Nurturing Sourdough

October 13, 2020


Sourdough is bread made without commercial yeast, without the use of any so-called 'processing aids' or other artificial additives.

A simple dough is made and left to age while bacteria cultures and yeasts present in the atmosphere cause fermentation. This is later added to a new dough and bread is made. The complete process takes weeks. That said, many commercial bakeries call loaves sourdough even though they add baker’s yeast because it speeds up the process, maximising productivity and profits.

There is a new way of thinking that good sourdough is not necessarily to do with old age. For instance, within a fifty-year-old sourdough starter, a lot of the bacteria and cultures will have died off.

After starting a mother, you can make bread after just two to three weeks and the starter will just get better and better. We have two sourdough starters that we actually bred (another reason for the name) four months before we opened the shop because we wanted a fresh start. They are actually quite new compared to some, which have been going for decades or even centuries. Ours are almost two years old at the time of writing this.

We have a white sourdough starter that's called Mother Teresa (M.T. for short) and a 100% rye starter called Stan Rye, named after the local legendary skier, Stan Rey – whose father used to be a baker too, funnily enough.

In the Whistler winter, it gets down to -20°C in the village, which is especially challenging for sourdough because when the bakery doors are opening all day, the air's is coming in and out. It's quite a challenge to keep it consistent. We invested in a heating and cooling system, which generally keeps the shop at a constant temperature of around 22°C. In the summer, we'll have extra air conditioning on as well, to try and keep it a little cooler.

Being in the mountains, it's so dry during the winter and then gets so hot and humid through the summer. It really keeps Ed and the team on our toes that we have to adjust - it's not the same recipe we use day in, day out - sometimes less water, sometimes more. We'll use a slightly warmer water with the dough or slightly cooler water, to moderate how long the bread is fermented for. Sometimes you just have to wait, or you have to move quickly. Maybe you can go for a walk in the afternoon or maybe you get no lunch break and just keep working the whole day.

The key differences between our bread and that of other commercial bakeries is

·       Longer fermentation, in the presence of sourdough bacteria

·       Whole grain or less-refined flours

·       Stoneground flour

·       A single, continuous process (i.e. no part-baking or freezing of the dough)

·       Locally-milled flour

·       Low salt levels (with locally harvested sea salt)

·       Certified organic ingredients

·       Freshly baked, from oven to customer within hours, or even minutes.

And you can actually taste the difference when you pick up a warm loaf of BReD and immediately tuck into it.

It’s a love of labour and why we are proud to be a featured bakery by the Real Bread Campaign, a movement to raise awareness of true sourdough versus “sourfaux” and ultimately bring change within food legislation over correct terminology.

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