Unexpectedly, I’ve become completely entranced by the world of baking sourdough bread after reluctantly dipping into FODMAPs. This is my new favourite hobby. It’s a bit weird. I actually stopped eating bread. Health reasons or not, I was just over it. North American bread is very much like flavourless cardboard, especially after it’s sat in the store for a few weeks. Why even bother? I rather save my calories and carbs for cookies and cake.
Then, I finally got a family doctor in Quebec! I’ve lived here 6 years at that point, and I probably procrastinated on applying for one until about 3 years in because I wasn’t sure we were going to stay (that’s really up in the air still but have to act like we’re staying to get on with life). I spent a year learning French through classes and I’ve fallen in love with this city… the other day someone asked me a few facts and I went off for an hour about all the random trivia I now know about Montreal. Some of the things people hate about this city is exactly why I love it; the crazy chaos in particular.
Sourdough Bread and The FODMAPs Diet
So yes, I got a doctor. After over a decade, I finally had a doctor that wanted to look into all the digestive problems I suffer through. She sent me to a nutritionist and I was put on the FODMAPs diet. At first, it felt depressing. The diet involves removing all foods with complex carbs to give the body a much needed break, then reintroducing them slowly until the culprits that cannot be digested properly is discovered. This meant not eating bread, not eating any wheat products for over a month.
Well, I was allowed a one-slice ration of multi-grain bread…which tasted like…flavourless cardboard. I felt hungry all the time because carbs, whether in bread or sugar or vegetable form, are a huge source of energy. I was going a little nuts, so I researched what I could do and then I found a working theory that sourdough bread is easier to digest than regular bread. The reason sourdough bread is easier to digest is because, theoretically, the bacteria and yeast have already done half the work for you – kind of like yogurt.
There’s plenty of debate on the hot topic, but long story short… I like sourdough bread and my FODMAPs diet lead to the discovery that my body hates onions. Please don’t feed me onions. I have not had onions in over a year and I don’t miss them. Naturally, I didn’t really like them… it’s like my body was trying to tell me to stop eating them in the first place.
The Joy of Baking Sourdough Bread
What makes baking sourdough bread so satisfying? It’s many things.
- It’s chemistry. It’s like a science project in your kitchen that you can eat later. It can be very technical, or very intuitive, or teach you to use both…because trust me, following the rule book isn’t a guarantee it will work out and you definitely cannot just wing it.
- If you’re not good at staying present and find your mind wander and overthinking or overfeeling often, then it’s good meditative activity. What I enjoy most is that it makes me let go of thoughts and calm down, focus on the present moment. It’s like a dough therapist. There’s been many, many moments this past year I had the dough show me I was in too deep, distracted, upset and consequently overworked and destroyed my dough, ending up with a few doorstops. Doorstops are the manifestation of bad feelings and thoughts.
- It’s slow and challenging. Unlike regular bread which is ready in a couple hours, sourdough bread takes…days. At least in Canada, it takes days because of the cold winter air. My ambient temperature (with heating) is 21C. You don’t know if it’s going to work until you baked it, so it’s suspenseful. There’s many different variables that can cause it to fail: temperature, water content, flour, your technique. There is emotional lows when it fails, and big emotional highs when it works. It tests your mental resilience.
It’s such an involved process, naturally you must name your starter like your pet. My first starter (RIP) was named Jerries, after Jerry Seinfeld but plural because there’s more than one yeast in the jar. My current starters are named Elaine, Costanza, and Jerry II.
Want to try baking your own sourdough bread?
I’m writing a sourdough bread article series because I get asked so many questions and I want you to enjoy this weird hobby too. In the next posts, I will link to resources and things I learned to demystify the process and show you my failed sourdough bread loaves. Stay tuned.