We have the most amazing customers. Seriously, they come in for bread, stay for a chat and leave us inspired. When I discovered that one of our customers, Sandra Tolj, is a qualified naturopath and massage therapist with her own wellness business, Living Tonic Wellness, I jumped at the chance to sit down and talk with her about delicious and gut-friendly bread.
Our chat has evolved into a blog, which we bring to you in a 3 part series "Get Cultured"
Sandra Tolj Living Tonic Wellness
Rachel Taylor Miller+Baker
Bread's NOT Dead
We reckon most of us have been brought up on dead bread. You know, the sliced white stuff found on supermarket shelves. What is it made of? Roller milled white flour, and any number of added ingredients to keep it ‘fresh’ and improve the taste and texture. They’ve even had to add nutrients, since the flour itself has none. This hasn’t always been true but is for most of us growing up since the sixties and seventies!
Well, there is a revolution happening. We’re here to tell you that bread’s not dead. In fact, starting with the main ingredient - flour - it’s very much alive!
So, this magical stuff called flour, mixed with water and leaven, turns into a heavenly crusty and aromatic loaf. It’s little wonder why we naturally we seek comfort in bread in the time of pandemic, crisis and uncertainty.
Most bread is made with modern commercial baker’s yeast, a single bacteria species
isolated from the skin of grapes, which is originally used to brew beer. The advent of modern yeast enabled bakers to simplify and speed up the process of bread production.
In contrast, sourdough ‘starter’ contains a broad range of lactobacillus bacteria and wild yeast species which not only make the bread rise but make the grain more easily digestible and the nutrients more available. Like fine wine, this produces a loaf that has a good ‘chew’, tang and flavour that’s comparable to commercially mass-produced, tasteless bread.
While comparison between standard whole grain bread and sourdough may be negligible in terms of a nutritional profile, sourdough trumps over standard bread as the phytic acid (commonly called phytate) is less. This means that phytates, considered anti-nutrients, bind to minerals, thus reducing your body’s ability to absorb the minerals into your body. Why is this case in sourdough? The lactic acid bacteria found in sourdough bread lower the bread’s pH, which shoots down the phytate level. One study showed the fermentation process may reduce the phytate content of brea
d 24% - 50% more than the commercial bread (1). There are studies that show sourdough has an ability to release antioxidants during the fermentation process (2). This is where magic happens!
Get this - what’s fascinating is that some people who normally have problems digesting gluten find they can eat traditionally made sourdough bread without an issue as the grain is fermented before baking. Researchers believe this could be partly due to the prebiotic and probiotic-like properties in the bread. This also helps with lowering the gluten content, although not completely (3).
What's the difference between a Genuine Sourdough and a quickie?
Experiment with sourdough bread bought in different places and after a while you’ll be acquainted with the differing tastes and textures. Is it a memorable lip-smacking experience or a let-down like a bad blind date that leaves an unsatisfying aftertaste?
There are differences between today’s rapid-rise yeast sourdoughs and wild yeast-leavened sourdoughs that is easier to understand than an online dating site.
The quickie sourdough tends to have commercial yeast such as quick-acting yeast, Baker’s Yeast – you get the picture. They need to act quickly before any wild microorganisms have established, commercially quick to bake and churn out for retail, stales easily, confers desired characteristics for flavour, and diminishes much of the grain’s nutritional value.
On the other hand, wild-yeast sourdough has unique flavours due to a motley crew of yeast growing with other microorganisms (an ecosystem!), unique flavours, slower fermentation which allow yeast to add B-vitamins and break down gluten for easy digestion, does not stale easily, plus the complex sour flavours are thanks to the lactobacilli and other bacteria (beneficial, mind you!).
Buying sourdough bread from an artisan baker increases the likelihood of it being true sourdough. Ask your baker - they'll be happy to talk with you about the magical processes of feeding and maintaining their levain, hydration, autolysing the dough, fermentation, and they'll even send you home with a little starter of your own to nurture - now you wouldn't get that from a supermarket would you?
Is there a difference between a sourdough starter and a sourdough culture, is it leaven or levain? And what’s all the fuss about freshly milled flour? Is stoneground or roller milled better for you? Before you throw your arms in the air by the end of this blog and cry out ‘what now?!!’, we’ll get into the nitty gritty on this and more over the course of our collaborative blog series! How’s that for a little teaser! The type of flour, culture or starter needs its own stage. Don’t fret, we’ve got you covered with an explanation of the few different terms and differences, the flour, where the flour is sourced from. You’ll feel like a professional sourdough nerd in no time.
(1) Prolonged fermentation of whole wheat sourdough reduces phytate level and increases soluble magnesium. J Agric Food Chem. 2001 May;49(5):2657-62. doi: 10.1021/jf001255z.
(2) Antioxidant contents and antioxidative properties of traditional rye breads. 2007 Feb 7;55(3):734-40.
doi: 10.1021/jf062425w. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17263468/
(3) Sourdough and cereal fermentation in a nutritional perspective. Food Microbiology. 2009 Oct;26(7):693-9.doi: 10.1016/j.fm.2009.07.011. Epub 2009 Jul 18. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19747602/