The science of making sourdough bread

Posted by on May 23, 2020 9:00 am
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Categories: Global Stories

The transformation of dough into a loaf is chemistry in action. With a bit of physics and microbiology. And love…

If bread is rising, sourdough is soaring. Along with pasta and toilet rolls, flour was among the first products to vanish from supermarket shelves and Covid-19 inspired a home-baking boom. While Google searches for “bread” tripled in the UK in the weeks after mid-March, those for “sourdough” rose sixfold. Sourdough differs from most bread in that it contains no baker’s yeast, relying instead on a fermented “starter” of water and flour to provide lift. This also provides its sour flavour and chewy texture.

It could be the reduced availability of baker’s yeast in shops, or perhaps the time-poor with a theoretical interest in sourdough finally found time to don their aprons. Whatever the reason, the sourdough revival has gone into overdrive. Vanessa Kimbell, author of The Sourdough School and regular contributor to Radio 4’s The Food Programme, says she has seen a 50% increase in Instagram followers and a 25% increase in membership of her online Sourdough Club, and that “the phone hasn’t stopped ringing”.

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