The History of Sourdough

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To celebrate Sourdough September, we have delved into the history of the brilliant and versatile sourdough. 

So, where did Sourdough begin?

Like many bakes, sourdough was supposedly created by accident in Egypt. Sourdough is made by yeast fermenting with ingredients (usually flour and water). There are many stories so we cannot be 100% sure this is correct but Egyptians are well known to have enjoyed their beer-brewing and bread-making. The general idea is that the during the bread making process, the dough was mixed with beer or mixed with wild yeast spores in the air from the brewing process, which gave the bread a higher rise than usual.

After discovering this new way to make bread, the next stage was trial and error. The Egyptians tried different combinations in order to produce the best flavour, this came to be known as a ‘sourdough starter’. They did this by working out how to keep the culture alive – adding flour to small amounts of dough to see if the flavour changed.

From Egypt, bread-making moved to Greece, where it became a luxury product which women traditionally made in the home. Romans learnt the art of bread-making from the Greeks and it travelled across Europe to France. The French decided to make their recipes more time consuming but more flavoursome.  

The overlap between brewing and baking was reflected again by the monasteries in Germany, who produced both bread and beer, using the heat of the oven to dry malted grain and the yeast to raise the bread. However, Germany continued to use sourdoughs to produce rye bread and create an acidic flavour.

Moving over to America; the atmosphere in San Francisco is thought to harbour natural bacteria and natural yeasts, giving a distinct flavour to bread. As a result, the bread produced in San Francisco was predominantly sourdough.

By the 20th century, ready-made yeast was available for large-scale commercial baking. In 1961, scientists and the Chorleywood Flour Milling and Bakery Research Association Laboratories developed a process to increase the speed of production. They managed to create a sourdough all the way from ingredients to a finished and wrapped loaf within a time of just 3 ½ hours. To reduce the time it takes to make, additives were added such as extra yeast and gluten.

Even though mass-production of sourdough has increased, artisan bakers are on the rise, with more bakers experimenting with textures and flavours. As an example, we have developed a delicious Sundried Tomato Sourdough Bloomer, a twist on the traditional sourdough.

Sourdough at Fosters Bakery

Sourdough products are becoming increasingly popular and here at Fosters Bakery, we have many different sourdoughs perpetually fermenting in large insulated fermentation vats. Every hour we stir the vat and every day we use some of the sour dough and then replenish it for the next day. We make 100% sourdough bread and also breads where we add sourdough to conventional bread.

Our sourdough products include: campaillou sourdough (cases of 6 and 8), medium rye sourdough (slice size of 18+2 and cases of 9), malted sourdough (cases of 10), white sourdough (slice sizes of 14+2, 16+2 and 18+2, in cases of 8 and 5), seeded sourdough oval (cases of 40), dark sourdough (slice size of 16+2 and cases of 8) and a sourdough bun (cases of 36). Check out our range here for more details about our sourdoughs and what we would pair with them!