How falling in love with a loaf of bread changed my life. True story.
Phantom aromas of the ripening Starter follow me into the car, into the office, into my day like a wild perfume.
The dough – soft, round, smooth, silky. Plump. Exquisite.
The crust crackles out of the oven like a sticky, chewy fire.
It’s just bread right?
That’s what I also thought until June 2008 when I stayed at Le Puits d’Angle, a small B&B inside a tiny walled village, an hour out of Paris, surrounded by wheat fields, where an unassuming loaf (below) changed the course of my life.
It was before iPhones gave people like me photographic superpowers. It was also breakfast. Brewed coffee, it’s ok. Toast, jam, yoghurt. It wasn’t bacon and eggs but it was France and my husband and I were about to train the 1-hour journey into Paris, the city of love.
But we hadn’t even left our B&B when we discovered that some of the most luxurious things in life can also be the most unassuming. Even in France.
Soft. Sticky. Chewy. Complex. Simple.
Cream cheese and jam? It’s all that was on the table, but it was good and we found ourselves in love.
The next 48 hours in Paris was stunning, we saw all the must-do’s Eiffle Tower, Champs Elysees, Notre Dame, tiny cars and insane parking, but we were seriously motivated to get back to our out-of-town B&B for one last breakfast and cross fingers… another slice of that bread.
This was the beginning of our travel tradition and our new life as bread snobs. Sorry! But from here on bread had to have texture and flavour and we are talking about back in the days of 2008. Australian supermarkets and bakeries were not selling much more than processed white or traditional wholemeal. Yeast, preservatives and all!
Europe had changed since I first visited in the late 90’s. Within that short decade, Asian imports had replaced local manufacturing and small boutiques were overshadowed by UK and USA brands. The sophisticated European wardrobe planned for returning luggage was no longer on the agenda. It was here we decided to take home things that would become part of our lifestyle instead. Like eating good bread.
So kicking off this new tradition, I set out to make sourdough. I emailed Le puits d’angle to find out what kind of bread it was we’d fallen in love with. ‘Daily Bread’ was the reply. There was nothing special about it. But there was. To this day, I don’t think it was a sourdough loaf but perhaps made from poolish. It was however fermented in some way due to the complexity of flavour.
I bought bread flour from the supermarket and researched how to make sourdough starter. I was intrigued. Magically, I would be collecting wild yeast from my own kitchen to create a one-of-a-kind sourdough culture. It was going to be easy! And from the moment of love at first bite… I was ready to taste France again.
Fast forward a year and a half… Yes, 18 long months, countless bags of flour and not one successful loaf, I was feeling defeated. Many tears had been wiped away, along with loads of non-bubbling goo that was thrown into the garbage. I had discovered that flour isn’t flour. Even if it says so on the packet and you can buy it in the baking aisle. Sourdough culture needs a certain amount of protein to rise bread and anything less, results in rock cakes. So I hit the research treadmill again. Could I buy such flour in Australia?
I found a company more than 2,500kms away, in Queensland who sells all things ‘bread’. www.basicingredients.com.au Fortunately, they sold online, home-delivered and they stocked flour with the right amount of protein for sourdough bread making.
This was a second-chance-beginning in my sourdough love-story.
Having the right ingredients was worth more than any technique I was unable to master. The process worked instantly.
Since those days several things have happened.
I’ve made black activated charcoal loaves, red loaves, green spinach loaves, large loaves, small loaves. Because I can. I guess I just love the art of it.
I still haven’t mastered the elusive French baguette but working on it.
I’ve also made the process easy. I promise… there was no other way it was going to stick in my day-to-day.
If you’re inspired to bake your own Love Story sourdough loaves at home and join countless others who are doing the same, search this site for all things sourdough and you’ll find everything you need to know to bake your own beautiful loaves, the easy way.
Oh. And don’t worry if they’re not perfect. The process of making, smelling, tasting and sharing your own loaves, regardless of what they look like, is beautiful. It is its own form of perfection.