Monday, 16 March 2009

time slows down

I've been operating on a different time scale recently, seems another lesson in my life to slow down and enjoy the moment. This latest teacher is very small but potent: my sourdough starter. Living life to the swell and fall of yeast is an exercise in laying back in a primordial ooze, it's about as basic and as slow as one can get. And yet there is so much strength and potency and abundancy in this primordial bath.

The starter began life as a mix of one cup rainwater (all our water here is rainwater) and one cup wholewheat flour. It sat out on the counter covered with a tea towel and was fed every day with another half cup water and half cup flour. I mixed it vigorously twice or thrice a day and on the 4th day was rewarded with bubbles. Another two days later and it was looking thick and bubbly and had that lovely yeasty smell. Now the starter lives in the fridge and is fed twice, sometimes three times a week whenever I make bread. Making sourdough bread is a three day process. The actual preparation is short and simple, but it takes time for raising and re-raising. The difference between walking into a store and buying bread and making it from scratch is not so much a matter of difference in convenience as a lesson in natural law and our place as part of a greater wholesome whole. Yeast has its own agenda, one must have respect and appreciation. Louis Pasteur had it right when he said "the microbes will have the last word".

Before I make bread I take the starter out of the fridge pour it into a bowl, feed it a cup of flour and about 1/2 cup of water, cover with towel and allow it to swell overnight or all day.

Sourdough recipe
1 cup sourdough starter
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1 cup of kombucha (or dark beer, warm, or boil water from pasta, potatoes or other starchy veg, or regular water)
flour to make a good dough, I use about 3-4 cups but it depends on weather and humidity
time and openness to enjoying the moment

anything can be added to bread, at the moment I add sunflower and sesame seeds

mix the starter, salt, sugar and liquid (and any additions). Add a cup of flour at a time mixing thoroughly, until you have a nice firm dough. Turn onto floured surface and knead for 15 minutes. Put in oiled bowl and cover with tea towel and leave in a warm place overnight or all day. Sourdough takes longer to rise than bread using commercial yeasts. Next morning form into loaves. This recipe makes me two loaves. I divide the dough in half, flatten it out into a rough circle and roll it up into a short thick sausage. Place on baking trays, cover with tea towel and leave somewhere warm either all day or overnight. Bake for 30 minutes in a 400 degree oven, the bread is ready when it sounds hollow when tapped.

Enjoy with nutmeg preserve!

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thanks for sharing!