Sourdough vs. Yeast Bread
Commercial "baking" yeast is a single kind of organism that belches a lot of gas really fast and transforms grain into something that's even less good for you. Sourdough is two organisms, wild yeast and bacteria, in symbiosis. Together they transform the grain to make it more healthful, more digestible, and also resistant to getting moldy or stale. Many people with wheat allergies or "yeast" allergies have no problem eating real sourdough.
How Does Sourdough Work?
With sourdough, you are keeping and feeding a population of friendly yeast and bacteria, called a "culture", or a "starter". The population rises and falls, depending on where you keep it and what you feed it. When you make a loaf of bread, you are carefully managing a population explosion. The sour flavor comes from acids made by the yeast and bacteria, and when it gets really strong, that does not mean the sourdough is strongly active, but that it is depleted, that the population has already eaten its food and collapsed.
The Zen of Sourdough – take it or leave it, you decide how high maintenance you want it to be.
Benefits of Sourdough
The fermentation is good for digestion – promotes the good bacteria
The natural yeast feeds on glucose – so less glucose to cause blood sugar spikes
The long fermentation process also breaks down many of the gluten proteins
Sourdough bread retains much of its moisture as it ages and its acidity helps prevent the growth of mold
From a self-reliance standpoint – an endless supply of leavened bread as long as flour and water are available
Types of Starters
Stiff vs. liquid starters
– stiff starter slows fermentation (stores up to a month without feeding)
– liquid easier to feed and use – more versatile
Wild yeast vs. commercial yeast (wild yeast is not always good yeast)
Plethora of starter recipes (from all-purpose flour & water to rye flour & pineapple juice)
From yeast in beer
Create Your Starter
1. Select a container – wide mouth: glass, plastic, or crock (NO metal)
2. Mix your starter
My starter recipe:
2 cups warm water
1 Tablespoon sugar or honey (optional)
1 Tablespoon (or one packet) yeast – and this is the last time you will be using yeast
2 cups flour
Dissolve sugar & yeast in water. Add flour. Cover & place in a warm spot
Stir once daily for 2– 5 days. Starter is ready for first use when bubbly
3. Name your new pet
Maintain Your Starter
Feed your pet – frequency – weekly if stored in fridge and before each use
– equal amount of flour and water (by volume or weight is debated)
Hooch – yellow or dark liquid floating on top of starter (alcohol). It is not harmful,
just mix back in or pour off
Long Term Storage – Dehydrated Starter
Spread fresh sourdough starter in a thin layer over a piece of parchment paper and let dry. Once dry, the starter will easily separate from the paper and can be ground up into small pieces and placed in a plastic ziplock bag or small non-metallic container. Store your starter in the freezer for as long as you like (or vaccu-can).
To Reconstitute Dehydrated Starter
1. Soak 1 tsp. dried starter in 1 Tbs. lukewarm purified or spring water for a few minutes to soften.
2. Stir in 1 Tbs. flour, cover loosely with plastic and let sit at room temperature for 24 hours.
3. Stir in another Tbs. of flour and 1 tsp. of purified water and let it sit as before.
Within the next 36 hours you will start to see the bubbling action of fermentation begin.
4. Now stir in 1/3 cup flour and 1/4 cup of water to your activated starter and continue to build the starter with once or twice daily feedings (1/2 cup each of flour and water) until you have a sufficient quantity.
Using Your Sourdough
Prepare ‘sponge’ – feed your sourdough and let it ‘proof’ (get bubbly)
– the longer the proof the stronger the flavor
– some recipes (non-bread) do not require proofing, like pancakes
Measure out the amount of sponge you need and the remaining becomes your starter.
Always remember to hold back some starter.
What Can I Make?
Note: Many of today’s ‘sourdough’ recipes also require adding yeast to the dough, these types of recipes are only using the starter to add flavor, they are still dependent on additional yeast. None of these recipes call for yeast:
My basic bread recipe – makes 2 loaves:
This is a dense bread great for toast and grilled cheese sandwiches
1/3 cup starter
2 1/2 cups warm water
6 1/2 cups flour
3 teaspoons salt
Mix water, starter and 3 cups flour
Add salt and 2 cups flour
Knead (I knead in bowl) while adding remaining flour (as needed) in small amounts
Dough will be soft but not sticky
Knead another 5 minutes or so
Form 2 loaves and place in well greased loaf pans
Place pans in plastic bags to keep moisture in
Keep warm for 12-15 hours
Preheat oven to 350
Place shallow pan of water in bottom of oven
Bake bread for 40 minutes on rack above water (or until inside loaf reaches 205 degrees for sticklers)
Fried Dough / Pizza Crust (make two pizza crusts)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup water
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup starter
Mix together salt, flour and baking powder
Mix together water and oil and add to dry ingredients
Mix in starter
Knead for 5 minutes
Fry in skillet on medium low heat until both sides are brown and center is cooked
OR make two pizza crusts
2 cups starter
2 Tablespoons honey
4 Tablespoons coconut oil (Canola oils works fine but slight difference in flavor)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 Tablespoon warm water
Mix first five ingredients
Mix together baking soda and water
Add baking soda/water mixture to batter right before cooking
Sourdough English Muffins
1/2 cup starter 1 Tablespoon honey
1 cup milk 1 teaspoon salt
2 cups flour 1 teaspoon baking soda
Night before: Mix starter, milk and honey and cover loosely
In morning, stir in honey, salt and baking soda
Rest dough in bowl for 1/2 hour
Drop large spoonfuls on preheated, ungreased, cornmeal sprinkled skillet
Cover with lid and ‘bake’ at medium low heat
Flip and bake other side
Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls
Makes: 12 to 14 Rolls
1 1/2 cups sourdough starter 1 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup milk 2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons melted butter 2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, more if desired 1/2 cup raisins (optional)
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
4 teaspoons warm milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Stir together starter, milk, vanilla, salt, and the 2 tablespoons of sugar
Add the flour a cup at a time and mix until you have a shaggy dough (all flour incorporated, dough is rough)
Place the dough in a large, clean bowl and cover the bowl with plastic.
Let it proof in the refrigerator overnight (8 to 12 hours).
Let the dough warm up to room temperature (an hour or so) and then gently transfer it to a floured surface.
Let the dough rest on the counter for 30 minutes.
If it flattens a lot during this time, add in additional flour before rolling the dough out.
Roll the dough into a rectangle, about 1/2 inch thick.
Brush it with melted butter.
Mix together the cinnamon and sugar and sprinkle the mixture over the top of the dough.
If you want to add raisins, now is the time to do it.
Starting from the long end, roll the rectangle up into a log.
Cut the log into 1-inch thick rolls. Using thread or floss keeps round shape of rolls.
Place the rolls close together on a baking sheet or in cake pans and proof for an hour or until doubled in size.
Bake the cinnamon rolls in a preheated 350 degrees F. oven for 25 to 35 minutes.
Watch the rolls to make sure they don’t burn on the bottom.
Remove the rolls from the oven, and while they are still hot, drizzle the powdered-sugar glaze over them.
Carefully remove the rolls from the pan and serve them warm.
Recipes that call for yeast can be converted to sourdough with some tweaking. Start by substituting a cup of starter for each package of yeast and then subtract about 1/2 cup of water and 3/4 cup of flour from the recipe to compensate for the water and flour in the starter.