I’m no stranger to fermentation, and enjoy making everything from beer, cider and soda to sauerkraut, kimchi and cheese. But one project has intimidated me for years: bread. This year, I decided it was time to put my fears aside and finally fulfill my dream of filling my home with the smell of sourdough.
I armed myself with books, a gloopy-looking starter and the attitude that if humans have been doing it for thousands of years, then I can, too. Despite my optimism, however, my first few dozen loaves refused to rise in the oven. No matter how many YouTube videos I watched, I was stuck in what I now refer to as “my crouton phase,” as I repurposed the failed loaves into toast for soups and salads. I decided I needed professional guidance.
Help came in the form of Patricia Davis, founder of Quail Hollow Kitchens and breadmaking maven. I attended her “Science of Bread: Intro to Sourdough Bread-Making” workshop held at the gorgeous Quail Hollow Ranch that inspired the name of her business. Over the course of three hours, Davis revealed a wealth of information on bread baking with starter—from choosing ingredients to picking tools to baking technique. The slices of warm, airy bread she offered were proof to me that she walked the walk. And she quickly identified my problem: the chlorine in the tap water I used was killing the good bacteria in my starter, inhibiting its ability to properly ferment. In the weeks since, my baking has done a complete 180.
While Davis grew up with sourdough bread and baked goods, her own enthusiasm for baking it was reawakened about five years ago when her daughter returned from Humboldt with a vigorous starter. Two years ago, she shifted the focus of her classes to sourdough bread, and now offers beginner, intermediate and advanced classes.
For Davis, there are many benefits to sourdough bread that you don’t get from other kinds of baking. “You really do get probiotics from sourdough,” she says. “There is proven literature that it remains through high temperatures of baking. The other thing you get is a sense of peacefulness. It’s very restful. It’s not a lot of kneading, but there’s a lot of touching and it’s hands on. It’s very rewarding when you bake it and you fill your house with those beautiful smells. It fulfills me. And you enjoy the health benefits.”
The “Science of Bread: Intro to Sourdough Bread-Making” workshop will be held Saturday, May 12, 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Live Oak Community Complex Center. Full schedule at quailhollowkitchens.com.