Wild Yeast vs Commercial Yeast

At Bread SRSLY we are huge fans of all things wild. This includes wild yeast - the key ingredient of a true sourdough. Wondering why that packet of dry yeast isn’t as flavorful or nourishing as a sourdough starter? Read on to learn about the magic, benefits and history of wild yeast.

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Wild fermented bread like Bread SRSLY gluten-free sourdough instead relies solely on wild yeast to achieve its rise, its distinct sourdough tang and its nourishing nutritional value. Just like bread made thousands of years ago, the leavening comes from the air and the grain, not from a store-bought packet. Until 160 years ago, that was the only type of yeast around.

Then in 1857, Louis Pasteur first saw yeast under a microscope, and lo and behold, baker’s yeast was made. Isolated as a single strain of yeast from the wild yeast culture, baker’s yeast was a quick, flavorful and reliable leavener that began to replace wild yeast in industrial breadmaking.

The result? Cheaper manufacturing due to newfound speed and reliability. But the unseen effects on the health benefits of bread took a toll.

When yeast acts on flour, it converts natural grain sugars and starches into carbon dioxide, which creates air pockets that make the dough rise. Wild yeast cultures go even further, using healthy lactobacilli bacteria to convert proteins (like gluten) into lactic acid that gives sourdough its flavor.

To speed up the manufacturing process, bakers began adding sweeteners to their dough to give their new bakers yeast more readily-available food. Suddenly, yeast is no longer breaking down grain sugars, since it is perfectly happy working off cane sugar, corn syrup, molasses, or whatever other sweetener might have been used. Inspired by the added speed of the sugar, manufacturers then started to use even more yeast, and the need for speed continued.

This all meant a significant change in chemical composition of a finished loaf of bread - higher natural and added sugar content, tougher starches, and excess single-strain yeast. Without the lactobacilli that come with wild yeast, grain proteins, including gluten, were now unchanged by the fermentation process, leaving them fully intact and hard to digest. Nutrients that became bioavailable due to a long fermentation process remained locked up once sugar became the fermentable ingredient instead of flour.

Cue the rise of gluten-intolerance, and less noticeably, the rise (pun intended) of single-strain-yeast-intolerance. Have trouble eating a ‘normal’ loaf of gluten free bread? Baker’s yeast and sugar might be to blame. Feel better after eating some Bread SRSLY gluten-free sourdough than after having a different gluten-free bread? Look toward the slow fermentation process that unlocks nutrients and transforms grains into more easily-digestible forms.

One of our passions is sharing knowledge about the incredible process of sourdough fermentation. We believe that sourdough should be the ONLY type of bread. While the added time of the fermentation is costly, and working with a wild culture can be unpredictable, the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks. We feel that once you develop a taste for sourdough bread, your happy belly will steer you away from the sweet, starchy conventional loaves that have locked up our nutrients all these decades.