Cooking Bread is one of the most satisfying experiences in the kitchen. This ritual feels like modern alchemy where three simple ingredients are put together to create gold. Don't take me wrong, this process is not fast, but you'll end up creating such a fantastic loaf of bread, that you'll not be able to do this just once. But, what is sourdough bread?
In a nutshell, it's the result of cooking a combination of flour, water and salt after the dough has been aerated using natural yeasts.
Sourdough bread has one secret ingredient, time. This bread is what is called a slow fermenting bread, that means we'll allow to the microorganism and enzymes present in our dough to pre-digest it. The resulting loaf will have both a characteristic flavour and aroma.
Before getting technical, there are some controversial topics about bread which are critical to address.
You can use any kind (or any combination of) strong flours to make your bread. Flours are called strong when they are rich in proteins. Those proteins once hydrated will form gluten. The elasticity of gluten will hold the carbon dioxide released by our yeast creating bubbles, allowing our bread to rise. If you use any non-high-protein flour as your main flour, your dough will not rise much because the gases will escape.
That being said, it is common to use multiple flours to make bread. You can replace any proportion of the flour with any high-protein one, like for example Wholemeal, or a small part with a low-protein one (Rye, Rice, Corn, Malt, Chickpea, Spelt, Soy, Semolina, Barley, Oat, etc...)
The combination of flours will make your loaf rich in flavours and textures. There is not right or wrong, experiment and find your favourite combination.
For many, the very first thing that will cross your minds when somebody mentions bread making is kneading. But as you have probably heard, there are many people who claim to achieve excellent result not kneading their bread... so what is going on?
10-15m of kneading has the consequence of speeding up the development of gluten. Why? First, because you'll make your dough warmer, this higer temperature will stimulate the gluten formation. Second, the mechanical force used will stretch the gluten strands making them stronger.
So, it is required? No, not at all. As I mentioned before, time is the secret ingredient of sourdough bread. Once flour is mixed with water, gluten will develop regardless of kneading or not. It is a chemical process that we can't stop from happening, altough we can slow it down by putting it on a fridge.
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