Have you noticed how everyone is scared of bread?
It’s kind of sad. When I was a kid, and — even more — when my mother was a child, bread was taken for granted as the sustainer of life. It was the “everyman” food, everyone could eat it, everyone could afford it, and it was healthy for everyone.
Things have changed. In this country, at least, our breads have become chemical concoctions, made with processed grains, commercially extruded oils, and a list of preservatives that would horrify us all — if we weren’t already used to it.
Try it: pick up a loaf of standard, generic white bread off the shelf, flip it over, and read the ingredient list.
Do you see anything wrong? Hint: real bread requires only three ingredients.
Luckily, real bread is still good for us, and it’s still available to everyone who takes the trouble to make it.
The absolute best kind of bread to feed your family? Traditional sourdough bread.
Sourdough is a traditional technique — a controlled ferment, really — that creates aerated bread without using modern artificial yeasts. Instead, sourdough uses a live “starter” to introduce beneficial microbes and bacteria. It’s a natural process acting upon a natural food.
Its history is long, too. We have records of ancient Egyptians using natural leavening to make bread. Later, sourdough became a common process in Europe and was carried across the Atlantic by some of the first Americans. Pioneers in rickety Conestoga wagons carefully guarded their sourdough starters as they crossed the continent, and miners and cowboys found a way to keep the culture alive in the American back country.
Then the 20th century hit and bread became big business. Sourdough starter didn’t make the cut.
Sourdough starter makes sense when you’re making six loaves of bread. But when companies set out to make 60,000 loaves…well, it was a whole lot easier to use yeast.
And because grocery bread needed to make a profit, it needed to sit on the shelf without rotting. Along came the long list of preservatives.
Then corporations started to genetically modify the grain. People began to develop grain allergies and gluten intolerances. Many got sick. And we all became afraid of bread.
It’s time to turn back the clock — just a bit — and go back to sourdough.
Why go back to sourdough bread?
Sourdough works because it neutralizes the phytic acid found in the grain.
Phytic acid is found in all kinds of grain, but it’s not good for you. It impairs the body’s absorption of vital nutrients and is difficult to digest. Your digestive system can actually neutralize phytic acid itself, but it’s a resource intensive process. If you force your body to do it too often, your digestive system can eventually show signs of wear.
The good news?
The sourdough process neutralizes the phytic acid for you.
After the sourdough process, your body no longer has to deal with the phytic acid in the grain. Those lovely nutrients in whole grains become immediately available to be directly absorbed by the body.
The resulting loaf of bread is far more nourishing, far easier to digest, and — we think — far tastier.
Why make it yourself?
Simply put, there’s no way to know what’s in your food unless you make it yourself.
Don’t be fooled: many “sourdough” breads on the market didn’t come from a starter and have nothing to do with the real thing. Unless you make it yourself (or create a producer to make it for you), you have no guarantee that what’s in that expensive bread bag is anything like what you want.
Also, it’s really not that hard. All you need is a helping hand for a bit, and you’ll be off and running!
Start here to start your journey into sourdough bread baking.
(If you’re interested in a step-by-step walkthrough of the entire sourdough process, click here to get information on Laurie’s Sourdough Bread Class!)