Yesterday was a sourdough bread baking day. Usually, we bake off anywhere from 15-20 loaves at a time. It is a help having a 60 quart Hobart mixer and a commercial oven. Believe it or not, these are just the things I wished for as a teenager. Back when most girls my age were pining away for fancy dresses or a racey car, I was wishing for industrial baking equipment. It must run in the family. When our son Noah was 16 and we asked what he would like for Christmas, his answer was …a welder and some scrap metal ( He got both and at 17, he’s already become a certified welder). This year he asked for a draft horse and a woodlot .We haven’t come through on this one yet.
I have been baking bread for a long time now. My grandmother allowed lots of experimenting in her kitchen, so I developed a love for baking at an early age. Bread baking has always been an interest and a bit of a passion, and the “doing” of it fits well into our self sustainable lifestyle.
The sourdough starter is now about three years old and has developed into a tangy and effective culture. I am still enchanted with the concept of live cultures being fed on a regular basis, and then rewarding the baker with an abilty to give their dough a “lift”. A little kitchen chemistry, and pretty amazing. Most often we will make whole wheat or plain white sourdough, and then on occasion, trays of cinnamon raisin, rye, or pumpernickel. We have customers who buy bread from us on a regular basis ( our kitchen is certified ) . The extra makes its way on to our own plates or into the freezer, saving the day when someone in the family says “we’re out bread !”
The most difficult chore for me with regards to maintaining sourdough starter, is discarding some of the original sponge when it’s time to feed it. The process requires saving 1/4 cup of the starter, feeding this with flour and water, then discarding the rest. This is a bit like thinning carrots. I have to coach myself through these chores knowing that if I don’t eliminate some of the bunched up little seedlings or chuck some of the glutinous sponge, I end up with a pathetic carrot crop or a refrigerator packed with mason jars ……..all filled with dough starter crying to be increased, again. I’ve learned to be ruthless.
Well, we all know that spring is just around the corner. Onions, leeks, and some early brassicas have been sown in flats. We watch for swelling buds and shoots of green, paying attention to the plants that have been lying dormant, and are beginning to emerge.