Sourdough or wild yeasted bread is becoming more popular in Hong Kong. However, very few people know what exactly is sourdough, the benefits of sourdough, and how to distinguish a good quality piece of sourdough.
Actually sourdoughs have been cultivated by human civilizations for centuries. However due to the complexity of maintaining the sourdough, necessity for high quality of flours and stringent requirements of proofing environment, sourdough was very quickly replaced by dried yeast in the early 20th century . Dried yeast consists of strains that were isolated in laboratories for their high stability and high fermentation rate and then mass multiplied to become the very product that we can conveniently pick up at supermarkets.
But as the expectations of food climb among city dwellers, as a bakery, we must re-innovate on use of sourdough so as to achieve a distinct flavor and texture in our products that other competitors can easily mimic. The fact remains that sourdough culture is fragile and easily affected by its surrounding environment but it is capable of producing a wide variety of organic compounds during fermentation. These products include organic acids that assist in our body’s absorption of minerals and uncountable compounds that account for the complex flavour profile of a high-quality sourdough bread.
While the term 'sourdough' may sound exotic, it is really easy to cultivate your own. It takes a week to cultivate it from scratch, using just flour and water. After that, the sourdough simply requires regular feeding of flour and water to keep it alive. Despite the ease of keeping a sourdough culture, many of the commercially available sourdough breads are actually made with a high proportion of dried yeast and may not even have the slightest characteristic tang of sourdough. Even if the fake sourdough tastes sour, it may be due to the addition of 'sourdough acid powder'. To date, no enhancer is capable of replacing the complex flavor profile and textures of a 100% sourdough or levain bread. Try making your sourdough at home and you will be truly amazed by the flavor and intensity brought to the bread by the thriving cultures of microorganisms that has taken up residence in a little bowl of flour paste.
This is simple satisfaction, a sanctuary amid our hectic lives.
從麵包師的覺度欣賞麵包 From a baker's perspective is series of short articles published in 經濟日報 in 2013. I have decided to publish them on this blog as it answers many questions that bread enthusiasts often have.