Chefs turn away from sourdough that had a lockdown boom in favour of ancient grains (and burrata isn’t trendy anymore either!)
- Popular starters sourdough and burratta could be on the demise in the KU
- READ MORE: I’ve become a slave to the perfect sourdough
Sourdough has become a ubiquitous item on menus in the UK, often served as as starter or alongside the main.
But 2024 could see the demise of popular millennial bread choice as chefs opt for ancient grains like teff flour and spelt instead.
The bread, which uses a fermented flour and water mixture instead of yeast, has become massively popular in the last ten years – with thousands of Brits attempting to make it during the Covid-19 lockdowns.
But according to new research from restaurant booking site Resy, ancient grains are set to take over.
Researchers spoke to some of the UK’s leading chefs including Jeremy Lee of Quo Vadis, Antonio Gonzalez of Barrafina and ertac Dirik, of Mangal, who shared their insights.
Millions of people attempted to perfect the loaf during the coronavirus lockdown, including many celebrities like actor Jake Gyllenhaal
Kloeh Kardashian also baked sourdough bread during the lockdown
They also believe Italian cheese burratta is set to leave menus in favour of roast chicken, mushrooms and British seafood.
Some sourdough is made with flavourings
Sophie Carey, Bakery Development Manager at Matthews Cotswold Flour, told FEMAIL: ‘There’s no denying that the rise of sourdough has been meteoric, but consumers are regularly looking for something new to try and there is the potential that they have become fatigued with the sourdough craze.
‘Consumers are interested in both the health benefits and taste experience of products made with ancient and heritage grain varieties – especially as these are perhaps better suited to all members of the family. Ancient and heritage grains are packed with nutrients and vitamins, and are a great source of healthy fibre which helps to keep the gut happy.
‘There is also some cynicism appearing from consumers around sourdough, as some commercially sold sourdough products are made using sourdough flavourings rather than a real sourdough starter – this method of production imparts the flavour of a sourdough but misses any of the health benefits of wild yeast. Ancient and heritage grains are perhaps more clear cut and their use is more steadfast for consumers.
‘Although there is certainly buzz around a potential decline in sourdough sales, this method of baking is as old as time and will undoubtedly be present in the years to come. For bakers looking to keep customers interested, they could combine these trends by introducing ancient grains like einkorn or emmer into their sourdough loaves. Home bakers can also use ancient or heritage grains in their baking and have great results’
Ivan Tisdall-Downes, a forager and former head chef of Native at Browns, told the Times: ‘After the continued buzz of sourdough after lockdown I think people are starting to learn that there’s a time and a place for it.
‘It doesn’t make a good bacon sandwich and if the holes are too big, your jam and butter can fall through.’
‘It is exciting to know that we can still consume the same grains as the ancient Egyptians or Aztecs. This is a fresher product than the mutated grains you would see in your supermarket sourdough, with an unusually long shelf life.’
Modern wheat was created has only been around for about 100 years. It’s was made by cross breeding varieties to produce a fast-growing crop that was better at resisting pests and needed less processing to make flour.
In contrast, ancient grains haven’t been changed in more than 1000 years.
However, some chefs have warned against ‘ancient grains’ getting swept up as a marketing ploy.
Speaking to FEMAIL, Ian Ganson, the new Head Chef at the Thames Lid said: ‘To think that sourdough is losing popularity to breads made with ancient grains is really surprising!
‘Rather than two sides of the artisan bread scale, one would think they are ideal bed fellows. If sourdough baking represents a return to more natural, flavourful breads then use of ancient grains can only be a step in the right direction for sourdough enthusiasts.
‘I guess the problem is when ‘ancient grains’ are added to modern, commercial breads as a marketing ploy. The hope is that research in to ancient grains may lead to increased biodiversity and ultimately increased food security. It would be a shame to lose sight of that amidst this popularity contest.’
While fermented breads like sourdough are great for gut health, ancient grains also come with a bevvy of benefits.
Teff flour, an east African superfood which is used to make Ethopian bread injera, is popular among gluten-free diners. It also is high in fibre and has a low glycemic index compared to other grains, meaning blood sugar spikes are less likely.
Clare Smyth, who runs the Three Michelin-starred Core by Clare Smyth, uses spelt, which was first cultivated around 5000BC. In her book, she says it is ‘delicious’ and ‘incredibly good for you’.
Sourdough has become a ubiquitous item on menus in the UK, often served as as starter or alongside the main
Anomarel Ogen, Executive Head Baker, Bertinet Bakery added that a lot of sourdough on shelves is ‘sourfaux’.
‘The taste of bread is the culmination of two things: potential and actualisation. The potential is the grain and the actualisation is the method. If we’re talking about the ‘potential’, it’s true some (not all) ancient grains have more complex tastes than modern ones, but this topic is a lot more nuanced,’ she said.
‘It’s not just about the grains you’re using, it’s about how you’re using them – the ‘actualisation’. If you took ancient grains and didn’t ferment them properly, then you compared them to a wholegrain sourdough loaf made with modern wheat, which has been fermented properly, the latter would taste infinitely better.
‘Our team at Bertinet Bakery places close attention to the dough fermentation, temperatures and acidity – fully fermenting our loaves which creates a perfectly balanced flavour and texture.
‘The issue is there are a lot of products on the market that haven’t had this level of attention. If sourdough is seen as losing its taste, it’s not because of modern wheat – it’s first and foremost the fact that the method has been industrialised by a lot of companies and those products are given limited fermentation.
