If you follow food industry trends, you know that sourdough bread sales peaked during the corona crisis when interest in making sourdough at home became one of the most popular activities worldwide. Dubbed by some as a culinary silver lining to the pandemic, recipes for the naturally leavened bread went viral, with renowned chefs and bakers posting sourdough how-to videos online and using social media to demystify the unique baking process.
The great news for 2021 restaurant owners is that according to the experts, the public’s love affair with the loaves is far from over. If you are looking for ways to update your post-corona restaurant menu, then add sourdough bread to your offerings and let your chefs experiment with creating their own unique twist on the classic recipe. With consumers demand high, this is your chance to cash in on the opportunity and make a sweet profit.
Sourdough Bread History
Did you know that sourdough bread has been in existence for thousands of years and is said to be the oldest type of leavened food? The jury is still out as to who made the first loaf, but its origins have been traced back to Egypt over 4,000 years ago. Since then, varieties of the bread have appeared all over the world, producing a dough that is known for its chewy texture, crackly crust, and tangy flavor.
Fast-forward to the 19th century when commercial baker’s yeast became available and transformed the art of bread making. Instead of a lengthy, finicky process of preparation, bread began to be produced in large factories in a fraction of the time. Coming full circle to today (bringing to life the adage that ‘everything old becomes new again’), the ancient art of baking with sourdough has been revived, producing a wide range of modern baked goods that not only boast the signature taste and texture, but are healthier to boot.
What Exactly is Sourdough?
Sourdough is a naturally leavened bread, meaning it does not use commercial yeast (aka baker’s yeast) or any other additives to rise. Instead, the recipe for success lies in what is known as a ‘starter’ – a mixture of flour and water that is left to ferment, producing a population of wild yeast. The wild yeast, in turn, gives rise to lactic acid and carbon dioxide – aka healthy bacteria – which contributes to the shape, rise, and flavor of the bread and prevents the starter from going bad.
Breads today often get a bad rap, demonized for containing too many carbs and being high on the glycemic index. The latter measures how quickly the body converts food to glucose, and many bread products are known to rapidly spike blood sugar and insulin levels. This also makes them potential contributors to diabetes, heart disease, and other medical conditions.
The good news is that not all breads are created equal! Sourdough is significantly lower on the glycemic index than white bread, whole wheat bread, and multi-grains, is easier to digest, and is known to lower insulin levels and after-meal blood sugar. In part attributed to the long fermentation process that breaks down the starches, it also contains less gluten, making it tolerable for some individuals with gluten intolerance or celiac disease. Furthermore, the lactic acid content boosts antioxidant levels, which protect cells from damage cause by serious diseases.
Reduce Stress by Baking Sourdough Bread
If you lived through corona, you likely heard one of the buzz words of the times, ‘stress baking.’ It is a term used by nutritionists and psychologists to explain the connection between baking and positive feelings observed in studies. Indeed, many individuals use baking as a therapeutic tool to help them decrease anxiety and depression, wherein the acts of kneading, mixing, and rolling reportedly have a soothing, meditative quality.
Likewise, the creative process of transforming raw ingredients into a complete whole (picture freshly baked bread coming out of the oven…) is said to be deeply satisfying and self-empowering. It is no surprise, then, that stress baking peaked during the heights of the pandemic and/h2 that, given the ongoing uncertain times, demand for sourdough bread remains high.
So how do you make sourdough bread?
Chefs have two options when it comes to obtaining the natural leavening agent that replaces yeast in sourdough recipes called “sourdough starter”. They can purchase it or make it from scratch. Making it from scratch takes a few days but is as easy as 1-2-3. Here is a summary of one classic method:
- Add 1 cup of flour and ½ cup water to a large jar.
- Mix until it is a thick paste, cover and let sit for 12-24 hours at room temperature.
- After the first 24 hours you may not see any activity, so wait until 36 hours have passed. At this point you should see bubbling occur, at which point discard all but ½ of the jars’ contents and add 1 cup of flour and ½ cup water to the jar. Mix well, until thick, and cover for another 24 hours.
