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“Sour Grapes” on Sourdough

Updated: Apr 3



There would be no surprise if you thought this was going to be a very interesting, or very bad recipe for sourdough bread. After all, I suspect that among the hundreds of thousands of different recipes for sourdough, at least one of them includes sour grapes. I would bet on that, with cash…and win!


No, I will never create a sourdough recipe for two reasons. One reason is that I don’t care for sourdough breads - at least not any I have eaten. The other reason is that sourdough bread has become, to some bakers, a false idol, the be-all and end-all of breadmaking. It is on a pedestal, where it doesn’t belong. Do I have sourdough issues, you ask? Yes, I do, but none that keep me awake at night. Just daytime pet-peeves. Enough, though, for me to write this silly epistle. 


Sourdough bread has been slowly sneaking up on our modern society over millennia. Do you know why it came about? The answer is simple: People wanted to eat nice bread. Compared to when sourdough baking began, here’s a much more modern example of people using natural or sourdough leaven. In the US, and I quote from the US-based  King Arthur Baking Company website, “Gold was discovered in northern California in 1848, and the rush was on. Hungry miners developed naturally fermented "sourdough" as a way to bake bread.” 

No - they were absolutely not the first to develop the starter, but they were in a position to discover it for themselves. Do you know why that happened? I would assume it was pretty simple: Some hungry and hard working people wanted to eat bread and they figured out how to do it to help feed themselves. Given the period in history, perhaps one of the miners had heard his wife, at some point, talk about her “darn starter not doin’ too good in this cold darn cabin. Go git me some wood, Jedidiah, if ya wanna eat!” 


I doubt if these gold miners decorated the dough prior to baking and surely they didn’t upload photos of it to the internet to show off to the world. They simply wanted something to soak up the gravy from their rabbit stew and help fill their bellies.


Moving well forward in time and history, circa 2020, AD 


The sourdough starter completely blew the top off the jars during the Covid lockdown. Suddenly, folks that had never baked a loaf of bread in their lives felt they had to create a starter, mix their dough either in their $500 mixer, or by hand (bless their hearts), proof it using one of the ‘newest and greatest’ methods invented by folks on the internet, dump a quarter inch of flour over the top, gussy-up the dough with fancy scores while not having the slightest idea the purpose of a basic score, pop it in the oven at the recently discovered best baking temperature for a super-crunchy crust, capable of causing deep lacerations to the mouth, bake it in the best container, for the ultimate baking time, so that it reaches somewhere just below the point of combustion.


 “Oh my…look at that ear! Where’s my phone!?” 

“Uh, but how did the bread taste?” 

“How should I know? I bake it, I snap it, then go online and look at likes.”


Let us peek back at fonder days during the pandemic, where we meet our

Baker-to-Be, named Baker


“Hmm, I can’t leave home, I think I’ll bake bread”, mused Baker. “But, I can’t bake bread until I leave home and get flour and that stuff that makes it fluffy.” 


Later, at the packed and practically bare-shelved grocery store...


“Hi, where do you keep the flour? I’m going to make my own bread while I’m stuck at home during this Covid thingy.”

  

“You and a thousand other people in the store are doing that same thing. Flour’s in aisle 5 if there’s any left.”

 

“Thanks. Say, where do you keep the stuff that makes it fluffy?”


“Fluffy?” asked the store worker, “That’s my cat’s name. 😄” 


Later that day... 


Our baker-to-be did, by sheer luck, obtain the flour and the bread “fluffing” material, which was probably the last package of Fleischman’s yeast in the store. (Little did Baker know it wouldn’t be necessary - yet)


Baker arrived home and went online searching for ‘how to bake bread at home while stuck here for a week or two until the Covid thingy goes away.’ (once more - little did Baker know) Upon entering the search, this, dear friends was Google’s result: 

About 1,240,000,000 results (that’s 1.24 billion results - with a B) I was quite pleased to find that a Google search for dogs resulted in 7,210,000,000 results. Very heartwarming.


Now, the very first link on the page was from King Arthur Baking Company, a major US baking and flour company. In one form or another, it has been around since 1790. The link, entitled ‘The Easiest Loaf of Bread You'll Ever Bake Recipe’ would have been a great link for our new baker to choose. Only five ingredients, and the recipe did include the “fluffing” ingredient. Baker would have had the experience of measuring/weighing ingredients, and importantly, not owning a mixer, Baker would have had the wonderful experience of mixing and kneading the bread by HAND! Actually putting hands on the dough and getting down and dirty; getting a feel of dough as it goes through its fluffy changes. 


However, a bit nervous about the first bake, our baker-to-be kept browsing the 1.24 billion links. Baker stumbled upon a recipe for sourdough bread. And this is where it all went wrong for our noble baker-to-be. 


Baker gazed upon loaf after loaf of sourdough bread; all shapes, sizes and colors, some rather basic, others covered in decorative patterns. Baker’s eyes slowly closed, then Baker started humming “We are the world, we are the children.”, while envisioning wall carvings deep in an ancient cave. “Eureka! I’ve found it! I choose to join the rest of the world’s bakers in baking sourdough bread and making life a little bit brighter for all! And it’s so pretty I can put it up on my Instagram page and get lots of hearts! Yay!”


Taste was never a consideration in our baker’s thought process.


Three days later...


Friends and family of Baker hadn’t heard a peep from our baker in days. Finally, a nearby friend, a very brave soul, suited-up in Covid-proof garb, a t-shirt pulled up over nose and mouth, and went out on a search and rescue mission. 


