More bakeries are putting this delectable, mould-resistant creation on their menu. Dean Brettschneider, owner of Baker & Cook, and Konstantino Blokbergen, founder of soon-to-open Firebake Bakehouse & Restaurant, weigh in on its appeal.
Sourdough is an artisanal bread made with only natural ingredients. Such loaves were popular right up to the end of the 19th century for their long shelf life and nutritional value.
Wild yeast (also known as levain), flour, salt and water are the four ingredients required to make sourdough bread.
The growing demand for bread at the beginning of the 20th century led to food corporations looking for faster and more profitable ways to push for higher yield in commercial bread manufacturing. Industrial yeast, processed flours, artificial sweeteners and food preservatives became widely used. Artisanal bread fell out of favour, until their health benefits started to take centre stage again in the 21st century. Once again, loaves like sourdough are enjoying their day in the sun.
The first step in making the loaf is to create the starter, which is the product of allowing flour and water to interact with each other until the resultant mixture bubbles vigorously and has a fruity and slightly sour scent. This process involves a lot of patience as it can take up to five days to make. It is also responsible for giving the bread its sour lift.
The main flavour and texture of the bread is obtained by leaving the dough to rest and ferment for between 12 and 18 hours in the refrigerator. This also helps to regulate the speed of the fermentation, which is necessary in our hot and humid climate.
A perfect piece of sourdough bread has a dark, foxy-red first crust, with an irregular, open and strong crumb. It should also have a slightly acidic flavour profile.
While it is best consumed on the day it is baked, preferably with good quality butter or generously dipped in extra virgin olive oil and sea salt, it can also be kept for up to five days to be slowly savoured. As the bread gets “older”, consider enjoying it with a meat stew.
Sourdough is regarded as one of the most difficult breads to make, because of the length of time needed, and the reliance on levain and natural ingredients, rather than processing aids (or chemicals), to create it.
Sourdough bread can be stored for up to three months. Wrap the bread in plastic wrap or aluminium foil, then freeze it. When it is to be eaten, thaw it for two hours and warm it up in the oven at medium temperature, beside a water pan to provide moisture.
Says Dean Brettschneider: “It is a very complex loaf and, if you don’t understand the basics of kneading, fermentation, moulding, shaping, rising and baking with steam, you will never achieve a good sourdough.”