Requiem for sourdough

JohnD's picture

When i started making sourdough bread,it was with the spirit to rerinstate a lost art,which was also beneficial to consumers,because modern bread causes pathologies,quite frankly. I say that because its what the people experience, and is common talk. Its not what you will hear from most bread industry figures,or the apologists who support them. But we have all become accustomed to the onslaught of profit oriented business, which simply annexes what is worthwhile and converts it to an "erzatz" or mere replica, without the inherent value of the original product. This is not news,but an ongoing saga,as our food is converted from a nutrient dense,life supporting neccessity,to that which is nutrient-less and obesity/pathology forming. This isnt just my opinion...please read widely on the subject with careful avoidance of the material funded by the large food corporations and their lackey "scientists". Michael Pollans "In Defense of Food" , or "The Omnivores Dilema"is a good place to start, or Warren Belascos "Appetite for Change". There is also considerable medically-oriented research which affirms the  notion that modern refined food is undoing the health of the "advanced" western nations.

Why do i say "Requiem" for sourdough? Its because i watch with great interest,and some concern,as standards which once stood as a mark of truth,basically, are slowly eroded. Some regard me as a "purist" because of my approach. I think this is puerile, and wonder what the opposite of what i am supposed to be "a purist",is? adulterator?...i simply stand for the authentic,as most which is authentic around us is, as ive said, just swept away, and adulterated. The victims of this adulteration are the consumers...the punters...the everyday folk who are turning up at their doctors in record numbers with undiagnosed pathologies,or stuff such as "Irritable bowel syndrome"...caused by "Food"...for goodness sake,we are becoming so weak that we arent even fertile anymore,and people recourse to all sorts of  expensive technology to have babies... we arent even replacing our population anymore...we are dying out!

Go to the "underdeveloped" countries where people eat real food,even though there is not enough of it,and you find fertile people with lots of kids,populations booming....and they still smile,unlike the grim faces which populate our streets.

But fast forward to the latest petrol station,and what does the advertising say?...oh yeh,we sell "real food",yeh right.

This relates to what we all do on this site,(and particularly the professionals and teachers.)..make food. Yes bread is food, and as such has a huge importance,because it creates us. You dont accept that...fine go without food and learn how central it is to life.

To mess with our food,and trivialise it with scientific rationalisations, is our undoing. Hence,dont mess with sourdough bread. It is an ancient and important skill.It doesnt require ascorbic acid or bakers yeast, and if you cant make it without these adulterants,dont claim to make genuine sourdough, because truthfully,it isnt and you dont.


Jeremy's picture
Jeremy 2008 February 23
You know John it reminds me of Ray Bradbury's book Faranheit 451, where people become the books and try to remember them, sort of a strange analogy, seems like we remembered that people made bread but we lost some of the key steps or rules in making it so we just punted the ball and or ran with it?

TeckPoh's picture
TeckPoh 2008 February 23

John, I appreciate your unflagging stance in the defense of Sourdough. In an ideal sourdough world, one does not need to tag the prefix REAL to Sourdough to distinguish from impostors. I'm beginning to see the enormous uphill task ahead for true sourdough bakers who produce the real thing, to educate customers to be able to tell the difference between the taste of bread raised on wild yeast and baker's yeast and the hybrids. And, that sourdough breads do not merely have a sour taste (whether mild or face-puckering) which can be introduced by many other means other than natural.

There is this friend of mine who bakes a lot of breads. He nurtured a firm 'sourdough' starter since he stayed in the UK and brought it back with him. One day he asked if I might want his starter which he keeps frozen. It came with a recipe for Pain de Campagne. I nearly fell off my chair when I saw that the recipe says to refresh this starter with baker's yeast and that each time a small lump is saved to become the starter for the next bake! Duh.

I bake breads for a few friends who have come to appreciate sourdough breads. Initially, I sensed their trepidations, but, over time, they developed a liking (and even addiction) for my breads. As I've said in another post, one of them even said they helped her to slim down. :?

However, for the general Malaysian public, I can't see how sourdough is going to be accepted. The 3 main problems are:

1. Malaysians have been eating and liking soft, white breads. Because of our current hectic lifestyle, the breads which are very saleable are those with fillings. People don't want to work their jaws or hands to fill their stomachs.

2. Ignorance. People are afraid of the concept of sourdough. "Is this bread sour because it has gone bad?" Will the sourness contribute 'wind' to our systems?

