I am always amazed at how ancestral peoples seemed to know just what to do in order to make their food healthier. Take sourdough, for instance. By using a starter which adds beneficial bacteria, the flour is fermented and thus made both easier to digest and more nutritious. Did you know that people have been making sourdough for over 5,000 thousand years?
The process of souring the flour works to neutralize the phytic acid antinutrient (which is present in all grains), thereby making the nutrients in the bread more able to be utilized by the body. Recent scientific research has shown that sourdough white bread actually has a more beneficial affect on blood sugar than (non-sourdough) whole grain bread. And, sourdough is often better tolerated by people with gluten issues, too.
BUYER BEWARE - When it comes to buying sourdough bread, make sure to check the ingredient label. True sourdough breads should not have any added yeast, and the bread will be even healthier if it has a slow fermentation time (such as 12-24 hours).
My Own Sourdough? Nah...
Although my family has been eating sourdough for over a decade now, until recently I never really got into making my own sourdough at home. My life felt too busy to add in another "baby" that needed regular care and feeding, so I resisted having my own sourdough starter.
Back in 2018, prior to his Hashimoto's diagnosis, my husband had started learning to make Einkorn sourdough. He had even christened our starter "Lord Breadicus". But my husband gave it up once it became clear that he needed to cut bread from his diet and wouldn't be able to eat bread anytime soon.
So Lord Breadicus, our sourdough starter, was being neglected in the back of the fridge for months. Occasionally I would notice his sad state of being, and tell my husband that Lord Breadicus was starving... or crying... or screaming. Lord Breadicus would get fed once every couple weeks, if he was lucky, and he was mostly just unused and unappreciated.
But then a couple months ago, I decided to take over care and feeding of Lord Breadicus. And guess what? I learned that I was totally wrong! Maintaining a sourdough starter can actually be really, really easy, involving nothing more than taking 5 minutes once a week to add some flour and water.
Only 5 minutes once a week?! I can definitely make time for that!
Once I got into the groove of maintaining Lord Breadicus, it was a quick jump for me to start using the starter more. Sourdough really does seem almost like magic: just add flour and water and then watch the starter grow overnight into a beautiful, bubbly dough. So simple and satisfying.
I'm using exclusively Einkorn flour for our sourdough starter and baked goods. Einkorn is an ancient variety of wheat that has never been hybridized, and it is quite different from modern wheat: Einkorn has 14 chromosomes, whereas modern wheat has 42. Einkorn is naturally lower in gluten and higher in protein than modern wheat. Some people who have sensitivities to gluten in modern wheat can actually consume Einkorn with no problems. Einkorn also has a superior nutrient profile compared to modern white flour, even though it does not have added vitamins like conventional flour does.
I haven't been especially motivated to regularly make our own loaves of sourdough bread, because I can get a true sourdough loaf at the store so easily. But where sourdough really shines for me is in being able to make other sourdough creations, such as rolls, pancakes and muffins. It's been a real pleasure for me to be able to create new sourdough recipes, knowing they will taste yummy and be healthier for my family. And I'm looking forward to experimenting more with other recipes, such as pizza crust, cakes and cookies.
Helpful Sourdough Resources and Links
In case you're interested in getting started with sourdough, here are some resources I've found to be especially helpful.
San Francisco Sourdough Starter - We used these cultures to get our starter going initially.
How to Start a Sourdough Starter ebook - This helped us get our starter going.
Mastering Einkorn Sourdough Starter video series - These videos helped us learn how to make the starter work better with Einkorn specifically.
Wild Bread: Sourdough Reinvented - This book is a wealth of information and recipes on making sourdough with every different type of flour; the recipes we've tried have been top-notch!