Supermarket Vs. Sourdough

We love sharing the multitude of benefits that sourdough bread has, so our latest Sourdough Sessions is unpacking a few of these benefits and comparing Supermarket Bread with Artisan Sourdough Bread.

Industrially produced, or pre-packaged sliced bread, that we can buy in the supermarket has undergone a more complex process than artisan bread bought fresh. 

The three main reasons for this are to prevent mould and bacteria growth (preservatives), to produce a larger volume of bread at a faster speed (improvers), and to create a more reliable dough and bread consistency (emulsifiers).

Bread improvers activate the gluten and produce gasses to speed up the kneading and fermentation time. During the fermentation the dough changes from a dense mass to an elastic dough. 

In addition to commercial yeast, which is a fast fermentation agent, Supermarket breads will have the addition of three main ingredients, these are: 

  • Flour treatment agents
  • Emulsifiers
  • And Preservatives

Flour treatment agents, or bread improvers, such as abscorbic acid, accelerate rising and cuts fermentation time. 

While emulsifiers, such as sodium stearoyl-2-lactylate, are used to control the size of gas bubbles and enable the dough to hold more gas and therefore grow bigger, making the crumb softer. 

Preservatives, such as calcium propionate, prevent mould and bacteria growth.

Both emulsifiers and preservatives reduce the rate at which the bread goes stale, giving products a longer shelf life. 

These will almost always have an impact on flavour, gluten levels, and indirectly digestion, and health.

Some people have a sensitivity to additives and preservatives; a recent study has found that emulsifiers can break down the intestinal barrier, leading to inflammation and can increase our risk of chronic disease. 

Additionally, the phytic acid found in the bran part of wheat, can cause digestive discomfort and bloating. The phytic acid inhibits enzymes which are needed for the breakdown of proteins and starch in the stomach, therefore causing digestive difficulties. They also reduce the absorption of important nutrients and minerals found in the bran.

The sourdough process and ingredients summary, with impact on health and gluten levels 

In sourdough however, the lactic acid found in the natural leavens help neutralise the phytic acid, which leads to more bio-availability of the nutrients found in wheat. The long and slow fermentation of dough can reduce phytates by up to 90%. 

As sourdough bread is made with just three simple ingredients, flour, water and salt, the unnatural additions in supermarket bread are eliminated. 

Supermarket bread made through accelerated fermentation, rely on additives and preservatives to bake bread at speed, resulting in a less authentic and commercial product that is the cause of a lot of digestive discomfort.