It makes me happy!
"I am baking with love for my family and friends and my greatest reward is the smile on their faces.
Happiness and joy are often found in little things, and sometimes a crisis can make life simple again."
I kept hearing about sourdough bread for years now, but only a couple of years ago I got to taste one. I fell in love with that rustic and traditional taste so much that the chore of buying bread became an experience. We have this cool & chic little local shop that sells the best sourdough bread in town, with nice crunchy crust and perfect balanced taste, a simple, yet very piercing delight.
As we started to work from home for more and more last year, it was a good opportunity to try and grow my own sourdough starter. The process, in theory, seemed simple enough: some fermented water, which I achieved with a couple of strawberries, raisins and some bits of apple. After that, you mix the fermented water with flour and leave it in a jar to fester and grow the right bacteria cultures necessary to raise the bread. Following these steps we go into a process called 'feeding’: every day a small amount is mixed with flour and water. When it is fed, the starter becomes stronger and stronger, it creates bubbles and when it triples its size, you know it is ready to use.
Traditional sourdough bread contains only three simple ingredients: salt, water and flour - the latter two are also used to create the magical alchemy of the sourdough starter. There is no need for instant or fresh yeast, milk, oils, eggs, or sweeteners. Before the introduction of commercial yeasts in the 19th century, all leavened bread was sourdough.
Why sourdough bread?
Well, it’s much healthier because it contains “friendly bacteria” that work chemically on the whole grains during the long fermentation process to make the most of flavours and nutrients, hence making it much easier for the body to digest.
Now that you know how it’s made and why let’s go back to the original story...My starter was strong and ready to be used, but I was not. For some reason I was reluctant to begin, so I just looked at it growing and kept feeding it for at least a week more until I decided to face my “fears” and bake my first bread.
It was far from being perfect, but the experience was and it made me repeat my steps over and over, aiming to improve the whole baking experience. I started to learn more about the whole process, about different types of flour and experimented with different recipes. Soon I began using sourdough to make focaccias, soft buns, baguettes, dinner rolls, pretzels, donuts and different kinds of tartes. My new passion was spreading its wings.
Baking can really be a lovely hobby, a comforting activity to dive in during difficult days. The attention you need to put in preparing and measuring all the ingredients can easily distract and take your mind off things for a while. Following clear instructions gives a sense of order and the first bite rewards a job well done. Baking brings out the inherent joy within all of us, even on the tiring days.