The choice between bakers’ yeast and sourdough to raise dough may impact more than just taste. The extra time taken to make the sourdough bread can bring additional health benefits, according to Karl Desmedt, Puratos’ “sourdough librarian.” The research comes amid a boom in home baking and a growing demand for healthier baked goods.

The investigation from Professor Marco Gobbetti, dean at the Faculty of Science and Technology at the Free University of Bolzano, also indicated that sourdough fermented bread can even be easier to digest due to the longer fermentation process. 

Shining a light on bakery and fermentation methods, Desmedt delves into Gobbetti’s findings. 

Microorganisms thrive 
The presence of living microorganisms during the fermentation process of dough can positively impact the flavor complexity and the texture of bread. They convert the carbohydrates and proteins in the flour into lactic acid, acetic acid and CO2.
In simple terms, this means they convert the carbohydrates and proteins in the flour into taste and volume.
“Today, modern technologies make it possible to do detailed research on these microbes and the effects it may have on our digestion,” Desmedt tells FoodIngredientsFirst. 
“The research has confirmed the better digestibility of sourdough bread compared to the baker’s yeast bread. In the future, we’re hoping to see whether sourdough may affect the diversity and functionality of the intestinal microbiome of humans. It is clear that science is helping us to understand the benefits of traditional fermentation better.”
Improved digestibility 
In principle, the body needs hours to digest flour following sourdough fermentation. The sourdough bread has already started a part of this digestive process. 
This causes more vitamins, minerals and amino acids to be released and helps new flavors to develop. The research demonstrated that sourdough bread gives the body a quicker satiety feeling. 
“We demonstrated that the emission of gas during digestion, the transit of the bread in our intestinal tract and the absorption of nutrition, like free amino acids, made sourdough bread more digestible than all the other types of bread,” comments Desmedt.

“Demand for sourdough has never been higher”
The reputation and demand for sourdough bread have never been higher than it is now, affirms Desmedt. 
“Bread, made with sourdough, has become one of the most preferred bread types, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, as part of a healthier diet,” he continues. 
“With sourdough soaring in popularity, the premium bread category is gaining importance. More and more consumers say they want to see and feel the craftsmanship in the breads they buy.”
“When purchasing bakery items, taste and freshness remain the most important selection criteria for consumers. Price completes the top three, creating everyday packaged breads with an artisanal twist, or more premium packaged breads even more relevant.” 
He continues that both food exploration and indulgence are expected to revive, but sourdough should be affordable.
Criteria for taste, authenticity and health are becoming ever more important, and sourdough’s comeback was driven initially by taste. 
“Nowadays, sourdough has become much broader in terms of taste. Later on, as sourdough’s popularity increased, the combination of sourdough and longer fermentation times drove popularity further for its rustic style, feel and appearance.”
Desmedt foresees health and well-being driving sourdough’s popularity further. This combination of taste, authenticity and health and well-being perception makes sourdough an ingredient that remains rooted within modern baking, he notes.  
Wins for health
With consumers increasingly looking for food that bolsters health and immunity, they are requesting cleaner and more natural ingredients, Desmedt flags. 
“To meet this demand, Puratos has launched a whole new generation of enzyme-based innovations. It’s a range that allows you to achieve more – short bite, softness, better tolerance – by putting in less,” he reveals. 
For bakeries, adopting traditional fermentation is “an art to master and a science to perfect,” Desmedt asserts.
According to Desmedt, the reason sourdough almost disappeared from the market was because of its complexity and how difficult it was to control compared to the convenience of baker’s yeast. 
“During long fermentation, the dough is naturally filled with gas to create a consistent, open structure that’s full of flavor. Temperature and time control are vital, and once the dough is fully fermented, it must be handled very carefully,” he elaborates. 
To deliver handmade style bread, bakers must therefore adapt their baking technologies when handling this stickier, more gaseous, long-fermented dough.
By understanding every facet of natural fermentation, Putaros can guarantee the consistency they need and the diversity in flavors consumers expect. “We even apply this to whole grains as well, creating exclusive fermented sprouted grains,” Desmedt adds. 
Gut health in the spotlight
Global consumers are enjoying wholesome staple foods such as bread during the pandemic. Desmedt says that it’s no surprise that with millions of people at home, that there has been huge interest in how bread, and sourdough bread, in particular, is made. 
“Consequently, gut health-related products are gaining momentum in the market, and they are appealing to a wider audience. Adding food rich in prebiotic compounds to the diet, such as fiber-rich breads and sourdough bread, can be one way to restore an imbalanced gut and maintain a healthy one,” he explains.
Following Puratos’ health and well-being commitment to “provide consumers with outstanding products that help them enjoy a healthy diet and fulfill their well-being needs,” the company started developing a product range that supports the digestive health of the final consumer. A new product based on established technologies is just a few months away.
Puratos has called this the “Happy Gut” range and expects all bakery products that become part of this portfolio to contain gut health-promoting compounds, such as fiber, which support consumers’ gut health status.
“Here too, sourdough will play a prominent role. Puratos is working on a sourdough technology releasing dietary fibers for a healthy gut approach. A first nutritional study has shown the positive prebiotic effects these dietary fibers have on the gut microbiota,” Desmedt concludes.