I have now discovered how to make light, fluffy bread like I used to make at the bakery when I worked there. They had the best tasting bread, and I guess I was secretly trying to measure my breadmaking to their standard.
Little did I realise the trick to such awesome tasting bread was fresh yeast - or leavning. Although it doesn't automatically come to mind when you hear the word "sourdough" and awesome tasting bread in the same sentence. But it doesn't taste "sour" in the final baked product at all. It's sweet and light instead.
So what is sourdough? Well it's just flour, water and air which you grow and feed into a leaven, or culture over the period of a week or more. Then you add it to your flour and other ingredients, to make your bread dough. I'll describe the process of making your "starter" for sourdough in another post, but for now I want to impress the importance of breakmaking on a whole other level. Making bread with a living culture is such a simple process, that it's been used for thousands of years without the need for technical equipment or refrigerators.
I've read heaps of literature advising sourdough culture can live in the fridge successfully, but as I'm using it daily, it now lives on the kitchen bench permanently. It doesn't get a chance to make it to the fridge. As a result, my whole house always smells like bread too. I have the culture on the bench, I normally have a bread proving during the morning too, until it goes into the oven to bake.
I've made different types of loaves, as well as fruit buns with sourdough. Every single batch has been successful and the dough extremely forgiving. The flavour has always been rich (devoid of the pungeant yeast flavour you get with the dried stuff) and the texture has always been light and fluffy too.
What an extremely versatile and forgiving dough - the sourdough. That's why I call it my new best friend. It lives on my kitchen bench, I feed it daily and it feeds us daily. How can I go back to dried yeast now? How amazing that I don't have to buy the expensive stuff again either. Flour water and air is all great bread needs.
It's simplified my shopping list too. Rainwater comes out of the tap, air is everywhere and I only have to buy flour in bulk. Of course there's also salt, sugar and oil involved for the bread recipe itself - but they're always at hand for cooking anyway. The only extra thing I have to buy for breadmaking is unbleached baker's flour.
Bye-bye dried yeast - you're now obsolete!
My new best friend has changed my whole attitude towards making bread. It's not just a final product any more. It's an ever evolving, continually feeding product - kind of like human beings. I now look forward to seeing my culture in the morning (how are you growing) and then making the various breads (yum - can't wait to taste it). But there's always left over culture to feed again, so the process doesn't end.
On a personal note, I've found the sourdough a lot easier to digest too. I don't feel bloated when I eat bread now. My stomach doesn't inflate with air either. The one problem with my new friend, is learning to limit how much bread we eat, LOL. Between the three of us, we can polish off a loaf in a day - the fruit buns are all but gone too!
Don't worry though, I won't keep my new best friend all to myself. I'll share how to make your very own starter and post my recipes soon. If you only ever do it once in your lifetime, give sourdough a try and see if you notice the difference.