GYM VLOG #19
Author: Julia Dulgerova
Sourdough is truly magical and it’s a wonderful alternative to processed breads and buns. If you aren’t ready for the GAPS diet but want to slowly start making better food choices, sourdough is a wonderful start. I have been making sourdough since I was 14 and now I’m 18, so if I could do it anyone can! Here’s a little background info about sourdough and what it’s all about.
Sourdough bread is a type of bread that rises using a natural fermentation process. The key characteristic that sets sourdough apart from other breads is the use of a naturally occurring sourdough culture or starter, which is a mixture of flour and water that captures wild yeast and beneficial bacteria from the environment. This culture is allowed to ferment, creating a bubbly and tangy mixture that serves as the leavening agent for the bread.
The sourdough fermentation process typically involves two main stages:
- Creating the Starter: A mixture of flour and water is allowed to ferment over several days, capturing wild yeast and lactobacilli bacteria from the environment. This creates a sourdough starter, a living culture that gives the bread its distinctive flavor and texture.
- Making the Bread: The sourdough starter is combined with more flour, water, and salt to form the dough. The dough is then left to rise through a process of fermentation. The longer fermentation time, often overnight or longer, contributes to the development of the sourdough flavor. After rising, the dough is shaped and baked.
Sourdough bread has a chewy crust, an open and airy crumb, and a distinct tangy flavor, which is a result of the lactic acid produced by the lactobacilli during fermentation. The natural fermentation process in sourdough can also make the bread more digestible and may be better tolerated by some individuals who are sensitive to certain aspects of conventionally leavened bread.
Many people enjoy the unique taste and texture of sourdough, and it has become popular not only for its flavor but also for its traditional and artisanal characteristics. Sourdough can be used for various types of bread, including boules, baguettes, and more.
Fermented foods offer a range of health benefits due to the fermentation process, which involves the breakdown of food by microorganisms like bacteria, yeast, and molds. Here are some key advantages of consuming fermented foods:
- Probiotics: Fermented foods are rich in probiotics, which are beneficial bacteria that promote a healthy balance of gut microbiota. A diverse and balanced gut microbiome is associated with improved digestion, nutrient absorption, and immune function.
- Digestive Health: The live cultures present in fermented foods can aid in the digestion and absorption of nutrients. Fermentation can also break down certain components of foods that may be difficult to digest, making them more easily assimilated by the body.
- Nutrient Enhancement: Fermentation can increase the bioavailability of certain nutrients in foods. For example, the fermentation of grains and legumes can enhance the availability of vitamins and minerals, such as B vitamins and minerals like zinc and iron.
- Gut Health: Consuming fermented foods supports a healthy gut environment by promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria. This, in turn, may help reduce inflammation and improve gut barrier function.
- Immune System Support: The gut is a significant component of the immune system, and a healthy gut microbiome contributes to overall immune function. Probiotics from fermented foods can modulate the immune response and enhance the body’s defense mechanisms.
- Mood and Mental Health: There is emerging research suggesting a connection between the gut and the brain, often referred to as the gut-brain axis. Consuming fermented foods may positively influence mood and mental well-being through this intricate relationship.
- Lactose Digestion: Fermented dairy products, such as yogurt and kefir, contain enzymes and beneficial bacteria that can aid in the digestion of lactose. This makes them potentially more tolerable for individuals who are lactose intolerant.
- Preservation: Fermentation has been used historically as a method of preserving food. The process creates an acidic environment that helps prevent the growth of harmful bacteria, thereby extending the shelf life of the food.
- Diverse Flavors: Fermentation imparts unique and often complex flavors to foods, making them enjoyable additions to a varied and interesting diet.
Sourdough bread is often considered a healthier option than regular bread for several reasons, primarily attributed to its unique fermentation process. Here are some factors that contribute to the perceived health benefits of sourdough:
- Digestibility: The fermentation process in sourdough involves the breakdown of certain compounds, such as gluten and phytic acid, that can be challenging for some individuals to digest. This can make sourdough more tolerable for those with mild gluten sensitivities or digestive issues.
- Gluten Content: While sourdough is not gluten-free, the fermentation process may reduce the gluten content to some extent. This can be beneficial for individuals with non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
- Prebiotics and Probiotics: Sourdough is fermented using a natural culture of wild yeast and lactic acid bacteria. These microorganisms produce prebiotics and probiotics during fermentation, which can contribute to a healthier gut microbiome and better digestion.
- Blood Sugar Response: Some studies suggest that sourdough bread may lead to a lower spike in blood sugar levels compared to certain types of commercially produced bread. The slower fermentation process in sourdough may result in a lower glycemic index.
- Nutrient Availability: The fermentation process can increase the bioavailability of certain nutrients, including B vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. This means that the body may absorb these nutrients more efficiently.
- Acetic Acid Production: Sourdough contains acetic acid, which can help regulate blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity.
- Reduced Phytic Acid: Phytic acid, found in grains, can bind to minerals and reduce their absorption. The fermentation process in sourdough breaks down phytic acid, potentially improving the availability of minerals like zinc and iron.
- Fewer Additives: Traditional sourdough recipes often use simple ingredients—flour, water, salt, and the sourdough starter. This simplicity can mean fewer additives, preservatives, and artificial ingredients compared to some commercial breads.
Commercial yeast itself is not inherently “bad” for most people when consumed in moderation. However, certain considerations and criticisms are associated with the use of commercial yeast in the context of modern diets. Here are some factors to consider:
- Rapid Fermentation: Commercial yeast, often used in quick-rise and fast-fermentation processes, may not undergo the same extended fermentation as traditional sourdough cultures. Some argue that rapid fermentation might not allow for the breakdown of certain compounds, such as gluten and phytic acid, which can be challenging for some individuals to digest.
