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Black Kettle / bakery  / What is a Sourdough Bread?
sourdough bread

What is a Sourdough Bread?

What is a Sourdough bread?

Making sense of sourdough bread and levain

Levain goes by different names. For instance, you may see the term levain used interchangeably with “sourdough” or “sourdough starter.” In most ways, levain and sourdough starter are the same: both are made from flour, water, and wild yeast, and both are used to ferment and flavor bread dough.

Levain, or levain starter, is a leavening agent made from a mixture of flour and water and used to bake bread. The flour and water mixture takes on the wild yeasts in the air, and ferments. (You can also add commercial yeast to create a “pre-fermented” levain. This kind of levain is much quicker to make, and is meant for a single use.) Once levain starter begins to ferment, it grows, and must be fed more flour and water in order to keep it alive. Some bakers keep their starter alive for decades, or even hundreds of years.

Adding this active levain starter to bread flour is the first step in the bread making process.

What Do You Use Levain Starter For?

Levain is useful for making various types of dough rise.

  1. Bread. Levain is the building block of leavened bread baking. The type of flour does not matter: whole wheat flour, white flour, and rye flour are all used to create a variety of breads, from white bread and baguettes to, yes, a sourdough loaf.
  2. Croissants. The famous French baked good begins with a levain, which is essentially the sourdough starter used to make bread. In addition to helping the dough rise, levain in a croissant balances out the richness of the butter fat.
  3. Waffles. Restaurant-grade Belgian waffles add sourdough starter to the dough mixture to help create their light texture.
  4. Cookies. While cookies don’t traditionally feature levain, introducing levain to chocolate chip cookies creates a fluffier texture and unique taste.


Sourdough bread vs. Other types of bread

Sourdough is a healthier alternative to regular white or whole wheat bread. Although it has comparable nutrients, the lower phytate levels mean it is more digestible and nutritious. The probiotics also help to keep your gut bacteria happy, and it may be less likely to spike blood sugar levels.


Sourdough differs from other breads in a variety of ways. First, the ingredient list for sourdough is much shorter than pre-sliced and even supermarket bakery varieties. Many other types of breads have oils, sugar, preservatives, and other chemicals in their ingredient list. Besides affecting the flavor of the bread, chemicals and additional ingredients are often added to other breads because they can’t stay fresh as long as sourdough can or fend off mold as well.

The presence of bacteria, due to sourdough’s unique fermentation process, improves sourdough’s nutritional profile. This allows for better nutrient absorption, improved gut health, and some studies have even shown fermentation alters the structure of carbohydrates in the dough for better blood sugar control and a lower score on the glycemic index.


Try a sourdough loaf? Contact Black Kettle!

Black Kettle is cafe/bistro/bakery from Penang, Malaysia.

All pastry and bakery products are made in-house with a 19 year old bacteria culture (Levain). We bake both sourdough products as well as yeast items.

Operation hours are from 9am – 9pm

We are located at 105, Beach Street, 10300,

Lookout for the big yellow building at the corner, directly facing beach street BOMBA (Fire station)


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