Back June 18, 2024

Sourdough vs. Sourfaux: 11 key differences to spot

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Diving into the Sourdough Craze: What’s Behind the Hype?

Sourdough is becoming increasingly popular. During lockdown many amateur bakers were captivated by the allure of sourdough. With ample time at their disposal and a yearning for a fulfilling activity, enthusiasts were drawn to the methodical and calming process of sourdough making. 

Our story began during this period known as the “sourdough renaissance”. Emily, the founder of Good In Bread, fell under the spell of sourdough baking. Cultivating her own starter and crafting loaves with care, she discovered a passion she couldn’t keep to herself. Inspired to share the joy and satisfaction of homemade sourdough, Emily embarked on a mission to spread the love of sourdough through Good In Bread. 

We now have a range of authentic sourdough loaves and bagels to choose from, including more niche products such as sourdough ciabatta rolls, sourdough focaccia and sourdough brioche. Furthermore, we also sell sourdough starters and baking kits for fellow baking enthusiasts!

Our Bestselling Sourdough
Everything Bagels
Sourdough Baking Kit

What’s Sourfaux and why does it exist?

Sourdough is continuing to gain popularity with a 3 times resurgence in 2024. (¹) However, as the craze for sourdough continues, it’s also becoming a more competitive market. Many supermarkets are eager to capitalise on the trend by producing their own sourdough loaves. Unfortunately, not all of these offerings are authentic and have been dubbed “sourfaux”. Sourfaux is a term that Chris Young coined in 2015. It describes any product marketed as sourdough but made with yeast and additives, despite not being technically authentic. Indeed, some supermarkets may compromise on quality by adding preservatives, vegetable oils, or other additives. In some cases, they may even use lower-quality ingredients or cut corners in the baking process to reduce production costs. 

‘An increasing number of products are being named and marketed using the word “sourdough” that have not been made by a long fermentation process.’ (²)

 Chris Young of the Real Bread Campaign

In this blog, we unpick the differences between authentic sourdough and the sourfaux that you find in supermarkets. We’ll uncover its distinct health benefits and artisanal taste, highlighting what makes sourdough a standout choice. We’ll also examine the convenience and affordability of store-bought bread, weighing its merits against the artisanal craftsmanship of homemade loaves.

Whether you’re a bread enthusiast or simply interested in making healthier choices, join us as we navigate the complexities of the bread aisle. Get ready to explore hidden ingredients, find out what sets true sourdough apart and find your favourite loaf!

Can sourdough contain preservatives?

Bakers make traditional sourdough bread with just four ingredients:

  1. Flour
  2. Water
  3. Sourdough starter (which is a combination of flour and water naturally fermented by wild yeast and bacteria)
  4. Salt

Sourdough should only contain the naturally occurring yeast from a sourdough starter. If yeast is listed in the ingredients, it refers to commercial yeast, which is not used in authentic sourdough.

If you spot yeast, preservatives or additional additives on the ingredient list, it’s probably not the real deal. 

The fermentation process, which can take several hours to days, naturally preserves the bread by producing organic acids and other compounds that inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria and mould.

However, certain store-bought options, including loaves from the fresh baked section of supermarkets, often include extra ingredients to enhance shelf life and ensure uniform quality.

These can encompass preservatives, stabilisers, dough conditioners, and enzymes. While these additives serve practical purposes for large-scale production, they can deviate from the simplicity, health benefits and taste of traditional sourdough. To enjoy authentic sourdough, check ingredient lists or visit artisanal bakeries that use traditional methods. We get it—it’s tough to make it to a bakery with a hectic schedule. That’s why Emily, our founder, started Good In Bread: to make sourdough accessible to everyone, no matter where they live or how busy life gets. We deliver authentic sourdough straight to your door.

We’re proud to make our sourdough bread without any additives or preservatives, relying solely on natural fermentation for freshness. Our selection includes sourdough brioche, focaccia, and ciabatta. Our bagels have a hint of yeast (0.02% of the recipe) for a lighter texture; without it, they’d be a bit denser.

Sourdough Labelling: What Does ‘With Sourdough’ Really Mean?

Some companies use the words ‘with sourdough’ on the label. This means they make a normal yeasted loaf, with just a bit of sourdough starter or discard added. However, there is usually such a minimal amount that there won’t be any health benefits and probably very little noticeable difference in the flavour. Companies tend to use this more for marketing motives as sourdough has become a buzzword. It’s important to read labels carefully and understand what you’re getting, especially when it comes to trendy terms like sourdough.

Differences between Sourdough and Sourfaux

When comparing sourdough and “sourfaux” (a term often used to describe mass-produced, imitation sourdough bread), there are several key aspects to consider:

1. Ingredients:

Check out our Instagram video for more info!

Think about the flour’s quality and how it affects bread taste, your health, and the environment. Since authentic sourdough has few ingredients, flour quality is key. That’s why we use organic regenerative flour in all our loaves. You can read more about this in our blog 5 ways to shop and eat bread sustainably, where we talk about understanding flour and agricultural practices.

2.  Fermentation Process:

3. Health Benefits:

For more information on the health benefits read the 5 benefits of sourdough.

