What do you do when an unforeseen pandemic means you find yourself at home with a bit of extra time on your hands? Judging by the empty shelves of flour in Canberra supermarkets, it appears our collective response is to bake.
It makes sense, bread is probably the ultimate comfort food, so naturally in a time of crisis and uncertainty we seek comfort in the magic of turning flour, water and leaven into a warm, crusty and aromatic loaf.
When it comes to home bread baking, maximum kudos is reserved for those who spurn commercial yeast and embrace the ancient art of sourdough baking.
Most bread is made with modern commercial baker’s yeast, a single bacteria species isolated from the skin of grapes and originally used to brew beer. The advent of modern yeast enabled bakers to simplify and speed up the process of bread production. In contrast, sourdough ‘starter’ contains a broad range of lactobacillus bacteria and wild yeast species that not only make the bread rise but make the grain more easily digestible and the nutrients more available.
What’s fascinating is that some people who normally have problems digesting gluten find they can eat traditionally made sourdough bread without a problem as the grain is fermented before baking. If you’re going to bake your own sourdough, it’s also advisable to try an organic bread flour as non-organic grains have been sprayed with pesticides and herbicides and irradiated for long-term storage. White four has also had the wheat germ and bran removed and been bleached so try whole grain flours or unbleached varieties.
The traditional way to make sourdough starter is to add flour to water and wait for it to ferment (you’ll see bubbles), however the results can be mixed. If you’re wanting to get off to the best start, try sourcing a quality culture such as one from Canberra sourdough gurus Lissa and Mark Gavins, the proud owners of a 120-year-old ancient sourdough culture. They also run sourdough workshops, normally in person but now online; for more info visit www.healthkultcha.com.au
Once you turn out that first loaf, imbibe it’s heartening aroma, upload your mandatory photo onto social media for all to admire, just sit back and all let all the stress of the last few weeks melt away. Such is the healing power of being a baker.