Sourdough is hands down the healthiest type of bread. Made with only three ingredients; flour, water, and salt, sourdough is simple and natural, the way bread should be. However, with the rise in popularity of sourdough, and all of its health benefits, food companies, and grocery stores are jumping on the bandwagon, unfortunately, more and more fake sourdoughs are popping up in grocery stores, and consumers are being tricked into thinking they are getting the real deal. So, let’s discuss these clever marketing tactics, so you know how to spot a fake sourdough, and what to look for instead.
What is real sourdough bread?
Real sourdough bread is a work of art. It takes time, patience, and lots of love. Real sourdough is made by slowly fermenting flour, water, and salt, to create a sourdough starter, or natural leaven, which is then used to make the dough rise. The initial sourdough starter is then kept alive through ongoing feedings for the purpose of leavening additional bread dough in an ongoing manner, and it is the actual process of natural leavening with wild yeast that defines a loaf as sourdough. This is a lengthy multi-stage process that takes days to complete but produces the most natural (and delicious) form of bread.
However, because there is no legal definition of sourdough, there is nothing to stop manufacturers from selling substandard products. Despite the fact that traditional sourdough ingredients are flour, water, and salt, many store-bought versions include added yeast, ascorbic acid, vinegar, and oil. So, although many grocery stores may carry bread labeled “sourdough”, more often than not they are in fact fake sourdough. Real sourdough takes time and large food manufacturers don’t have this time so they will take shortcuts to create products faster and at a cheaper price. Real authentic sourdough costs more than a standard loaf of processed bread, because of the time, effort, and quality ingredients it takes to create it.
How to Spot a Fake Sourdough
The good news is, spotting a fake sourdough is not as complicated as it may seem. In fact, with a little know-how you can easily identify the real deal from the imposters, so here are some of the important things to look for when you are trying to differentiate sourdough from “sourfaux”.
- Includes Simple Ingredients: Real sourdough will only contain three ingredients; flour, water, and salt. On a label, this can include flour, water, salt, and “culture” or “starter” which refers to the natural leaven used to make the bread rise, however, the ingredients should not include anything else.
- Does Not Include Yeast: If you see yeast listed as an ingredient in sourdough, you can be sure that it is not an authentic sourdough. The yeast used in modern baking is a processed food that does not allow for the natural fermentation of the grains, which is what gives sourdough bread its beneficial health properties.
- No Sweetener: Real sourdough does not require any sugar or sweetener to activate the yeast because it uses a natural fermentation process. So, if a sweetener is listed, you can be sure that it is not real sourdough.
- Expires Quickly: It is important to keep in mind that real food goes bad, and sourdough is real food. Therefore, if your sourdough has an expiry date that is weeks or months away, you can be sure it is not an authentic sourdough.
The Bottom Line
The best way to determine if sourdough is real or fake is to read the ingredients. In most cases, you won’t find real sourdough at a grocery store or local supermarket. Big box chains just don’t take the time or have the skills to create and sell authentic sourdough. If you want the real deal, which you should, look for a local bakery, specialty shop, or farmers’ market that specialized in authentic sourdough. Although it may seem like a headache, I can assure you it is well worth the time, cost, and effort to get the real deal.