Real sourdough, (retired pathologist and sourdough bread expert Ed) Wood tells me, begins with nothing but flour, water and your friendly, native microscopic flora and fauna. Set out a mixture of wet flour, and wild yeasts and bacteria will drop in to munch on it. The yeast produce fermentation and make the bread rise by consuming sugars in the flour and breaking them down into water, alcohol and carbon dioxide gas. The bacteria also eat sugars, leaving behind acids that give sourdough its tangy taste. There are starter recipes out there that call for store-bought yeast, but Wood brushes them off as flavorless junk. San Francisco’s Exploratorium science museum has a more objective explanation. They say wild works best because yeast and bacteria are balanced. Purchase your yeast, and any wild bacteria will end up hopelessly outnumbered, unable to compete with yeast for sugary sustenance. No bacteria, no flavor.
Oh, but don’t try selling your home-made sourdough to raise money in your local school[*2] (New York Times article). Geez, can’t the Nanny State stay out of anything? This started out being one of those talk-about-something-but-politics posts. Really, it did. Damn, I’m tired of being whapped upside the head by government every time I turn around.