What makes sourdough bread unique?

Some people think of sourdough as a flavor, but really it’s a method of baking. Sourdough is an ancient type of leavening that harnesses yeast and bacterial cultures from the environment to create airy texture and flavor in bread and other goods. Friendly strains of yeast are all around us - in the flour we bake with, in our kitchens, even on our skin! And these unique blends vary from region to region, in fact, from baker to baker depending on the climate and individual micro-organisms in the area. The various yeast eat starches in the dough and create bubbles, while the bacteria produce acidic by-products that give sourdough its distinctive tang.

Sourdough baking is a balancing act of time, temperature and moisture to manage the fermentation process which gives rise to a more nuanced and flavorful crumb than most yeasted and quick breads. In contrast, store bought yeast consist of single strains of quick-acting yeast without the friendly bacteria to balance them. In fact, many store bought “sourdough” breads are actually just yeast bread enhanced with citric acid for flavor!

Is sourdough more healthful than yeasted bread?

This is a common question and better suited to ask a dietician, however, an argument certainly exists that sourdough is more readily digestible than other types of bread due to its long fermentation process which acts as a “head start” on breaking down starches and gluten. This may make sourdough more suitable for some groups of people than commercial or straight yeasted bread. It’s also thought to have a lower glycemic index and to act as a prebiotic food for cultivating “good” gut flora and a healthy immune system. Ask your doctor if you’re curious about these things.

What I can tell you about my bread is that it is made with artisan flours, whole grains, and simple ingredients like sprouted seeds and local honey. I never use preservatives and my yeast cultures are 100% homegrown by me in Piedmont, so they’re local too!