The Rise of Sourdough, and Why It Deserves a Place in Your Pantry
Plus, stores to hit up for great takes on the bread in Manila.
(SPOT.ph) Maybe you’ve seen it on Instagram, tempting with its crusty exterior and non-uniform open crumb within. Maybe you’ve toasted a slice and enjoyed its chewy texture and tangy flavor for breakfast. Heck, maybe you’ve even obtained your own starter and spent some of your free time in quarantine shaping and baking your own loaf. Sourdough bread has become all the rage these days, but what differentiates it from any other bread—and why should you try it?
What is Sourdough Bread, Anyway?
Trendy as it may be now, sourdough bread is nothing new. The bread has been around as early as ancient Egypt, with one of the oldest sourdough breads ever discovered dating back to 3700 BCE. It’s the oldest form of leavened bread, and according to NPR, it was likely discovered by accident when bread dough was left out and microorganisms joined in the mix.
Like any other bread, sourdough bread’s basic ingredients are flour, which provides the structure; and yeast, which helps the bread rise and develops its gluten network. But sourdough bread differs in the source of the yeast. Instead of using commercial yeast (as does most other kinds of bread today), it relies on what is called a “starter”—a culture of microorganisms, primarily yeasts and lactic acid bacteria.
Also known as a levain, starters begin with a mixture of flour and water. But as enzymes in the flour split starches into sugars, yeasts from all around—in the flour, the environment, and even on the baker—converge on the sugars. Lactobacilli convert sugars to lactic and acetic acids, which lowers the pH of the dough and makes it sour. The yeasts that can tolerate this acidity convert sugars into carbon dioxide and ethanol.
Part of the appeal of keeping sourdough starters is in the fact that they’re, well, alive. They’re easily influenced by their immediate environment, with every aspect from the flour used to temperatures in your location affecting the aroma, flavor, and texture of the resulting bread. It also changes over time, with bakers and food scientists saying that it gets better with age. Some people even name their sourdough starters.
Keeping sourdough starters also requires commitment and affection, in a sense. Like pets, starters are meant to be “fed” or “refreshed” with additional flour and water regularly (from twice a day to once a week, depending where it’s stored) to keep it active. Only a portion of the starter is used to make bread at a time; the remaining mixture continues to be fed so it can be used for another day. Starters can theoretically be kept forever, provided they’re cared for properly.
Why Eat Sourdough Bread?
Perhaps the primary appeal of sourdough bread is in its telltale complex flavor that you won’t find in regular bread. This is thanks to the bacteria present in its starter, which produce acids that create the distinctive sourness we often associate with the bread. As the starter matures, the yeast and the bacteria develop, making for a stronger and more complex-tasting loaf.
While sourdough’s stronger-tasting character veers away from the sweeter, softer kinds of bread Filipinos are more familiar with, it’s worth exploring in its own right. Because it tends to be crustier and sturdier, it works well as a base for open-faced toast or different kinds of sandwiches, holding up well to ingredients like vegetables, cooked meats, or fresh cheeses that can get soggy over time.
With its signature tang, it hardly needs any embellishment—though it does take well to simple toppings like a smear of butter or mashed avocado. Its tang nonetheless works with lots of savory ingredients, from deli meats to roasted vegetables to creamy scrambled eggs. It’s especially great with richer components, like gooey cheeses (it’s phenomenal in a grilled cheese sandwich) and creamy soups, as its strong flavor helps balance out their fatty nature.
Because of the fermentation process the starter undergoes, sourdough is also healthier than other kinds of bread. While all breads contain essential minerals like calcium, magnesium, and iron, we can’t usually easily absorb them because of compounds called phytic acids (which impair mineral absorption) that bind to them. Sourdough, on the other hand, has a higher level of available minerals since it contains lactic acid, which neutralizes levels of phytic acids as it lowers the pH of the bread.
