Wednesday food post: Sourdough

I’m finding that cultured food is really the way to go- and if you don’t have any in your diet, you’re really missing out. They are full of beneficial micro-organisms that do everything from neutralizing anti-nutrients to making food more digestible and vitamins more available. Plus, they inoculate your system with probiotic goodness, and that is good for you on a number of levels. I’m finding that eating foods that are alive with various beneficial bacterias/yeasts is really important. So, I’ve incorporated several cultured foods into our diets, which I’ll probably talk about more in depth later. I really can’t imagine going back. So far, we regularly eat yogurt, kombucha, various lacto-fermented vegetables (cucumber pickles, pickled radish, sauerkraut), cultured condiments (so far I’ve made ketchup and mayonnaise and a raisin chutney), and now, sourdough. I did make kefir but I found that I didn’t really have a taste for fizzy, sour milk without loads of fruit and sweetening… but I’ll work on developing it. In the future I plan to make more cultured condiments, more lacto-fermented fruits and veggies (because sometimes I think I could live on kimchi, when I have it), and water kefir.

But the newest thing is sourdough. The first time I made it, it didn’t rise at all. The ball of dough just sat there and dried out. Wah-wah. The second time, it rose some, but made flatter, somewhat dense loaves. The next time, I added yeast. It made big beautiful loaves, but I wasn’t happy with it because I really wanted to just use the starter for the yeast- to make REAL sourdough. Then, I think my starter finally woke up fully and became active, and I found a good recipe for a basic loaf of bread- one that’s good for sandwiches, too (some of these breads just come out too crumbly for anything but something to dip in your soup). Anyway. I’m happy. It is delicious, and a whole loaf of it has already been devoured. 

There are many reasons to eat sourdough bread over others.  First of all, it’s kind of awesome. Basically the "starter" is just flour and water that has caught the wild yeast and bacteria in the air. That’s why there are so many different kinds of sourdough. For instance, San Francisco sourdough has a unique taste because of the specific bacteria that inoculates the culture- I’ve heard it has something to do with the bay. Therefore, each area will produce its own unique starter for bread- I’ve even heard that if you catch the culture in your house then it will even be somewhat unique to you- custom made, almost! Also, you don’t need to rely on commercial yeast to be able to create bread. The starter will just live and grow and make loaf after loaf without any need for added leavening. Some sourdough cultures are really really old, too. Hundreds of years, even. So interesting! 
Another more practical reason to eat it is before modern processing methods, all our grains were soaked or fermented before use. Despite our ancestors’ wisdom, we discarded this practice and have suffered greatly ever since- many of us without even knowing it. First of all, grain is really hard to digest. The process of soaking/fermenting aids in digestion in a few ways: first, it gets rid of the phytic acid (present in all grains). Phytic acid is an organic acid present in the outer layer of grains that binds itself to a number of essential minerals in your intestine and blocks their absorption. Without this extra step (even with whole grains), you are susceptible to mineral deficiencies and bone loss. Yucky! Soaking grains overnight greatly improves their nutritional benefits by merely allowing you to absorb them. Next, there are many enzyme inhibitors in all seeds, and soaking/fermenting helps to neutralize them. Basically, grains just aren’t that good for us without this step. Not to mention, adding commercial yeasts to processed grains just diminishes their nutritional value. No good.

Anyway, sourdough does all these good things for us. It helps to make the bread usable in our systems. It’s healthy bread. Another thing that has been found is that sourdough doesn’t produce the spike in blood sugar that other breads do- so it’s much better for diabetics, and I would argue people in general. It also keeps better without the need for preservatives, and it’s delicious. This recipe I found- I didn’t even have to knead it! (For those who might try this recipe- I didn’t follow it exactly. I just used milk in place of buttermilk/kefir, and I used a little bit of honey as the sweetener- but not as much as they recommend.)

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