Real Bread Campaign gears up for 10th annual Sourdough September

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

The Real Bread Campaign has created a free-to-download guide to teach budding bakers the alchemy of creating 'burping, bubbling' sourdough starters. Pic: GettyImages
The Real Bread Campaign has created a free-to-download guide to teach budding bakers the alchemy of creating 'burping, bubbling' sourdough starters. Pic: GettyImages

Related tags Real bread campaign Sourdough September sourfaux home bakers micro bakery Real Bread Mark Inflation

To mark the milestone, the not-for-profit has created a step-by-step Dough Monsters guide to help children nurture their own starter cultures.

Sourdough September is an annual campaign celebrated by bakers and real bread fans across the globe. For 12 months of the year, the Campaign promotes all types of real bread, with the month of September set aside an an opportunity for genuine sourdough bakers to showcase what they do.

Across 30 days of sharing food, facts and fun, Real Bread bakeries, baking schools, mills, food festivals and other fermentalists around the globe run sourdough classes, tastings, feasts and more to help everyone experience the power of sour.

Sourdough vs ‘pseudough’

Disappointed baker holding sourdough AaronAmat
Pic: GettyImages

Rather than a look, style or flavour, sourdough is a time-honoured process.

Yeasts and lactic acid bacteria naturally present on the surface of grains are transferred into the flour. These can be nurtured to create a thriving sourdough starter culture, which gives dough its rise, meaning the bread only requires flour, water and salt - no artificial leaveners, chemical raising agents or other processing aids are needed to create the perfect, all-natural loaf; although there’s no limit to the number of natural ingredients that can be incorporated.

As well as producing skilled bakers, a growing body of studies reveal the raft of health and nutritional benefits of the sourdough process. According to a 2019 review in Nutrients, the fermentation process helps to unlock B vitamins in the bread and even enables the enrichment of vitamin B12 in plant-based goods (B12 is found primarily in animal-based foods). Additionally, sourdough is usually made with fortified flour, so it delivers iron and folate, which are important before and during pregnancy. It has also been found to help improve digestion, lower chronic disease risk and even promote healthy ageing.

Unfortunately, none of these are included on the UK or EU lists of permitted nutrition and health claims as yet and, as such, the Campaign is calling for investment in much more research.

Another downside is the number of so called ‘sourfaux’ available on the market. According to the Campaign, these are produced marketed as sourdough, but made with one or more of the raising agents. The changes to the dough - on which any potential health or nutritional benefits depend - can’t occur to the same extent if the lactic acid bacterial fermentation is omitted or reduced.

As such, the Real Bread Campaign continues to lobby the UK Government for, what it has termed an Honest Crust Act, which would include updated and improved composition, labelling and marketing standards. It would also include a legal definition of sourdough, which to date, is much misaligned.

Get involved

Baker Philip Nealy
Pic: GettyImages

In the meantime, savvy consumers are increasingly looking out for the Sourdough Loaf Mark, which guarantees their purchase. The Campaign is also encouraging home bakers to roll up their sleeves and make their own, and this year, to mark Sourdough September, is releasing ‘Do you have a dough monster?’, specifically tailored for youngsters.

“In just a few minutes a day over a week or less, children - plus a few billion lactic acid bacteria and yeast cells - can transform flour and water into burping, bubbling breadmaking buddies,”​ said Chris Young, Real Bread Campaign coordinator.

“With the addition of more flour, water and a little salt, they can then enjoy the delicious alchemy of making genuine sourdough bread.”

The free one-page guide can be downloaded from the Real Bread Campaign but will also be available from participating Real Bread bakeries, baking schools and other organisations.

The Campaign website is also packed with tips, tricks and recipes, how to make and where to buy real bread, along with gifting ideas and books.

‘Slow Dough: Real Bread’ is the Campaign's first recipe book, while later this year, the Campaign is releasing ‘Bake Your Lawn’, designed to help parents, carers, teachers and community group leaders guide kids through a hands-on real bread journey, from seed to sandwich.

Real bread for all

sourdough EmiliaU
Pic: GettyImages

The ‘Real Bread For All’ guide also delves into ways independent bakeries can bridge the gap between what it costs them to make real bread and what people in their local communities on tighter budgets can afford.

“Everyone in the UK should be able to afford Real Bread but for a growing number of people this simply is not realistic,”​ said Young.

“At the same time, many Real Bread bakers are struggling to earn an honest crust without increasing their prices.

“Our guide is informed by examples from bakeries that have addressed the challenges of offering Real Bread at a lower price in ways that don’t undermine its true value and at a time that’s increasingly tough on their site of the counter as well.”

The guide - which can be downloaded for free - delves into several key issues:

  • Making the more affordable bread appropriate to people’s needs, be that sliced sandwich loaves, flatbreads
  • Working out who’ll cover the costs, which might be a combination of the business, its customers and perhaps suppliers, maybe with support of local/regional companies or organisations.
  • Putting bread into the hands of people who need it, which might involve looking at selling from places other than the baker’s shop or farmers’ market stall.
  • Making contact with local organisations that work with people experiencing poverty and ideally, involving people who live/have lived that experience.
  • Cracking your comms with your customers, staff and people to whom you’re offering lower-priced bread.
  • Notes on public catering, which represents a huge opportunity to put real bread on the subsidised plates of almost a quarter of the nation’s population, including school pupils, hospital patients, prisoners, students, care home residents and service personnel.

The Real Bread Campaign is run by food and farming charity Sustain, which is celebrating its 15th​ anniversary in November.

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