The entire time I’ve been married to my husband, (who is a trained chef), and since we were dating, he’s told me that he hates baking and it’s “not his thing”. This has always been ironically funny to me, as he’s baked plenty of dishes and desserts that have plucked at the heart strings of my stomach many times.
When COVID hit and everyone was learning how to bake bread at home, I invested in a sewing machine and taught myself how to embroider and sew. It was such a wonderful challenge and once I’d learned everything I needed to, I thought, what’s next?
Cooking at home has been a vital skill, with and without the interference of illness, because I’m home almost all of the time with three children, and they eat a lot and quite often. Even though my husband is a chef, he works full-time to support us, and I actually do a majority of the cooking at home.
I’m completely fine with that though. I’ve come pretty far in the culinary world in the last eight years just from constantly searching for new recipes to feed our family. The only thing that I hadn’t really learned was basic bread. We buy at least two loaves of sandwich bread a week. When I stand in the bread aisle at the store, my stomach feels sick at the thought of all of the waste. Shelves of bread that will simply be thrown out because they weren’t purchased in time.
Why hadn’t I thought about baking my own? I’ve had a love affair with every freshly baked bread I’ve ever encountered, so why was I intimidated by the thought of baking my own? My husband and I share a love for sourdough, and I decided to start there.
I learned how to create my first sourdough starter on August 31st. Because it’s technically a living thing that eats flour and water, and because the book that I learned from referred to this starter as “the mother”, I named her Aughra after the magical crone character from The Dark Crystal. What can I say, we’re a family of nerds.
I’ve spent the last month learning how to care for and use this sourdough starter and it’s become more than just a hobby. I wish that I had taken on the challenge of baking bread a long time ago. It’s such an all-consuming, tedious process that feels like a direct connection to Earth herself.
I was overly confident when I first started and thought I could get around the 4-week mark that all of the books were saying was the point of actual sourdough “tanginess”. I was definitely wrong. Aughra finally reached her true form of sourdough just two days ago, exactly a month to the day.
Every time you feed your starter, you’re supposed to discard half of it before you feed it. If she’s healthy and well, she’ll double in size within four to six hours of each feeding, which results in quite a bit of excess dough that can be used for everything from crackers to biscuits and bread. This led to my discovery of a wide variety of goodies to bake.
In the last month, I’ve made a Glazed Sourdough Lemon Loaf Cake that was to die for. I’ve made golden brown Sourdough Brioche Rolls that were delicious as chicken salad sandwiches as well as basic ham and cheese. I’ve baked multiple Sourdough Discard Sandwich Loaves which were incredible toasted as grilled cheese with homemade tomato soup. One of my all-time favorites was the Sourdough Chocolate Cream Rolls, dark and milk chocolates spread and rolled into whole wheat dough and baked in a bath of heavy cream inside of a cast iron pan. They. Were. Incredible.
Each new baked good that I’ve taken on has brought me a different, joyful experience shared with all of the people in my life. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the isolation of quarantine had become so normal that I hadn’t even known I was isolating myself long after was necessary. I still wonder how many of us became deeply introverted hermits during that time. I know my own kids are struggling with leaving that life behind.
Baking brought me back to the community, and in a sense, back to myself. Not only has it been a way for me to nourish my family, lower grocery costs, help where I can with commercial waste, and connect with the Earth again, but it’s offered me a bridge back to the person I was before global quarantine numbed me to society.
And, it turns out, there are some surprising health benefits that come with baking and eating your own sourdough bread. Here are just a few benefits:
Sourdough bread functions as a “prebiotic”, which means that the fiber in the bread helps feed the “good” bacteria in your intestines. These bacteria are important for maintaining a healthy digestive system.
Sourdough is also lower in gluten than other forms of bread.
Sourdough is packed with nutrients, healthy carbs, protein, fiber and vitamins such as folate and iron. Not only can it improve digestion, but it can also lower chronic disease risk and promote healthy aging.
As you can see, there are an enormous number of benefits that come with caring for your own sourdough starter – emotionally, physically, and financially – and it’s surprisingly easy to start your own.
Our next post will cover everything you need to know to begin your own, so stay tuned!