Lesson 10: Adding Sourdough to Everyday Baked Goods

So far we’ve focused on using sourdough to leaven bread. But we can also add sourdough to everyday baked goods to impact flavor and texture, and to minimize the blood sugar spikes that come with eating carbs like bread, cake, muffins, and more. I’ve written about the latter effect in the past, but I think it’s so important that I’m writing about it once more.

Here is the issue in a nutshell. When we eat baked goods made with white flour, blood sugar spikes upward and, soon after, comes crashing down. When we substitute whole-grain flour for white flour, blood sugar’s movement up and down is more gradual, which is what we want. But phytic acid, which is stored in the bran layer of whole grains, may prevent us from absorbing minerals like iron, calcium, magnesium and zinc. So whole-wheat flour is an improvement over white flour in terms of blood sugar, but years of eating this sort of carb can lead to mineral depletion and bone loss.

Sourdough offers a complete solution by creating an ideal carbohydrate, one with minimal impact on blood sugar and almost no phytic acid. This is true with bread; it’s also true with baked goods like pancakes, muffins, quick breads and cake.  Adding sourdough to a batter and letting it rest for a period of hours (just as when we make sourdough bread) is the technique we use. This approach might be useful if you have insulin resistance or diabetes. And as a cooking technique, it can be useful for all of us because sourdough preserves, moistens and, to some degree, leavens baked goods. It also improves their nutritional value.

My next several posts will offer recipes for sourdough baked goods. But if you’re eager to get started, you can tweak your own recipes by adding sourdough; most cakes, muffins, and quick breads can handle the addition of up to 1/2 cup sourdough starter, with no adjustment to the other leaveners (baking soda or baking powder). If your aim is to lesson impact on blood sugar, you should add sourdough around this set of rules:

  • You will need to rest the batter before you bake it. For sweetened baked goods, use a 12-hour rest. For savory baked goods, use a 24-hour rest. You should rest the batter in the refrigerator, bringing it back to room temperature before proceeding with the recipe.
  • It’s important to use only stone-ground flours for baking.
  • For leavening, it works to add double-acting baking powder before the rest. If your recipe calls for baking soda, add it after the rest, taking care to incorporate it well.

If you are adding sourdough for flavor and texture only, there is no need to follow the above rules, or to rest the batter the way you do when you make sourdough bread. Just follow your usual recipe, and add up to 1/2 cup sourdough starter when you mix the batter.

Next Up: Sourdough Cocoa Cake

Copyright 2014, Ellen Arian, Ellen’s Food & Soul