It was a long-term goal and dream of mine to bake my own household bread, and now I have arrived at this total pleasure and joy becoming a weekly ritual of mine and a part of my everyday life. Is there much better than being able to handle, control, see, and choose what goes into your culinary sources of energy and ultimately, your body? When it comes to cooking, is there much better than ensuring a wholesome, healthy intake by being tactile and playing an active role in your food? Sourdough baking, since starting four years ago, has become a very important part of my life, and one of my first ventures down the rabbit hole into the world of fermentation sciences and practices. It was first a practice of self-sufficiency, a meditation on living things and the whole… Well, idea, of living at all. It happened in an insanely difficult moment in my life, as I had just lost the most important person in the world to me, and I was in college halfway around the world from the rest of my family, moving around constantly. I could have no house pet, but I could take care of billions of living things with my sourdough starter.
It’s like having billions of pets. But what’s so awesome about sourdough baking?
- Slow fermentation. By soaking a sourdough sponge and allowing a nice, long rise time, you “unlock” the nutrients within the grain – of which there are many, despite the bad stigma that bread and grain receives. The issue with modern bread is not the ingredients themselves, but rather the process of forming an airy, edible mass – not the synergy between man and microbe leading to a delicious, complex source of nutrition.
- Long rise times. The rise time on sourdough – at least, the kind I bake – is long, ridiculously long. And I love it; I see this as an advantage. I can leave the house for many hours at a time, or perform a rise overnight, and not have to worry about the exact time at which I should bake it. It is done by feel, and I have become so familiar with the strength and the pace of my starter culture that I can simply understand that the dough is ready to be baked by feeling and looking. Best of all, it is forgiving. I don’t have to worry about the dough collapsing if I know how to handle the dough in the right way and treat it as it needs to be.
- You know what’s going into it. You can control and know exactly what’s going into your bread, which you may not always know with commercial, packaged bread. Even ingredients lists technically don’t have to include everything – legally, certain things don’t have to be included. Wouldn’t it be great if we did know exactly everything that went in – or at least, however much we know about our individual ingredients. Which leads me to the next point:
- I try to choose the best flour I can find – the extra few cents for a bag of really good organic, stone milled flour is so worth it. You’re only paying just a few kronor/dollars for an incredibly delicious and nutritious bread; I have no qualms with the extra few kronor/cents for an amazing flour. Plus, stone milled flour is shown to deliver far more nutrition than steel milled, with tiny amounts of minerals rubbing off into the flour, and eventually, into your body. Why consume just starch? Every little bit you consume should have a purpose for your body – it’s worth so much.
So, these are just some of the advantages to baking your own sourdough bread, and just some of the reasons why I spend the time and energy (it’s just a little, really!) to do it. It’s also a beautiful weekly meditation for me, where I get to take care of my starter culture of billions of microbes and grow new ones; I get to have a hand in life happening, life, in the works, and live symbiotically to have my daily breakfast bread.