Pro Tip: Here are five steps to help bakers incorporate sourdough fermentation into their operation.

I’ve been in the baking industry for 35 years and still love to make my own sourdough breads. Sourdough bread consists of flour, salt, water and a starter culture, which is a blend of natural bacteria and wild yeast in a flour slurry. The lactic acid produced during the fermentation process can help to preserve the bread, giving it a naturally longer shelf life.

The tangy, slightly sour taste of sourdough bread is due to the production of lactic and acetic acids during the fermentation process. Sourdough bread is also often moister and has a denser texture than bread made with commercial yeast.

The sourdough process uses lactobacillus bacteria to ferment the dough. Some research suggests that the lactobacillus bacteria in sourdough bread may also have health benefits, including improving gut health and digestion. However, more research is needed to fully understand the potential benefits of sourdough bread on the microbiome.

Making your own sourdough bread can save you money. While the initial investment in ingredients and equipment may be higher, the cost per loaf is typically lower when you make it yourself.

Five ways to incorporate sourdough fermentation to a bakery

1. A sourdough starter is a mixture of flour and water that is fermented with wild yeast and bacteria. It is the key ingredient in sourdough bread as it provides the leavening power and characteristic sour flavor. It is important to know your production to size your starter. A feeding schedule would have to be put in place and monitored by QC.

2. Invest in bulk ingredients and equipment. Once you've increased the size of your bulk starter, you'll need to invest in temperature-controlled tanks, as well as a chilled tanked to preserve your sourdough culture, and a bulk fermentation room as well as an area for ingredients handling and weighing, such as flour, water and salt.

3. Streamline your process. To make the most of your time and resources, it's important to streamline your sourdough bread-making process and properly train your employees. This may involve breaking the process down into smaller steps and delegating tasks to team members and creating a training program. It may also involve investing in equipment that can automate some of the more labor-intensive tasks, such as mixing and shaping the dough.

4. Build a team. Scaling up your sourdough production will likely require additional technical help, especially if you're a small bakery. Building a team of experienced bakers and assistants can help you increase production and maintain quality and minimize waste.

5. Consider hiring a consultant. If you're not sure where to start when it comes to scaling up your sourdough production, consider hiring a consultant who can help you create a plan and provide guidance on best practices for increasing production.

Richard Charpentier is a classically trained French baker, CMB, holds a degree in baking science from Kansas State University, and is owner and chief executive officer of Baking Innovation. Connect with him on LinkedIn.