By Margo Peill
Sourdough bread has been around for centuries and has been baked all around the world long before any of us were around. But today, with more eaters wanting less ingredients in their food, less processing and a more ‘do-it-yourself’ attitude, it’s really making a comeback into home kitchens.
And I couldn’t be more excited about how many people are starting to make their own sourdough! I’m far from a sourdough expert, but several years ago a friend taught me how to combine water and flour until it formed a bubbly mess all over the counter then how to shape it into beautiful loaves. I’ve been baking it ever since.
But let me back up a little and explain a little bit about sourdough and what makes it different from other bread. Without going into a microbiology lesson: Sourdough starter is a combination of flour and water that has been allowed to harvest wild yeast from its surroundings, creating a fermentation.
Once the starter is mature, it is combined with flour, salt and water which go through a series of bread making, shaping and baking steps to create a delicious loaf. The starter culture is maintained by continually feeding it flour and water – taking out some to bake with, and feeding the remainder to create more starter – so it remains a constant living culture.
Five amazing things about sourdough bread:
1. It’s easier than you think. I don’t have enough space to go into the instructions of how to make your own sourdough, but you can google some really simple step-by-step instructions. Another great resource is Susan Musgrave’s cookbook ‘A Taste of Haida Gwaii’. She goes into spectacular detail over several pages to help you feel confident in your bread making. Don’t get discouraged, there will probably be a couple ‘pancake loaves’ along the way, but hang in there – you’ll get it.
2. You can convert many recipes to using sourdough. Don’t get me wrong, the traditional wheat loaf is incredible, but don’t let that limit the possibilities! There are tons of variations and add-ins you can use to create a totally different bread. Last week I tried a brown butter sourdough banana bread (from the book ‘Heirloom’ by Sarah Owens that was recommended in my last column!) needless to say- it’s long gone.
3. It doesn’t require any yeast bought from the store. None! As I mentioned before, the sourdough culture actually uses the living yeast that exists all around us. So, you don’t need to use any store-bought yeast at all.
4. It tastes fantastic (and makes exceptional toast). Things that come out of your own oven almost always taste better, but the flavour of sourdough is something really special and the amount of ‘sourness’ can be easily controlled by how long you allow the bread to sit before baking.
5. It’s a really fun winter activity. January days in Terrace are short and there is plenty of time for indoor activities. Although making sourdough really doesn’t take that much ‘hands-on’ time at all, it’s so fun to slowly watch flour and water come to life. And there is nothing quite like fresh bread coming out of the oven on a snowy morning.