For a variety of reasons, so many people are turning from breads and grains, from gluten concerns to worries about gut health and even the fattening ability of carbs. There is a stigma about bread, and now it’s almost unfashionable to order the sandwich rather than the lettuce wrap. Upset stomach? Cut out the bread. Can’t lose weight? Bye, wheat.
Now, I’m not denying that there are legitimate health reasons (Celiac’s and the lot) that are preventing many from partaking in fresh-baked pastries and loaves. But what on earth happened to our grain and breads that took a food staple of the world and reduce it to a side dish that sickens more and more of our population?
With the introduction of commercially-made breads and preservatives we’ve seen a significant decrease in the quality of nutrients and health benefits to breads. Whole wheats and protein-rich grains used to provide substance and serious amounts of nutrients and vitamins. The migration from whole wheat breads made with natural, wild yeast has taken us away from natural and the helpful bacteria that is allowed to flourish in leavened breads.
Unless you live under a box, you’ve probably heard all about the good bacteria for your gut that we should all endeavor to consume on a daily basis. One of the easiest – and nature’s oldest – ways to increase your intake of prebiotics and probiotics is by consuming more fermented foods. Nature has been giving humans fermented foods long before we knew how good they were for us – foods like pickles, sauerkraut, beer & wine, sourdough breads, yogurt, kimchi, miso soup, cider, vinegar, it goes on! We’re just now learning about how important consuming these products, and other fermented products, really are – keeping your gut flora thriving can help you fight obesity, prevent diseases (even auto-immune diseases), prevent depression, and squeeze out extra vitamins and nutrients from our food. (Why didn’t we know this before? The good bacteria dies as soon as it leaves our gut, so it’s not been easy to study…)
Things like too many antibiotics, chlorine, highly-processed or unnatural foods, antibacterial soaps and cleaning products, and even stress knock out the good bacteria. The challenge becomes trying to find ways to promote gut happiness on a regular basis – and why not turn to bread?
Sourdough, when made from a starter and allowed to naturally ferment, can be a fantastic way to integrate healthy bacteria into our system. It’s also a super easy bread to make – my sourdough starter contained 2 ingredients: flour and water. My sourdough bread took very little kneading and contained 4 ingredients: a little sourdough starter, flour, water, and salt.
But what’s the secret to unlocking the healthiness, in all of those simple ingredients? Time.
Given the proper time, your flour and water reacts with wild yeast that is naturally-occurring all around to begin to sour – to ferment. This fermentation unlocks previously-unattainable nutrients, introduces lactic acid bacteria (good gut bacteria), and begins to pre-digest the gluten – and apparently some gluten-sensitive people can even eat sourdough without issue. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg – and let’s not forget the delicious taste of sourdough on sandwiches and as a dip for soups, plus how you can transform your sourdough starter into recipes for pretzels, rolls, bagels, you name it!
This past week, I sat down to try my hand at a sourdough starter and my first loaf of sourdough bread. I’ve struggled with adequately kneading bread in the past – while the flavors in my breads have been adequate, they’ve always turned out very dense and heavy. While this version probably still needed a few more passes at kneading, I finally felt successful at producing a tasty and fluffier loaf!
I used two different recipes for my sourdough – one for a starter, and one for an actual recipe. I by-passed using a kitchen scale for the starter but it turned out to be very helpful (and almost downright necessary) for following the correct amounts in the sourdough bread recipe. Thanks to around 5 minutes every day for a week and then a little bit of prep work on the dough, we feasted on some delicious sourdough for breakfast this morning, served up with some tasty farm-fresh eggs and homemade blackberry jam. YUM!
I hope you enjoy your sourdough – and you happy gut – as much as we are! Best of luck with your baking!