I've decided I'm going to try my hand at bread making again. Sourdough is the way they used to make bread before the advent of packaged yeast. It's the way Caroline Ingalls fed her family. It's old fashioned so it appeals to me immediately. I'm an old fashioned kinda gal--ask anyone who knows me :) So I just ordered a sourdough starter from "Friends of Carl". Friends of Carl is an organization that carries on the tradition of Carl Griffith who gave away, free of charge, a bit of the sourdough starter which came from a sourdough culture carefully nurtured and preserved in his family for over 150 years. It is the same starter his family brought with them on the Oregon Trail in 1847. I love a bit of history :) besides, it's free!
I made an attempt at sourdough bread before, but I think I fed it wrong and it died. My bread started turning out pretty badly so I threw it out. But recently I discovered Sourdough Home. Mike is very thorough and reading through this site has given me the confidence to think that maybe I can do this.
Anyway, nowadays nutritionists urge us to eat whole, unrefined grains--a very smart idea! Refined grains contain little to no nutritional value. Because all the nutrients are stripped out during processing they now "enrich" white flour with synthetic vitamins which aren't much better, I assure you.
A look at Egyptian mummies and hieroglyphs will confirm that while the peasantry ate their grains whole, Pharaohs and nobles had slaves pound and sift until they had white flour. While the peasants seem to have lived fairly healthy lives, their noble counterparts suffered from scoliosis, rickets, and osteoporosis. The problem is that while the bran of the grain contains vital nutrients, it also contains phytic acid, which combines with calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and zinc in the intestines. This blocks our bodies' abilities to absorb them leading to deficiencies and degenerative diseases.
Grains, whole or not also contain gluten which is difficult to digest. This country is seeing a rise in grain allergies, celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, chrones and yeast overgrowth. But there is a simple answer to all of these problems. A simple process of which primitive peoples were aware, and practiced, but was lost along the way with industrialization. Nearly all primitive peoples soaked, soured or sprouted their grains.
When we soak grains and legumes in yogurt, buttermilk, whey or sour milk (or lemon juice if you happen to have a milk allergy) or when we sprout them prior to grinding the phytase introduced from the souring breaks down most, if not all of the phytic acid. This leaves vitamins and minerals available for absorption. The souring also introduces lactobacilli which helps to break down the gluten into more digestable components.
And that's where sourdough comes in. It is a great way to make bread because it sours or ferments your grain for you in the process. It is also quite delicious.