Getting to know Flinders Sourdough
I was looking over photographs on my computer the other day, searching for a dish I made 12 months ago when living with my mum and dad. Even as a keen cook it's easy to forget what comes out of your kitchen, which particular dishes excite and beg another visit. Photographing and writing allows for some helpful and tasty reflection, and while I never did find that picture, something noteworthy came to my attention...
My present diet is distinctly lacking in bread.
Bread, something so basic and wholesome, has always been a source of both nourishment and joy. An eager Vegemite toast and chicken salad sandwich consumer from a young age, bread was frequently the backbone of our meals. From breakfasts, lunches, dinners or snacks...dessert, even. A loaf is a life necessity.
Taste and nutrition are equally important to me when it comes to bread. They must exist in delicious harmony. And so, continuing with my getting to know your food posts (highlighting one producer a month), it's time to talk about bread. Flinders Sourdough are my favourite bakers, as they honour the art of breadmaking with unbleached, organic, stone-ground flour and hand formed loaves that have enjoyed a lovely, long ferment. Oh, and out of their 1930s scotch oven comes the most beautiful loaves.
David and Margaret, the winemakers turned bakers behind Flinders Sourdough, are clearly very fond of the fermentation process. And you can tell there is something special about their bread as soon as you bite into their Vienna, dark rye sourdough or wholegrain spelt loaves. Their slices energise and nourish, they're easily digested yet keep you strong and satisfied for hours.
Though it happens less often than I'd like, it's a real treat to collect a loaf on my way home from Transition Farm, or perhaps on the weekend after stocking up on Flinders Mussels (Flinders really has the goods). Often I go for the olive or dark rye sourdough, but I do adore their fruit loaf with organic dried fruit (including figs!), which, unlike common raisin bread, is nicely modest in its sweetness. Oh and their beach buns, too. You can follow Flinders Sourdough on facebook and twitter to see where they're at, local farmers markets and what not. I'm kind of spoilt for bread now...no other will do.
Many Supermarket breads claim to be sourdough but they are not the real deal. Just look at the ingredients list, a true sourdough should only contain a handful of ingredients - flour, water, salt. The bacteria "starter" culture (which arrives after your flour and water have been hanging out together on the bench), does it's job, you just need to care for it and create the right conditions to produce lovely loaves. If you're keen to get baking at home, good on you! My dad is a fantastic baker, I cannot get enough of his creations. This article gives a nice introduction to the initially daunting task.
David and Margaret from Flinders Sourdough were lovely enough to answer some of my sourdough questions, so I'll let them do the talking...
1. What is true sourdough and why is it different from other bread & "sourdough" on the market?
True sourdough is the unhurried natural fermentation of bread dough using wild organisms found abundantly in nature. This unhurried approach to baking delivers many health and sensory benefits, these include:
- A large reduction in gluten is achieved as a result of the bonded proteins that form when gluten is cleaved.
- A lowering in the Glycemic index of the loaf after natural sugars are degraded
- Increased nutrient absorption due to the production of phytase in sourdough cultures. Phytic acid occurs naturally in grains and seeds and acts as a nutrient thief inhibiting the absorption of vital elements like iron calcium and zinc the lactobacillus bacteria in sourdough cultures provide the enzyme phytase that helps to reduce this problem.
Modern baking practices (such as commercial homogenous bakers yeast and oxidative enzymes) are used to speed up bread production allowing for increased capacity. However like most things in life, increased production results in decreased quality and with sourdough this means a decreased taste and nutrition quality.
2. What type of flour do you use & where do you get it from?
All of our flours used are unbleached and certified organic and our millers still employ traditional stone-ground techniques maintaining the nutrient value of whole grains by avoiding the high temperatures reached in modern high volume milling.
3. Any advice for city bread lovers, or any other bakers you love or recommend? & any tips for home bakers?
It can be a challenge when looking for a local sourdough baker and a healthy degree of scepticism may help, as there are currently no laws protecting the use of the term "sourdough".
Be sure to ask if no commercial yeast is used in the bread as many breads labelled as sourdough are made by adding commercial yeast and souring agents eg. vinegar, yogurt and as a result lack the increased nutritional and sensory qualities.
For those in Melbourne we highly recommend Firebrand bakery in Ripponlea that has been an unwavering producer of organic sourdough for decades. In country Vic we suggest Red Beard bakery in Trentham and Fruition Bakery available throughout the Yarra Valley. These bakeries are of the rare few that do not use commercial yeast in their entire bakeries thus ensuring the purity of their sourdough culture.
Thank you, David and Margaret. You guys are just the coolest, I so appreciate you!
Yes, bread truly is the foundation of a good meal. Finding a good baker you can trust to nourish you and your family is a jolly good move, allowing you to be confident in your breaking of bread (and slathering of ricotta and honey or extra virgin olive oil and sea salt...) Please excuse me while I carve my loaf for breakfast this morning: toasted Flinders Sourdough dark rye. Two slices. One with nut butter and grilled plums. One with avocado, extra virgin olive oil, sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Is there anything better? Some days, most days, there isn't.