Bread, like beer and wine, has only a few ingredients - flour, water, salt and sourdough culture (yeast and bacteria); it is rather remarkable that, from such simple materials, a wondrous variety of breads are baked.
Flour is the largest ingredient, by weight, in a loaf of bread. The quality of flour - the variety, how it is grown, harvested and milled - is the foundation for good bread. As you know, I source my flour from a number of mills that mill high quality organic hard red winter wheat, and ancient and varietal grains. These mill source their grain from all over the Mid West and are located in Utah, Montana, Arizona and Minnesota.
Water is the next largest ingredient. Our local water, is very good quality: I put it through an activated carbon filter, which takes out any impurities picked up in transit, removes the chloramines (These would kill the sourdough culture) but crucially does not take out dissolved minerals - these add flavor and body to the liquid.
The sourdough culture is the first of many small miracles that make a loaf of sourdough bread so tasty. As I have noted in other posts, the complex and only partially understood interaction between naturally occurring yeasts (Saccharomyces exiguus, Candida milleri, or Candida holmii) and bacteria (Three metabolic groups of lactobacillus) is what gives our bread a deep, complex flavor. There is some disagreement whether or not a sourdough "mother" - the source culture - develops and keeps its own genome as it ages, or if the genome is replaced steadily as the starter is refreshed. I start feeding the starter (retained in the refrigerator from the prior week's bake.) on Tuesdays, refreshing it every 12 hours. By Thursday it is rocking and super active.
Salt - highly valued in years past, making and breaking empires, and traded as a valuable commodity - adds flavor. I keep it simple by using mined sea salt, without additives.
These four - inputs in economist's parlance - ingredients are basis for sourdough bread. If these are up to snuff, the baker has only three additional variables to work with: exercise (kneading), time and temperature. I will write about these in another post.
This Saturday's Bake
I am going to bake you a small country "miche" - a round loaf made with high extraction organic flour (This is the flour that has the entire wheat berry ground as fine as white flour. This makes it as nutritious as a whole grain loaf, with the handling of a white loaf.
Your Canadian Baker