Our Sourdough Leaven
The flour for our original leaven (or starter) came from Sturminster Newton Mill in Dorset, mentioned in Domesday and now a 16thC structure. Local flour has been milled there for a thousand years and it gives our wheat leaven, and the loaves we make from it, a unique flavour - AND NOT SOUR!
The dough is fermented for 16-24 hours. Using unbleached white flour, for both the leaven and the main dough, sea salt, filtered water and handmade, this is our baker’s favourite loaf. He makes no apologies for preferring the white – it has such a good ‘wheaty’ flavour and makes an unbelievable sandwich. With no added fats, no preservatives or E-numbers and a long fermentation that has been proven to lengthen shelf-life and reduce coeliac problems - this is bread as it used to taste.
Naturally leavened bread or sourdough is not a new fad, it goes back 3000 years – it has real health benefits that have only recently been identified, not least because the industrially-produced bread that makes up over 85% of all bread produced in the UK today has produced a backlash from people who want bread to taste as they remember it from their childhoods or visits abroad.
By naturally-leavened bread we mean the dough is made using the natural yeasts that are present in flour. They take about five times longer to act than industrial yeast. This long fermentation allows time for lactic acid bacteria to develop (which in some sourdoughs are responsible for the characteristic ‘sour’ taste), which enhance the digestibility and longevity of the bread. However we do not – unless we specifically manage a recipe to produce the taste – make our breads very sour. We find that many people are looking for the natural bread flavour without strong sour notes in the taste.
The long fermentation does something else - the natural enzymes in the flour and in the sourdough starter unpick the complex molecules of gluten in the dough and turn them into digestible amino acids.
In nature, the wheat grain complexes its protein for 2 reasons:
- To concentrate as much protein into the grain as possible to feed the next wheat plant
- To give any rat or mouse eating it a bellyache so that some grains survive to grow next season
When the grain gets wet, that activates enzymes that turn the complex protein (gluten) into simpler proteins and of course our beloved enzymes that turn complex carbohydrate into the maltose sugars that feed the grain's growth (or the brewer's art).