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Consumers are being misled, artisan bread makers say. Β Sourdough uses an ancient form of bread leavening. It relies on a mix of wild yeast and lactic acid bacteria that are naturally present in flour, rather than baker’s yeast, to leaven the dough, resulting in a healthier bread. Β This process is ”hugely labour intensive” while the mixture is carefully watched overnight, or even for two days, until it is ready to be baked.

But supermarkets and bakeries are cashing in on the artisan bread phenomenon.

Sourdough contains only unbleached flour and water that’s been fermented, and sea salt, and that the fermented base (starter) can actually have been started many years ago by previous bakers.

One baker said ”The idea is you keep a piece of that original dough and mix it with fresh flour and ferment it overnight or for two days. Ours is 12 years old. The bakers that were here before us left their starter, and we’ve been here seven years.” Β She sells about 140 loaves of sourdough a day. ”We have a lot of restaurants and cafes that use our bread. It’s well loved. We have people that come to the market for our breads. They say they want to know that they’re getting β€˜the real thing’ and they’re prepared to pay a premium for highly nutritious and mouth-watering, moorish sourdough bread!

”A lot of artisan bakers hate that the major supermarkets and local bakeries are jumping in on that marketing bandwagon to achieve sales.”

This is not the first time labels and false claims have been used to entice customers. Β We found ”freshly cut flowers” in supermarkets were imported from Kenya and Colombia; French-grown citrus fruits have been seen under an ”Australian grown” sign and ”freshly baked bread” was coming from Ireland, Germany and Denmark.

”Look at the ingredients,” one of our bakers said. ”If it has more than flour, salt and water, then it is not a true sourdough.”

The Master baker at Sydney’s Bourke Street Bakery Β has been baking sourdough for over 10 years, said his sourdough took up to 17 hours to cook as the wheat fermented to create the culture that gave the sour taste. Β ‘I can recognise when I go into a bakery who is making what I consider to be sourdough bread because I know the amount of work that has gone into it,” he said.

With demand for sourdough on the rise consumers need to know that not all sourdough is the same, said a spokesperson for consumer watchdog Choice. ”Before considering paying a premium for sourdough, ask the baker if the recipe is authentic and doesn’t contain powdered yeast,” she said.

Our bakers:Β 

Well Bread & Pastry: @wellbreadandpastry

Pixel Bakehouse: @pixelbakehouse

Medicinal Chef: Β As well as her products, Stephanie sells sourdough breads from Burleigh Baker: @burleigh_baker

Yummioh Organic Bakery: @yummiohorganicbakery

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