Ever since I started my bread exploration, the concept of live yeast has always fascinated me. In some way an amorphous blob of bacterial yeast makes bread rise. For a while I fought the idea of making true sourdough starter. My fear was that the starter would be too weak and I would end up with a stodgy loaf. For that reason, I would always add a small pinch of dry yeast. In my mind I felt comfortable knowing that the bacteria I knew was in there.
Over the years, I have made breads with dry yeast, fresh yeast and sourdough starter. Until last week, I just thought of yeast as the thing that puts bubbles in bread. Though that is one of its functions, it does much more. To tell you without really telling you, I have a wheat sensitivity. What I have noticed is that if I eat a lot of white bread, my joints get inflamed and worst case scenario I have a flare up for a few days.
Sourdough starter is simply a colony of live bacteria that ingest wheat
A few years back when I was working at a bakery in Buenos Aires called Salvaje, I noticed something. They used a sourdough starter in all their breads. During that time, I ate bread everyday for weeks at a time and I was okay for the most part. That started my exploration to understand what that bread did differently that other breads did not. I later started to understand that the difference was with the type of yeast.
Dry yeast was created to make bread fast. That yeast specifically has been trained to quickly create gas and aerate a loaf of bread. The moment the yeast starts to get wet, it gets to work and within 3 hours you can have a load of bread. If you have ever seen a truly pure white piece of bread, it is because they used dry yeast. For the most part you can get the same loaf of bread each time you use this yeast.
Sourdough Starter / Levain / Masa Madre
These are all names for the same thing. Flour activated by the natural yeast in the air. Unlike the dry yeast, this colony of bacteria is alive. It does the same things dry yeast does but it also ferments the dough. Don’t get me wrong. Dry yeast can also ferment a dough but that is not it’s primary function. These loaves are typically take on a grayish tinge. The result is a bit more unpredictable as the yeast is a completely alive product. The main difference is the more complicated flavor profile that develops.
What does that have to do with inflammation?
Fermented foods are easier to digest. If you take equal quantities of white bread and properly made sourdough bread, your body would treat them differently. Over time I started to find that long fermented wheat products produced little to no inflammation in my body compared to non-fermented wheat products. For that reason I keep some in the refrigerator at all times and throw a bit into almost all of my baking.
Bread made with a sourdough starter takes a bit more patience but the result is far more rewarding. Have you noticed any changed in your body when you eat different kinds of bread?