Gratitude: Sourdough

Monday, April 18, 2016 – Filed under: Uncategorized ::

 

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A friend first gave me a jam jar filled with her sourdough culture about 5 years ago. It has been bubbling for us ever since, and sourdough is part of our daily routine now. As Sam Sifton wrote in the New York Times last month, “A sourdough starter comes into your life the way a turtle might: as a pet you maybe didn’t know you wanted until someone hands it to you or you find yourself holding the terrarium after an impulse purchase you couldn’t explain if you tried. You get it or you make it or you buy it, and now you have a sourdough starter. It needs to be fed. It asks to be used. There are holes in our lives. They are filled for us by circumstance, or we fill them ourselves.”

Now we sourdough everything – pretzels, chocolate cake, coffee cake, dinner rolls, pasta and even pie crust.  I can’t imagine doing anything else. We are finding it much easier on our digestion, especially when we use lower gluten flour like einkorn, kamut and spelt (Jovial einkorn is our absolute favorite).  I’m finding that lots of recipes can be adpated to preparation the evening before bake day and left to sour overnight.  For us, it means we can still include gluten in our diet, and I’m so used to the schedule and planning of our homegrown bakery that it no longer feels onerous at all.  It’s a joy to be able to make fresh, organic and healthy bread products for our family to enjoy.

So today I’m grateful to my friend, to the wonderful science of wild yeast, and to the organic grains that are helping us eat better.  And to all my great, great, great grandmothers who made sourdough as part of their daily routine.  Sometimes fantastic things skip generations. I’m pretty happy to have rediscovered a great family tradition.

Sourdough

Monday, March 16, 2015 – Filed under: Uncategorized ::

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Oh, our jar of sourdough starter. Over these last three years, it’s become an integral part of our family. We feed it, and watch it, and care for it and in turn it helps us craft breads with bags of flour and our own two (or four, or six, or sometimes eight) hands. Sometimes it’s pizza dough, or soft biscuits or maple pancakes or challah bread. Tonight it was hamburger buns for tomorrow’s BBQ supper. Lady Spring is taking her sweet time, so we’ve decided to barbecue most nights in an effort to heat things up around here :) I’ve been doing lots of reading about the history of sourdough and it’s so very interesting. Alaskan gold miners carried their starter and bags of flour around amid their few precious possessions. We live in a place and time where conventional packaged yeast has become ubiquitous but until recently it was wild yeast, and sourdough, and a little elbow grease.  And lots of handmade flavour.

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Ode to Bread

Saturday, January 11, 2014 – Filed under: Uncategorized ::

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Have you read Pablo Neruda’s Ode to Bread?

Oh my goodness, it is very moving. No doubt he spent much time kneading the bread, and setting it to rise and he captures the magic and peace in it so beautifully.

Here’s the beginning:

Bread,
you rise
from flour,
water
and fire.
Dense or light,
flattened or round,
you duplicate
the mother’s
rounded womb,
and earth’s
twice-yearly
swelling.
How simple
you are, bread,
and how profound!

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I was delighted to discover this book “WILD BREAD: Sourdough Artisan Breads In Your Own Kitchen” by Lisa Rayner. It’s just what we needed around here to take our sourdough bread making a little more seriously. We are baking without eggs, and with an organic pasture-raised ghee in lieu of butter, so her vegan options make a lot of good sense.

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Her foccacia recipe is now a staple around here.

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Our Favorite Sourdough Bread

Monday, December 30, 2013 – Filed under: Uncategorized ::

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These days I’m making a lot of sourdough bread – yes on the modern-wheat-free gluten, but no on the baker’s yeast.  We are making a small, round loaf every second day that seems to fit the bill quite nicely. I’m using a combination of light spelt and kamut, with polenta cornmeal on the outside for lovely texture.

The little man whose favorite bread this is has an allergy to sesame and an intolerance to dairy, so the cornmeal is a great sesame replacement. I found an organic ghee (clarified butter) that he tolerates just fine, and use it wherever I would have otherwise used better. There is a little bit in this bread too.

To make this bread I use about 1 cup of thick sourdough culture, and pour it into a large, shallow and wide bowl.

Then we add about 1/2 tsp of salt, 1 tsp of sugar and 1/4 cup of hot water.

To that we add about a tbsp or so of melted butter (in our case, ghee).

Then I start adding the flour – some spelt, some kamut and mix these into the bowl. I probably start with about a cup or so.

When it gets too thick to mix in the bowl I turn it out onto the counter and mix in more flour (I use proportionately more kamut than spelt in the finished loaf). Here’s the work part – it takes a lot of kneading. I knead and add more flour all the time until the dough is no longer sticky. Not dry – but not sticky. It can take awhile – sometimes 10, sometimes 15 minutes. It’s very therapuetic!

Then I shape it into a slightly oblong loaf and gently coat it in the polenta cornmeal.

I put a little oil into the bottom of the bowl (I just use the same mixing bowl) and dust the leftover cornmeal off the counter into the bowl at the bottom to help the loaf not stick.

Then I gently put the bread in the bowl, cover with a large ziploc bag (I’ve read that those contain fewer phtathlates than some plastic wraps, though I’m still on the hunt for a plastic-free solution to help breads rise), place it next to our radiator (you want draft-free, even warmth) and let it sit for about 3-4 hours.

I heat our clay pizza stone in a 400F oven, and cut a long deep slice in the top of the bread, and pop it into the oven for about 35 minutes.

That’s it. Seriously.

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Wishing you much delicious eating these winter days.