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Sourdough as a clean label option for baked goods - Dr. Markus Brandt [Interview]

Baking relies on a long tradition of sourdough fermentation - and it offers a clean label option, explains Dr. Markus Brandt (Ernst Böcker GmbH & Co).

Can you explain how sourdough fermentation works?

"Sourdough is the traditional way of baking bread; the bread is leavened by natural yeasts and over time other sourdough types were developed, where the main fermentation comes from lactic acid bacteria, for improvement of flavour, for better shelf life and other uses."

Could you give us some examples of different methods for baking bread  across the world?

"Well, the main ingredient is always sourdough. In Europe mainly wheat and rye are used for the production of bread, while in tropical countries, maize, sorghum and rice are preferred. In Africa the breads are mostly flat but in some places they do use sourdough, and in Asia they have these steamed buns from rice, but traditionally they will bake bread from sourdough.""So there are different production methods even - but the microbiota and fermentation temperatures may differ. Fermentation is a very old process for preparing food. In many places they have different names for this process, but fermentation is the base for all of them."

What are the differences between ‘short’ and ‘long' fermentation in sourdough baking?

"That is something that depends on the bread processing. Short fermentation helps quick rising because of the yeast and the flour is fermented for a short time - and if you keep it at low temperature or the sourdough is left for longer fermentation time, the components of the flour are degraded and the composition is changed. Proteins might be degraded, the starch gets another structure, so you go in a completely different direction.""People wonder why the Germans have lower celiac incidences and they think it’s because they eat a lot of sourdough bread. I do not necessarily believe this, but it makes a nice hypothesis to start from somewhere and test this assumption.""Regarding longer fermentation processes, it’s worth mentioning that when this method is chosen the taste is better and the quality as well. I think these changes may contribute to quality and maybe to health but we need a lot of research to go into detail of what is happening exactly."

Is fermented bread better than non-fermented bread?

"In my personal opinion, it is really better because it tastes better! With that being said though, I have to add that it’s a different bread and it’s a matter of preference, a matter of personal choice. There is no better or worse case when it comes to bread; it’s what people prefer to eat."

Could you point out some other uses of sourdough?

"Sourdough is definitely not just used for baking bread, as it is widely used for other baking processes as well. What people often forget is that all these traditional sweet baked goods also have sourdough, like panettone. It helps a lot when used with Danish party, or croissants in order to get this elasticity. In general, whenever lactic acid is needed you can use it as a clean label ingredient."

What are your predictions for the F&B industry over the next 3-5 years?

"I see the ‘free from’ trend definitely continuing - that is more than clear together with the use of less additives, so healthier choices are coming our way.""With the help of science we have come very far and know more about our gut or the food we are eating and how these are interconnected, and I think that the results of these studies will define the trends accordingly."

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