3. It's sad that people have to PAY to get real food these days. Organic unbleached flour costs at least 5 times white bleached flour. I hardly make anything from the breads I sell to keep the selling price acceptable.

It's good that there are people like you, John, who stick to their guns, even if a good part of the bakery industry might hate you, if I might say so, for appearing so exclusive and unflinching. There is a chinese saying, "River water does not contaminate well water", which means one shouldn't interfere (with)/agitate the other. It cuts both ways, I suppose.

JohnD's picture
JohnD 2008 February 23

Thanks. Sourdough exists in Chinese food culture in the form of pau. I made sourdough steam buns once and a Chinese woman in the class was flabbergasted because they were identical to what she ate in the north(Peking) as a child. Try it,use Indian atta or maida flour.There is such a recipe in my "Soy Source" book,filled with a tempeh goreng.

Also check out idli, you know,sourdough rice and gram,from South India,but also in Penang,and probably near you.

Have you tried a ragi to leaven with? I always wanted to use tapeh in bread fermenting.

Sourdough is everywhere,and those forms are culturally and climatically suitable for season/local/appropriate.

TeckPoh's picture
TeckPoh 2008 February 23

I just made chapatti with atta flour a couple of days ago. Yum, with a vegetarian kurma (which had in it organic soy chunks, tempeh, quinoa, carrots, kolrabi, red lentils....rolling eyes...I go overboard when I start clearing things in the fridge/larder). I love idli but have not made it before. I should try; we do have all these flours here after all. I do make paus but haven't attempted a sourdough version. Someone told me his didn't work well. But, I'll give it a go, with atta flour. Just ordered a 14" bamboo steamer.

But...but...John. If I remember reading somewhere in one of your blog entries, you were mentioning that to be sourdough in the truest sense, the ingredients have to be organic? I'm quite sure the above breads are NOT made from organic sources. I can see where you're coming from, though....that, breads which do not have added commercial yeast (are naturally leavened)  are safe to be considered sourdough, is it? And, I can use that to explain the concept of sourdough?

JohnD's picture
JohnD 2008 February 23

Yeh well danubian reckons so,and i have to agree for the sake of clarity,rather than splitting hairs.Genuine fermented Idli for example is a sourdough.

 Leaven has  a big history in China,and does make superb pau. Its a question of skill. Leaven is used in Chinese medicine even,ive seen it referred to as "medicated leaven", the pin yin may be,"chi-chiu-ch`u"?, i cant find the reference, but i have "bread" as  "cheng-ping",the "e" has an  "^" accent....does that make any sense?

Yeh organic is great if youve got it and can afford it,and unquestionably the best in terms of intrinsic "quality", and what i recommend and use. However,good bread made from regular flour is better than no bread,and if its sourdough,still better than regular yeast and additives white tiles. Theres no question you can make really good bread with conventional flours....and through lack of skill,crap bread with organic flour,but good bread is even better with organic flour and sufficient skill. Mate,i have always tried to get organic flour,and was using it in the mid-70`s, but when i cant get it,i have to use whats available,its as simple as that, and i treat that as a challenge and learning experience. I reckon its "achar nahin hai" to be stuck on

Jeremy's picture
Jeremy 2008 February 23
In essence then sourdough= equals healthy even when married with average flour? Does it make the average flour better, are there any intrinsic value changing things happening there?

TP that made my eye's roll too! You should send pictures to the gallery!

Levain as medicine, Crystal waters gives baths or something right Graham?

JohnD's picture
JohnD 2008 February 24
Yeh,the same good stuff happens re nutrient increase as a result of microbe metabolism,digestibility and bioavailability its just that residual fungicides/herbicides etc are there, and the nutrient levels,particularly of minerals will be lower, because the assays of organic flour revealed significantly increased minerals.
TeckPoh's picture
TeckPoh 2008 February 24
My mandarin is elementary (I'm a cantonese speaker plus a sprinkling of a few other dialects). I've only heard of breads in chinese as mian bao 面包and mantou 馒头. I'm thinking your cheng ping could be more correct in pinyin as zheng bing 蒸 饼which literally translated is steamed pastry. Leaven is qu 麯.

