Remember the good old days when our school lunches would include PBJ’s on soft white bread?
About a year ago our kids were lamenting the fact that they never got that same white bread for the sandwiches in their school lunches. I explained the usual set of reasons why: white bread has no nutrients, no fiber, etc. But then my then-8-year-old daughter came up with an idea: “Dad, if you make white bread, isn’t that healthy?
I’m not an experienced baker, but I thought it was a great idea — I could make white bread but figure out how to sneak in some healthy ingredients, and we’d all be happy. And I thought to myself those few words that get us all into trouble sometimes (“How hard can it be?”) Except my wife and I don’t care much for white bread. So then I came upon a better idea: we all love sourdough bread. If I could come up with a healthy version of that, wouldn’t that work?
As I learned, making sourdough (naturally leavened) bread is much more involved than standard (dry yeast leavened) bread. So this became a sort of challenge. It also appealed to the chemical engineer in me, which has been largely dormant since I switched to computer science as a field after college.
It took several months of reading, experimenting, and baking, but I now reliably get results that I prefer to anything I can buy. And (perhaps most importantly) the kids love it. Along the way I’ve refined my process to make the bread with minimum fuss. Though clock time is high, actual time on my part is probably around 1/2 hour per loaf.
If other people are interested, I can share how I do this. There are a lot of steps, and your bread machine can’t help, but once you’ve got it down it’s pretty straightforward. Along the way I can share some interesting historical nuggets of sourdough lore, explain some of the unique tools, as well as some of the chemistry that makes sourdough bread so uniquely delicious.