Bread

Saturday night, just before midnight, I took out my sourdough starter, added a bit of flour and left it to sit. In other words, it was a very glamorous Saturday night.

The first breads were probably made around 11.600 – 14.600 years ago, out of wild wheat, wild barley and roots. Bread is one of the oldest foods and as people settled down and started growing crops, breads of different kinds became a staple of every known human culture.

Sunday morning I added some more flour and some more water to my bubbling mixture and left it to rest for 7 hours more.

Bubbling sourdough starter

Two general types of bread; leavened and unleavened. Both are made with flour and water and as far as I know, baked somehow. It’s wild to me just how simple something so wonderful can be. Of course, various other ingredients are often used. Salt, some other seasonings, several flours, fruits, nuts, even vegetables.

Yesterday evening, I mixed all the ingredients – rye flour, semi-coarse wheat flour, more water, and spelt – but for the salt into my bubbling starter. I kneaded it all until it all stuck together and no flour was left on the bottom of the bowl and then left it to sit for an hour.

Pulla dough after mixing, pulla being a sweetened bread-like substance traditional to Finland

Various biological and chemical agents raise leavened breads. Most often the use of leavening leads to carbon dioxide in the dough, leading to the “large, irregular holes” that are the goal of any artisan bread maker. Biological leavens include yeast and sourdough starter, kefir, and various beers. The use of sourdough, for example, goes back to the days of Pliny the Elder.

After an hour, I added 20 grams of sea salt and started kneading. There’s something supremely satisfying and relaxing about kneading bread. The dough comes together almost suddenly. Where before, it was a mixture of its ingredients, suddenly, you have a proto-bread. It’s not enough to knead a sourdough bread, however. Over the next four hours on Sunday evening, I repeatedly stretched and folded the dough, letting it sit for 15-20 minutes between folds. I did 4 stretch-and-folds and then left it sit until 21:30.

Finally, last night, just before heading to bed, I took the beautiful, bouncy dough, cut it in half, formed the two halves into beautiful, bouncy loaves, wrapped them in a towel inside a proofing basket and put them in the fridge to hang out.

Rye bread loaves ready to head into the oven

Bread is important in Finnish culture. For example, it’s customary to take bread and salt to a new house, to make sure that the inhabitants never lack for food or for spice in their life. My people all come from Eastern Finland, where the dark rye bread rules, in various forms. Karelian pies being the most delicious, most widespread form.

Three hours ago I took one of my two loaves out of the fridge. I let it sit while the oven was getting hot, getting warmer in room temperature, starting to rise again. Then, when the time came, I cut two slashes in the loaf, stuck it in the oven and threw in some water after it.

Bread is civilization. Bread is home. Bread is life.

Half an hour ago I took the loaf out of the oven. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some eating to do.

The sourdough bread I’m eating tonight

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