Sourdough is much more that one particular type of bread (i.e. San Francisco Sourdough); rather, it is a bread making method. The sourdough method goes by many names throughout the world: levain, desem, barm, wild yeast, and so on. The tradition of fermenting dough with a sourdough culture dates back at least 5,000 years, to ancient Egypt. This is the way all leavened bread was made, up until the late 1800's when commercial yeast (also called baker's yeast) became industrially produced and widely available.
Naturally leavened bread involves a mixed culture of yeast and lactobacilli which the baker obtains by allowing a paste of flour and water to spontaneously ferment. Subsequently, the baker develops and maintains the culture through routine "feedings" of flour and water. In contrast to dough made with commercial yeast, sourdough produces acetic and lactic acids which result in a bread with increased flavor, better keeping quality, and improved digestibility.
Traditional methods of grain preparation from around the world involve one or more of the following: soaking, sprouting, and/or fermenting. A grain is a storage vessel of life and does not want to be digested. In fact, most seeds, including grains, contain compounds which specifically function to resist digestion by animals. The traditional methods of grain preparation, including sourdough, serve to wake the seed out of its storage mode, greatly enhancing the digestibility and availability of nutrients.
At Camina, we know that the quality of our bread depends on the integrity of our flour. We believe in building relationships with our suppliers. We use only organic flours. Wherever we can, we use stone-milled flour. The traditional stone-milling process produces flour that can be considered "whole milled." This means that all the components of the grain (bran, germ, and endosperm) are ground together during the milling process. A whole grain, stone-milled flour retains the entirety of the grain in the resulting flour. A sifted, stone-ground flour retains much of the germ with a portion of the bran being sifted out.
Each step of the bread making process requires careful attention. This starts with sourcing the highest quality ingredients.
The process starts with scaling ingredients and mixing dough. Next, the dough is allowed to rise for 3 to 3-1/2 hours. After this bulk rise, the dough is divided and shaped into loaves by hand, then placed in baskets for the final rise. After another 8 -12 hours at cool temp, they are ready to bake. Before loading in the oven the dough is scored with a razor to promote a proper oven spring and create a decorative crust. Finally, the loaves are pulled from the oven when they have achieved a full bake and deep crust color.
Bread is a process which includes a whole community. Many of the variables are out of the baker's hands. Depending on the soil in which the grain is grown, the variety of grain chosen, and the timing of harvest, each crop of grain has its own bread-making characteristics. In addition, milling quality, room temperature, humidity, and the baker's mood all have an impact on dough development. Bread is a living collection of relationships. The choreography hidden behind each loaf is a truly marvelous thing.