost products selling at 0,4€/baguette. The question is: what are we really eating?
Making bread – historically a base-food of humans – has as key factor the quality of the sourdough. It is basically just water and flour, that leaven thanks to the gas generated by the fermentation that happen amid the two elements with air. The fermentation process that happen to it is simple: the “natural yeast” autonomously generated after few days is fed by the sugars inside the dough. It realises carbon dioxide that creates the bubbles inside the dough structure (a similar process happens with wines).
Quite often, in many bread loafs – the ones made in huge quantities – external yeasts are added to the sourdough to shorten the fermentation time. This process will lead to have more quantity of leavened doughs in a shorter time. Despite the efficiency advantage – that is the main reason why it’s used by almost all the industrial bread manufacturers – there are huge cons. In fact, these kinds of breads are usually frozen before to be baked. The baking step will happen when it’s time to sell them, usually in accordance with supermarket requirements.
This sophisticated process is far away from the original, natural, method in which a good bread in made. In the slow process of natural leavening, instead, the sourdough is left free to leaven without any artificial modification. The sourdough of a natural bread is a living element, that requires dedication and mastery in managing it. A good flour – and the natural environment present in a true artisanal bakery – naturally have enough yeast to start the fermentation process by only adding water. It will allow to generate a simple fermentation without any industrial-grade yeast (full of chemicals that no reason to stay in a food).
Through this process is possible to have a genuine and tasty bread. It requires with no exceptions a slower and artisanal process to be done. Usually the leavening time is not less than 6/8 hours. An industrial brad is typically made in less than 1 hour.
Any artisanal baker has his own recipe for the sourdough: its fermentation is taken alive for long time. There also are artisans who have a long bread-making tradition, like in France. It’s not uncommon to find there some artisans that successfully keep alive the same sourdough strain since decades.
The book “handmade” by Dan Leopard is a base manual on bread-making for any artisan or hobbyist in the field. In this book is easy to find the detailed process of making a high-quality artisanal bread at home. Thanks to this book, we also know that in Denmark is still alive and being used the same sourdough of a century ago. In fact, it is maintained alive since that time.
Leopard also suggests to add to the initial mixture of water, flour and air, some raisins and yogurt. They, in fact, have a significant amount of natural yeast as they are. By the way, it’s important to notice that with only water and flour is possible to create yeast that will stay alive for decades.
After that the sourdough is generated – so when it “become alive” – it can stay alive for many years, simply taking care of it through routine