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The Natural Leaven / Sourdough Starter


Levain is an important ingredient when it comes to baking bread and other dough-based goods. In order to make dough rise, you need active yeast cultures to aid in fermentation.


Levain, or levain starter, is a leavening agent made from a mixture of flour and water and used to bake bread. The flour and water mixture takes on the wild yeasts in the air, and ferments. Once levain starter begins to ferment, it grows, and must be fed more flour and water in order to keep it alive. Some bakers keep their starter alive for decades, or even hundreds of years. Adding this active levain starter to bread flour is the first step in the bread making process.


Levain goes by different names. For instance, you may see the term levain used interchangeably with “sourdough” or “sourdough starter.” In most ways, levain and sourdough starter are the same: both are made from flour, water, and wild yeast, and both are used to ferment and flavor bread dough. However, not all levain starters impart the pronounced sour flavors that are characteristic of traditional sourdough bread. In fact, levain can be used to make all kinds of baked goods, including pastries and desserts.


Here are some reasons why sourdough bread is a great and important component to any pantry:


  • The bacteria-yeast composition will start to breakdown the starches found in the grains before it even reaches your stomach. That means there is way less work to be done, making it much easier on your gut.

  • Compared to many other types of bread, sourdough is fermented in a way that depletes bad starches within it. This means that it won’t cause your blood sugar to rise so drastically upon eating it.

  • The longer prep time for sourdough bread means that much of the protein gluten is broken down into amino acids before you consume it. The extensive soaking, rinsing, and other preparation steps means that it is easier to eat and digest, especially if you have mild sensitivities to gluten.

  • Lactobacillus a kind of bacteria found in sourdough bread more so than other types of bread and it results in higher levels of lactic acid. This is important because it means there is less room for phytic acid, which can be potentially dangerous. Larger quantities of lactic acid also result in easier digestion and accessibility to more minerals.

  • Sourdough bread contains acetic acid, which naturally prevent the growth of mold. It naturally preserves itself, meaning that toxic preservatives are not required to make it last. So it won’t go bad – and you can opt out of the hazardous build-up of preservatives in the food supply chain.

  • Made from wheat, sourdough bread fuels the production of good bacteria in your gut – much like the inulin and oligosaccharides found in onions, leeks, bananas, garlic, asparagus, and so on.

  • Sourdough contains a variety of vitamins and nutrients, making it super beneficial to your day-to-day health. Sourdough bread has small to moderate amounts of: iron, manganese, calcium, B1-B6, B12, folate, zinc, potassium, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, selenium, iron, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, and vitamin E.

  • Compared to other breads, sourdough maintains many of the original nutrients that are processed out of other kinds of bread.


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