Welcome to the discussion thread for the story, How the Man Who Invented Xbox Baked a 4,500-Year-Old Egyptian Sourdough. You can share your comments and thoughts about the story in the conversation below.
This was done in 1995 by Dr. Ed Wood and a team from National Geographic. See the book Classic Sourdough by Dr. Wood for more info, as well as checking the 1995 index of NatGeo issues. You can even buy the culture they harvested in Giza from the Sourdoughs International website. I’m a little disappointed in your research skills on this one.
It’s a great article, but I am now very confused. Can you please point me to a source which explains how yeast survive such high heat? I thought they were delicate in the face of fire. Which ones survive? Which ones die?
I had some sourdough starter that was started in New England about 1880. It needed to be “fed” every week. I used all but enough to remain for the next batch. In response to Lachlan, you don’t use all of the “starter” or yeast to make the bread. Some is saved out and fed for the next batch.
I used to make 4 loves each week. In place of sugar I used honey which acted as preservative. Although, the loves rarely lasted a whole week. My sons devoured the first loaf which came out of the oven as they got home from school.
I haven’t made bread in 15-20 years. Would love to try the Egyptian bread.
Is it possible to get starter now, 2020?
Looks as if they’re currently out of stock, but both the Giza culture and a Red Sea culture are on their list at https://sourdo.com/cultures/
Now, if you could just brew the beer and bake the bread…
I went to college in S.F. way back when. Sourdough and beer represented two of the basic food groups. I was fascinated by the methodology and persistence of these individuals.
Keep it up.
did he eat it tho
A friend who was a national geographic photographer and editor liked to tell me about his trip to Egypt to do a story there in the 1970s or 1980s. While he was in Cairo, his local contact mixed up some flour, water and dates, setting it on the windowsill over looking the desert and the pyramids at Giza. The wind from desert blew some dust, but mostly it just sat there warming in the sunlight. In a day or two the mixture had begun to bubble. They mixed it up with some more wheat flour, water and salt, baking some fine sourdough bread. I wonder if the egyptologists would find this sourdough any more authentic than blakely’s
The words sourdough and yeast seem to be used interchangeably in this article. Before this I had thought that sourdough and yeast were different types of leavening agents. After doing some research it seems that there is wild yeast in sourdough.
“The difference is those fermenting bugs. The baker’s yeast in supermarket bread creates a virtual monoculture of S. cerevisiae. The sourdough bâtard, on the other hand, is a product of natural fermentation involving wild yeasts and bacteria. Almost all the bacteria are lactobacilli, cousins of the bacteria that curdle milk into yogurt and cheese. “These lactobacilli outnumber yeasts in sourdough by as many as 100 to one,” Sugihara says. It’s the acids they make that give sourdough its tartness.” The Biology of Sourdough/Discover Magazine
Loved this article—obsession in a good way. I particularly was intersted by the fact that only an older strain of wheat would revive the yeast. Makes perfect sense. Count me in if Blckley ever starts to sell this.
I’d be happy to learn more about the flour that was used? Did they only use wheat flour (albeit a native wheat of the time), or could they use oat flour? This is a very fascinating article. From doing some baking myself, I know that when the yeast is sitting with sugar and warm water, it is quite tolerant of quite warm water, so that seems to be in line with what he has done. I’d love to have read a review or heard one on Youtube of the taste of the bread - texture; flavour; etc.
This story appears no more credible AFTER the supposed extraction of viable sourdough microorganisms using a sterile culture media on the museum artifacts then before Mr. XBox became enlightened to the ways of microbiology. The artifacts were supposedly last used for baking bread in Egypt 4500 years ago and have been moved, handled and examined countless times since being rediscovered and transported to the Boston Museum for cataloging and display. During that time they have been exposed to many people, countless breezes and dust clouds. So why should we believe the microflora retrieved from these pottery pieces are actually from ancient Egypt? When Mr. XBox exclaims that only wild Emmer could grow the culture, that likely also means the culture CAME FROM THE EMMER and were not present in the sterile culture media after exposure to the Egyptian pottery. Did Mr. XBox sterilize all his culture vessels AND THE EMMER before attempting to grow out a viable sourdough? The pics shows jelly jars and a standard kitchen counter. If sourdough was a regular at this counter it is also another source for his 4500 year old sourdough culture. Working in a Baker Bioguard laminar flow hood is standard procedure when isolating bacterial and yeast cultures but not something that fits in most kitchens!