The fermentation process also breaks down some of the gluten and releases more fiber, which makes sourdough bread easier to digest than most commercial loaves. Sourdough also has prebiotics—a type of indigestible fiber that feeds the good bacteria, called probiotics, thus keeping your gut healthy.
Where to Get Sourdough Bread in Manila
While the thought of making your own sourdough has its own homey appeal, it can understandably be intimidating. Don’t fret—the good news is that there are a number of stores and purveyors in Manila that offer the bread and can deliver it to your doorstep. Hit up these players for your sourdough fix:
Chuck’s Deli + Bakery
This sandwich shop has launched a bakery leg that offers different kinds of bread, including the Sourdough Country Bread (P195/500 grams, P350/one kilogram). They deliver to most areas in the Metro; simply place your orders through their website and pay via GCash, Paymaya, Paypal, or credit card.
Tost MNL offers sourdough bread in Regular (P250) and Ube (P280) variants, which are best paired with their Ricotta (P200). They even sell sourdough starters (P150) if you’re raring to try making your own loaf. You can send them a message on their social media accounts for orders.
The B.A.D. Baker
Come for the Classic Sourdough (P470), stay for the one-of-a-kind, slightly-sweet Camote Sourdough (P500) or nutty Seeded Sourdough (P575) at the B.A.D. Baker. They deliver on Wednesdays and Fridays; just send them a Viber or WhatsApp message two to three days in advance to order.
For orders, send a Viber or WhatsApp message to 0917-180-9014. You can also check out The B.A.D. Baker’s Instagram page.
Dubbed the Banawe Base (P275), Manu Mano’s take on a sourdough loaf is wonderfully crusty with just the right amount of tang. A more one-of-a-kind option is their signature Pan de Sal (P10), which is made with both fresh yeast and sourdough for a bun that’s simultaneously sweetish yet mildly sour, and fluffy yet substantial. You can visit their store in Quezon City or contact 0945-614-9186 to place your orders, then book a courier to get it delivered to your doorstep.
Katipunan-based 28 Derby makes a variety of European-style bread, which includes the Sourdough Loaf (P150/loaf, P100/loaf for orders of five and above, P50/baguette) and the Sourdough Sandwich Loaf (P150/loaf, P100/loaf for orders of five and above). You can place your orders through their order form; you can pay through BPI bank deposit or GCash.
The Daily Knead
The Daily Knead offers sourdough bread in Boule (P375), Batard (P400), and Whole Wheat Sandwich Loaf (P450) forms. Like it sweet? They also make a Sourdough Cinnamon Raisin Loaf (P400). Get your fix by sending them a message on their Instagram page.
Tilde Bakery & Kitchen
Hit up this Poblacion bakery for their Sourdough (P245) and Walnut & Cranberry Sourdough (P225). Their breads are made to order and are available to be picked up (you can book your own courier for deliveries) from Wednesdays to Saturdays—just send them a message on Instagram a day before for orders.
La Tradition PH
La Tradition PH’s Plain Sourdough (P170) is made with only four ingredients—whole wheat flour, bread flour, salt, and water. You can also get sourdough with Chia & Flax Seeds (P190), Walnuts (P190), Rosemary and Olives (P190), and Sunflower Seeds (P190). You can place your orders through their online form and you can opt to pick it up from Makati or Quezon City, or have your bread delivered with a minimum order of P200.
Hit up Conspire Bakery if you’re looking for a great Sourdough Loaf (P250) that's crusty outside and chewy within. They also offer Sourdough Pandesal (P150/10 pieces) and Sourdough Pullman (P250). Just send them a message and send your payment via Metrobank bank deposit. You’ll then have to book a courier to pick it up from their Pasay location.
Bake House Manila
Shangri-La at the Fort’s resident bakeshop carries a selection of sourdough loaves, including Farmer’s Bread (P250) to Field Rye Bread (P250), Italian Seeds Loaf (P250), and Walnut Cranberry Sourdough (P250). Just call 0917-536-3287 for orders, which you can place from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. You’ll then have to book your own courier for deliveries.