Poor old Saddo Abroad, reduced to being a depository for links to Sinfini. And soon, if my web-designer, aka my son Adam, can figure it out (which I’m sure he can) Saddo Abroad will become integrated into my spiffy new WordPress website. I hope we can do this without any followers having to reregister.
I’ve just been up to Scotland on a sourdough bread-making course and if anything on this planet can induce a new blog that isn’t part of the Sinfini remit it has to be something with sourdough in the title. I already did Sourdough Abroad a while back, when in Los Angeles I think, so Sourdough Saddo it has to be.
Sourdough bread, for those that aren’t sure, is the oldest type of bread, made without the addition of yeast. Instead, a mash of flour (rye or wholewheat) and water is left to create its own bacteria and yeasts which develop over the course of a few days. This mash become a leaven, which when added to more flour and water allows the bread to rise. It sounds complex (and the science can be a bit baffling) and slow, but once you have your leaven started you can maintain it forever (it will even keep in the freezer), replenishing and nurturing it, and this is what I plan to do. There’s no reason why I should ever use yeast again. And if something goes wrong with my leaven, I can simply start another.
The course took place in a remote farmhouse south of Edinburgh, kitted out with a large, open kitchen, at one end a log-fuelled bread oven and at the other, large windows giving uninterrupted views to the border hills. Standing at high, solid oak tables, eleven of us spent two whole days mixing, kneading and baking, instructed by Andrew Whitley. I say “instructed” but Andrew has a guru quality to him. Bread is not just a foodstuff, it is a philosophy, a key to living well. By which I don’t mean living luxuriously, but responsibly and soundly. When we weren’t working we talked and asked questions, and we were fed meals, cakes, tea and coffee. And bread, of course.
Most bread sold in most commercial outlets is crap. “In-store bakeries” are, as Andrew put it, “loaf tanning salons”, dough squeezed from bags or delivered half-baked from massive factories. So-called sourdough bread sold in supermarkets is 99.9% certain to be sourdough flavoured; that is, conventional commercial bread flavoured with powder and sold at a mug-alluring premium. There is no obligation for supermarkets to adhere to any standards when it comes to sourdough. They can lie about it without fear of regulation. The real stuff takes time and craftsmanship, neither of which are much use to profit-motivated supermarket chains. The real stuff is also much, much better for you.
I’m not going to begin to try and distil a whole course into a few words. Take a look at www.breadmatters.com for a fuller understanding of the principles and ethos of good baking. The thing I could happily bang on about for hours is how much better sourdough bread is for you. Yeasted breads are made quickly. Commercial breads are made within a few minutes. There’s no time for the glutens to mellow and the bread is hard for the stomach to digest. Andrew told us about a study in which 17 volunteers who had been diagnosed as gluten-intolerant took part. They were fed a bread, 30% of which was wheaten sourdough, the rest gluten-free. 30% would normally be enough to trigger a negative reaction, but not one of the volunteers suffered a reaction. I wonder how many people who avoid gluten, so many of them self-diagnosed, could eat proper bread if they switched to eating authentic sourdough.
I can’t recommend a Bread Matters course highly enough. Andrew is funny and kind, professorial yet practical. He could talk for days were it not for his wife Veronica’s occasional exhortations for him to shut up and get on with it. I drove back south with six delicious loaves, all made by me and my own leavens. I’d baked an Arkatena (which contains chick pea flour), a pumpkin and linseed loaf, a San Francisco, a no-knead loaf, a seeded rye and a fruit-filled bannock.
Before I left I topped up my rye leaven with a good splodge of Andrew’s, which he was happy to share out. This has its origins in Russia, carried to Britain in the early 1990s hidden inside one of Andrew’s socks. From now on my rye breads will have a link all the way back to the collapse of the Soviet Union. I think that’s simply brilliant.

Comments (1)

  1. Karen


    Just got round to reading this (sorry!). It sums up that course and all that Andrew and Veronica offer beautifully. Long live the fungal network!

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