Thanks for the nudge, John. It looks like, for the sake of roots and connection, I'll have to research into chinese 'sourdough' breads. ;) You've certainly piqued my curiousity.
Danubian's picture
Danubian 2008 February 24

like TP I see the difficulty ahead; however, I think it's too early for obituaries! Yes, the road ahead will be tortured and fraught with all kinds of problems but sourdough technology has within it the seeds of its own survival. It’s a base technology that can and will replace this unsustainable decaying system, primarily because there is nothing better. One only needs to look around to recognise that modern civilisation is headed for a cataclysm that will necessitate the need for change. Currently there are dangers everywhere, financial, social, and material. The current financial system is based on nothing more than government "fiat" which has stripped us of our economic freedom. Omnipotent governments make deals with banks that provide them with the means to illegitimately tap our economic vitality. Of course, most people are ignorant of the crude victimisation but Lincoln's dictum stands. The danger that people won't wake up in time and cede to another round of suffering is very real. However, although it may prolong the agony it's not beyond the pale that one day people will again need to be self reliant like their forefathers were, grow their own food and bake their own bread in local communities. After dark ages enlightment comes and flowers in the most unexpected places!

My critics call me the ultimate pessimist, but they miss the deeper optimism. I reiterate; the small seeds of sourdough are growing and will flower in the fullness of time.

No matter where in the world you look you'll find sourdough, albeit it by local names. If I wanted to document the extent, and natural range of sourdough around the world I wouldn't be looking first in Paris, New York, San francisco, or Detmold, it exists in those places, but I 'd first look in the villages and homes around the world where people are in touch with their rural roots and carry on the age old traditions that were handed down to them from their ancestors. Sourdough, you just can't keep it down.
JohnD's picture
JohnD 2008 February 24

Well Danubian i have to agree, and in all honesty i must say that my "Mass for the souls of the dead"(Requiem),was for the souls of the "dead" "artisan" bakers particularly in Melbourne who are adding ascorbic acid to their "organic artisan sourdough breads". I simply cant fathom it,and it reminds me of when a new drug hits the "hood",and everybodys on it, until one day they wake up in hospital....or dead.

I could rant about the glaringly obvious delusion they are under,and the deception they practice,but really,they have betrayed the mother country...truth.

Their breads seem objectively no more improved.Im wondering if these bakers assess their products from a sensory point of view, which includes "good to think about"?....i came back from my last trip to Melbourne wondering why their breads werent a patch on mine...except for Ian Banfields at Fruition which was excellent, and David Browns at Firebrand..neither of who are "on" ascorbic..and i say that advisedly because i attempt to analyse objectively, im not just full of my own bullshit(well i hope...), and to that end passed the breads around my family,who all know my bread, and made no comment at all. When i asked one member,she actually replied shocked,"was that supposed to be a sourdough?".As ive said elsewhere,there was also this taste i hadnt experienced before,and i thought it was the flour? Well now i know it wasnt.

 These fashionable dudes have everybody hoodwinked,and i just think that if they cant make sourdough bread without ascorbic acid,well get a job!. Another family member looked at the 100%rye and just dismissed it on technical ground that it was not cooked properly,and clearly doughy as the crumb had subsided...and this from the most groovy bakery in Melbourne.

Anyway,im going to make some bread with ascorbic acid and attempt a tecnical and sensory assessment,compared to my regular bread,so i can have more insight into what i see as ..well, just a F shame really.

It saddens me,because as i said,when i started to bake in Melbourne,and make waves, it was to make additive free bread..and now these guys are putting additives in their bread? DUUH! nothing sacred? 

Im also aware that this is sort of rarefied for most,but there has to be a benchmark by which measurement is taken. If the benchmark is flawed, measurement becomes anarchic, and we certainly lose our way.

Jeremy's picture
Jeremy 2008 February 24
Isn't it weird that while "ORGANIC", "market driven", all those flash card culinary words have also started to be mass marketed, the industrialist want to take mother nature and make it there own?
I even wonder weather there is a two tier system of marketing, a second class citizenry getting the waste while the wealthy get the better half or are we going to see a soilent green world really happen?
I didn't realize living in a city how far I am from fresh food, we always think how close we are to the best, but until you eat from the earth itself you can't taste, even as a chef you can become subjected to limited taste value! When my sister pulled out baby carrots straight from her garden and had me taste them, it was an epiphany, warm and live in comparison to those long traveled carrots I order from a phone, to a distant office from some other state, county, or country so far removed! We do have the farmer now coming to the city, but when will the chef be able to know his farmer, go and shop, perhaps all this luxury dining isn't what it is cracked up to be! Questions, no easy answers but lots of deciding and well good challenging topics!

