Sourdough bread is always a welcome addition to cheap healthy meals, but it need not stop there. A nice piece of chocolate sourdough cake makes an excellent dessert to top off a meal. Or if you tend towards fudgier sweets how about sourdough chocolate brownies?
Often, when people look at sourdough they limit their thoughts to bread. This is an unfortunate oversight because with sourdough the options are plentiful. I even use mine to make delicious crepes. But there are far more pressing reasons than variety, which influence me to use sourdough as leaven for baking.
Aside from saving money on buying brewer’s yeast sourdough preserves and makes nutrients much more bioavailable than bread and other things baked with brewer’s yeast. Brewer’s yeast as leaven only became popular with the recent explosion in fast, convenience foods.
It is much more suitable to commercial interests that strive for speed, predictability, standardization and other mass production concerns. But, as with most, if not all, processed food something essential is lost in the hurry.
Because brewer’s yeast works so rapidly it is mostly an alcoholic ferment as opposed to slow working sourdough. Hence, there is considerably less acidification of the bread and it becomes much less digestible. Some of the detrimental effects are apparent in the fact that commercial bread spoils much sooner than sourdough.
This seemingly lost knowledge was known pragmatically for centuries. When yeast was introduced to the French in the court of Louis XIV in 1668 it was soundly rejected! Scientists, even at that time, knew that it would jeopardize people’s health!
As I noted in another article on cheap healthy meals, the main concern with whole grains is phytic acid, which binds with essential minerals such as calcium, magnesium, zinc and iron potentially leading to severe deficiencies. This has to be neutralized by soaking or sprouting if using yeast as leaven.
Whole grain baking products made with yeast as leaven, as most commercial ones are, are very unhealthy for this reason. The long, partially lacto-fermentation of sourdough, almost completely removes the phytic acid concern. Did our ancestors know something that we don’t?
Sourdough is also surprisingly easy to make and to maintain. Although the web is full of sites with specific, sometimes complex, instructions, a child could easily do it. I don’t even use measurements anymore to make mine.
I basically put some freshly ground whole rye flour in a mason jar and add warm water to a thick, but still watery consistency, keep it in a warm place covered with a cloth and feed it twice a day. I begin with relatively small amounts and feed it as little as roughly a Tbs or so of flour and a bit of water.
I never did buy into all the complex measuring and throwing half away and other strange practices that I have read about. I have also seen a lot of jargon about the percent of hydration, which I also ignore. I just follow the KISS principle and use sourdough for everything that I bake or even some of what I fry, as in pancakes.
The somewhat famous Alaskan Frontier Sourdough Pancakes remind me of a humorous anecdote along these lines. Some of the first pioneers drawn to Alaska by the excitement of reported gold strikes would have been lost without their sourdough. I have read stories of where they even took it to bed with them afraid of losing it due to freezing.
The humor is in the fact that sourdough is so easy to maintain because you can even freeze it! The only thing that will kill those healthy little beasties fermenting your dough is too much heat.