Can you believe that bread is older than metal? Our earliest ancestors have been baking and eating bread since the Neolithic age. Historical records indicate evidence of primitive grinding stones, possibly used by humans to process grains and make flatbread.
While bread comes in various shapes and sizes, a common element is the leavening process. Nobody knows when or who discovered the method. The earliest records are from the ancient Egyptians. Some theories connect the rise of bread making in tandem with alcohol brewing. But without enough evidence, that’s what they remain: theories.
Before the invention of commercial yeast, all leavened bread contained naturally occurring yeast. For the unversed, it means bread always had a slower rise. Therefore, all bread was always sourdough. A quick trip around different kitchens in the world is a testament to this.
The Ethiopians use wild yeast to make injera. People in Ghana and Nigeria make ogi through fermentation. Sourdough was a household practice in Germany until brewer’s yeast became popular. The world has sourdough recipes from France that date back to the 17th century. The recipes detail using a starter that was fed and raised thrice before being added to the dough. Unsurprisingly, the French have always been particular about high-quality, tasty bread. A baker’s life isn’t supposed to be easy, after all.
The beauty of sourdough bread is in the time and patience it takes. The magic happens at its own pace. But as we all know, it is well worth it. The breadmaking industry did not feel the same way.
Sourdough faded into oblivion with the introduction of commercial yeasts. Commercial yeasts make production faster, more efficient, and less labor-intensive. Baking sourdough was no longer sustainable. Bakers turned their attention to the baguette, a faster-rising bread.
But we seem to have come full circle today. Thanks to television baking and Instagram, sourdough has reclaimed its moment in the spotlight. We’ve seen a love for sourdough rekindled or brand-new obsessions.