Around 6000 years ago, the Egyptians discovered how to make bread rise using natural fermentation. Ever since, bakers have kept a brew of fermenting flour and water called a leaven, or baker’s ‘wort’.
Around two decades ago, RedBeard created wort from wild yeast and lactose bacteria harvested from potato skins, which is a traditional Scottish technique. The yeast and bacteria produce bubbles of carbon dioxide, which makes the dough rise when trapped in its stretchy gluten structure.
The misleading term ‘sourdough’ was coined during the American gold rushes when miners carried their wort in warm saddlebags. The wort would give off a sour odour as it over-fermented in the heat. Good sourdoughs are never actually sour.
Doughs made from wheat spelt and rye flours contain gluten which is an elastic protein molecule. The stretchy gluten traps bubbles of carbon dioxide during the fermentation of the dough. The bread has a lovely texture, but gluten can be difficult for some people to digest.
Authentic sourdoughs like RedBeard’s, are leavened (fermented) with a culture of natural wild yeasts and lactose bacteria. This process takes many hours, during which time, up to 90% of the gluten gets broken down. In our experience, gluten intolerant people (but not all coeliacs) can enjoy RedBeard sourdough.
By contrast, most bread from supermarkets and chain bakeries is leavened with baker’s yeast – a single, virulent strain of yeast, which makes dough rise quickly. Most of the gluten remains in the bread, making it indigestible for some people. Our authentic sourdoughs are leavened with a natural, wild culture of yeasts and healthy bacteria. We don’t use bakers’ yeast, preservatives or any other additives.
We make our loaves with organic flour, shaped by hand and baked in a woodfired Scotch oven, built in 1891, which is one of only a handful of these traditional ovens still operating in Australia. RedBeard products are handmade from the finest local ingredients and available every day at our bakery/café in Trentham and regional farmers’ markets.
Making a starter
Before you can make your sourdough, you’ll need 2 to 3 days to prepare your starter. Find fresh, unbleached flour and mix it with luke-warm previously boiled water. Mix it to a consistency of thick paint. Let this paste sit in a ceramic or plastic ventilated container, bubbling away for 2 to 3 days. Your starter will die if it is too hot or not fed regularly. Add 50g to 100g of paste, made in the same way, to your starter every two to three days.
Your starter will bubble away happily in a warm spot, or you can keep it in your fridge to slow it down. With each batch of bread that you make you’ll use this starter, and as you get more confident it can also be used in a range of recipes.
Try RedBeard’s recipe for Plain Sourdough Bread
Published on 16 April 2020 by John Reid, Redbeard Historic Bakery