- Gluten Sensitivity: For individuals with gluten sensitivity or intolerance, the quick fermentation process in commercial bread may not be sufficient to break down gluten adequately. This can lead to issues for those who are sensitive to gluten.
- Nutrient Availability: The fast fermentation process may not allow for the optimal release of nutrients from grains. Slower fermentation, as seen in traditional sourdough, is believed to enhance the bioavailability of certain nutrients, including B vitamins and minerals.
- Additives: Some commercial bread products may contain additives, preservatives, and artificial ingredients to extend shelf life, enhance texture, or improve taste. These additives might not be well-tolerated by some individuals.
- Rise of Blood Sugar: Some studies suggest that rapid fermentation in commercial bread may lead to a quicker spike in blood sugar levels compared to slower-fermented bread. This can be a concern for individuals monitoring their blood sugar levels.
- Overconsumption of Refined Carbohydrates: Commercial bread is often made with refined flours that lack the fiber and nutrients found in whole grains. Consuming excessive amounts of refined carbohydrates, including those in commercial bread, may contribute to issues like weight gain and blood sugar imbalances.
White bread has been criticized for several reasons, primarily related to its processing and nutritional content. Here are some reasons why white bread is often considered less healthy compared to whole-grain or whole-wheat alternatives:
- Lack of Fiber: One of the significant drawbacks of white bread is its low fiber content. The milling and refining process used to produce white flour removes the bran and germ of the wheat grain, which also removes a substantial portion of the fiber. Fiber is crucial for digestive health, and a diet rich in fiber is associated with various health benefits, including better weight management and lower risk of certain diseases.
- Nutrient Stripping: The refining process not only removes fiber but also strips away many essential nutrients found in the whole wheat kernel. While some nutrients may be added back through enrichment, the overall nutrient profile of white bread is still less robust compared to whole-grain alternatives.
- Rapid Blood Sugar Spikes: White bread has a high glycemic index, meaning it can cause a rapid spike in blood sugar levels when consumed. This rapid increase in blood sugar is followed by a quick drop, which can leave individuals feeling hungry and may contribute to overeating.
- Insulin Resistance: Frequent consumption of high-glycemic foods, like white bread, has been linked to an increased risk of insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is a condition where cells don’t respond effectively to insulin, potentially leading to elevated blood sugar levels and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.
- Low Satiety: Due to its low fiber content, white bread is less filling than whole-grain bread. This can lead to overeating and may contribute to weight gain.
- Processing Additives: Some commercially produced white bread may contain additives, preservatives, and sweeteners to improve texture, taste, and shelf life. These additives may not be well-tolerated by some individuals.
- Potential Link to Chronic Diseases: Diets high in refined carbohydrates, such as those found in white bread, have been associated with an increased risk of chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease and certain cancers.
You can get sourdough starter online or you can create your own. I made mine many years ago so I don’t have a recipe but I do have a recipe for the basic rustic loaf that I make. I will provide a link for a starter recipe below as well as places where you can buy some prepared starter. Or you can email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I can share some of mine with you!
Things to know:
- Feeding your starter is simple, you just use equal proportions or example 200g water, 200g starter, 200g flour
- When you feed your starter, you will have a remaining starter that is from the previous batch called “discard”. You can use this for many other recipes
- Sourdough starter is a replacement for yeast but proportions for changing a recipe using yeast to sourdough starter is complex. It’s best to look for recipes specific to sourdough
My bread recipe:
Preparation Day 1
- In the morning, take the starter out of the fridge and allow it to reach room temperature. This could take a couple hours.
- Feed your starter at around 1-2pm and allow it to sit on your counter for approximately 4-5 hours. This will allow your starter to reach an active level and will be ready for you to bake with
- ½ cup active starter
- 1 ¼ cup warm filtered water
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- 1 ½ tsp salt
Instructions Day 1
- In a bowl combine starter and water and mix with a fork until it’s mostly dissolved
- Add the salt to the water and starter and stir again
- Add the flour to the starter mixture and mix until the ball forms, knead the dough a bit in this bowl until it’s combined.
Note: At first the dough may appear slightly shaggy and clumpy. That’s ok, the next step should solve this
- Cover the dough with a tea towel and allow it to rets for 30 minutes
- After this resting period, knead it again a few times and the texture should be much smoother and easier to work with
- If there’s a lot of residue on the bowl, rinse it out, but if not leave the bowl and put some olive oil on the dough. You can simply slather it on the dough ball and a bit around the bowl
- Cover the dough with plastic wrap. The trick is to have the plastic wrap touching the dough and covering it, this will prevent it from forming a dry crust. Then put a tea towel on it and leave it on the counter overnight
- The next day, turn the dough ball onto a floured surface and fold the doughs edges to the center in a circle. The underside of the dough should be a perfect dome and the top side should have those folded edges nad not appear as pretty
- Get a proofing basket or simply use the same bowl you used previously and drape a towel in it. Flour this towel or proofing basket generously.
- Place the dough in the floured towel or proofing basket folded ugly side up and pretty side down. The pretty dome side should be at the bottom of the bowl.
- Allow the dough to rise in the proofing basket or bowl for 2-3 hours.
- After this rising time, preheat your oven to 450 degrees
- Flip the dough onto parchment paper. The pretty side should now be facing up.
- Now score the bread in any desired pattern and place it in your dutch oven.
- The bread will bake with the lid on the dutch oven for 20 minutes. Then remove the lid on the bread and bake it for 30 more minutes.
- Allow it to cool for at least 40 minutes before you cut it
Note: If you are doubling the recipe, bake the bread at 450 degrees 30 minutes lid on, then 30 minutes lid off
Enjoy baking and enjoy the nourishment of sourdough!