The sourdough revolution started in the 1990s when trendsetting bakeries highlighted the craftsmanship and flavours of sourdough source great stories and started putting it back on the menu.
Today, as bakers see that it brings value to their bread offering, you see sourdough everywhere. You can really make a business out of it.
Even though sourdough source great stories has been around for more than 5,000 years, the advent of the industrial revolution and the development of commercial yeast—about 150 years ago—meant that this traditional fermentation-based bread making process became largely forgotten. The good news is though: sourdough is back; and it’s a great story to tell customers.
The recipe is simple
Strangely enough, when I went to baking school, I never learnt what sourdough was, and that seems to be the case in the majority of countries I’ve visited. And yet the recipe is simple; classic sourdough consists of just three ingredients: flour, water and microorganisms. More remarkable still is the fact that you can recognise its uniqueness with your eyes closed … the complex and powerful flavours have a particular smell that is very different smell from yeast-made bread.
You can compare it with other fermentation processes used to make cheese or wine: the result depends on the maker and their detailed knowledge. The same is true of sourdough: you need to master the skills in order to create the perfect bread.
A source of stories
I believe that products based on fermentation are a wonderful source of stories, and not just when you consume them! And this is true for sourdough bread as well. I’m thinking about the remarkable way the dough rises through fermentation, the quality of the ingredients used … each aspect can contribute to the narrative.
When you read the back of a bottle of wine, you’ll find a story about its soul and character, how it’s made and the foods that it pairs well with. Well, with sourdough bread, you can create the same type of stories. You can explain to your audiences how your bread is made, and whether it’s been created in the Scandinavian or San Francisco style, and tell them about the microorganisms that have been used to make the sourdough. And then you can describe how each element creates a particular flavour profile, and how your bread has more cereal flavour or more fruity notes.
There’s so much to tell … all you need is to clarify and articulate what makes your bread yours, and why it’s so special. When I travel around the world and talk with customers, I’m very fortunate to hear and see what they’re doing with their sourdough breads, what type of ingredients they’re using and how they develop conversations with their consumers. For example, when I was in Mexico I met a baker who added beer, eggs and lime to his sourdough. Not only did it give a really specific flavour, it also gave a unique story to share.
Our quest for sourdough
At latest count, the Puratos Sourdough Library preserves 124 different sourdoughs from around the world in the Puratos Centre for Bread Flavour in Saint-Vith, Belgium. And while some have more or less the same flavour profile, as they come from the same region and use a similar flour base, many are completely unique.
The fact is there are enormous differences between sourdoughs from China, Peru, the UK, or Denmark. If you’d like to stay up-to-date on my daily quest for the best sourdoughs around the world, I suggest you check out the Quest for Sourdough website. Not only does this website let every sourdough owner on the planet profile his or her starter; it also contains lots of personal stories about sourdough.