One beautiful weekend, I happened to watch a Netflix Original series, Cooked featuring this amazing American author, journalist and activist who is also a professor of journalism at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, Michael Pollan. This show is about how we humans as species have regressed in terms of our food habits by letting a whole industry decide what we eat and not our palate. The show throws light on the four basic elements of nature which primarily constitute any food—Air, Water, Fire and Earth.
In one of the episodes i.e. Air, which is on the origins of bread-making, I was introduced to this special kind of bread- The Sourdough bread. Until this day, all that I knew was white bread and whole grain bread. The name, Sourdough, itself sounded very interesting. To explain more about The Sourdough Bread, Pollan interviewed one of the famous bakers of New England, Richard Bourdon at Berkshire Mountain Bakery, Housatonic, Massachusetts.
What is Sourdough bread?
Bread, traditionally used to be made with only 3 ingredients—flour, water and salt. By mixing the three in right proportions, the dough is well kneaded and made to rest for a couple of hours allowing it to breathe the naturally available yeast in the air. Once the dough has risen well, it is baked to obtain a nice and fluffy bread. But today, commercially available bread is not made using this technique but is made using commercially available yeast.
Bread vs. Sourdough bread
Regardless of whether bread is made using commercial yeast or natural yeast, the dough rises. In the former, there is no fermentation of the dough whereas in the latter, there is. The advantage of fermentation is that, wheat gluten which is otherwise very taxing on our digestive system is broken down to simpler molecules during fermentation thus making digestion and absorption easy.
Berkshire Mountain Bakery
Having watched this show, I was very curious to try it out myself and hence drove 105 miles to this place from my home. As I pushed the door in, the aroma of fresh bread flooded my nostrils keeping me arrested there for good 20 minutes. Selecting from the vast variety of breads was a tough decision but finally managed to buy the following—Medium vegan pizza, French peasant bread and Chocolate-Bread Ciabatta.
Back home, I baked the pizza in 450 degree Farenheit for 15-20 minutes. The very first bite was enough to give a fitting testimonial to the kind of products what BMB makes. Every bite was so fulfilling with saliva flooding from all sides of the mouth to transform the tiny piece of pizza/bread/ciabatta into a fluid of sugars. On the contrary, with the commercial bread, I would have had to gulp glasses of water to flush every piece down the throat.
From watching the show to tasting the Sourdough bread, every minute was worth spending. Thanks to Pollan and Bourdon for opening a whole new world before me.
P.S. In South India too, buns are made using somewhat same technique.