Graham's picture
Graham 2008 February 24

I have eaten raw leaven before, just to understand why people would come to our bakery and ask for leaven to drink/eat (it is both, I think). My feeling was that these were European people who were practicing what they did in the old land, wiping out undesirable bugs, improving the health of intestinal flora.

Anyway I am sorry that I can not remember exactly how my guts reacted...but would welcome comments from others that have/will try it.

The point is that you would not even be interested in swallowing a leaven from a baker that used additives in their bread. Are their additives in the leaven also? How would you know? The idea of swallowing a brew containing baker's yeast is somehow more repulsive than swallowing a natural leaven.

Likewise, I would happily bath in a brew made from anyone in this post, because I have a belief in their ability to carry out a pure process. Jeremy i do not know if Crystal Waters have a spa bath full of leaven, but they are another baker who is not prepared to compromise and I could easily relax for a complete 12 hour feed in their brew. 

There are a couple of aba baker 'gatherings' brewing, one in Sydney and the other in Victoria, Australia. Our Victorian host has proposed a session explaining how he successfully removed vitamin C from his bread and increased the quality of his bread. More soon.

I have just read Jeremy's email about his interview with John Downes...going to check it out. Graham



JohnD's picture
JohnD 2008 February 24

A baker has removed the ascorbic acrid (spelling intended)from his bread!!!!!!!!!!!!! YES! welcome to the world whoever you are!

Graham,thats a really interesting addition. As you say,it is well known in history,and yes swallowing diluted leaven does restore depleted intestinal flora.and corrects acidity. Ive done this and its a pleasant drink. I did it because i noticed that a lot of the yeasts and bacteria i knew to have been found in sourdough,were also documented as major intestinal flora. My new book goes into this.Leaven is actually grain yoghurt, from another perspective.

There is a story i heard that after WW2,when german prisoners were being returned home after stretches in Russian camps, they were in really bad shape.One group however looked by contrast remarkably well,and one was asked why. He replied that their group leader was a baker,and he fermented their meagre ration of rye flour,and had them all drink it diluted.It appeared to save them.

It stands to reason.

CaperAsh 2011 May 26



A few weeks ago I heard of Kambucha for the first time. At some point I will order a starter culture just for the fun of it.

But to see if I could grow my own from scratch (i.e. maybe you don't actually need a magic mushroom/fungus to start it off) I put in some old starter I have in a bowl in the fridge (for sourdough pancakes), some totally indeterminate blend of rye and spelt and blended starter remnants, some months old and mixed together.


I can't remember what I put in, but I think about half a cup into a large jar (quart?). And have left it on the fridge for a while. Checking through my search history I see it is the 27th of April. So basically one month.


After reading these posts, and given I have had some sort of intestinal distress for months now following a drought last year and bad water for a few weeks (at least I think that's what triggered it, maybe it's poor sourdough making techniques though generally my problems, when there are any, are to do with over fermentation so I doubt it). So this morning I remembered that jar on the fridge which really hasn't changed much except to gradually darken a little. It is a nice light brown color all the way through, still clear, like diluted Coca Cola, and a layer of sludge (the original starter) at the bottom. I had been looking for the formation of a 'mushroom' as in the Kombucha pictures, but nothing like that has grown at all.


Anyway, I opened it up this morning. It is bubbled slightly but there was very little pressure release. I don't think I had the cap on tight. And tasted it.


Good grief! It is delicious! It is sweeter than Coca Cola (as I recall the stuff). Fizzy. I then tried a small glass. After 10 mins or so felt a little queezy and then after 30 minutes feel fine. I topped up the jar with fresh water but in future plan to dilute what I take out of the mother jar, so to speak, probably 1 - 5, and probably not top up rather make a larger amount. That is if I get good results. But frankly, it tastes so good that I am instantly convinced it is good for you.


I am curious: how can starter fermenting away with no other inputs in a jar of water, whose 'food' is organic flours that have already been fermenting in the fridge for 1-6 months, become as sweet as sugar to the taste?

Danubian's picture
Danubian 2008 February 24
Not only does it adulterate sourdough bread, it's unnecessary; I'm quite familiar with conventional baking where ascorbic acid is central to the "process" and to compare, sourdough makes the use of any additives or processing enhancers void. All the conditioning needed can be achieved by sourdough microbes and the organic compounds they produce.

