I started my adventure in making sourdough about 7 years ago. I was a new mom and wanting to learn more about how to prepare food from scratch. At the same time I was also learning about the Weston Price Foundation and fermented foods. While I was only dabbling with fermented foods at first, by the time our son was 18 months old he was showing clear signs that he had wheat intolerance issues and I knew our diet needed to change in a more drastic way. My sweet son would become irrational, angry, agitated and at times get hives on his skin after eating foods with wheat flour. At this point in our lives, like for many in America, wheat was a large part of our diet. The thought of removing it from our meals and snacks was daunting, but I also knew it had to be done.
My son wasn’t the only one struggling with wheat, I too had my own set of problems, most specifically related to pain in my abdomen that one doctor had thought might be endometriosis. Prior to my son being born I had suffered a miscarriage. That combined with the daily pain I had and an x-ray showing cist on my ovaries only confirmed that endometriosis might be a real concern. I had been to a natural path who told me I needed to take wheat out of my diet in order for the pain to subside, but at the time that hadn’t made sense. I am a person that needs to know the “why” behind something and I didn’t connect the dots to understand what wheat was doing in my body. Once I became pregnant the second time the thought of removing wheat from my own diet went by the waste side.
Moving forward. My son went wheat free for months, but during that time I continued to learn about fermented foods and the role they play in gut health and in turn, what gut health had to do with our overall health and allergies. As the months continued to role by I gained a better understanding of how certain food could be eaten without issues if they were simply fermented before hand. It’s here that I began to dive into the world of sourdough baking and gained a better understanding of fermenting grains like wheat. I began to try re-introducing wheat in my son’s diet, but this time only in the form of fermented sourdough. To my great relief, fermenting the wheat grains during the sourdough process greatly reduced or completely eliminated the issues my son had. Another plus, I too stopped having pains in my abdomen.
My first experience at making sourdough wasn’t overly successful. Actually, it was plain disappointing. On one hand I was excited that I had baked a loaf of sourdough bread, on the other hand it could be used as a brick and the texture wasn’t all too pleasing, but it could still be eaten. I had used a trusted source for beginning my starter and creating my bread, but something was certainly awry. As I started thinking things through I became confused. I knew sourdough bread could be baked in professional bakeries and it was light, airy and delicious*. Was it because the recipe I was using used whole wheat? From other baking experience I understood that whole wheat didn’t rise like white flour and I thought perhaps this could have been at least part of the issue. Bound and determined to figure out a way to make a more palatable loaf of bread that used whole grains was the starting point for the long and ongoing journey of researching sourdough bread. Low and behold there was all kinds of information to be had, thanks to the internet, but oh-my how overwhelming it all was and often still is! The number of different ways people suggested making starters in and of itself could leave a person so frustrated and confused they may never want to touch it. How in the world do you navigate through it all?
I began to gear my research towards professional sourdough bread bakers versus home bakers. I knew that a professional baker had a tried and true method that was successful. The only problem was that they always used white flour for their base, but at least I started to learn that a good sourdough could be made with only a couple of ingredients and I also learned more about the fermentation process itself.
When it comes to making sourdough, experimenting is very helpful and at times pretty much unavoidable when you don’t bake in a controlled environment, like a home kitchen. Don’t be afraid to try new things and don’t worry about it when bread recipes don’t work. It’s all about learning. I will not share just how many “failure” loafs of bread I’ve made. At least they were still edible… most of the time!
Would you like to learn more about how to make sourdough bread? Check out our classes page for current classes we offer here at the homestead. I began these classes to help people learn in a simpler and more comprehensive fashion. Experiencing how to bake sourdough and create a sourdough culture in a class format makes the art of sourdough baking a reality for anyone who has a desire to learn.
*A little side note here. Through my research I learned many bakeries actually don’t bake real, fermented sourdough, but instead a fake version that has vinegar added to it to give it the sour taste. What a shame!