Several weeks ago, I watched the Air episode of Michael Pollan’s “Cooked” and was blown away (pun intended). Not only is does his entire mentality around food — “Eat real food, not too much, mostly plants.” — completely resonate with me, this episode in particular inspired me to take a second look at the quality of what I eat every day.
At this point, we all know that processed foods are bad. Whole foods are good. So, you’d think it would be easy to just stick with eating whole foods. What about bread? To many of us (myself included), I thought buying the “organic, whole wheat” bread at the supermarket was the right choice. Perhaps it was the lesser of the evils, but there are better choices. Like making your own bread.
Naturally, as the episode was centered around bread, Michael Pollan took on the controversial issue of gluten. Gluten is the latest “bad guy” when it comes to food. Aside from those who suffer with Celiac or other terrible, uncontrollable diseases that prevent people from eating gluten, “gluten intolerance” is the latest fad. Michael Pollan illustrates in this episode that bread production has moved away from the “slow fermentation” process that breaks down the peptides of gluten that can be problematic for people to digest. In other words, the gluten in a slice of Wonder Bread may be very different from the gluten in a home-baked loaf. He even suggests that the intolerance is truly to the other miscellaneous ingredients in processed bread, whereas a homemade loaf has much fewer, totally pronounceable ingredients (flour, water, salt).
“Our bodies are very confused about what is friend and what is foe and that has a lot to do with our fast food diet.”
In any case, I was inspired. And now, I’ve made my first loaf of bread.
It started last week (literally). I began making my sourdough started last Sunday. I had no idea what to expect or if it would even work, but every day, I was more an more excited about how my starter seemed to be coming alive. I fed it daily and watched the bubbles form. More and more each day. There were some morning I woke up, checked on my starter, and had to troubleshoot.
Saturday night, I used my starter to make leaven. The leaven sat overnight and Sunday morning I used it to make bread.
It was a long process. And a process during which I had no idea whether I was doing it right. I followed the Tartine Bread recipe to a T. But, I didn’t know what the leaven was supposed to look like (I knew it was supposed to float, which it did not, but I still used it). I didn’t know if my dough was too wet or too dry. Or if I was punching it too hard or if I was proofing too long. I troubleshooted and studied and asked a friend. And this post wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t publicly thank this friend for putting up with an onslaught of questions, photos, worries throughout the entire past week (especially yesterday). Thank you.
I made bread. Homemade San Francisco sourdough bread. I made two loaves and neither were anywhere close to perfect. But they’re my loaves.
This friend texted me after I sent pictures of my finished loaves:
“You used the yeast in your apartment, yeah?”
“That bread tastes like your home.”
I have a lot to learn and I’m excited to continue making bread. Figuring out what works in my kitchen, with my starter, is kind of like a fun mystery that just takes more and more practice before perfecting. I’m pretty proud of my first two loaves.
After all, this bread tastes like my home.
Here’s the whole story on Snapchat (follow me! laurenhfriedman). Special shoutout to Gabe for being such a great (and annoying) Snap-ogropher).