Get That Bread
Unpacking what bread really is, what I think it should be, and what's up with sourdough anyway
As we begin this journey together, I want to start by outlining what I mean by bread, and what I mean by justice.
Next week I'll have a bunch to say about justice... so for today I will focus on how bread is made, and importantly what it means for bread to be naturally leavened.
The foundation of bread is just three basic ingredients: flour, water, salt. The bread that you might buy at the store is made up of countless other things that help make bread companies more money by making their bread last unusually long on shelves and also be cheaper and faster to produce. I believe that as humans we should have great concern for what we're putting into our bodies, and we should have very little regard for how our consumption habits can help maximize the profits for large corporations that sell us food products.
Anyway... unless you are making an unleavened bread such as matzo, roti, tortilla or lavish – the fourth ingredient you’ll need for your bread will be yeast. Yeast is what causes the bread to rise, also known as a leavening agent.
There are a couple of common forms of yeast that one can make bread with. The two options are commercial yeast or wild yeast. Commercial yeast can be bought in the form of active drive yeast, instant yeast, and fresh yeast cakes. Any of these commercial yeast are made up of a single strain of yeast that has been isolated and mass produced because of how effectively and quickly it feeds on the natural sugars in your flour and then ultimately makes bread rise.
Wild yeast exists in the air, on flour, and on your skin. This wild yeast has historically been harnessed for bread making in a symbiotic culture of wild yeasts and good-bacteria which we often call a sourdough starter. A sourdough starter contains the same single strain of yeast that can be found in commercial yeast, as well as several other strains of yeast which are local to the environment in which you are keeping your starter. Making bread with a sourdough starter eliminates the need to use any commercial yeast, but instead relies more heavily on the element of time to rise your bread.
Since COVID came into our lives in March of 2020, my family has begun learning about fermentation. It is so fascinating how effectively food can be preserved, flavors can be enhanced, and nutrients can be improved in foods that we allow to ferment over time. My wife and I have tried our hands at making yogurt, sauerkraut, garlic honey, kombucha, and of course sourdough bread. What I've learned about making any of these fermented foods is that the most important part (and sometimes the hardest part) is allowing time to unlock the magic of the food. That is very true in the case of bread.
Since the start of humans making bread, we’ve been naturally fermenting our dough in order to make bread. Today we call this form of bread sourdough. As people's concerns about gluten sensitivities have increased in recent years, science has increasingly shown us that this old method of preparing sourdough was indeed a more healthy way to consume bread. Research has shown that bread made slowly will unlock the bioavailability of many nutrients in the wheat flour in a way that simply doesn't occur when we make bread quickly.
I'll dig into the science and process of sourdough another time... but for now I want to leave you with two things:
When I talk about bread, I’m talking about naturally leavened sourdough bread. This bread takes a long time to make, and is substantially different and more healthy than your average store bought bread.
If you haven't already voted, go vote on Tuesday - November 3rd for Joe Biden & Kamala Harris. This is key to the justice that I’ll be writing about next week.
P.S. Surely you have a friend who cares about bread and justice. 😁 What is your friend’s name? It would be very nice of you to send this to them and encourage them to subscribe.