I bought an award winning book from a French baker living in Sweden who is a passionate advocate of baking break using sourdough starter rather than yeast. Though I was suspicious of his tiresome raving against “industrial” bread and “multinational” corporations caused me to roll my eyes, I admit that I was intrigued by his description of the sourdough process, and I endeavoured to give it a try.
What intrigued me most of all was the idea that you could make bread rise without using anything other than flour, water, and salt. Essentially sourdough starter is made by adding water and flour together in a jar and letting the naturally occurring bacteria start to grow. At the beginning of the process I was actually rather impressed with myself as the mixture started to bubble just like it was supposed to. On the downside it also smelled awful. It also looked disgusting. I mean, who wants to have jar of wet flour fermenting away on your kitchen counter.
When it was time to make the sourdough bread I followed the author’s directions to the letter. In order to have a better personal connection or whatever to the bread, I dumped all the flour onto a board and made a well in the middle to add the water and the sourdough. When I added it the water immediately spilled over the top of the well and all over the floor. Then started wildly mashing together the flour and water into a messy pile of slop. I added what I thought was enough water to replace what spilled, but I’m not sure how accurate of a guess I made.
I finally managed to knead the thing into a ball and put it in a bowl to rise. It became zombie loaf; not entirely dead or alive but smelling terribly. After two days I threw it in the garbage and then made myself a wonderful loaf of French bread in a few hours using good old industrial yeast.