Marie Claire | Bread Day: Interview with Belgian sourdough guru

The future of pan this in his past. And really this phrase hides a lot of truth. More and more we hear the word sourdough and even more in times of quarantine when we are encouraged to make bread at home. Through Zoom we were able to chat with world sourdough guru Karl von Stedt from Belgium Y showed us the Puratos library, where there are more than 100 sourdoughs from around the world.

How did you fall in love with bread?

-Bread is an amazing ingredient. It made us human beings what we are today. Bread is like the cornerstone of civilization, I couldn’t imagine a world without bread. And I also consider that it is one of the only crafts that gives life. By mixing flour and water you allow the fermentation to release all its benefits. Compared to a chef, where everything must be killed before being turned into a dish; a baker must bring bread to life. That is why I fell in love with him.

What are the benefits of using sourdough?

-Sourdough has many benefits, and there are several ongoing scientific studies that will confirm this with more specific data. The presence of lactic acid bacteria in sourdough aids in the digestion of flour. The human body cannot digest flour completely because our intestinal transit is too fast to do it. By giving these bacteria (which are the same that we have in our intestines) the opportunity to begin to digest the components of the flour previously, it is much healthier.

It also has many nutrients such as amino acids, minerals, fibers and vitamins. An example is the removal of phytic acid. Phytic acid creates a barrier in our body to absorb these nutrients. The production of organic acids, a product of lactic acid bacteria in the sourdough, results in a decrease in PH in the dough. This allows an enzyme called phytase rEducate these phytic acids and perm to our body to absorb the full potential of the grain / flour. We know that sourdough provides flavor, texture and preservation. But in the future these studies will clearly show that sourdough bread is even better than fresh leavened bread only.

Why is something so old today so fashionable?

-Because it is the most traditional way of making bread. It has been missing for many years because yeast made it easier for bakers. When commercial yeast entered the European market in 1867, bakers migrated en masse to this revolutionary ingredient. They could make more bread in less time. One of the reasons why sourdough has returned to be present on the map is because our company (Puratos) promotes the use of sourdough since 1994, the year we started producing sourdough as a flavor enhancer for our customers.

Little by little customers began to use it, supermarkets began to include sourdough in polvo to increase and differentiate the flavor of your breads. The word sourdough probably caused sourdough bakeries to open their doors little by little. The fact that consumers pay more attention to the quality of their food makes sourdough bread perfectly in line with expectations.

With the quarantine, people have more time to bake at home. The Internet is a great source of information. I think I have received as many questions in the last six months on social media as in the last 10 years. We have the opportunity to spread information and share knowledge very quickly. On Instagram, etc, you can see the most beautiful breads, never made before in the history of mankind. That work is contagious, it is like a virus, spreading slowly but surely.

In Belgium, where you perform, there is a beautiful library full of sourdough, what is it like to work there?

-As there is only one Sourdough Library in the world, I am the only Sourdough Librarian. In 1994 I wanted to open my own bakery / pastry shop in Brussels, but my wife didn’t want to. So I decided to start working for Puratos. Having this library is for me like having my own business. It is a unique place. No one else in the world has the opportunity to care for such a collection. Being able to smell them, touch them, watch them bubble, bake them, and even taste them is a great experience.

And also through the library I have built an amazing network of passionate about sourdough. I connect with the most amazing people in the world. I can pick up the phone and speak to microbiologists of the world when I have a question, chatting with crazy bakers who do things a professional craftsman wouldn’t think of, helping product developers in big bakeries, talking to journalists, giving podcast interviews, participating in television shows. I never imagined this when we started with the library. But I can guarantee you that it is a multi-faceted job.

What curiosities does the science of making bread present you?

-Making bread is pure science. Someone once said, “Fermentation is probably better invention than fire “. And that is true. All these interactions in the crowd have a purpose. When you mix flour and water, many reactions start. Yeast and lactic acid bacteria start to consume the starches, so they develop CO2 that makes the bread rise. By mixing, you transform the proteins into a gluten network, creating a balloon that keeps these CO2 in the dough and makes the bread rise. At the same time, billions of enzymes take care of biochemical reactions. During baking, the starch grain gelatinizes, turning into crumb and crust. That is the beauty of baking bread. Watch the complete transformation of simple ingredients into one of the most nutritious foods on earth. That makes bread so fascinating.

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