Why I Love (Baking) Sourdough

Meg LarsenMay 5, 2020

“The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight.”

 M.F.K. Fisher

I started baking sourdough almost a year and a half ago as a winter break project.  I am what you might call a hobby collector. I don’t usually stick with any one thing for very long, but instead, dive passionately into learning a new skill for a short period of time and then usually move on quite quickly. Bread-making, though, I think is here to stay.

When I started baking sourdough, Brad and I had just gotten married, and I was equally excited by the prospect of trying out all of our new cookware and showing him what an awesome wife he had landed.  Of course, my initial baking attempts quickly squashed both of those goals. First, I learned that you don’t actually need much equipment to bake bread, but some of the most useful tools that make bread-making easier, I did not in fact have, and so the Amazon boxes began arriving. Secondly, I learned that bread-baking, particularly sourdough bread baking, is a skill that can only be honed through regular experimentation and practice. As such, rather than showing my new husband what an awesome homemaker I was, I learned what an awesome husband I had married–one who would eat anything I baked, however dense, chewy, under-proofed, overbaked, or burnt it may be.  

My initial failures fueled my desire to learn more.  After scouring the internet for recipes, techniques, and tips, I discovered that one of the wildest things about sourdough (besides the yeast, of course) is that there isn’t a right way to make it.  There are hundreds, if not thousands, of ways to achieve “the perfect loaf.”  The one commonality between them all?  Practice, practice, practice.  As someone who likes to follow directions and visualize predictable outcomes, I initially found this discouraging. But what I thought would be one of the most frustrating aspects of making bread, quickly became the thing that made me love it so much. 

Being forced to experiment and tweak my loaves forced me to practice the discipline of patience and acceptance of the unknown.  Neither of these is a quality that I naturally exercise, even after a hundred bakes. But by engaging with the process and being willing to accept the results, regardless of their success or failure, I am learning and growing.  Each bake, like each day, is new and offers yet another opportunity to try to make the most of it, relish in the small victories, and laugh at the many, many mishaps. 

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