From our 2014 Newsletter The Tin Shed. We held several sourdough demonstrations, and I like to think there’s a few still at it out there!
While on a road trip in the US last year, we visited the Russian River wine region of California and while browsing a bookshop in Healdsburg (as you do) picked up a CD copy of Michael Pollan’s “Cooked – A Natural History of Transformation”. It was great listening on long car trips - an exhaustive history on why we cook our food the way we do. We were, of course, immediately attracted to his section on fermentation in all its various guises.
The discussion on bread, and sourdough bread in particular, caught our attention. We’ve been making our own bread for ages but we had not taken the next step of “wild fermentation” breads, as we have with our red wines. Michael introduced us to Chad Robertson and his life’s mission to make bread with soul - the perfect country loaf. I love the painting (opposite) by Emile Friant (1888) that inspired Chad’s mission.
Similarly inspired, I’ve been mucking around with Chad’s instructions for making a basic country loaf in his book “Tartine Bread”. After many tasty but somewhat dense test loaves, we’ve hit on an approach that works well with our local flours, and even includes a secret ingredient! A few other important points:
steam is critical to baking good bread
managing the fermentation well is the most important skill to develop
sourdough doesn’t have to be that sour (in fact “sourdough” is a bit of a misnomer)
sourdough starters are simple to manage
small changes in approach can make a big difference to the results
you need to develop a feel for your dough and be flexible
It’s been fun, and we’d love to share some of our bread recipes with you – Fiona makes a great ciabatta too. Learn how to make basic sourdough bread (or bring along your own bread and share your secrets!) at our winter solstice celebration – bookings required!