Bread has been a part of our basic meal for centuries. It provides us with many important nutrients in order to perform daily such as carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and fibers. In the Netherlands we eat lots of different kinds of bread: whole wheat bread, brown bread or white bread, to name a few. With soup or with barbecue french bread is served, we eat Christmas bread at Christmas and to brighten up breakfast or just to snack we often take raisin bread of raisin rolls.
These days, sourdough and spelt bread are becoming more and more popular and we’re being bombed with recipes of it. But the question is: are these kind of breads in fact healthier than a normal bread? One swears by them, the other thinks it’s nonsense. Reason enough for me to go and investigate.
First of all: many spelt breads sold in stores or at the bakeries, have a mix of spelt flour and plain breadmeal(i.e. white breadmeal, whole wheat breadmeal or otherwise). A bread that is completely made of spelt flour is a rare thing and actually can only be found in exceptional cases at the artisanal bakeries. Secondly: spelt bread is pretty much the same as whole wheat bread, they both contain grains of the same family that differ to a small extent. Spelt bread contains about the same amount of energy (calories) as whole wheat bread and it also contains about the same amount of carbohydrates, proteins and fat as its competitors, but what’s striking is that spelt bread has fewer vitamins and minerals and contains less fibers. My conclusion therefore? Spelt bread contains fewer nutrients than whole wheat bread and therefore it makes spelt bread not healthier but just slightly less beneficial than whole wheat bread. The taste of spelt bread, however, is different than whole wheat bread. It has a fuller flavor and I believe it gives at least a different experience of consuming bread as we usually are accustomed to.
And what about sourdough? Many people wonder whether sourdough bread is better for you than yeast breads. Because it sounds more ‘authentic’, it’s often thought that sourdough bread is healthier, but is it really? I personally believe it’s not. To dispel the mists of fable: there has never been scientific proof that sourdough bread is healthier than yeast bread. In fact, yeast bread is a recent development. Yeast is a living micro-organism, in fact a fungus, which is gradually developed in all kinds of possible forms in yeast factories. Sourdough is in fact nothing more than a mixture of flour and water which spontaneously ferment in a warm environment. This happens because the lactic acid bacteria in the flour begin to multiply and that’s why the sourdough has a slightly acidic taste (are you still with me?). The choice between yeast or sourdough mainly affects the structure (how does it rise?), the crust is harder, the crum is more tender and resilient and the shelf life is slightly better.
And what about the taste? Expertly baked sourdough bread has a more distinctive flavor, but the tricky thing of sourdough bread is making it, there’s quite a lot of skill involved in doing that. Baking a yeast bread can turn out very well when it’s done by a home baker, However, when baking sourdough bread, a lot can go wrong because the ratio between sourdough and breadmeal is very important. The outcome is therefor very uncertain if you do not exactly know what you’re doing. Sourdough bread is equivalent to professional bread and bread that’s sold with the label ‘prepared with love and craftsmanship’ on it, always tastes better, this is human nature (yep, social marketing or in other words seduction to live healthier really works). Personally I see little difference in the use of yeast or sourdough, but as in everthing; tastes differ and so I respect everyone’s opinion on this subject.
You may be wondering why I, despite everything, prepare sourdough bread after all? Well, my answer to this is: to observe whether there are indeed differences, both in taste and texture. I also find it an interesting idea to bake a bread of sourdough as the ancient Egyptians did and was done until well into the 19th century. I haven’t really been able to detect the differences, yet. However, the nostalgic idea behind it, is giving me a new experience and, in my humble opinion, gaining experience is a number one requirement to become an appropriate home baker, that’s why.
For those who want to make sourdough bread themselves sometime: this might seem complicated but it isn’t that difficult. The only thing that can happen the first time you make sourdough is that it’ll fail because the ratio between breadmeal and water is very crucial. Also for the bread itself, the ratio is very important, so weighing precisely is required. My advice is to just keep trying, because, if for some reason things do not quite go right the first time, nobody is drowning.
As for the recipe of this bread I’ve made it somewhat easier for you. First of all I added a little yeast to the sourdough recipe so that the success rate of creating it increases considerably (a little cheating is okay once in a while). In any case, it’s important to prepare the sourdough 2 or 3 days in advance after you going to prepare your bread and (just as important) be sure to create a warm, draft-free environment, cause yeast thrives best at room temperature. Making sourdough doesn’t take a lot a time and one thing is certain, it’s very cheap. All you need is a good quality of breadmeal, clean and fresh tap water (and in this case a little dried yeast), a large glass jar or just a bowl and a whole lot of patience (especially this last one). Should you want to embark on the original sourdough recipe after all; the preparation of sourdough without the addition of yeast is a rather complicated process and therefor I’ll put this on my website another time and leave it at the more simple recipe.
Secondly, to make it even a little bit more comfortable for you and to double the chances of success, I’ve also added a bit of yeast to the dough recipe by using a mix of whole grain spelt flour and white breadmeal (hence the name ‘Sourdough Loaf with Spelt’ in stead of ‘Spelt Loaf with Sourdough’). I would very much regret you being disappointed about the end result and all your work would have been all for nothing, that’s why.