All the things we eat (with the remarkable exception of salt) were previously living (sometimes still), but we have seconded them for our use. Being more involved in the processing of food means we are closer to that threshold, that critical edge, between life and death that makes us a bit uncomfortable about our food (usually meat). Most retailers are trying to get you to forget about the life/death thing, but we need to own and reclaim this concept if we want to be healthy, ethical eaters. In my view. We feel more uncomfortable with dead animals then with dead plants, but maybe that’s because we don’t understand plants as well as, umm, pigs?
If you want to be close to the life/death edge in a modest way that doesn’t involve blood or slaughtering of cute little piglets, than sourdough is for you!
The thing that makes bread rise in sourdough is a living entity that expels gas (CO2). A sourdough starter is simply a little ball of food (flour and water) that things (wild yeast) live in (breathe) until we roast the life out of them in the oven. The puff of rising bread that occurs in the first 10mins of cooking is presumably wild yeast hyperventilating and calling emergency evacuation meetings. You get the occasional climate deniers amongst the yeast species, but in my experience it’s been an oversight of science on my part.
So, let’s say you already have a sourdough starter (how to make one coming soon!). It should be about 2 table spoons of a slightly runny, acidic smelling ball of dough in the fridge (in a container… don’t just let it free range, that only works for chooks). Before you make a loaf of bread, you need to increase the population of your yeast so you have some left over after you’ve made the bread.
To do this:
- Add 1/3 water and 2/3 cup of flour (add water first… trust me) to your starter.
- Cover (with this!), let it sit somewhere warm, and let the yeast make babies for a while (4-6hrs in summer, up to 12hrs in winter… ).
- Break off 2 table spoons to put back in the fridge, and add the rest to your bread making!
If you don’t make bread every week, you’ll need to do this process anyway, because living things die in the fridge. Just keep feeding it with flour and water, and it will stay a happy, healthy, breathing yeast until such time as you coax it in to breathing heavily and dying for the sake of your deliciously chewy, slightly sour, bread.