Over the last, say, ten years, there has been a hot and cold relationship with bread, and also with bread bags, in our household. For health reasons, I have experimented with not eating bread, not eating wheat and even not eating grains altogether. My husband is pretty much not willing to ever give up eating it. My kids will beg me for it, though both have had to take 'bread breaks' to help clear up skin issues and resolve allergies. Lately, it appears we are in a 'we do eat bread' phase. I always think these phases will be short, just a loaf or two. So I've been willing to buy bread that comes in a plastic bag.
When we lived in the city with a dog, about ten years ago, those bags came in pretty handy. A bit heavy-duty for a poop bag, but at least we didn't need to buy ones specifically for that purpose. There was even a short period when we could recycle bags we didn't use in our city blue bin. That time is over.
Enter the Covid pandemic. Four of us are home 24/7 eating groceries like there's no tomorrow. Sandwiches and toast become regular fare. The plastic bags are piling up. Now what?
Enter, making our own sourdough bread. Well, failed sourdough at first.
I've long had a fascination with fermentation, and have made plenty of fermented vegetables and drinks. I figured starting a sourdough culture can't be that hard, right? And it's not, if you read a lot and know what you're doing. It's definitely one of those 'it's easy once you know how' things, I found out.
In my effort to reduce plastic, I bought flour from a bulk store in paper bags and set about to make my culture and bread. Pandemic victory bread. I followed a recipe, but the instructions were a bit vague. Initially it bubbled and fermented, just like I knew it should, and then it went sideways. The recipe said it would take a week – I didn't track my days carefully (it gets hard to tell one day from another when you don't go anywhere!). The culture stopped bubbling and started to separate. I quickly baked my bread before it died anymore. Apparently not a good plan. I made three lovely flour bricks. Not the stuff of sandwiches or toast. They now lurk in my freezer waiting to be turned into...bread crumbs? I welcome your suggestions.
With that failure under my belt, I knew I needed to know more. Sourdough works. I was seeing loads of pictures of other people's success in my social media feeds. So, I took a woman up on her public offer to share her sourdough starter culture. I also watched videos and found a more descriptive recipe.
My second attempt went MUCH better. It was a real bread, with real rise, and a great tangy taste. And best of all, no bag.
I've still got more to learn to make the size, taste and texture just right, but I'm emboldened by my recent success. I'm curious: given the shortage of baking yeast, and possibly the time at home to nurture a culture, have you started baking sourdough too?