A year ago I would not have believed that anyone can be so obsessed with sourdough and bread – least of all me, who hardly ate a full loaf in one year. Yet, here I am.
There are a few people and events that brought me here, but if I have to name the turning point, it will have to be Michael Pollan’s book Cooked. Pollan’s writing is mesmerizing, oozing with love and tenderness for whatever he chooses to wrap in his words, and when I made it to the chapter dedicated to bread, I was converted. Pollan himself had been lured into the world of sourdough bread by another enthusiast, the renowned San Franciscan baker Chad Robertson, the author of Tartine. Thus this love for crust and crumb was squared, amplified and delivered straight to my heart. Like any real, tumultuous love, it sneaked up on me and caught me by surprise.
Wait, is this real? People actually obsess over bread? There are whole blogs where people talk of sleepless nights worrying about fermentation and mystical feeding schedules. I mean, it’s just bread, people!
Defying common sense and practicality, I found myself both intrigued and challenged, wanting to achieve what Chad Robertson described as “sweet, creamy flavor, a deep auburn crust to shatter between the teeth, giving way to tender, pearlescent crumb.” I wanted that. Not so much to eat, but to create.
The ingredient list of the ideal loaf couldn’t get any shorter: flour, water and salt… And ye,t this ideal loaf was described as something mystical and almost unattainable. Flour, water, salt and sourdough starter – which is just more flour and water. Almost… It is also a mix of wild yeasts and lactobacilli that come from heaven knows where and have to be fed, pampered and patiently observed. Although I had been running a cooking blog and had baked bread before (with no particular enthusiasm, mind you), this sourdough thing seemed so… unnecessary, that I just had to try it.
It was both more complicated than I had expected and less so. It was hard to follow all the steps, schedules, temperature charts, do’s and do not’s, until I realized I didn’t have to. Accepting the fact that the experience could, and maybe had to be, intuitive, allowed me to relax and enjoy the process. Yet, I am grateful to all the writers and bloggers who helped me get where I am. I wish I could claim I’ll do a better job at cataloging the ins and outs of sourdough baking, but I can’t.
Baking with sourdough is at once science and intuition, exact measurements and flexibility, technique and art. And I firmly believe anyone can manage it.
I want to approach this blog not as a how-to, but as a how-I-did-it. Here is the account of someone who has never intended to master sourdough or bread, someone who has a full-time job, someone who often thinks back to that Pollan book with gratitude and fascination. I am now one of them – people obsessed with bread.
Follow me on this journey and you will see why.