4. Craft and Quality:

More about this later under key differences between high and low quality sourdough bread

5. Taste and Texture:

For more information on the taste read the irresistible flavour of sourdough.

6. Environmental Impact:

For more information on the environmental impact read 5 ways to shop and eat bread sustainably. 

7. Cost:

8. Labelling and Transparency:

9. Local Economy Support:

Key Differences Between High-Quality and Low-Quality Sourdough Bread? 

Above we have outlined the differences between sourdough and sourfaux. However, even within authentic sourdough, there can be huge differences in quality. When comparing high-quality and low-quality sourdough, several factors come into play that affect the taste, texture, and nutritional value of the bread. 

Here are some key things to look at:

Traditional methods

High-quality sourdough bakers often produce smaller batches using traditional methods, reflecting a commitment to artisanal techniques and quality. They hand-shape and slow-ferment the dough, allowing for the development of complex flavors and better digestibility. This process roots itself in ancient baking traditions, ensuring that the bread maintains its authentic character. All of our sourdough is made by hand from start to finish.

On the other hand, manufacturers of low-quality sourdough may mass-produce it using industrial processes.

For example, some store-bought sourdough may use machinery, rather than making it by hand from start to finish. That is why their sourdough loaves all look identical. It is technically sourdough as they don’t use yeast, but it is not exactly authentic and is certainly of a lower quality.

Quality of the flour

The quality of flour is very important as it is the main ingredient in bread. We believe that organic flour is best so use it in all of our breads and in our baking kits. Organic standards impose rigorous criteria ; they ban artificial fertilisers and GMO ingredients while supporting ethical and sustainable farming practices.

Furthermore, a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that organic crops and grains are more nutritious, with higher levels of antioxidants. Conventional crops had twice the amount of cadmium than organic crops. This is important as another study indicated that cadmium, a highly toxic heavy metal contaminant, has been linked to kidney failure, bone softening, liver failure, and lung cancer.

Organic crops and grains are more nutritious

The flour in our bread is not only organic but also regenerative. To find out more about the differences between organic and regenerative farming practices read 5 ways to shop and eat bread sustainably.

Furthermore, stone-ground flour is tastier and more nutritious than the regular roller-milled flour found in most sourdough. If you want to learn more about the importance of stone-ground flour, stay updated on our blog as we are currently working on a detailed article about it!

The Real Bread Campaign’s Crusade for Authentic Sourdough

The Real Bread Campaign is an initiative that champions traditional breadmaking and aims to combat false marketing claims related to bread, particularly sourdough. The campaign advocates for transparency and authenticity in bread production, promoting the use of natural ingredients and traditional methods.

The Real Bread campaign has called out major British supermarket chains for labelling their bread as sourdough when it is “sourfaux”. Indeed, in the UK (and some other countries) there is no legal definition of sourdough, craft bakery, or artisan bread, allowing anyone to use those terms to market any loaf they produce.

Supermarket loaves are all very standardised – uniform in shape and colour – highlighting that they’re not artisanal or hand crafted.

The Real Bread Campaign has an Honest Crust Act where they address these issues. We find it particularly shocking how some additives don’t even have to appear on industrial loaf labels. Additionally, there is no legal definition or minimum content requirement for a loaf to be called wholegrain, meaning that a wholegrain loaf could contain just a few grams of wholemeal flour.

Visit the Real Bread Campaign’s website and read their blogs to learn more. Empower yourself to make more informed choices!

Final Thoughts: Embracing Authentic Sourdough

In the battle between sourdough and sourfaux, knowledge is your greatest ally. With the insights provided by the Real Bread Campaign and other reputable sources, you can navigate the world of bread with confidence. Remember, it’s not just about taste; it’s about tradition, authenticity and supporting genuine craftsmanship. 

We take immense pride in the authenticity of our sourdough loaves. What sets us apart is our unwavering commitment to quality, ensuring that every loaf exceeds expectations. One way we achieve this is by using stone-ground flour in all our loaves.

In particular, our bestseller, the white country loaf, is exclusively crafted from 100% stone-ground flour, ensuring a superior texture and flavour. But it doesn’t stop there. We’re also dedicated to sustainability and health, which is why the flour we use is not just organic but regenerative as well. Choosing our loaves means indulging in the finest bread while contributing positively to the environment. Furthermore, our authentic sourdough not only offers superior flavour but also helps preserve a time-honoured tradition and supports skilled artisans. So, the next time you reach for a loaf of bread, take a moment to scrutinise the label and savour the satisfaction of knowing you’re indulging in the real deal.

If you want to learn more

If you want to learn more about the differences between sourdough and supermarket bread, read:

  1. Our blog entitled supermarket vs sourdough.
  2. Our starter blog includes information on the difference between sourdough and yeasted bread. It’s also a great article if you want to start baking your own sourdough.
  3. Dr Chris Van Tulleken’s book, Ultra-Processed People: Why Do We All Eat Stuff That Isn’t Food … and Why Can’t We Stop?
  4. The Guardian’s article on how supermarket sourdough is often sourfaux.

Follow us on Instagram and LinkedIn for all things sourdough.

Furthermore, if you prefer to bake at home rather than buy bread, check out our ready-made starter and baking kits to help you on your sourdough adventure.

Note: if you don’t live in London, you can find our products on Delli