For months, I’ve been watching from the sidelines as several blogging buddies have rapturously baked bread. I love eating bread, especially sourdough. Even plain white sliced can feel like a luxury, so long as it’s fresh, but if you’ll add seeds, or olives and rosemary, or cranberries and walnuts, most likely you’ve got me hooked. The trouble is, the bread I love seems to be scattered too widely around. When I caught myself driving an almost twenty five mile long round trip to pick up one of my favourite loaves, I decided something had to change. Perhaps I could bake something I would love to eat.
I’m not a confident or adventurous cook, but I persuaded myself that getting a sourdough starter going was more like gardening than cooking, and went for it. After a week or so of mixing a little rye flour with water, a healthy-looking, bubbling mix had become my latest pride and joy. Apparently my new pet would make better tasting bread the longer I kept it going. I took that as dispensation to delay the moment of baking truth and left it to mature for longer than I care to admit.
The ability to nurture a living starter hadn’t made the idea of baking sourdough any less daunting. I learned to make tasty seed crackers (rather too tasty for the good of my waistline) with the large quantities of excess starter I was producing, but baking bread still seemed something that might have to wait until tomorrow… or the day after.
My sweetheart eventually started to hint that he found the idea of someone tending a sourdough starter and not baking any bread just wrong. That was the extra push I needed. I started to bake and after a couple of days, ended up with this:
It would have made sense to start with an easier recipe than this one. I can’t claim everything went exactly to plan, or that the finished loaf was one of the tastiest I’ve ever had. But it was bread: handmade from start to finish, additive-free, and raised by a thriving community of yeasts coaxed from either the atmosphere or the rye flour.
The process gave me a whole heap of extra appreciation for artisan bakers and a better understanding of the prices some of them charge. Bread making may be presented as relaxing and rapturous – and I’m sure it can be, when you know what you’re doing – but I’d underestimated the physicality of the work and the steely determination required to wrest sourdough bread from flour and water.
But was it satisfying to be able to eat both soup and sourdough bread I’d made myself for the very first time? You bet!
Shared for the weekly photo challenge: satisfaction.