Jeannelle's Sourdough "Bliss Bread"
So, I am officially a full time athlete for the first time in my athletic career. I’ve always had a completely full schedule whether that be from balancing Track & Field with school or with work.
Now with a meagre maximum of about 4 hours per day committed to training, naturally I felt a bit of anxiety about what I would do with all the free time left in the day.
But to be honest, it’s been relatively easy filling my time. I’ve taken the opportunity to do all (or at least most) of the things I love to do but that have neglected in the past! The most interesting of those being…
...baking sourdough bread!
Now I know what you’re thinking… Baking bread Jeannelle? Really? That’s the best you could come up with!? But bear with me… there’s more to it.
If you know me at all, you know that I have a real passion for cooking. For me, getting in the kitchen to take on a monster long recipe, committing hours to the process and making every single item from scratch is true bliss, an experience only rivaled by the feeling I get from pushing out a hard lift in the gym, listening to my favorite jams and dancing in between sets like no one is watching.
The two activities are hardly related but for me, they provide the same thing… the peace that comes from being completely and authentically in the present moment.
Now about this bliss bread…
Sourdough is one of the most challenging foods to perfect. It’s such an interesting and complex food yet ridiculously simple in its ingredients. It’s also completely personalizable (I might have made that word up), and there are endless small details which can be tweaked to engineer your perfect loaf!
It’s a live organism… that is simultaneously food!
How intriguing is it that leaving out a jar of a slurry of flour and water attracts tiny microorganisms from the air to feed on sugars form the flour and voila, you have captured natural yeast; a glorified pet, that if fed occasionally will live for years and years. And is completely robust, it’s a pet you can forget to feed a couple times and not only will it not die (or bark at you), it’ll spring back the moment you re-feed it!
This living slurry is the basis of sourdough bread. Regular bread uses commercial yeast to product the rise in the bread but with sourdough, you basically grow your own yeast.
Isn’t bread bad for you though
First of all, no food is ‘bad’ for you.
"It does no good attaching a moral judgement to food choices... but that’s definitely a topic for a separate blog post."
Secondly, sourdough bread is actually quite nutritious!
Making sourdough bread is quite a long process and much of this time is spent fermenting your dough. During this magical time, often referred to as ‘bulk fermentation’, #gluten strands form and with a couple stretches and folds in-between, becomes stronger and more complex. This can last anywhere from 3 to 5 hours (depending on temperature and type of dough and many other factors) and even more if some of that time is spent in the fridge. All this fermentation time means that all the nutrients in the bread are preprocessed for you! This not only makes it easier to digest but also produces the unique sour taste and smell which we associate with good sourdough!
How long is too long?
Making sourdough starter takes about 7 days… Then making a basic loaf takes about another full day… Can even be stretched out to two. It’s a long process, that’s for sure, but committing to the process makes it such that you become completely invested… Watching the starter transform from a dormant jar of flour and water into a lively, bubbly mess is so captivating. Then putting together 3 simple ingredients flour water and salt, and turning out a beautiful crisp loaf, soft and chewy on the inside, is one of the coolest transformations that exists in the world of food!
For me, baking sourdough is a departure from the world of instant gratification. There is nothing you can do to speed up the process (and get good bread…). So you wait, and you watch and every now and then you get a chance to use your hands and feel for changes in texture and stickiness… Its tactile and it forces you to pay attention. Then your patience and diligent watching over and active participation in this wonderful process is duly rewarded with a beautiful, delicious loaf, to share with people you love (or eat by yourself in one sitting… no judgement).
If you want to take on making your own sourdough starter, here is a simple and easy recipe from my all time favorite Youtube baker: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_q61EdnpxuY
If you’ve already got a starter but struggling to get that perfect loaf, this recipe is tried and true!
If you live in the Netherlands and want some bread, I take orders occasionally! Shoot me a message! And if you just want some already made starter, I’d be happy to give you some of mine.