I tried three times over the span of more than a year to create a sourdough starter from scratch. What that entails is this: Mixing flour (unbleached) and water (de-chlorinated) and leaving it out on the kitchen counter until it attracts yeast, which camp out at this flour feast and make the mixture bubbly and sourdough-smelling and ready to rise bread dough.
Yeast naturally occur in our environments. So setting up that flour and water gave them an invitation to move in and get cozy–and then to earn their keep by helping me make bread from scratch. Here is a wonderful way to get started on that yourself–this site helped me along the way.
On my third try, I found success. Using that starter, I made bread–good, nourishing, all-natural homemade bread. I use a recipe that requires nothing more than flour, water, and sea salt. Simple, universal ingredients transform to make versatile and in-demand food for my family.
Since we moved last summer–3 times, to be exact, before landing in our own pad–I toted that sourdough starter around with me. Feeding it, once using it, and then holding it in my lap while I drove from one temporary home to the next before we closed on our house, that sourdough starter was nurtured. I wanted to keep it going–I have visions of bestowing gifts of my sourdough starter upon my future daughters-in-law. Heirloom jewelry and Edwardian antiques I do not have–but I can pass down my sourdough starter. I’ve read about French families who’ve done this for generations.
I start out by making what’s called a “sponge,” which rises for hours and hours. Then I add flour and knead and set it out to rise for more hours. All this rising makes the bread tasty and healthy. And each batch is slightly different, even when using the same recipe. The temperature of the room where I put the dough to rise; the exact length of time it bakes; the amount the dough grows with each rising–all these factors make producing a new loaf of bread unique in every attempt.
I liken it to creating a piece of art: I bake one loaf at a time, giving each one significant amounts of attention, and the outcome is slightly different in each piece. With my first few loaves, I would remove the bread from the oven and sniff it and check the done-ness and evaluate what I should improve for the next batch. Every time, I felt triumph, and I celebrated. And I developed a love of sourdough bread smeared with butter for breakfast.
Today, I made a fresh batch of sourdough bread. And, y’all? I didn’t celebrate; I didn’t feel triumph. I didn’t consider it my edible work of art. I forgot–I forgot to marvel. I forgot to find beauty in the simple, to see the magic in the mundane. Most of the time, I think I am pretty good at this. Take a walk with me, and you’ll hear me remark on a sunset or a particularly glorious tree. When our kitchen table is clean, I like to take a second and stop and stare at it–the cloth napkins and the fruit bowl in the center–just taking it in.
But today my loaf of bread didn’t really feel like a moment. It just left like a chore checked off the list. I missed out.
I Thessalonians 5:16 declares, “Be joyful always.” I neglected the joy I could have experienced in my loaf of bread–I missed joy in the labor of my hands. The next time I bake bread? I will take time to marvel.