Ever fancied making sourdough bread? As we near Real Bread week (check out The Real Bread Campaign website and promotional info around the event including my Open House event on 1 March ) all eyes turn to making and baking true, real bread – you know like it used to be.
But that’s my problem, as I struggle to know what bread used to be like. I was born in the 70’s and bread during my childhood was simply a carrier for other flavours: the sandwich, the soup dunker or the sponge to mop up gravy or Italian sauces.
So when I decided to focus on baking bread, I soon became very aware that sourdough was really the king of all breads. Why? The French aren’t obsessed with sourdough, in fact it’s fair to say that French bread is often focused upon variations of white bread and breads are often a strange hybrid including both bakers yeast and some levain (wild yeast). It’s delicious, traditional and comforting and if you’re anything like me with one taste of a baguette you’re cast back to your summer holidays as a child in the south of France. But sourdough is still the pinnacle of baking and separates good and great bakers and bakeries.
Sourdough takes time, time to create the final finished bread. It’s due to the fact that you need to create a starter which then needs to be treated as one of the family. I kid you not Starter Hotels or ‘Retreats’ exist for those who wish for their starters to live a life of luxury when you happen to jet off on holiday for a week or two.
Sourdough takes time to mix, to develop strength and elasticity through stretching, folding, laminating, stitching and popping it into a fridge to develop flavour, texture and strength (called a cold retard).
It also takes time to consider flavour combinations and sourdough has a unique flavour which compliments other flavours incredibly well. Pumpkin and Olive, Cheese and Thyme, Sundried tomato and basil, freeze dried raspberry and white chocolate – the list is endless.
So is it really worth attempting to make sourdough? It’s a bit like saying is it worth re-decorating the guest bedroom. It takes time, effort, imagination, skill and passion – but when someone stays over and when someone feels like you’ve made an effort for them – then yes of course it’s worth the effort. So go on, create a starter and when it’s ready and winking or rather popping at you when you open the jar or lid then give making the now legendary sourdough bread a go to. I wish you all the look as they’re temperamental beasts, but the flavour and texture are truly worth it. And you can walk slightly taller when you’re next in the bakery isle in the supermarket or even better shopping and supporting your local, REAL artisan baker.