Chatting to ski instructors in the staff room is great when you want to learn tips on skiing or snowboarding. It’s even better though, when they offer some of their homemade, sourdough bread for you to try.
About a month ago, Geri told me how she makes all her own bread rolls and loaves and baked goodies from a sourdough starter, rather than commercial yeast. Aside from it’s general deliciousness and gourmetness (that should be a word), I’ve always been interested in sourdough bread for its digestive benefits as well. It has a lower GI (glycaemic index), which means our bodies digest the sugar more slowly and, as a result, are less susceptible to sugar spikes and lows. The gluten is said to be more easily digested in sourdough bread, and more accessible to people with irritable bowel syndrome (read more about the benefits here: http://greatist.com/eat/best-healthy-bread).
I worked at an organic, sourdough bakery for a year in Brisbane, Australia, and fell in love with the stuff. Strangely though, I had never really thought that I would be able to make it myself! Enthused, I asked Geri all about it. In no time at all, she offered to give me a sample of her starter and some instructions. Yes, yes, yes!
The very next day, Geri had her husband deliver a sourdough starter “care package” to my desk at work, containing a jar with starter, a photocopied leaflet including instructions on cultivating my own starter and several yummy-sounding recipes, and even two loaf pans to get me going.
I quickly realised though that this isn’t the sort of thing you can do in one day. Making sourdough bread from the starter is a time consuming process (which I will argue without hesitation is totally worth it). From when you receive starter from your friend, you’ll need to be patient for 10 days of bag-mashing, feeding the yeast, and waiting for it to ferment. It will smell bad – kinda like beer – but to me, it smelled wonderful. It smelled like empowerment. Empowered fermentation. (Maybe I’m taking this too far…)
I stuck to the instructions. Finally, on day 11, I added the last lot of flour, sugar, and milk, separated my mix into 4 (3 more to grow or give away!) and with one quarter, I prepared for my first batch of bread. Following one of the bread recipes, I made the dough, and kneaded away.Once the dough was created, another 12 hours to rise somewhere warm. Add a dash more patience.
It rose! More kneading needed. And then another 6 hours to rise in the loaf tins.
Now, I offer you an example of real life – things don’t always go to plan, and certainly not the first time you do them. The bread was cooking, the bread was rising, and suddenly it was done so I turned the oven “off” and left the door open to cool down the bread slowly. I went to play cards for a while with my housemates, trying not to let my eagerness to scoff down warm bread show on my poker face. Some amount of yelling later from another housemate in the kitchen, I found out the oven I had actually turned the oven up to inferno-style temperatures rather than off, aaaaaand my beloved bread was burned to a crisp.
I was able to tear off and discard the burned tops though, and salvage some amount of yummy bread for tasties. Not too bad actually! I found it a little sweet, though and made a mental note include less sugar next time.
After cultivating my yeast starters again, I had another go. I added some hemp seeds for texture, and added less sugar. This time, I actually had some success!
Sliced up, it actually looked pretty good! Now it’s not the sourdough bread I’m used to, from my favourite artisan bakery at home, but I think with time and some tweaks I could definitely get used to this impromptu home-bakery.
So yes, hiccups aside, baking sourdough bread at home is not as hard is you would think! There is a process, but the reward is so worth it. Moreover, the self-efficacy gained from achieving a new domestic goal tasted just as good as the bread itself. 10/10 would recommend.