Lockdown loaves: The rise of sourdough


If something, the lockdown has engendered and sustained one social media phenomenon. And that could be a big quantity of residence baking, with the oven dragged into use each right here in India and throughout the pandemic-ridden world with virtually militant fervour. Just key within the catchphrases ‘banana bread’ or ‘chocolate chip cookies’ into any of your social media account feed searches and the following outcomes will boggle your thoughts.

But there may be one bakery merchandise specifically that singularly gobbles up a mighty chunk of the proverbial baking pie. Sourdough bread. Covering dozens of pages and a gazillion hashtags on all the things from Instagram to Pinterest, it might seem as if each Tom, Dick and Hariharan together with their next-door neighbour has secured a spot on the sourdough bread bandwagon.

So, what precisely is sourdough bread? And extra importantly, why is it so darn well-liked lately? Characterised by a nutty aroma, this tangy-tasting, extremely porous, artisanal bread has a crusty floor and is made utilizing pure yeast. All it takes is apparent flour, water and a little bit salt to make a loaf of the bread. This, versus industrial white bread, which has as many as 20 substances, together with hard-to-digest components and dough conditioners. But what makes sourdough additional particular is that it’s most certainly the primary kind of leavened bread ever created.

Like most nice innovations, sourdough bread was most likely found accidentally over 4,000 years in the past by the traditional Egyptians. There is even written proof of sourdough from hieroglyphs discovered within the pyramids, displaying individuals making beer and bread on the similar time in a kind of crossover fermentation.

Nifty starters

With no want for commercially produced yeast — an virtually unimaginable product to obtain in a lockdown — you simply require a starter in lieu. A ‘living organism’ if you’ll, that’s merely made out of a combination of water and flour.

Microbes from the atmosphere colonise the flour-water slurry, producing gut-friendly, lactic acid-generating micro organism and wild yeast that aids in leavening.

Interestingly, even right here in India, there was a practice of sourdough bread making. In Crumbs!, her well-researched ebook on bread baking, meals creator and marketing consultant Saee Koranne-Khandekar talks of a Himachali iteration of sourdough and even one made by Maharashtra’s Pathare Prabhu group, who use a starter known as gonda made out of chana dal, water and milk. “We (Indians) have an almost instinctive understanding of gluten strengths and dough consistencies. (Stiff dough for poori, loose for chapati, etc.) We also understand wild cultures that exist in our environment, thanks to all the curd setting and the idli/ dosa batter and kanji-making,” says Koranne-Khandekar.

“Sourdough bread has gained popularity because of its delightful taste. Moreover, it is a great substitute for other breads made with commercial yeast. The lockdown has encouraged people to opt for healthier options and sourdough, therefore, has become a huge social media trend,” says Amar Dwivedi, Executive Chef at Grand Mercure Gandhinagar.

There is, nevertheless, extra methodology to the obvious sourdough bread insanity. In Cooked, his seminal ebook on all issues meals, American creator Michael Pollan says that “…freshly baked bread is the ultimate olfactory synecdoche for hominess.” Making a powerful case for the healing powers of aromatherapy on temper by approach of freshly baked goodies, a 2016 research revealed in The Journal of Positive Psychology discovered that when younger adults took half in an olfactory sense-heightening exercise equivalent to baking, they felt happier and extra artistic over the next days. Truly aromatherapy for the depressed soul!

Therapeutic exercise

That is strictly why 24-year-old Gurugram resident and chef Akanksha Dean determined to swap her range high for the oven and provides baking bread a whirl. “Out of work as a chef-manager at a café, I suddenly found so much free time on hand that I decided to get into baking bread, which I find so therapeutic and depression-ridding,” says Dean, who even launched a brand new lockdown-themed baking web page on Instagram for her creations. “I particularly love the idea of sourdough bread, which is perfect these days as the starter is the sum of just two ingredients that everyone has in their pantry.”

Speaking of the sourdough starter, it has grow to be so ‘legit’ that in Silicon Valley, hipster coders at the moment are running a blog in regards to the fermentation graphs of their sourdough starters. In truth, in August final yr, Seamus Blackley, one of the co-creators of the Xbox and self-professed ‘bread nerd’, resurrected a sourdough starter courting again to historic Egypt that was made out of residual yeast scraped from the insides of damaged bits of pharaonic pottery.

Closer residence, one such aficionado is Shivam Bhatia from Bengaluru, who has been nurturing his sourdough starter for the final three weeks. “The last time I took care of anything similar was when I was a teenager in the late 1990s, when the craze of owning a virtual pet like the Japanese egg-shaped Tamagotchi was all the rage,” says the 38-year-old VFX firm proprietor. “Lockdown has given me the impetus and time to concentrate on the regular feedings that my starter needs.”

But if Bhatia had been to ever shift base to New York or Belgium, he would discover that tending to his starter needn’t be a solo pursuit. Enter the sourdough starter ‘hotel’, the place one can go away their starters at a resort the place it will likely be tended to with common feedings in case you’re travelling or indisposed. For a small price, of course.

Authentic expertise

Sourdough Inn in Brooklyn, New York, is one such “hotel for your sourdough, helping busy Brooklyn hipsters stay connected with the authentic bread experience”. The inn, which was began by Danish-born Internet entrepreneur Mathias Jakobsen, additionally gives a three-week, $60, intensive ‘training and rehabilitation’ course, the place your uncared for starter might be introduced again to life.

Jakobsen himself was impressed by one thing radical that was going down on the opposite aspect of the Atlantic. The Puratos Sourdough Library in St. Vith, Belgium not solely tends to round 125 heirloom sourdough starter samples, but additionally develops, researches and preserves the biodiversity of completely different starters for the long run.

But, simply as sourdough dethroned banana bread within the baking development wars, there appears to be one other usurper slowly nipping at sourdough’s crusty floor. And no, we aren’t talking of the commercially produced, nutritionally challenged sourdough imposter that social media has comically dubbed ‘sourfaux bread’.

Proving true the somewhat ephemeral nature of social media traits, the latest lockdown baking blitzkrieg involves us within the kind of ‘focaccia art’, the place bakers are channelling their internal Van Doughs and going all out to deck slabs of the traditional Italian flat bread with rustic pastoral scenes created utilizing contemporary herbs and greens. Any takers?

The Mumbai-based author and restaurant reviewer is captivated with meals, journey and luxurious, not essentially in that order.

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