Thursday, November 18, 2010

Sourdough Adventures

For quite some time I have known about the health benefits of soaking, fermenting and/or souring grains. About 5 or 6 years ago, a good friend of mine let me borrow the Nourishing Traditions cookbook, which covers this subject very thoroughly.

Whole grains are full of wonderful vitamins and minerals, but they are not ready to be absorbed without preparation. Wheat is basically a seed: if you plant it, you will grow more wheat. All seeds have a protective "coating" which help the seed store for a long period of time and essentially "holds" most of the nutrients. So how do you prepare wheat in a way that your body can absorb all these vitamins and minerals?

The answer is fermentation or sprouting. This was the traditional means by which grains have been prepared for pretty much all of history up until modern processes have made food both more readily available and less nutritious

"Sprouting, soaking and genuine sourdough leavening "pre-digests" grains, allowing the nutrients to be more easily assimilated and metabolized. This is an age-old approach practiced in most traditional cultures. Sprouting begins germination, which increases the enzymatic activity in foods and inactivates substances called enzyme inhibitors. These enzyme inhibitors prevent the activation of the enzymes present in the food and, therefore, may hinder optimal digestion and absorption. Soaking neutralizes phytic acid, a component of plant fiber found in the bran and hulls of grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds that reduces mineral absorption." (Excerpt from What Happens to Wheat, from Seed to Storage)

Even though I knew and understood the information, the thought of taking so much time to prepare our grains just overwhelmed me.

Sourdough Starter
And then I saw this e-course on sourdough. Maybe I could do this after all! The list of what you could make with sourdough was extensive and the e-course is "pay what you can". So I signed up and got started. The first thing I did was create my sourdough starter culture. This is quite simple to make with flour and water.

After my starter was established, I started experimenting with the sourdough goodies. The first things I made were pancakes and waffles. The waffles were definitely our family's favorite. They are so fluffy, crispy and we couldn't even taste any "sour"! (I never thought anything could rival my mom's recipe, but I think these do.)

Rosemary Crackers
Next I made crackers. Oh my. These are so good! We have now made them 4 times. This last time we made several varieties: rosemary, sea salt, cheese, and spicy cheese. My 6 year old daughter loves these and everyone who has tried our crackers loves them! I don't think we will ever be able to return to regular, store bought crackers.

I attempted sourdough bread (pictured above) and I would say it turned out alright. It was pretty dense, but still very tasty. I also made these cinnamon rolls. Oh yum! They were so gooey and delicious! Again, there is absolutely no sour flavor. You wouldn't know they were sourdough unless I told you. (They didn't last very long in our house...)

I have also made chocolate cake (yum!), pizza dough, artisan bread, and these English Muffins. The English muffins are so good and moist, I ended up making them two days in a row.

I never thought I would be able to make such delicious and nutritious food for my family so easily. Who knew that sourdough is so versatile and simple?

My sourdough adventures are just beginning. I am sure you will read much more about sourdough (and maybe even a few recipes) in my posts to come. Stay tuned...


  1. Tanya, you are amazing! I don't know anyone else who makes their own crackers! I'd love to try them sometime. :) Was the process very long or complicated?

  2. You are welcome to try them! I would say that the crackers are the most foolproof of all recipes. Basically, you mix some starter, butter and flour and let that sour. Then you knead in some salt, baking soda and flavorings (cheese, rosemary, whatever). Roll them out, cut them and bake them. I think this will be the next recipe I post. :)