I wasn't aware it had become an issue. I remember, long ago, my satisfaction when I discovered sourdough did everything required through natural biochemical means in a bread dough, eureka! I can dispense with the additives! Why take the retrograde step of adulterating after discovering the philosophers stone?! I can't understand it, can you?
JohnD's picture
JohnD 2008 February 25

Tell it like it is mate! Could you describe for me what it does/is supposed to do?

 Id been thinking it stimulates the yeasts,which will hinder acidity/bacteria and the cascade which results in what we know as sourdough.

The sourdough bread i had in melb which contained it,was definitely  less flavoursome,and i was simply confused. I rang up Ian Banfield from Fruition, and he kindly came to the bread show and gave me a loaf. As i ate into it,i was even more confused but it was what i know as topline sourdough bread.None of this made sense to me til later, when my sister said to me of a loaf from Melb, "is that supposed to be sourdough?".

 I didnt know it was an issue either until Graham asked my opinion about using it in s/d, and i was taken aback that its use was so widespread in sourdough. I knew it was used in regular bread.

After that relevation,all the sensory analysis i had done which confused me, fell into place.

As well, all of it is now known to be analog vit C. The major form which actually occurs in nature is only available as a concentrate from acerola cherries , or correctly processed fruit. So it cannot pass the " oh but its natural" test.

Danubian's picture
Danubian 2008 February 25

Without going into excessive detail, although some is necessary, the role of ascorbic acid is primarily as a protein conditioning agent. It's sometimes referred to as an oxidising agent.

"Gluten" is a combination of two proteins, glutenin & gliadin. Both are present in wheat endosperm - the inside white part of wheat - which is extracted from the wheat berry to form "white flour".

Being a protein gluten has, among other physical characteristics, the nature of a strand of beads made up of amino acids in specific combination that are repetative. These strands are tangled and usually form a helical shape in flour. Not only does gluten form helical shapes, they are also bonded to other strands, and even to other parts of the same strand. In this state the protein lacks the ability to extend and is very tough or overstable. That's why when water is added to flour to form a dough it remains tough during the early stages of mixing, it's unable to stretch and breaks easily, lacking the ability to extend. 

In order to make wheat bread as we've come to know it these gluten strands must be teased out, untangled by breaking the sulphur bridges/bonds that form between these strands and parts of the same strand to impart the ability to extend. These bridges are broken by physical means - mixing, and stretching during fermentation by gas production - also chemical means through enzymes and acids.

After the bridges are broken and the strands are free to be teased out and realigned (untangled) the formation of sulphur bridges is desirable. The formation of these new bridges imparts a stability to the gluten network or matrix which allows the dough to stretch and extend or expand relatively freely and remain stable. This is why a mature bread dough is able retain gas and remain relatively stable. Of course this expansion has limits.  

The process of breaking these sulphur bridges or bonds is referred to as "reduction". 

The opposite, the formation of sulphur bridges or bonds is referred to as "oxidation".

The entire process described above is referred to as "gluten modification". This is process occurs in bread doughs be they sourdough or conventional.

So, where does ascorbic acid fit into this modification process?

Ascorbic acid accelerates the formation of surphur bridges, an important feature of the rapid dough system, and imparts a strength to bread doughs enabling them to expand further resulting in increased bread volume as the gluten is able to retain the gas more efficiently while remaining stable at these high volumes.

The other feature ascorbic acid is responsible for is improving dough "tolerance". Dough tolerance is defined as the ability to withstand the stress placed on the gluten during fermentation and stretching as it expands. This means it allows the gluten to remain relatively strong for an increased period of time during the DTO time.

In conventional bread making which is almost exclusively produced using the rapid dough system ascorbic acid is added at the rate of 100ppm (100 parts of ascorbic acid per million parts flour) It is never added as a stand alone ingredient but as a micro ingredient of most bread improvers. It's not practical to weigh-up such small quantities in bakeries so its added to bread improvers to achieve 100ppm when the recommended usage rate of the bread improver is adhered to.

In theory if the ascorbic acid is detected by the senses too much has been added. Dosing a bread dough with ascorbic acid above 100ppm has no further enhancement on those processes described above.

You mention yeast stimulation, which is another feature of the rapid dough system. It's achieved by adding a nitrogen source. This again is typically added to bread improvers in the form of an ammonium salt such as ammonium chloride or ammonium sulphate.

