October 2014

What is Sourdough?

Just a quick note to explain a bit more about our sourdough breads.

Sourdough seems to have as many different meanings as there are people who have heard of it! Some think it’s a type of flour, some think it’s the way the bread is shaped, and so on, so just what is sourdough?

Sadly, there is no legal or otherwise formal definition of sourdough. Anyone can add e.g. vinegar or yoghurt to bread dough and call it sourdough. Is that proper sourdough? Not to us here at Moorbakes, but to the supermarkets who’re mass producing  bread sold as sourdough?

Our interpretation of sourdough is bread made with a natural yeast and not a commercial yeast. The dough is fermented for at least 4 hours or more before being shaped, proved and baked. The sour part comes from the symbiotic relationship the yeast has with Lactobacillus bacteria and the natural yeasts. Both working together produce a bread that takes a relatively long time to rise and has a mild sour taste due to the lactic acid produced by the lactobacilli.

So where does this natural yeast come from? It’s all around us. In the flour, on our skin, on the skins of various fruit (think where cider and wine comes from!)

There are several different natural yeasts and without proper analysis it’s impossible to tell which variety in present in the Moorbakes starters. (Often called the mother culture).

Our starters were created by mixing organic flour and water and… Well just leaving them to get in with it. Now they’re well established and used daily, the mother being used to create a bigger starter for making the bread, then the mother being topped up with more organic flours and water and let to get on with itself.

Commercial yeast was created by taking some of these natural yeasts and cultivating them through a process of selection, picking the ones that worked better and faster than others, and so on. The result is a yeast that works on the bread flour in an hour or so, as opposed to the 8-9 hours it takes the natural yeasts to work. At Moorbakes, for our beads  made with a commercial yeast, we use Bioreal organic yeast.

Is sourdough better or worse than commercial yeast? Who knows. Some think that the slow fermentation improves the digestability of the flours in the bread, I know that it certainly improves the flavour and texture!