Sourdough bread: Row breaks out over so-called 'sourfaux' – but how can you tell the real deal?

Francesca Specter
Yahoo Style UK deputy editor
Sourdough row: Bakers complain of "sourfaux" breads.

A row has broken out over sourdough bread after a group of independent bakers called time on so-called “sourfaux” products.

The Real Bread Campaign (RBC), which works with independent bakeries in order to protect the integrity of sourdough bread, has complained of a “sourfaux free-for-all” among mainstream bread brands.

It comes in reaction to a government proposal called the “UK Baking Industry Code of Practice for the Labelling of Sourdough Bread and Roll".

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The campaign group says the definition falls short of authentic sourdough bread – because it includes additives, leavening agents and baker’s yeast. According to campaigners, the bread is “not a "brand, fashion, fad or bandwagon to be jumped upon" but "the oldest way of leavening dough".

Chris Young, the campaign's co-ordinator, said in a statement: "We believe that the industrial loaf fabricators' proposed code undermines the integrity of the word sourdough with muddled meanings that would make things more, not less, confusing for shoppers.

"Its adoption would create a sourfaux free-for-all, which would also have a negative impact on real bread bakeries of all sizes that bake genuine sourdough.”

So what actually is sourdough?

Sourdough bread has enjoyed increasing popularity in recent years – with searches for the bread more than doubling in the last five years.

Yet 75% of the sourdough loaves we buy in the supermarket aren’t actually follow an authentic recipe, according to research by supermarket watchdog Which? released last year.

According to the Real Bread Campaign’s website, real sourdough must be produced using a sourdough starter, rather than “commercially produced yeast”.

“Sourdough is a name for a mixture (dough or batter) of water and cereal flour containing a culture of naturally occurring yeasts and lactic acid bacteria,” it reads. “It is often also used to name breads and pancakes made using such a culture.”

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The campaign offers the following criteria for “real” sourdough:

  • Made without any additives - ie the main criterion in our basic definition of bread

  • Leavened only using a live sourdough culture, without the addition of commercial yeast or other leavening agents, e.g. baking powder

  • Made without using other ingredients/additives as souring agents or as sourdough flavouring, e.g. vinegar, yoghurt, or dried sourdough powder

So-called “sourfaux” loaves – labelled as sourdough – often contain a number of additional ingredients, including yeast, ascorbic acid, yoghurt and vinegar.

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