feeding healthy citizens from the fields around us
Baking for Community
Building the capacity of community bakeries and social enterprises is central to ensuring wide access to more nutritious bread and developing a market for our grains and flour. We will enable bakers to develop products that both bring out the best in Scottish grains and gain a significant commercial following. This will support the development of real jobs, short supply chains and local economic activity.
The first-ever training course in community-supported baking was created by Bread Matters in 2008. Combining technical baking skills with the commercial and financial knowledge needed to operate a successful community enterprise, the Baking for Community courses, advice and mentoring services will be our flagship programme.
New courses will include a one-day Introduction to Community-Supported Baking, a four-day farm-based residential experience From Seed to Sourdough and bespoke team development with expert facilitators, typically over two days, Together We Rise.
Why Bake Sourdough?
Sourdough is a culture of yeasts and beneficial bacteria that occur naturally in bread flour and dough. The yeasts are more varied and less concentrated than baker’s yeast, so they raise the dough more slowly. The lactic acid bacteria (LAB) also require many hours of fermentation to work their wonders.
Real sourdough is very simple, as befits a method that’s thousands of years old. You take some starter, refresh it with several times its own weight of fresh flour and water and let this ferment for some hours until the yeast population has grown. You use most of this dough to make bread by adding more flour, water and salt, and keep a little bit back as your starter for the next batch of bread.
(There is no need to fuss over and ‘feed’ your starter regularly: we’re talking fermentation here, not pet-care. Established starters will keep undisturbed in the fridge for days, weeks or months between bakes.)
Time is crucial. When the sourdough is allowed to ferment slowly over several hours, it is able to transform the main ingredient – flour – in ways that together justify sourdough bread’s claim to be the best.
Here’s a summary of the many benefits of sourdough, as revealed by research done in the past fifteen years (1):
Sourdough LAB can modify the bits of gliadin and glutenin protein in wheat flour that are toxic to people with coeliac disease (CD) and non-coeliac gluten sensitivity(2-6). This doesn’t mean CD sufferers can eat all (or even any) sourdough bread. It does mean that there is a time-honoured method for making wheat flour more digestible and that we urgently need to know which types of bread on sale in the shops deploy this to real effect.
LAB (including those commonly found in sourdough bread) produce beneficial compounds: antioxidants (7), the cancer-preventive peptide lunasin (8), and anti-allergenic substances, some of which may help in the treatment of auto-immune diseases (9). Interestingly, these by-products seem able to survive heating, suggesting that baked sourdough bread may have ‘probiotic’ potential (10) by stimulating immune responses in the gut (11).
Bread, especially if made with unrefined flour, is a significant source of dietary minerals such as iron, calcium, magnesium and zinc. But a slice of fast-made wholemeal may be nutritious only in theory if its contents pass straight through the body without being absorbed. The main culprit here is phytic acid, present in the bran layers of cereals, which ‘locks up’ the important minerals. Several hours of fermentation with sourdough is sufficient to neutralise phytic acid and make the minerals more bioavailable (12-13).
Problematic protein fragments are not the only thing in bread that we might want to reduce to a minimum. Acrylamide, a suspected carcinogen, can be found in bread crusts. Long fermentation, typical of sourdough systems, can reduce levels of the amino-acid asparagine that is a precursor of acrylamide formation (14).
Bread is often avoided by those affected by weight-gain and metabolic syndrome – rightly, perhaps, in the case of industrial white loaves with a high glycaemic index (GI). But sourdough LAB produce organic acids that, under the heat of baking, cause interactions that reduce starch availability. The lowest GI breads are whole-grain sourdoughs with a compact texture (15).
That’s a pretty compelling list of benefits even if we ignore the fact that bread-related metabolic complaints have proliferated just as the time taken to ferment most commercial bread has reduced. It’s this interplay of time and commercial advantage that should make us ask searching questions of some of the ‘sourdough’ breads now on offer.
The benefits of sourdough translate across the whole range of baked foods, including bread, buns, pancakes, pastries, cakes and even oatcakes. Andrew’s unique recipe for fermented bran sourdough wholemeal bread, below, is a way of making a lighter loaf with wholemeal flour without sacrificing any nutritional quality. Indeed, fermenting the bran separately produces valuable by-products of nutritional relevance, not to mention wonderful flavour. Equipped with a sieve and a little skill, you need never buy refined white flour again.
50 g bran
10 g rye sourdough starter
200 ml warm water (35°C)
Stage 3: Make a production sourdough
55 g wheat sourdough starter
50 g sifted flour
15 g wholemeal flour (or bran if you have extra)
40 ml warm water (35°C)
Ferment for 4 hours at room temp or 12-16 hours in a cool place.
Stage 4: Make the final dough
150 g production sourdough
250 g sifted flour
4 g salt
150 g fermented bran water (top up with plain water if necessary)
70 g drained fermented bran
Sift wholemeal flour to produce bran and sifted flour. Ferment the bran as specified.
In the morning, squeeze the bran out of the water. Use the fermented bran water to make the final dough, adding extra water if necessary.
Flatten the dough piece into a rectangle (portrait orientation). Spread the fermented bran evenly over the surface.
Roll up from the top towards your body, trying to keep a reasonable amount of tension in the dough without splitting it. If using a tin, drop the dough piece in with the seam downwards. If using a proving basket, dip the dough piece in rice flour and place in a basket seam upwards.
Prove under cover for 4-6 hours, depending on the vigour of your sourdough. Bake in a fairly hot oven for 10 minutes, then drop the temperature by about 20°C and continue for another 20 minutes or so.
“Thank you very much for such an enjoyable, educational, and inspirational Baking for Community course.”
James Doig 2014
“We derived such benefit from our two days of training…We’re now actively looking for a more permanent home which we can equip properly, having just secured funding for another year.”
High Rise Bakers (Bridging The Gap Charity, Glasgow) March 2016