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The way bread was made: naturally leavened sourdough

A couple generations ago, in much of Europe, bread was made at home and without industrial yeast. Instead, every household would save a piece of “mother dough” from the previous batch of bread which was then fermented for at least 2 days before being used again in a new batch.

Today, fermented foods like naturally-leavened bread are growing in popularity as research on the probiotics that are allowed to grow during fermentation show they could be good for your health. A 2008 study by Imperial College London, partly sponsored by Nestlé, found that not only did probiotics help mice break down fats, but as lead researcher Dr. Jeremy Nicholson explains, “We have established that introducing ‘friendly’ bacteria can change the dynamics of the whole population of microbes in the gut“.

Along with growing interested in naturally fermented yogurts, cheeses and chocolate, industrial-yeast-free bread is experiencing a comeback. Slowly fermented bread is known by many names: in the U.S., it’s often called sourdough; in France, “pan au levain”; and in Spain, it’s bread from “masa madre”, or “mother dough”.

In this video, we talk to two generations of Spanish women about their breadmaking experiences: one who spent years working with a mother dough that was shared by the entire village; and another who is making naturally-leavened bread for the first time.

We also have a video on a Spanish bakery that is making naturally fermented, organic breads in Barcelona.