The central feature of the "rapid dough" system as the name implies is to accelerate the entire process with the added feature of making a highly aerated product possible.


Jeremy's picture
Jeremy 2008 February 25
I recall my brother telling me the French bakers adding ascorbic acid to baguettes! Supplements for bread, just like vitamins!
JohnD's picture
JohnD 2008 February 25
Yeh well its not unknown culturally either. Clever Indian bakers add Daikon radish (Snskrit,Mooli) to a bread they make called " maki ki roti". Daikon has a massive amount of the natural form of ascorbic, along with an array of digestive enzymes. The bread is made from maize flour,which contains anti-nutritionals unless nixtamalised,as the American Indians discovered.The daikon performs the nixtamalising!...proto-science/instinctive... .magic really.
Jeremy's picture
Jeremy 2008 February 25
Daikon radish is great, especially pickled with carrots, and tortillas aren't to shabby either!

Cheers mate!

doughman 2008 February 27
As Danubian mentioned...ascorbic acid is responsible for improving dough tolerance.  If you're making a baguette dough and you're not using sourdough in the final dough except for a poolish, and you want to do a long fermentation with it (overnight), then a very small amount ascorbic acid could be useful.  From what I heard ascorbic acid is otherwise known as vitamin C.
Jeremy's picture
Jeremy 2008 February 27

Good for colds too I hear, though a good beer or hot toddy can do wonders!

Can you make a sourdough poolish? Or Biga for that matter? I think I have before substituting the yeast for sour, just don't want to be thought of as a knit wit!


[quote=doughman]As Danubian mentioned...ascorbic acid is responsible for improving dough tolerance.  If you're making a baguette dough and you're not using sourdough in the final dough except for a poolish, and you want to do a long fermentation with it (overnight), then a very small amount ascorbic acid could be useful.  From what I heard ascorbic acid is otherwise known as vitamin C.

doughman 2008 February 27

Hmmm....a sourdough poolish?  Hmmm...a poolish is equal amounts of flour, water, and a small amount of yeast.  If you're subsituting the yeast for sour, I think it would be a sourdough or a liquid levain.  Now, instead of substituting yeast for sour, and you just add both the sour and yeast, I would think it would be a hybrid poolish...if the term exists.  My baking instructor mentioned.."There's no right or wrong in baking.  You just get a different result."
Danubian's picture
Danubian 2008 February 27


My baking instructor mentioned.."There's no right or wrong in baking.  You just get a different result."

On the whole I agree, but it's important to name things what they are. If I called camembert cheddar, I'd be laughed right out of town. Yes, both are cheeses, but integrally different none the less.  

Jeremy's picture
Jeremy 2008 February 27

Ok, devils advocate here, could you just assume then that without naming the process or type of ferment, that they are all related, of course without confusing wild versus commercial yeast? Meaning by using a ferment it's basically using a proportion of water and flour to whatever the ferment is?

Does that make sense, probably not!


Danubian's picture
Danubian 2008 February 27

to name what ever they wish what ever they wish. But it makes no sense if there are perfectly good names in use that are understood. The term Poolish has a history and is specific.

From a professional point of view it's crittical to be acurate since your goods are for sale to an unsuspecting public. The professional holds the customers trust and honourable dealings are the order of the day.

If your bank manager or investment advisor - I don't advocate trusting them, ;) but for the sake of arguement - sold you a product or service that was obscured by imprecise description you'd be justified if you withdrew from purchase, and you'd be outraged also, no? 

Names are not just words, they are specific, and embody the identity of the object.

JohnD's picture
JohnD 2008 February 27

ken oath...thats why we have we can talk to each other and understand what is being said.

 A"Poolish" is a batter of flour and water with yeast/a "biga" is the same..they are what UK bakers called a sponge,and its come from barm technology,because when you have the barm active,the next stage is to make a sponge/biga/poolish to proliferate the yeast in a flour substrate,as its come from a wort. Then when this is ripe,a dough is made.When commercial ready made yeast started being used,the terminology was just carried over, and the French adopted it (poolish means Polish) because historically they made very little barm bread themselves, and so had no word for this tech.

There is no equivalent in sourdough ,although it could be contrived...yeast and sourdough are different  systems,and only the basics of bread tech crossover.

