By Maddie Rix
Hot, buttered sourdough toast is my absolute favourite thing; there is nothing quite so moreishly savoury and delicious. Sourdough is definitely having a moment – you can buy a tasty loaf just about anywhere, and artisan bakeries are brimming with different flours and combinations. My favourite pizza restaurant even makes its bases from the stuff.
Sourdough originated in Ancient Egypt as the first form of leavening, it was later replaced by barm – the foam that forms when beer is fermenting – and later still by purpose-cultured yeast. The process re-emerged in the mid 1800s in San Francisco, and in recent years it has become increasingly fashionable.
The increased popularity of sourdough is not just due to its delicious tangy flavour. The ancient process also gives the bread a unique texture, with chewy crust and moist, aerated centre. Each starter produces a different-tasting loaf, so manufacturers are able to create loaves that are completely unique.
The bacteria created in fermentation also gives your loaf a longer shelf life – a good sourdough can last up to 10 days. As if it couldn’t get any better, sourdough bread has significant health benefits too! Lactic acids aid the absorption of the vitamins and minerals in the flour. Sourdough also has a lower glycaemic index (GI) than normal bread, and the lactic acids make the gluten more digestible and less likely to cause intolerance.
It seems that the biggest sourdough fanatics reside in Sweden – they are obsessed. There are sourdough bakeries, sourdough blogs and a huge home baking sourdough movement. Indeed, in Stockholm you can now check your sourdough starter into the Hotell Surdeg (the Sourdough Hotel), part of the chic Urban Deli, to be fed and watered whilst you’re away from home. It reminds me of when we used to put our cat, Chloe, in the cattery when we went on our summer holidays. This service will set you back 300 Swedish kroner (about £28) a week.
Asa Johansson and Markus Lundgvist, owners of the Urban Deli Bageriet came up with the concept following a collaboration with art student Josefin Vargo. Joesfin started collected and storing starters from all over Sweden and even further afield for her Living Culture project. The hotel now has its own archive of sourdoughs, including one that is 130 years old! The Urban deli uses the starters to bake their own bread in the bakery, changing the starter each week. In turn customers can buy small jars of the deli’s established fresh starters to take home for themselves. The Urban Deli is a little hub for sourdough enthusiasts, giving bakers the opportunity to create networks for passing on knowledge, sharing experiences and exchanging ideas.
It is easy enough to make your own starter at home and maintain it (without checking it into a hotel). All you need is flour, water, time and a little love. The wild fermentation of flour and water produces a form of bacteria that acts like yeast and gives the dough its fantastic flavour. If you need a little help getting started – excuse the pun – you can always give your sourdough a boost in beneficial bacteria from an established starter, which you can buy in fresh or dried form online.
Make sure you have a look in at this gorgeous sourdough recipe from the team over at Jamie Magazine!
Image courtesy of The Flour Station