By Fredrica Syren:
A couple of years ago my new years resolution was to start baking more bread and one of my favorite bread to eat is levain sourdough bread. Sourdough is hyped in Sweden where I’m from, and you find many versions of it everywhere – in restaurants, stores and bakeries. But it’s not like the San Francisco sourdough. It has a perfect crust but is soft inside with a great balance of sour, sweet and a little salt. Since moving here, I have promised myself I would learn to bake sourdough bread, also known as “levain.” Levain is a leavening agent used instead of commercial yeast. Levain bread is nutritionally better for you because the lactobacilli and ascorbic acid present help neutralize phytic acid, a substance occurring in bread that inhibits the body’s mineral absorption. Bread baked with a sourdough starter also stays fresh longer.
Last weekend I decided to a try it. I consider myself an avid baker and pretty good one, too. I use fermentation in my breads all the time, so I really thought this was going to be a walk in the park. Think again!!! It was very time consuming since the fermentation process takes days – read 3 – and you have to care for the levain morning and evening. It has to rise for 3 days in a warm place.
I told James on day 3 that it had better be the most amazing bread ever! And guess what? It was. OMG, it was so good. The whole family agreed it was the best. After we ate some of the bread with soup that night, my husband asked, ”So, was it hard to make? I mean really, really hard?” I knew where he was going with this and, yes, I will bake it again.
The base for fermented bread is wild yeast, also called “starter,” and I made one from this recipe. You mix water and flour together and let it sit out for a few days to let the fermentation process begin, while the exposure to air starts the bacteria and fungus growth. It takes 3-4 days for the starter yeast to be fermented, but then you have yeast for a couple of baking sessions. I used white spelt flour instead of white flour for my starter.
The recipe I followed for the levain bread was this one. I made all my starters and baked all the levain breads with white and whole wheat spelt flour.