Although it always starts with the goal of making tasty food, the benefits of sourdough bread making expand way beyond the nutritional and health aspects. I reflected on my own experience over the last few years, and listed in this article a few of these values.
Going back to the roots
In a world that's all about the latest technology, it's important to give ourselves some time away from the screen and create something with your own hands. Bread making allows us to reconnect with a tradition that started over ten thousand years ago in the Middle East. The process of making sourdough requires very few tools besides an oven. Creating a beautiful elaborate and delicious loaf of bread from simple ingredients (flour and water) provides a deep sense of accomplishment and pride. Just look at the amazing number of pictures people post on social media about their bread!
The process of "reading" the dough and judging for readiness develops the sense of observation. Understanding the influence of external parameters such as temperature to the fermentation process triggers the need to experiment, not unlike a science project. As a home bread maker, I tend to try out variations of some parameters of my favorite recipe each time I bake, write down the results on a diary and make adjustments as needed. Overtime, this process has turned for me into an open-ended pursuit for the design of the "perfect loaf", the definition of which has evolved from airy crumb to nutritious to a combination of both.
Test your resilience
In the sourdough process, the bacteria do most of the work of transforming the initial mix of flour and water into airy dough. However they are on their own schedule, and will not rush because you tell them to. One of the key factor for a great airy crumb
is a SLOW fermentation. Learning how to wait patiently for the right timing and adjust your schedule based on the stage of the dough (and not the other way around) teaches resilience. I learned it the hard way a number of times, by just deciding the dough looks "good enough" and often ended up with a less than stellar loaf. The slow process has an added benefit: sourdough bread is much easier to digest.
Develop your creativity
Since there are so many variations that defines a loaf of sourdough, the process is an invitation to develop your creativity. Any loaf of bread can become a work of art. From the simple task of scoring the dough before baking, some can draw really elaborate and beautiful patterns on the crust. Creativity can also be reflected on the shape of the loaf, from a round boule, to elongated batard, traditional baguette, fougasse, ficelle. Next, comes the types of flours, from whole wheat to rye, adding in toppings and flavorful ingredients, from simple roasted sesame and poppy seeds, to walnut, olives and rosemary. Adding butter and milk opens up the door to brioches. The possibilities are endless!
Sourdough baking is a very rewarding, hands on process, that can develop your sense pf observation, resilience and creativity. If you want to get started, take a look at our list of classes.