Quick to make, slow to ferment
Our approach to baking bread is about baking as lifestyle medicine. Whilst most bakers on social media are obsessed with big holes but my interest is in baking that fits in with real life and that also helps you to live life to the full. You don’t need to read this bit to bake, and even though the bakes are fast to make they are optimally fermented, light with an open crumb structure, and they will be just as good for you whether you read this or not.
Why this approach is different to other quick recipes
Our recipes are different not just because they fit into a busy life, but because they are created in conjunction with an extraordinary team of medical experts and we apply the knowledge and techniques of both fermentation and nutrition from the most up-to-date studies about health, wellness and the gut microbiome.
Why? Because all the evidence points towards the fact that the kind of bread and baked goods, we each every day affects your long-term health, and in the end, the only thing that really matters is the way you feel.
Studies to date
Sourdough is very much associated with slowing down to bake. Almost every case study in our research has shown improvement in the balance of bakers’ gut microbiome as well as improvement in mood, sleep and anxiety levels from eating sourdough, but what about the rest of the week when there is very little time to spend baking?
Applying the knowledge to all your baking
Compromising your diet by eating non-fermented bakes and refined white carbs because you are time-poor is a fool’s game because it is when you are busy that you need the most nourishment, but what if you could have it all? What if sourdough bakes, made in just 10 minutes were still good for you? To answer this and other health questions about the recipes in this book, we have asked our in-house team of doctors, nutritionists and medical specialists to answer specific questions about how you can create breads for optimal health in just 10 minutes.
How does eating sourdough bread impact your long-term health?
Answer: Dr Alex Davidson – GP
True sourdough process transforms starch and sugars, meaning that the bread you eat is digested more slowly, giving you much less of a spike in blood sugar. Bread is an integral part of a Western diet, so the bread you choose every day over a lifetime can have a major impact on your health in terms of weight management and the risk of chronic disease.
Nourishing your gut
Can sourdough made in just 10 minutes really nourish your gut microbiome?
Vanessa’s approach to increased diversity through using different flours feeds a wider range of bacteria in your gut, and this is important because having a diverse range of gut microbes is associated with better whole-body health. The microbes in the starter transform the dough, increasing the bioavailability of key nutrients including minerals, vitamins and antioxidants. In addition, fibre plays a crucial role in gut health, giving your microbes the substrates, they need to create short-chain fatty acids such as butyrate, and other molecules known to balance inflammation and to lead to better health.
Protecting your Brain
How can bread made in just 10 minutes potentially be neuroprotective?
The sourdough process breaks down gluten and supports a healthy gut microbiome. This reduces any potential inflammatory response in the gut and the brain, which underpins physical brain neurodegeneration, as seen in conditions like dementia and Parkinson’s disease, and mental health ranging from depression to anxiety. In addition, the fermentation process increases the bioavailability of ferulic acid, a potent antioxidant that scavenges inflammatory free radicals. Eating wholegrains rich in ferulic acid is associated with lower rates of neuroinflammatory conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Can sourdough made in just 10 minutes really help optimise your mental health?
Yes, you can very likely optimise mental health even with bakes that take a short time to make. In the emerging field of nutritional psychiatry, good mental health is supported by eating foods that nourish your gut and that supply the fibre needed by the gut for the microbes to make essential metabolites that the brain needs to function optimally. Including more fibre, diversity and inclusions known to have high levels of nutrients found lacking in people with mental health issues is a great way to optimise your mood and anxiety. Our approach of gradually including more fibre in recipes makes baking with sourdough and wholegrain far less intimidating.
Sourdough is also beneficial as the fermentation helps the breakdown of the gluten which can help to lower inflammation, a known factor in mental health issues. Our 10 minutes recipes are super easy and fast to make which means that sourdough is also much more accessible to people who might not normally consider baking.
Can eating wholegrain sourdough really help to prevent cancer?
Compared to plain white bread, eating wholemeal sourdough bread will definitely cut your risk of cancer. Baking to support your gut microbiome helps to reduce chronic inflammation, and improve the health and oxidative status of gut wall cells – both factors which affect cancer risk. On top of this, the extra fibre, increases gut motility reducing the time harmful chemicals are in contact with the bowel wall and helps with the breakdown and absorption of benefits phytochemicals such as polyphenols which have cancer-protecting properties.
Globally bowel cancer is the third most commonly occurring cancer and the fourth biggest cancer killer but at least half of these could be prevented by a healthy lifestyle which, in addition to increasing fibre and healthy bacteria by eating whole grain sourdough it includes more exercise, polyphenol-rich fruit and vegetables, reducing processed meat, alcohol and cigarettes.
Controlling Blood Sugar & Mood
Can eating Sourdough help cope with stress?
Answer: Dr Alex Davidson – GP
Yes. Changes in blood sugar can affect mood and mental state, especially if they are rapid. Fewer spikes in sugars mean more balanced mental health. Even though the bread in this book is made with just 10 minutes of hands-on effort, the benefit of the fermentation process to our gut microbes has an impact on the feel-good neurotransmitters produced- like serotonin – 80% of which is made in the gut.
Can making sourdough in just 10 minutes actually have a positive impact on the way we feel about life?
However long or short a bread-making process we use, we can choose to do it mindfully and making bread mindfully is an excellent way of training our attention, a basic psychological skill that can stand us in very good stead when we need to manage our mood and anxiety levels. Making sourdough is a creative act, it is an expression of ourselves and our values, it gives us a sense of achievement and it connects us with others – all things that benefit our mental health.
Is there a healthier way to eat sourdough?
In order to get the best out of your sourdough bread, we recommend that you eat it with a wide variety of colourful fruits and vegetables. One of our core principles here at the school is eating bread and baked goods with good probiotic accompaniments: for example, cultured butter, and fermented foods such as sauerkraut and unpasteurised cheeses, is not only a delicious way to consume sourdough, but it also increases the diversity of beneficial probiotic bacteria helping to nourish the gut microbiome.
What is the secret?
Answer: Vanessa Kimbell – Baker
The secret is gradually increasing fibre and diversity and transforming the dough using fermentation.
A gradual change.
There is no doubt that the healthiest bread is 100% wholegrain, made using diverse flours, and fermented so why then, are many breads 50:50 white and wholemeal flour? These recipes are designed to introduce both fermentation and wholegrain flour into your everyday loaf.
Many people who are not used to 100% Wholegrain flour, which is high fibre, find that changing from a diet high in refined carbs to fully wholegrain sourdough in one go can be very challenging on their digestive system – even when it is fermented. So whilst this approach is amazingly beneficial to your gut microbes we’ve seen over many years that introducing wholegrain slowly to your diet gives both your tastebuds and everyone’s digestive system take time to get used to it and fall in love with the textures and flavours.
Successful change is about taking it slowly. Introducing wholegrain one bake at a time, and gradually increasing the percentage of wholegrain helps to get your family to appreciate a new approach to bread. Change takes time, and it is worth it. So, I cannot encourage you enough to work towards baking the 100% wholegrain breads and cakes as you get familiar with this approach.