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Sourdough September - Guest post from Chris Young of The Real Bread Campaign


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The ninth month of the year is Sourdough September and this is when the Real Bread Campaign goes on a mission to help everyone discover that: life’s sweeter with sourdough!

“It’s alive! It’s alive,” cried Colin Clive as the eponymous doctor in the 1931 film Frankenstein, words that echoed in my head as my first sourdough starter, or mother, began to bubble. However, far from being a ‘frankenfood’, as some people might see certain industrial loaves, genuine sourdough is about as simple and natural as Real Bread can be.

"So, what is this mystical sourdough of which you speak?"

It's simply:

  • Flour
  • Water
  • Salt

That’s it. Well, in a plain loaf, at least. Simples, as that darned, comparison-site-toting, mock Russian fuzzball would say.

And yet, for many loaf lovers, well-made, genuine sourdough (please: no space, hyphen or capitalisation…) is the bonanza of bready brilliance.

Everyone who has enjoyed expertly-crafted, slowly-proved, genuine sourdough knows about the oodles of flavour and glossy, chewy crumb within its crackling crust. This is largely thanks to the naturally-occurring yeasts and lactic acid bacteria in the flour, which are nurtured to make a starter that is used to raise the loaf instead of commercial baker’s yeast. These wild little critters work relatively slowly, allowing the dough more time to ‘ripen’. As is the case with fruit, cheese and wine, this greater maturity produces flavours that are deeper and more complex.

I keep writing ‘genuine’ as, sadly, there is little to no legal protection for the word sourdough, or for people seeking the real deal. If you have bought what was advertised as ‘sourdough’, only to be disappointed by a dense, doughy doppelgänger made using baker’s yeast and inert powdered mother - pseudough as Bread Matters' Andrew Whitley calls it - now you know why. Better hie thee to a Real Bread bakery for a loaf, or make your own.

September will see a smorgasbord of sourdough shenanigans, with Real Bread bakeries and baking schools getting the nation doughing. Expect tastings, feasts, starter sharing, classes and more.

If you’re an experienced sourdough baker, please join in! Ideas for sharing the leaven love include:

  • holding baking classes
  • offering your recipe to a local newspaper or website and inviting people to drop in to pick up a small pot of your starter so they can make it
  • giving away small, free samples of your luscious loaves
  • inviting people into the bakery to see how you make it
  • running discounts or other special offers

Even the non-bakers amongst us can do our bit. Why not help bring local people together around a tasting, or even feast, of different sourdoughs from your local Real Bread bakery, ideally working with them to organise the event. Add to this the fine fare from other local producers – such as cheeses, preserves, meats, veggie dishes, real ale and cider – and you have a veritable banquet on your hands.

If you’ve yet to pop your sourdough cherry, give it a go! There’s a guide to getting your own starter up and running on the Campaign website.

Chris Young coordinates the Real Bread Campaign, part of the food and farming charity Sustain. You can join the Campaign and both find and add details of local Sourdough September events at: www.realbreadcampaign.org

Sourdough with Stoate's Flour Real Mother's pride

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