At the moment there is some confusion among soudough bakers because the terminology is being re-invented. The French have a surviving exact terminology for s/d,but in using American and yeast terminology as well, what we have is a hybrid ,hence Danuman has been asking people to be precise about "starter"/"sourdough"/leaven etc.and its difficult because in this era,there is no agreed common terminology. Im as guilty as everybody,largely because i didnt want to adopt the French terms because im not French and i live in an Anglo-Celtic culture...and i wanted to avoid the pretension which seems to haunt French culinary.

This is why we need a strong ABA to launch projects like a terminology for s/d so we all know what we mean...its no good you talking French "levain" or "poolish", when im talking yankee "starter" or English "leaven". Language is also plastic in that the word "leaven" has become a verb and it used to be a proper noun,as is "levain". Some will even use the term "mother" which is totally incorrect for a bread starter of any kind. 

So we are all free yes,but that easily leads to license. Which is basically why we have laws.

Jeremy's picture
Jeremy 2008 February 27
I see what you mean, pretentiousness I am not so sure, I personally think French food, culinary, etc.. is a state of being or at least a long historical journey with long lasting tradition, along the way ideas changed! New techniques or methods integrated, (baguette) and well perfected?
I do accept as well understand the confusion and less than standardized lingua Franca in bread and food terminology, too much hybrid, perhaps, confusion plenty! But in the end there is good and bad bread and food, it's like wine, some times you win sometimes you don't! (Good bottle bad cork, you know!) Hopefully we can get it straight, thanks to both Danubian, yourself and all the other teachers and students, acolytes as well pretenders or wannabes who make it fun! Lets bake and talk about baking, oh yeah break some bread and share!

JohnD's picture
JohnD 2008 February 27
I didnt say French food was pretentious,i said there was pretension associated with it....and thats plain to see.
Jeremy's picture
Jeremy 2008 February 27
Point taken, there is a bit of snobbery in the culinary world, as it's become the darling stepchild to those who don't know how sometimes difficult and dreary the conditions can be?

leavain 2008 March 5
  Hi John,
heard a lot about you, but never tasted your bread. 
Have you still got your hands on the dough?  If so, where can I taste your wares?
Kind regards

JohnD's picture
JohnD 2008 March 5

Hi ((T)),At the moment only at the Willunga farmers mkt sth of Adelbrain, but

SOON AT A STORE NEAR YOU......... lol, just opening a new venture at mclaren vale.cheers

Jeremy's picture
Jeremy 2008 March 6
Any chances of sampling in NYC?
Oi John, I may do an interview with that wild ferment guy in Tennessee  Sandor Katz, the Fast News Nation guy you mentioned, interesting site he has on fermentation!

Hey did you listen to the interview yet?


JohnD's picture
JohnD 2008 March 6
Sure Jeremy will mail you a loaf when im up and running....until the NY store opens lol,Yeh Katz is cool heh! made a great ginger bug from his directions.Will listen to it this Fri nite, sound is down on my computer...time for an upgrade!
leavain 2008 March 7
Hey John,

I'm a bit busy trying to switch Brisbane on to get to Adelaide,  I believe your son is running something further south.  Would his work be a good translation?  It's a bit closer to home for me.

Also good luck with mclaren vale/lol, hope its woodfired.

All the best,

JohnD's picture
JohnD 2008 March 8
Cheers Terry, yep Jess is running "Flour" bakery at Southport, in the old brickworks centre. His work is a good translation when hes in top form and not doing the work of 2 bakers 7 days a week. Seems he needs good  staff and they just havent turned up yet.....but even then he turns out top quality stylish well crafted bread, among the best, with his own stamp.

 Yep mclarenvale is a ripper oven,w/f of course,but its been weeks of 35-40 here, and im thinking about getting into the icecream business!

 What are you doing in Brisbane? Have we met Terry?
leavain 2008 March 9
Hey John,

I ask myself that question all the time.  

Same as Jess.  Bringing the bar up, building a strong foundation and switching people on.
i.e. slogging it out.  I have a couple of Chinese guys hungry for PR that are evolving into very intuitive bakers.  Maybe your son needs to look there.

No we haven't met, but after Pascal, we should.

