Lessons Learned from Sourdough Bread Baking

Emma is a born teacher and her passion for bread baking is contagious. She currently teaches classes on sourdough bread baking at Heritage Goods and Supply and has developed a Women’s Heritage Volume 2 Zine all on Sourdough Bread Baking. Her latest endeavors have led her to create a  gluten free line of sourdough breads and recipes using a gluten free starter culture of which she also teaches at Heritage Goods and Supply. Her traditional sourdough and gluten free varieties of sourdough are available for purchase every Friday at Heritage Goods and Supply. Emma has written her insights and journey as a mother, chef, and sourdough break baker…

 

It all started when I became a mother. I had always had an eye on health and cared about what I put into my body. Yes. I am that person who reads food labels meticulously. But when I had a child of my own I really started to pay attention to what ingredients went into my body and our family’s bodies. I remember going to buy a loaf of bread at the store, turning over the package and seeing a paragraph long ingredient list of ingredients and gasping. I thought to myself, this surely can’t be right. Bread is simple, it shouldn’t need more than just flour, water and salt, maybe some levain or yeast… right? That’s when I did it. I journeyed into sourdough bread baking.

 

It was also around this time that I had been introduced to Sally Fallon's book Nourishing Traditions and was starting to dabble in soaking, sprouting and fermenting things. So sourdough bread baking seemed like a logical next step. A self taught home cook, I dove into a variety of books and online resources. I was gifted a sourdough starter but still chose to teach myself how to make one from scratch (yep, that’s definitely how I work) and started baking bread one loaf at a time. I chose to start with the no knead method because of the simplicity that it touted. And I have to say, after all these years, I do like this method for it’s ease. However, I have also found joy in trying different methods of folding and kneading, using different flours and so on.  My first few loaves were good, but extremely unpredictable. Some were flat and terribly dense. Some were full of spring. And all of the loaves have delighted our senses by filling our house with the most amazing smells and our bellies with nourishment.

After more than a couple of years of making fresh sourdough bread and lots of compliments and classes taught on the subject I found many requests to create a gluten free variety too. Up for the challenge and curious too about the process and the many gluten free flours available I got creative in the kitchen and started tinkering with gluten free sourdough bread baking. Gluten Free Sourdough bread baking can be tricky. It’s not easy to find moist bread that also rises and tastes delicious too. I played with a variety of variations and ingredients and came up with a gluten free sourdough that is gum free and vegan and most importantly tastes great too!

 

This journey of bread baking has taught me more than just baking bread. Yes, I have learned many tricks of the trade along the way like how water, temperature, quality of ingredients and using a scale can all influence the bread baking process.  But sourdough bread baking, gluten free sourdough bread baking and fermentation in general has gifted myself and my family more than just nourishment and the know how to bake bread. It has taught be how to be patient while it ferments and rises and bakes. And oh how it’s worth it. To be kind to myself if it doesn’t turn out exactly how I want it to turn out. To sit with time, knowing that instead of racing to the store and purchasing a loaf when I want one that I will have to wait for the leavain to be ready to use; for the flour, water, salt and leavain to be mixed and then folded and then wait again for it to rise which can sometimes mean taking more that two or three days from start to finish to reach the finished product. A glorious loaf of bread.  To sit with imperfection and perfection. Each loaf is unique and can shine light on what went right and what might need some tweaking. To respect mother nature. Yes, sourdough is wild like nature is wild. And this influences every loaf and ferment which I both adore and hate at the same time.

 

I find joy in every loaf of bread I make. There is something about the rhythm that is created with the ritual of bread baking that comforts me. Even the waiting brings me ease. In this age of instant gratification, there is something soulful about taking time, enjoying the simplicity in the ingredients and in the process itself. So yes, sourdough is touted for being easier to digest because some of the gluten has been broken down already and such, but to me, sourdough has given myself and my family the benefit of connecting back to our senses and living more in the moment with mother nature.

Emma will be teaching her GF sourdough workshop on May 11! It is a beautiful way to experience your own journey as a baker and learn the tips and tricks that Emmas has to offer! You can sign up on our workshops page on our website!

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