- This process is called “feeding” and you will repeat this process over the next few days. Feeding will be done approximately 1 or 2 times a day depending on how “hungry” your dough looks, meaning the bubbling activity occurs.
- Continue this discarding and feeding process for 6 or 7 days (depending on the temperature in your kitchen. In a warmer kitchen, the process is quicker). By this time, the starter dough should look visibly active, bubbling, rising, and doubling in size.
- As fermentation continues, you will have at your fingertips a culture of natural wild yeast and enough bacteria to make bread dough rise.
Sourdough Bread Ingredients
Classic sourdough bread is made from none other than good old flour, water, and salt plus sourdough starter. Nowadays you can use any type of specialty flour, but the original recipe calls for basic white flour. Likewise, feel free to use tap water and not break the bank on fancy mineral counterparts. Finally, although pure sea salt is considered ideal, any type of cooking salt, except for rock salt that needs to be crushed first, will do.
Creative Sour Bread Ideas for Your Restaurant
Once you have mastered the basic recipe, you can shape, score, and flavor the loaves in any way you or your customers like. For example, consider creating new varieties by flavoring your sourdough bread with ingredients such as nuts, seeds, olives, assorted grains, spices, herbs, and even chilies. Likewise, you can add raisins, dried fruits, and fold in chunks of cheese before baking. A particular consumer favorite is sourdough pizza, allowing you to infuse new life into a longtime best-seller.
Sourdough Bread Tips and Tricks
For a bread that stands out from the crowd – and hopefully brings in the traffic, enjoy these expert tips on preparing sourdough.
- Shaping and Scoring: The standard sourdough shapes are round or long. For the latter, instead of making a round ball, gather the dough into a tight roll, lift and pull into a rectangle shape, and bake in an oval-shaped casserole dish that holds the elongated form.
- Patterns: Did you know that you can create fancy sourdough bread patterns by scoring the dough with a knife? For example, you can make simple slashes on top and make the pattern stand out by first dusting the loaf with flour. You can also experiment with fancier patterns, such as a crisscross design, made via a series of large slashes. Tip: If sourdough bread is going to be a featured item on your menu, it may pay to invest in a lame, an exceptionally fine type of sharp blade used specifically to score breads before baking.
- Accessories: For best results, bake in a covered casserole dish or other ovenproof dish with a lid. When done, cool loaves on a wire rack. Serve in special bannetons (wicker baskets), in a cloth-lined basket, or in a bowl lined with pretty tea towels.
Maple Molasses Strawberry Sourdough Pancake Recipe
To treat your customers to a melt-in-your-month, heavenly culinary experience, try your hand at this divine recipe for sourdough pancakes flavored with a maple-molasses strawberry topping…
- 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
- ½ cup whole-wheat flour
- 3 tbsp. sugar
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 1½ tsp. salt
- 1¼ cups whole milk
- 1 cup prepared sourdough starter
- 2 eggs
- 3 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted (and more for griddle)
Maple Molasses Topping
- 1 cup pure maple syrup
- ¼ cup molasses
- 2 tbsp. unsalted butter
- Pinch of salt
- 1 pint strawberries, hulled and halved
- Prepare pancakes: In a large bowl, combine flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, sourdough starter, eggs, and melted butter. Combine flour and milk mixtures, stirring until just combined.
- Prepare the maple-molasses strawberries: In a large saucepan over medium heat and stirring occasionally, cook maple syrup, molasses, butter. Approximately 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in strawberries. Cover to keep warm.
- Preheat a lightly greased griddle or skillet over medium-high. Reduce heat to medium-low.
- Pour 1/3 cup or 1/4 cup of batter onto griddle to form pancakes. Cook until bubbles appear on top and sides appear set. Flip pancakes and cook until brown (1-2 minutes). Remove pancakes from griddle. Repeat with remaining batter.
- Top pancakes with maple-molasses strawberries.
- Serve and enjoy!