05 October 2011

Guest Post: Meditative Sourdough Bread

Hi, guys!

 I’m the girl behind Living, Learning, Eating and I’m thrilled to get
to do a guest blog on Kelsey’s awesome site! I’m a huge fan of snacking 
and think squirrels are adorable (even the rabid ones in Boston) 
but today I’m here to talk/write about something a little different


It’s definitely an all-caps kind of word, if you know what I mean. And, for far too long, 
it was missing in my life. I grew up multi-culturally, the South African daughter of a German mother and a Zimbabwean father, and am a first-generation United States immigrant and citizen. For those of you who come from recently immigrated families 
(or even not) you might know what I mean when I say that there’s a whole lot of pressure
 to achieve. I grew up with this mantra being repeated to me daily at the breakfast table:

"Good, better, best; never, never rest; 
until the good is better, and the better is best"

Well, I took it a little too literally during my freshman fall at Harvard. Okay, a LOT too
 literally. Between studying, lecture, studying, lab, and more studying, I didn’t take any
 time to live! I didn’t socialize, barely made time to eat, didn’t go outside much (and I love 
the outdoors), didn’t write for fun, and barely slept. Needless to say, it wasn’t working out
 – I lost weight and was leading a very unhealthy lifestyle. So, despite a 3.918 GPA, I took 
the spring semester off to get healthy, gain weight, and seek some balance in my life

 And, along the way, I learned how to make a mean loaf of meditative sourdough 
bread out of just the few cheap ingredients that any college kid can afford:

Flour, water, yeast, salt  and a wee bit of oil to coat the bowl

But trust me – it’s a no-fail recipe that can take both a lot of love and 
a lot of abuse, and everyone that I’ve fed it to (including myself) agrees 
that it's one of the tastiest loaves out there. Even the Germans – which 
is saying something, as they are the Kings/Queens of Bread ;)

Meditative Sourdough Bread
created by Living Learning, Eating

Step 1:     Stir together ½ cup of all-purpose flour, ½ cup
 of warm water, and 1/8 tsp instant dry yeast in a large bowl

Step 2:    Let sit, covered, in a warm place for 4 to 6 hours…or until you
remember that you were baking bread. ;) This is the sourdough starter

     Step 3: Mix in 2 cups of all-purpose flour and ¾ cup 
warm water. Mix until smooth. This is the sourdough sponge

    Step 4: Let rise, covered, for 4 to 8 hours in a warm place
 (or for up to 20 hours in a cooler place – like your garage)

Step 5:    Add 1.5 cups of all-purpose flour and 2 tsp of salt. You don’t add
the salt until this step, because it reduces the activity of the yeast! Knead for 8 to
10 minutes on a clean counter top, until the dough is elastic with small bubbles

This is the meditative step!

Take advantage of these minutes of monotonous kneading to relax and clear your 
mind, or to try and work out something that you've been thinking about. It’s super 
awesome for dealing with issues, because you have a physical vent (kneading and 
punching the dough) while you think about uncomfortable things. It was while 
kneading a loaf of sourdough that I decided to take another semester off to intern in a
 German hospital and see if medicine is what’s right for me. Right now, it looks like it is!

 Step 6:   Roll the dough ball around in an oil-coated bowl until all surfaces are covered.
Let rise, covered with a kitchen towel, for about an hour, or until it has doubled in size

 Step 7: Punch down. Drape the kitchen towel in the bowl and sprinkle
light layer of flour over it. Turn the dough ball over itself until you have a nice 
loaf and put the loaf, seam side up, in the bowl. Flip the ends of the towel over 
the loaf and let rise in a warm place for about 45 minutes, or until doubled

  Step 8: Upend the loaf, carefully, out of the bowl and onto a greased 
baking sheet. Slice three diagonal slashes, about ½ inch deep, into the 
surface of the loaf. This helps the loaf bake evenly and makes it prettier! :P

Step 9: Slide a tray of boiling water into the bottom rack of your oven (preheated 
to 425F). Splash the walls of the oven with water and quickly close the oven door. 
With the tray (with the bread) in one hand, quickly open the oven again and slide 
the bread in. Enjoy your free facial, but don’t get too close – steam is HOT!

Step 10: Splash the walls of the oven ever four minutes, or so, for the first 15 minutes
 as the bread bakes. This makes that nice, chewy crust that artisan breads are famous for!

Step 11: Turn the oven temperature down to 375F and bake for another 25 
min, or until the loaf is golden and sounds hollow when you tap it on the bottom

   Step 12: Cool, then enjoy warm with butter (not nut butter, not margarine 
butter. It’s delicious! You can eat it with jam/PB later, but the first warm 
slice has to be eaten like in the Good Olde Days – it’s a rustic loaf, after all)

I always feel like I’ve been transported to the medieval ages when I make this
 bread (ignore the anachronism of the oven) and like to pretend I’m a happy
peasant. I mean, true, they probably weren't all that happy with their potato 
famines, low life expectancy, wars, etc. But that’s why it’s called pretending ;)

Oh, and I realize that the loaf is made with white flour, but white flour isn’t evil :P 
As long as you’re also getting your 3 servings of whole grains a day (which it seems most
of you are) there’s no harm in some white bread or pasta now and then. You won’t die! 
In fact, the opposite – because since when is orthorexia balanced and healthy?

Have a lovely, healthy, balanced day! 


Shannon @ Healthiful Balance said... [reply]

Great guest post!
That bread looks soo good! I need to try it sometime soon!! Thanks for sharing! <3

Anonymous said... [reply]

wow! That is a beautiful loaf of bread- it looks perfect!

Jen @ Light Enough to Travel said... [reply]

This bread looks so amazing, and pretty easy to make! I always thought there was some kind of vinegar in sourdough. Where does the sour part come in? Is it a byproduct of the yeast?

Jenny @ Simply Be...me said... [reply]

We love sourdough bread in our house but I have always been scared to try and bake it myself. This recipe looks simple enough and I can't wait to try it out - thanks :)

Joanne said... [reply]

Yes, balance definitely deserves to be in all caps! I find bread making to be super meditative so I definitely need to try this!

Kelsey said... [reply]

What a great post. BALANCE certainly is a very important concept. You are a smart young woman to have figured this out so early in life. I hope you are now much easier on yourself, knowing what YOUR best is and recognizing when you've done that. Life isn't about comparison, for me. I think it's more about being able to lay your head down at night knowing you did what you could do.

Living, Learning, Eating said... [reply]

Thanks, everyone! :)

Jolene - EverydayFoodie said... [reply]

That bread looks absolutely PERFECT. I am SO impressed, and WILL be trying this as soon as I am done classes and have a little bit of time on my hands (or hopefully before). Thanks for sharing this wonderful recipe with us :-)

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