Our Baker-to-be was found in the kitchen, slumped on the floor, back against a cabinet. Flour, wet and lumpy, covered every square inch of Baker. The floor was slick with something wet. There were bowls and jars, buckets and glasses everywhere in the house with a weird, gooey substance in them. The gurgling kitchen sink was beyond description, though the colors were fascinating. ‘I’m gonna take a picture of that and put it on Facebook’, thought our hero. 


Hero finally approached Baker, who, from the slight chest movement, was apparently still among the living.

 

“Baker! Baker! It’s me, Hero. What happened? Did the Covid get you? Do you wish to clear your conscience? I’m no clergy, but you won’t get any of them out in this pandemic thingy!”


Baker began mumbling, “Starter sourdough starter water stir flour days discard add cover flour sit days …I just wanted to bake, bake bread, pretty sourdough bread, the world, the people, Instagram, Facebook, pretty” 


“Oh, sourdough bread? Cool!” says Hero, “Any left? I’m starving and I ran out of my favorite rye. Hey, you gonna be ok, Baker? I really have to go get something to eat.”


The moral of this story? There is none...


And so, our Baker-to-be made the choice to jump directly into the deep end of the baking pool and couldn’t even tread water. What do you want out of baking? Pretty sourdough bread? Likes on social media? Perhaps you want to learn how to bake starting with the basics, learn what works and what doesn’t based upon centuries of trial and error. Maybe you simply want a good tasting loaf of bread, one that you can count on every time you bake it. You can choose any of the former; it’s your bake, your choice. 


In my case, the taste of the bread is the most important feature. Coming in second is the texture, the so-called mouth feel. Baking bread, then of course, eating it, can be very satisfying. I remember one of my best tasting bakes, which occurred the first time I baked using a Dutch oven. I used only the four basic ingredients of bread, yet it smelled amazing, tasted great and yes, looked great in its slightly wild form. By then, I had baked for years and knew the basics. I only had to adjust the baking container and the oven temperature.


For me, that is what baking is about - the enjoyment and satisfaction of a nicely baked loaf of bread. And of course, one can have that satisfaction using a well tested sourdough recipe or any other type of bread you choose bake. Baker’s choice.


 

Author’s Note: The above is part opinion piece, farce, bad comedy, autobiography and not least, a venting rant against people who don’t really know what they are doing, trying to sell themselves in some form or other online, whether for notoriety, money or simply likes. Please note, this site is ad-free and for better or worse, done out of our love for bread baking at home, where we make the choices of what, when and how. We hope you are able to do the same. Go ahead and bake your sourdough bread. I hope it comes out great, inside and out. Just, please, please - don’t start a YouTube channel based on how to bake sourdough bread. There are already 1.24 Billion sites to choose from. Bake on!


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16 Comments


Unknown member
Feb 26

That article is where uninformed people just go nuts without a shell. My favorite is the "Sourdough Starter from San Francisco gold miners" and claim it has the same flavor, hahahahah.

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Unknown member
Feb 26
Replying to

Yup, they've since found that the San Francisco lactobacilli are found world wide.

Sigh.

But let's not spoil a good Urban bread legend. 😁

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Unknown member
Feb 24

It's everywhere!

The loons have taken over the asylum!

https://www.theguardian.com/food/2024/feb/24/how-a-tiktok-clip-led-demand-for-177-year-old-sourdough-starter-to-rise

Within a few feeds local microbes replace those of a bought leaven.

These people are buying a jar of nothing.

I'm going to shut my curtains and put a notice on my door.

"If it's about Sourdough - I'm out."


Blimey, it's enough to turn me over to using yeast!

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Unknown member
Feb 24
Replying to

new suckers are born every day it seems......

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Unknown member
Feb 23

I had to look twice at the author to make sure it wasn't me! The way you wrote this is exactly the way I feel and felt, it isn't even funny! I remember going into Sam's Club (before I discovered KA flour) during Covid for 25 lbs of bread flour, and it was all gone. I asked the clerk where it was, and he said, "A bunch of people who have no idea what they are doing are buying the flour, and they don't even know how to bake bread!" and laughed his head off.

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Unknown member
Feb 24
Replying to

When Covid happened and I got the last bag of flour I put a big ribbon on it and photo'd it for my site.... feeling like I had won first prize .. and, then, I contacted all of my neighbours and told them that if they weren't using their flour I'd buy it or if they felt generous they could give it to me and I'd share whatever I baked with them. I still needed to bake muffins even if bread was becoming a non factor...there was still bread at the grocery store even if there wasn't any flour ... which was stupid.... people!! go figure! ..



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Unknown member
Feb 23

Gary...good to know. 🥖

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Unknown member
Feb 23

hahahhahah....I laughed my head off reading this Philip..... I definitely see the autobiographical bit.....

I've baked for ages too, although I must admit I was always a Fleischmann's girl when it came to breads .....and I usually bake things other than breads. However, recently I have become intrigued enough to make my own "starter" and give sourdough a try..... thank goodness I waited until after the Covid 'thingy' to do it.

I doubt I'll make too many sourdough loaves done in a Dutch Oven at blistering heat settings and being hard, crusty and mostly unusable for toast. We do love our morning toast with coffee and just enjoy my regular bread which is the right size, shape and texture fo…


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Unknown member
Feb 23
Replying to

Well, thank you. Yes, it was easy to picture our 'baker-to-be' collapsed in the kitchen surrounded by vats of goo. 🚫

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