September 1, 2019 7:39 am Leave your thoughts
There was a time when sourdough was something a bit alternative – even, possibly, a bit embarrassing. The kind of thing that needed a footnote of explanation; mostly the preserve of off-grid self-sufficiency experts. But not any more! Sourdough is now so hip it hurts. And it’s got its very own month – and its very own hashtag: #SourdoughSeptember.
In some of the trendier parts of the UK, you’d struggle to find a café without sourdough on the menu. Even in the more remote reaches of the country, I doubt anyone is more than an hour or two away from a sourdough loaf. But can you be sure you’re getting the real thing?
Sourdough September is a celebration of all things sourdough, organised by the Real Bread Campaign. The Campaign believes that ‘life’s sweeter with sourdough’ and wants to help everyone discover that. But there’s a bit of a ‘crusading’ tone to their aims…
‘The aims of #SourdoughSeptember are to:
- Share the delicious delights of genuine sourdough
- Encourage more people to bake genuine sourdough
- Celebrate the small, independent bakeries that bake genuine sourdough
- Alert people to the issue of sourfaux to help people avoid paying a premium for something that just isn’t genuine sourdough
- Encourage people to join and/or donate to the Real Bread Campaign’
Sourdough – and sourfaux?
What’s going on? To find out what’s riled the Real Bread people, we first need to look at what exactly sourdough is.
Sourdough is slowly fermented bread. A ‘starter’ of flour and water is fermented over several days, fed by regular additions of more flour and water, and activated by the wild yeasts and lactobacilli naturally present in the grain. This starter is added to a dough made of just flour, salt and water and left to rise for several hours. It’s then baked into a loaf, producing a chewy, springy bread, with a slightly ‘sour’ flavour. It’s the original way of making bread and to many people, still the best.
People rave about its depth of flavour. Many also believe that it’s much easier to digest than standard bread, with the long fermentation process making nutrients more accessible and breaking down the gluten. It may also be a useful bread for diabetics, producing a lower surge in blood sugar than other bread.
Sourfaux (apart from a witty pun) is bread that’s just pretending to be sourdough. It won’t have been made in the traditional way, but more in the manner of standard bread, with the addition of some dried sourdough powder, along with a good helping of commercial bakers’ yeast, and all sorts of other additives and processing aids. According to the Real Bread Campaign, it doesn’t bring any of the benefits of ‘real’ sourdough.
How can you be sure that you’ve bought the genuine article? Well, you’ll need to check the label (or ask the baker). Is there any added commercial yeast? Any dried sourdough powder or concentrate? An acidifier, like yoghurt or vinegar? Any other additives? If any of these are present, it’s not genuine sourdough.
So incensed are sourdough traditionalists by the new trend for sourfaux that they’ve set up a whistle-blowing hotline:
‘If you have seen something sold under the name ‘sourdough’ that you just know isn’t, take a photo of the ingredients list and the marketing claims and post them on Twitter during September using the #sourfaux hashtag.’
Make sourdough with us
The best sourdough is made with time and care – and in fact, by your own hands. There’s very little in life so satisfying as the production of a homemade loaf of bread. The smell of it baking alone – and the taste of a freshly baked slice – is worth all the effort it takes (which isn’t in fact, very much).
To make your own sourdough, you’ll need a starter. You can make this yourself from scratch easily; this blog here offers the best explanation we’ve seen of how to do so.
Or you might prefer to use a ‘famous’ starter. We stock an original starter from the founder of the Real Bread Campaign, Andrew Whitley. In 1990 Andrew travelled to Russia and brought back sourdough to make rye breads. From that dough, a culture was born: quite literally – a dried culture of natural yeasts and friendly bacteria. It’s now for sale in little packets at Naturally Good Food. The starter is brought to life by refreshing it with rye flour and water (there are full instructions provided on the pouch).
Whitley likes the idea of a network of bakers, united by this starter:
‘The idea is that everyone in this network is genuinely linked…however distantly. That sourdough will naturally evolve as it is refreshed and used in thousands of different places with hundreds of different flours. But something of the original culture will remain to create a sense of real connection between people who enjoy making bread simply and slowly and who from time to time may come together to share skills, learn something and spread the word about the joy that’s to be had from making and eating properly fermented bread.’
For the starter, and the dough itself, you’ll need flour. You can use all types of flour to make sourdough, and there’s plenty of advice online about which work best. We’ve got all manner of flours at Naturally Good Food, including Whitley’s favourite, rye.
We’ve also got the best salt in the world, sourced from all round the world. We’ve got British salt (from Maldon and Cornwall), Italian salt, Himalayan salt and Israeli salt. A tiny pinch adds an incredible depth of flavour.
What’s happening in Sourdough September?
All kinds of bakeries and baking schools, mills and enterprises are organising events and activities this month. They’ll be holding tastings, teaching people how to make sourdough and giving away sourdough starters and loaves. There’ll be new recipe books, baking competitions and a lot of activity on social media. The Real Bread Campaign is inviting us all to sign up and share our ‘Sourdough September Shenanigans’. I hear it gets pretty wild – rather like the yeasts.#sourdoughseptember, Andrew Whitley, cornish sea salt, flour, Himalayan salt, Israeli salt, Maldon sea salt, Real Bread Campaign, rye flour, salt, sea salt, sourdough september, sourdough starter, trapani salt
This post was written by Yzanne