Nothing but flour, salt and water

Proud achievement -- a loaf of sourdough!
Proud achievement — a loaf of sourdough!

This, my friends, is the greatest loaf of bread I have ever baked. It’s sourdough, made from a two-year-old starter that a baker friend gave me. It came in the bottom of a coffee cup – just a few tablespoons of stretchy goop that I babied for days with regular feedings of flour and water. I thought I’d killed it. Baby people I can handle, but baby starters?! Talk about intimidating. Within a week, though, I had a big 1-litre glass jar full of starter.

My first batch of sourdough was a bit of a crapshoot. Despite my best intentions, I failed to follow nearly all the directions in Tartine Bread, other than the ratios of flour, water, and salt. The leaven didn’t even float when I did the recommended float test in a glass of warm water; it sank the bottom like a rock, which is usually a bad sign. I left the dough overnight with not enough turns, pulled it out in the morning and let it sit half the day, and then shaped and baked the loaves in a rush. The result was pure amazingness.

The sourdough has a distinctly sour aroma, though the taste is more subtle. It has the moist chewiness of the no-knead artisanal bread that I sometimes make, but the crust isn’t so thick. In Jason’s words, “You don’t have to work so hard to eat the sourdough.” And to think that it’s all made with just flour, salt, and water…. and those amazing little bacteria that have been growing and developing for two years. So cool.

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I’m a staunch defender of bread because we live in an era of bread-haters. Whenever I hear someone go on about how bread is awful, I want to ask them what kind of bread they eat and were raised on; because if we’re talking about store-bought sandwich bread of any kind, yes, that stuff is crap. It’s more sawdust than ‘staff of life’ quality.

But real bread, good bread, has sustained humanity for millennia. That’s the kind of bread I made yesterday – hefty loaves of slow-rise, bacteria-fed dough made from locally grown, organic, GMO-free, stone-milled hard wheat and red fife wheat that came from my grain CSA. Before bashing bread categorically, I wish people would actually take the time to learn how to make truly nourishing bread, because there’s a tremendous difference. This is how all bread should taste.

And, for the record, I’m happy to barter fresh loaves of sourdough locally for a variety of things, so pitch me an idea 🙂

you might also like:
The magical appeal of artisanal breads
bread & latte
my bread ritual

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10 thoughts on “Nothing but flour, salt and water

  1. That is a beautiful bread! (I also love butter…There is nothing better than good bread topped with delicious, organic pasture butter.) Mouth is watering!

  2. Hello Katherine,

    You talked in my heart with this article for bread. When I tried the bread you send me home – and thank you so much for sending it over – I knew it is a sourdough bread and delicious! I could tell from the smell and consistency.

    Anyway, I wanted to ask you where exactly you buy your hard wheat flour, because I know that Canada do not have a lot of hard wheat in the store selves. My dad and mom always told me to find hard wheat so I can have a good bread loaf.  And if you could give  me some sourdough next time you will bake, I would be super happy and thankful for a very long time. All my family grown up with sourdough bread so it is for sure that it would be good for me and Emmanuel and George as well … way better than the breads are sold in Bruce County. I am really sick of a very bad bread we eat. 

    I feel very privileged to have you my friend.   Have a very good weekend. 

    Marina

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