Terry 0432 676 829

jacklang 2008 April 13
I really don't understand your objection to flour improvers, and in particular to ascorbic acid.
If it helps bake a better loaf, and to my taste it does for some flours, then I will use it.
You might as well say true sourdough must be hand kneaded, since that is what they did on the wagon trains.
The taste for uneven large cells is quite modern. If we go back 50 or 100 years the ideal was an even fine grain, like a pain de mie or pullman bread.
Danubian's picture
Danubian 2008 April 13
to use ascorbic or not. When I make bread using the rapid dough method I use ascorbic, etc. which is understood; but when sourdough, I desist from using ascorbic and bakers yeast, etc. its a mark of distinction much like wine or cheese. I sometimes make organic bread also.

My sourdough can have large holes, or fine cells, if I wish, without any ascorbic. So I'm not sure what you're driving at. You know my opinion on the definition of sourdough.

Jeremy's picture
Jeremy 2008 April 16
Hey all, Jack are you still persisting? Heehhehehee... Think of it as A.O.C.

Where is John...halo John?
lamp's picture
lamp 2008 October 29
John, to modify a Frank Zappa quote "Bread is not dead, it just smells funny".

I gave a loaf of my 25% rye from my last batch to one of the ladies at work who looks after the accounts because it seems those I have given a loaf to in the past have talked about it in a possitive way and she asked if she could try some. I spoke to her today on another matter and asked her what she thought of it...considering it had been a little overproved and was probably not my best effort. Tecian (I know I have the spelling wrong but that is how it is pronounced) told me she took the loaf home and left it on the bench in the kitchen while she cooked dinner.

Her daughter came home with a couple of friends from school and after dinner her daughter and friends settled down to study for the night (doing their final year of high school) and Tecian went off to watch some TV. Around 9pm  went out to the kitchen to find there was just a small piece of the loaf left, her daughter and friends had decided to try some and ended up almost eating the lot! Tecian decided she had better get in fast and so ate the remainder. She told me "it was delicious, it was what rye bread should taste like but never does". I took this as the ultimate compliment from someone who originally came from somewhere in Europe.

I like the bread I make more than the commercial stuff which is why I make it, but it seems so do other people. I think in this fast paced world people confuse things that take a lot of time with things that happen over a long time period. I know making SD at home takes time, but it is not really all that time consuming as I normally bake mid week (and I work). If it was time consuming I would not be able to bake this way.

I am not a commercial baker and certainly no "Artisan baker", but just your average, fairly inexperienced home baker who makes his bread from flour, water and natural starter (a small amount of diastatic malt too, but I believe this is OK). I know if I baked a dozen loaves and walked into work with them they would all be gone, if I asked people to pay the same as a bakery asks, they would still be gone (I have been offered money for my bread, but for me it is a hobby, not a job) which begs the question "why don't more bakeries make real SD?" is it just the time thing? In a way I suppose that since most bakeries don't bother, it makes my attempts seem good. ;-)
einarfa's picture
einarfa 2008 October 30
This is one of the things which I really like with homebaking, giving away loaves. I usually bake two or three loaves in a batch, but cannot myself eat more than two loaves per week, tops; and the guy I'm sharing apartment with don't eat much bread as he claims that his stomach can't handle it (he has lauded my bread several times and like it, but eat only small amounts). Additionally I like baking at least two times a week to have two different types of bread at all times and to try out recipes and techniques.

I usually give a few of my loaves away to friends, some of them homebakers as well. I usually complain that I can't stop baking and that they have to help me get rid of all the bread. In addition I ask for feedback. They tend to appreciate it. Over time I've started to see it as an act of friendship; when one recieves a loaf from me it means that I like them and respect them. I have stopped buying birthday presents and only gives away bread. If it's a good friend I often try to do something special or tune it to their taste preferences.
Tony Reid 2011 December 20

 Hey John,

Among the many requiems that are needing to be sung, sourdough and fermenting foods in general are basic elements of our shared life on this planet that have been in decline for some time now. It is all about the 600 odd species of bacteria that colonise the human GIT, acting as an accessory organ and reminding us that the supreme species on this planet (i.e. us humans) is totally dependent on  some of the earliest life forms, i.e. anaerobic bacteria that evolved outy of the 'primal ooze'. A humbling fact that's for sure!

We also have several social taboos standing in our way: to talk about the bowels and related matters (i.e. to contemplate one's own shit); to take the necessary time to nurture ones-self (i.e to be intelligently selfish); to fully greive the loss (and experience a deeper level of sadness); .... I could go on, but these will do for starters (no pun intended!). 



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