‘This isn’t proper sourdough, it’s sourfaux. These companies are muddying the public’s perception of what authentic sourdough is, often combined with ambiguous labelling, additives, preservatives and yeast (none of which we use as real sourdough is just water, salt and flour).
‘I’d also add that wholegrain flour has more complex flavours than white. Let’s take spelt, for example, which can be wholegrain or white. White spelt doesn’t have more taste than normal white flour.
‘All this is not to say ancient grains, heritage wheats and alternative cereals are not great! For nutrition, soil health and flavour – they are, and we use their diversity in our breads, it’s just that real sourdough is much more than what flours you use.’
2024 food: What’s in and what’s out?
- SEASONAL MENUS: As climate change continues to impact agriculture the lines between the seasons will become more fluid driving chefs to deliver daily menus based on the accessibility of local produce. Backing the trend: Jeremy Lee, Chef Proprietor of Quo Vadis
- Mushrooms, British Seafood, Chilled Natural Reds, Roast Chicken Mushrooms are expected to continue their unstoppable rise with more restaurants using them in unexpected ways (e.g. Native’s apricot and mushroom ice cream sandwich, Fallow growing their own fungi in house). British seafood is having a moment, according to Paw, as a post-Brexit rule change to fisheries has some top restaurants serving bluefin tuna caught in British waters, and so is roast chicken as the capital’s love of the large format bird shows no signs of abating. On the wine side, now that natural wine has hit the mainstream expect to see a lot more diners enjoying chilled reds regardless of the season, suggests Top Cuvée’s Brodie Meah.
- RE-GEN DINING : Regenerative dining is on the rise as younger generations of diners and chefs are seeking out more consciously farmed menu items. Restaurants are re-imagining plates and giving more back to the earth than we take through continued creativity and resourcefulness. Backing the trend : Imogen Davis and Ivan Tisdall-Downes, formerly of Native
MAINS: Small and sharing plates show no sign of slowing down as restaurants continue to re-think their menus in a way that makes sharing food more commonplace. Backing the trend: Antonio Gonzalez Milla, Executive Chef, Barrafina and Sertaç Dirik, Head Chef, Mangal 2
SOURDOUGH: 2024 could be the year that yeast and heritage grain breads start to replace the go-to millennial loaf on menus, suggests Sertaç Dirik.
BURRATA: Burrata may also be past its prime with the culinary community; its ubiquity is urging creative chefs to move away from the popular starter
UN-EDUCATED EATERS: Discerning diners are looking for quality, transparency and uniqueness in every meal. With this increased curiosity comes demand for obscure and eye-popping menu items which are a necessity to raise intrigue and expectations. Backing the trend: Imogen Davis and Ivan Tisdall-Downes, formerly of Native and Jeremy Lee, Chef Proprietor of Quo Vadis
UNTRENDY FOOD : Food joins fashion and music to become a significant part of personal identity, not just a meal of the day. Whether it’s a brand partnership, collaboration or pop-up, bespoke food experiences will remain a priority for 2024. Backing the trend: Sertaç Dirik, Head Chef, Mangal 2
‘The grain was used to feed the friars and abbots of nearby monasteries, not to mention the surrounding villagers and workers who tilled the land. It was one of Britain’s first cash crops, enabling the growth and spread of towns and markets. It helped, in some part, to build the country we know today.’
While it’s low in fat, it also contains essential omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids.
Spelt too is high in fibre and micronutrients like like iron and zinc.
Jeremy Lee, Chef Proprietor, Quo Vadis, added that climate change will continue to affect menus.
‘First and foremost these changes are going to have the largest impact on menus and menu writing,’ he explained.
‘We saw an abundance of red tomatoes and summer staples in the October heatwave after releasing our Autumn menu.’
‘The lines between the four seasons will continue to blur and become more fluid as time goes by.
As a result, I expect we’ll see daily menus become more prominent across the capital – they just need astute chefs and astute managers to create them!’
Despite the results, sourdough is still immensely popular for now with more than six million photos of it shared on Instagram.
Creating your sourdough starter
Online bread queen: Vanessa Kimbell
To make a sourdough starter, you need just two ingredients: organic, stoneground, wholegrain flour and water. You are capturing wild yeast and lactic acid bacteria, so you need an environment in which both thrive.
First, combine 100g of flour with 120g of warm water in a large, clean jar. Whisk the mixture well; this adds oxygen, which yeast likes.
Cover with a loose lid or damp tea towel. Allow the mixture to sit in a warm place for 12 to 24 hours. At some point between the 12 and 24-hour mark, you may start to see small bubbles forming.
At this point, discard 120g of the mixture and replace it with 60g of flour and 60g of warm water, preferably at 28c (82f). You are now ‘feeding’ your starter. Stir vigorously, cover and wait another 12 to 24 hours. From now on you will need to repeat this procedure twice a day, morning and night.
Any mixture you’ve discarded can be used up in pancakes or waffles. If you are somewhere warm, you should see real activity after three or four days.
When it’s ready, the starter should be beautifully bubbly and have plenty of yeasts and bacteria to be active enough to bake with.
HOW WILL I KNOW IT’S READY?
The starter is ready when it doubles in size about five hours after feeding. At this point, you can bake! Go to sourdough.co.uk and try My Basic Sourdough Tin Loaf recipe. Take it from there!
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