It’s hard to beat the aroma of freshly baked bread—especially when it’s the sweet tang of sourdough. This crusty bread has seen a recent surge in popularity, but what is sourdough and why is it so tasty? Here’s what sets sourdough apart from all the other loaves at the store.
The History of Sourdough
Bread has been around longer than many other foods, and sourdough has been around longer than most other breads—although the term “sourdough” is a newer one. The tangy bread has an airy texture with a distinct flavor, and you can easily make it at home. (Here’s how!)
Sourdough got its start before commercial yeasts and mass production were introduced in the 19th century. Traditional recipes contained a starter, salt and flour. Though this recipe sounds fairly plain, it produces the complex, tangy flavor we know and love.
The Science of Sourdough
Unlike traditional yeast breads, sourdough utilizes a “starter” made of water and flour. The starter ferments for several days, then is added to the dough and left to rise. This process results in a crusty outside and chewy inside with plenty of air pockets. But how does it work?
The fermentation of dough is a natural bubbly occurrence when yeast and lactobacilli, a lactic acid, get together. As the starter ferments, the dough is fed additional water and flour, increasing its volume. Though the process sounds tricky, it’s actually quite straightforward. You can learn how to make your own sourdough starter here.
What Makes It Sour?
The “sourness” of the bread comes from the acids produced in the starter. The ingredients, plus a warm environment, create a perfect storm for the starter to ferment and take on that signature sour flavor. If you’d like to make a more sour loaf, find a cool spot for the dough to rise. Or, when mixing the starter, use a higher ratio of flour to water.
What Separates It from Other Types of Bread?
Since sourdough is leavened with natural yeast, it creates a crusty yet airy loaf of bread with a rich flavor. These signatures help set sourdough apart from other loaves. But because of the bread’s long rise time—and the fact that it needs to be made by hand instead of in a machine—typically only one or two loaves of sourdough are made at a time.