Mending My Bread-Maker Ways

My first effort at sourdough baking.  Looks very flat, but tastes good.  It can only get better (I hope).

My first effort at sourdough baking. Looks very flat, but tastes good. It can only get better (I hope).

I’ve baked bread for 37 years and always used commercial yeast for leavening. I make lovely, high-rise, whole wheat loaves that have great texture and slice well for sandwiches.

Then, one day, I stumble on a series on food history by Michael Pollan called “Cooked.” I am astonished that the bread I’ve been making for years has no hope of providing health and vitality. Not only that (if it weren’t enough of a jolt), it, by my own calculations knowing a bit about the role of sugar in obesity, has probably played a part in my own struggle with extra pounds. The bread I have made is only the home-made version of balloon bread. Sure, it doesn’t contain the chemical soup of commercial food-like substances, but it misses one crucial process required to break out the nutritional value of wheat and make it available to human bodies – fermentation.

Not one to dwell (very much), I am on a new bread-making path. This is a story that I’d like to share not only because of the importance of spreading the enlightenment I’ve stumbled upon, but also to encourage anyone looking on. I read somewhere on the internet that sourdough bread-making is not for beginning bakers. But, I disagree. If one is to bake bread, one must start doing it correctly from the beginning. Or else what’s the point?

On to my next try. With my first try, one of the mistakes I made (which my second try will bear out I hope) is that I worked the dough too close to baking time. I got impatient with the process, decided to change the shape of the dough, then, as soon as the oven was hot, I put the dough in the oven. Result: it stayed flat, spread out a bit, baked to a hard flat “paddle” shape (as you see above).