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.
If you’re interested in learning more about sourdough bread and how it is completely different from modern bread made with baker’s yeast, don’t miss the book The Vintage Remedies Guide to Bread by Jessie Hawkins. It’s a wealth of information and full of research, information, history, and recipes. I love it! You can also find it on Amazon here. Those are my affiliate links. Thanks!