Why Bake With Sourdough?
If you look up a bread recipe, chances are high that you’ll find baker’s yeast on the list of ingredients. It’s typically pretty important unless you’re going for unleavened bread!
But I make all of the bread in our home, and I never use baker’s yeast. In fact, I don’t think I have any baker’s yeast in my house.
Instead, I use my sourdough starter for leavening all of our breads, and I love it!
Sourdough bread is made with a liquid starter that is a fermented mixture of flour and water. It takes longer to rise than baker’s yeast and starters can vary depending on geography. A starter made in my part of Ohio will behave and taste differently than a starter from San Fransisco, home of a famous sourdough bread.
It used to be common for bread to be made with sourdough, but baker’s yeast came along and standardized everything. Now natural sourdough is a rarity in home kitchens.
Since real sourdough bread isn’t a common food prepared in most home kitchens, you might wonder why baking with sourdough is such a great thing. Isn’t baker’s yeast just easier and more convenient?
Though it might seem like baker’s yeasted breads are just the easier way to go when baking at home, sourdough is actually perfect for healthy home kitchens.
There are many great reasons to bake with sourdough. Here are my five top favorites.
There’s no denying that the flavor of real, naturally leavened sourdough bread is unlike anything that can be made with baker’s yeast!
Sourdough bread has a full, slightly tangy, and downright irresistible flavor. It’s fantastic in sandwich bread, but it also adds so much taste to cornbread, flatbread, biscuits, and dinner rolls. Sourdough’s flavor is extremely versatile.
Sourdough offers a moist, light, chewy texture in breads and other baked goods that is so unique and addictive. When it’s made correctly, it’s really incredible, and it makes for some amazing toast, too.
Sourdough done wrong can be dense, hard, and dry, which is sometimes a person’s only experience with sourdough. Learning to get the texture right is so worth it, though!
One of my favorite things about baking with sourdough is that it is extremely flexible. With yeast bread, I only have a small window of time to work with before the bread is ready to bake. Because sourdough takes an extended period of time to fully leaven, I have more freedom to do other things while also making bread.
If I need to bake sooner, I can put the dough in a warmed oven that’s been turned off for a few hours. If I need more time, I can put the dough in our cool basement or even in the refrigerator. It’s really the perfect solution for bread baking as a busy mom!
Bread that is made through the natural process of sourdough fermentation is higher in nutrients than regular bread made with fast-rising baker’s yeast.
Zinc, B complex vitamins, amino acids, iron, magnesium, chromium (which is vital for balancing blood sugar), magnesium, and selenium are some of the nutrients more available in sourdough bread. That ends up being one very nutritious loaf of bread!
5. Gluten & Phytic Acid Reduction
Finally, sourdough fermentation reduces two key components of bread that can be harmful to the health: gluten and phytic acid. This is probably the most important benefit of baking with sourdough in my book! Taste, texture, and convenience are great, but if a food isn’t beneficial to the body, then it isn’t really worth making often.
We are all somewhat familiar with gluten since many individuals are eliminating gluten from their diets. Gluten is a protein found in wheat and other grains. Even in healthy individuals, it is difficult for the body to digest. In some people, gluten causes negative or allergic reactions in the body, while others have an autoimmune response to it called celiac.
Sourdough leavening, though, breaks down and reduces the gluten so that it can be more easily handled by the body. Some research on sourdough leavening even show promise for those with serious gluten intolerances!
Along with reducing gluten, sourdough baking reducing the phytic acid that naturally occurs in whole grains. Phytic acid is an anti-nutrient that actually binds to needed minerals and prevents them from being used in the body. The sourdough fermentation process breaks down phytic acid so that these minerals are available for absorption, leaving a more nutritious loaf as mentioned above.
Of course there are other benefits to baking with sourdough, but these are definitely my five favorites.
To learn more about baking with sourdough, read these posts:
- How to Make, Store, and Care for a Sourdough Starter
- Reviving a Weak Sourdough Starter
- How to Make a Simple Sourdough Sandwich Bread
What are your experiences with real sourdough bread? Have you ever baked with sourdough?
I love The Guide to Bread, but had put it aside sometime ago due to dietary restrictions while nursing my baby – what a silly mistake!
Somehow I missed that she had a
G-F sour dough recipe!
Anyway, yes, I’ve baked with sour dough, even with “wild caught” sour dough. It’s been a while though.
I’m excited to start back in, and with some reminders from your post, and my recent (re)discovery of the G-F instructions…hopefully I’ll have my kitchen smelling nice and sour and my family eating really well Soon!
(Can’t wait to try your Morning Glory Muffins too!)
Thanks again Kristen! I always know I’ll find good things on your blog, new or old! 🙂
Yum, yum, yum! The Guide to Bread went out of print not too long ago and I was so disappointed about that. But glad you have a copy! I got lots of recipe ideas from it. Thank you for your kind words. I appreciate you!
I have heard that sourdough starters with spelt can be okay for those with gluten intolerances. Are you saying that all flours can be okay for those with gluten intolerance even wheat flours?
I’m don’t have a horrible intolerance I can eat wheat products for almost a week before I start to see signs of it. But I am just wondering what you have read.
Sourdough, even made with wheat, can work for folks who seem intolerant of gluten when it’s allowed to ferment the dough for long enough. It’s worth a try for you if you don’t have a bad intolerance! Some research suggests long-fermentation sourdough may even be safe for celiac patients. And spelt contains gluten, just like wheat, though in different amounts. A recipe like my Basic Sourdough Sandwich Bread lets the dough ferment for around 18 hours before baking, making it a great option for you to try.
I’ve used kefir as a sourdough starter and it seems to produce a very similar bread like regular sourdough starters. Do you have any experience or insight on this? Also-what is your sourdough starter recipe-if you don’t mind giving it out? Maybe you did and I missed it. =]
I’ve never used kefir for sourdough but have heard of it being used as a substitute. It makes sense in many ways since it is fermented with bacterias and yeasts. It would be interesting to compare the different strands that are available in each. I think if you give it a long rising time, too, like with regular sourdough, it could be very comparable.
I’ll actually be going over making a sourdough starter tomorrow. Stay tuned! 🙂