According to many, bread like other grains is, to be avoided. It’s high level of starches break down in to glucose resulting in a massive spike in blood-sugar soon after eating. This in turn has serious repercussions for our health.
And yet, in the quest for a healthy lifestyle we’re often directed to look to the diets of our ancestors. People have been eating bread for millennia, without the negative side effect that we associate with it today.
You may not realise that the breads dominating the western world today are vastly different from those baked just 100 years ago. Rapid-rising granulated active yeast was invented during the second world war. Instant yeast didn’t make an appearance until the 1970s.
Since Ancient times bread has been baked using sourdough rising agents. Whilst the advances in science have increased the speed with which we can produce bread there are benefits of using a sourdough technique. Here’s a summary of a few of those benefits.
Healthy eating is great, but healthy eating that tastes even better? Now we’re talking! When I first made sourdough bread I was amazed at the difference in taste; it made our previous home-baked bread seem bland and tasteless. Health benefits aside, I was instantly sold on it.
During the fermenting process the lactobascilli in the sourdough starter start to pre-digest the cell walls of the grains. This saves the bacteria in your gut from doing it, making the nutrients within those cells more readily available to you.
Not only are the nutrients more accessible, there are more available. By reducing the anti-nutrients in the grains, particularly the Phytic acid, the fermenting process makes more of the nutrients available to be absorbed by your gut.
Those lactobascilli are hungry little creatures and love nothing more than a bit of gluten to energise them. They ‘eat’ the gluten leaving very little for you, thus making sourdough breads much lower in gluten.
Tempted? It can be expensive to buy so why not make your own? We get through a loaf of bread per day so I bake two loaves every other day. Here is the recipe I use:
Sourdough Bread Recipe
Baking a sourdough bread takes a longer than a “conventional” bread due to the extended proving time, but once you’ve done it I’m sure you’ll agree it’s worth squeezing it into your regular routine.
- 1 cup (250ml) sourdough starter
- 500g spelt flour
- 600ml warm water
- 100g spelt flour
- The sponge as prepared
- 600g spelt flour
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 10g fine sea salt
- Mix the ingredients for the sponge in a large bowl. Cover the bowl and leave overnight. By morning the sponge should be clearly fermenting: thick, sticky and bubbly.
- Don’t forget to replenish the starter with the flour and sufficient water to maintain the batter-like consistency, otherwise you’ll run out.
- In the morning, or once the sponge is well fermented, mix in the other ingredients. Lightly oil a large bowl to make the dough stick to it less, place the dough in the bowl and leave to prove. Sourdough breads take their time to rise so while you’re out at work for the day may be good.
- Knock-back and knead the dough, split in half and place each half into a loaf-tin. Leave to prove until the dough has roughly doubled in size.
- When the dough is ready, pre-heat the oven to 230 Celsius (I’m using an electric fan oven, so adjust as required) and place a tray of water in the bottom to make it nice and steamy (this will help develop a good crisp crust).
- Slash the top of each loaf with a serrated knife or a pair of scissors, then place the loaf-tins in the oven and bake for 10 minutes.
- Now, turn the temperature down to 180 Celsius, add some more water to the tray and bake for a further 20 minutes.
- Turn out the loaves onto a cooling rack and allow to cool for at least 20 minutes before attempting to slice.
- Eat and enjoy!
Where to get your starter? The easiest way is to get some from a friend, failing that you can buy sourdough starter from lots of places on-line. Or you could just make your own – here’s a simple recipe.
If you don’t get through so much bread either reduce the quantities, or make it less frequently. Sourdough breads don’t go off as fast as your shop-bought breads and are great for croutons or toast if a little stale.
Oven temperatures – All ovens are slightly different so you may need to adjust for your particular model. I’m using an electric fan oven, you may need to bake for longer and/or at a higher temperature.
I use a loaf tin as it’s a more regular shape for feeding a houseful of boys their sandwiches. You don’t have to use a loaf tin – go instead for a more traditional round or whatever shape takes your fancy.
If you don’t want such a crisp crust pre-heat to 180 Celsius and bake for 30 mins and forget about adding the water to make the oven steamy.
Slashing the top of the loaf makes the bread look more “authentic” but it also helps to reduce the uncontrolled cracking in the crust.
From experience, you don’t have to be very precise with your measurements. Thankfully. 🙂