Saturday, April 26, 2014

Sourdough on my mind....

The one thing I really, really miss about my old way of eating is sourdough bread. That fresh tang of sour, the pockets of air making it light and fluffy, the aroma of it when it's being toasted….for those of you who love it, too, you understand.

A slab of butter on a freshly toasted slice. Maybe a little sprinkling of sea salt on top, or garlic powder. What could be better?

And yes, having gone so long without eating bread, I do feel envious when I go out to lunch with friends who inevitably order sandwiches while I end up with a less-than-satisfying salad. I can only look at the bread and dream….

And lately, I've had a hankering for sourdough. I get these every now and then, and sometimes I end up breaking down and buying the sourdough at Trader Joe's. But I'm still ingesting gluten, which I want to stay away from. While doing all this reading lately about improving digestion, I've come across numerous articles that speak of the benefits of eating sourdough. Apparently the cultures in sourdough make it an easily digestible food, one that I can enjoy from time to time without guilt or pain. But there's still the matter of that darn gluten.

What are the benefits to Sourdough?

1 - Increases beneficial lactic acid
The longer rise time needed for sourdough increases the lactic acid and creates an ideal pH for the enzyme phytase. This enzyme breaks down phytates more effectively than in yeast breads. Sourdough rye has the least amount of phytates making it healthier, if it weren't for the gluten in rye.

2 - Predigestion of starches
The bacteria and naturally occurring yeast in the sourdough culture work to predigest the starches in the grains, thus making it more easily digestible to the consumer.

3 - Breakdown of gluten
Here again, the longer soaking and rising times in the preparation of sourdough breaks the protein gluten into amino acids, making it more digestible.

4 - Preservative
The acetic acid which is produced along with lactic acid, helped preserve the bread by inhibiting the growth of mold.

5-Better blood glucose regulation
There has been some research suggesting that sourdough bread - white sourdough bread - showed positive physiological responses. The subjects' blood glucose levels were lower after eating sourdough white bread compared to whole wheat, whole wheat with barley and plain white bread. Interestingly, the subjects tested after eating whole wheat bread fared the worst - with spiking blood glucose levels.

So what exactly is sourdough?

Sourdough is a bread product made by a long fermentation of dough using naturally occurring lactobacilli and yeasts. In comparison with breads made quickly with cultivated yeast, it usually has a mildly sour taste because of the lactic acid produced by the lactobacilli.

A sourdough is a stable symbiotic culture of lactic acid bacteria (LAB) and yeast in a mixture of flour and water. Typically, the LAB metabolizes sugars that the yeast cannot metabolize and the yeast metabolizes the products of the LAB fermentation. Broadly speaking, the yeast produces the gas that leavens the dough and the LAB produces lactic acid, which contributes flavor.

Some sourdough recipes add yeast to them, but this is not necessary, as the fermentation process creates a naturally occurring yeast to form, and thankfully I have no problems digesting this.

Origins of Sourdough

Sourdough likely originated in Ancient Egyptian times around 1500 BC and was likely the first form of leavening available to bakers. Sourdough remained the usual form of leavening down into the European Middle Ages until being replaced by barm from the beer brewing process, and then later purpose-cultured yeast.

San Francisco has long been associated with sourdough eating gold prospectors, though they were more likely to make bread with commercial yeast or baking soda. A "Sourdough" was a nickname used in the North (Yukon and Alaska) for someone having spent an entire winter north of the Arctic Circle and refers to their tradition of protecting their sourdough during the coldest months by keeping it close to their body.
The French family Boudin began making sourdough in San Francisco in 1849, blending the sourdough recipes the miners in the area used with French baking techniques.

The great thing about having a yeast allergy (as if there really was a good thing about it) is that there's still sourdough bread to enjoy. But when you are eating the gluten-free way, you're dogged. It's not easy finding gluten-free, yeast-free sourdough bread. I've looked. I'm sure it's out there somewhere, but a loaf will probably cost me big bucks. By the time I find some specialty bakery somewhere in America that makes it and then have it shipped to me, I'll probably be out $20 or more. For a loaf of bread!

So just like I always do when faced with a dilemma like this, I look to my own kitchen to solve the problem. With the help of a fellow gluten-free friend, I am armed with what looks to be a very good gluten free sourdough bread recipe.

I've gathered my ingredients and have begun to make my starter. This photo shows my starter, sitting in a large glass jar on my kitchen counter top. In it are simply flour and water. To help things along, I did add a sourdough starter mix that I purchased from my local health food store, but you could do without. The brew has been working for a day and a half so far. Soon I should be seeing some bubbles form, which is what you want. It means it's working its magic.

Over the jar I've placed a bit of cheesecloth held in place with a rubber band. This allows the air to reach the brew and help the fermentation process along.

I will continue adding a cup of flour and a cup of water every 12 hours to this starter to "feed" it. Somewhere I read that you must treat your starter like a pet - it needs continuous feeding and watering. Eventually, it should look like this.

If you do a search on the Internet for sourdough starters, you'll find a lot of various methods and flours to use. I'll share the recipe of this one once I know it's actually working.

But I am excited about the possibility of once again enjoying sourdough bread - this time a gluten-free variety!

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