Sourdough bread is a type of bread which does not require yeast or any other external rising agent for baking. The culture of bacteria that occur naturally in a mixture of flour and water is enough for baking this type of bread. A starter culture comprising of Candida milleri yeast or the Lactobacillus sanfranciscensis might be added to the flour for enhancing the flavor at times.
The rye bread of Europe is baked with sourdough as were the French baguettes and other forms of South European breads before the availability of yeast became commonplace. San Francisco is also famous for its 150 years old sourdough cultures. The Amish friendship bread passed on to friends is also prepared according to the sourdough recipes. Whole wheat breads made with the sourdough starter is even consumed in Azerbaijan.
The bacteria occurring naturally in the bread is Lactobacillus, a kind of lactic acid bacteria which is also used to prepare kimchi, pickles, cheese and yogurt. The characteristic sour taste of the bread is obtained from the bacteria which can be activated by mixing flour with water and storing it in a warm environment. The bacteria culture is often enhanced by adding Diastatic malt or a few organic, unwashed grapes to it.
The culture thus prepared is required to be fed every 24 hours with more flour and water especially when it is young. Older cultures can be stored in a refrigerator and used for months.
History of Sourdough Bread Recipe
This type of bread is considered to be one of the oldest forms of leavened breads. The early Europeans settlers in America are believed to have brought the sourdough culture with them. One of the most popular legends tell of Christopher Columbus arriving on the shores of America with a crock of sourdough culture to bake bread. The sourdough bread gained in popularity during the California gold rush as it became the most convenient form of baking bread in remote locations where commercial yeast was rare.
Ingredients Used and Popular Sourdough Bread Recipe
The sourdough starter along with a teaspoon of salt and the conventional bread flour are the only ingredients necessary for making a typical bread from sourdough.
The flour needs to be kneaded along with the ingredients until it is converted into a soft, moist and elastic dough. The dough is then wrapped with the aid of a plastic wrapper and kept in a warm corner until it rises to become double in size.
Shaping the dough into a rough circle and baking it in an oven set to 450-500 degrees F is the usual method of preparing the bread. A sourdough bread with a crisper crust is usually obtained by steaming the dough for the initial five minutes approximately.
Varieties of Sourdough Bread Recipes
- Amish Friendship Bread- baked with sugar and milk apart from the standard ingredients.
- Pumpernickel- German bread originally baked with the sourdough spiked with citric or lactic acid.
- Desem- a popular form of sourdough bread of Flemish origin, it contains lesser amount of water.
- The prospectors for gold were believed to have carried the sourdough bread culture to bed in order to keep it warm.