A while back, my BFF Jenny gave me a copy of “The Art of Baking with Natural Yeast,” a book all about starting and using “sourdough starter” in baking, by Caleb Warnock & Melissa Richardson. The premise of the book is simple: the authors claim that “commercial yeast is so foreign to our bodies that many people are allergic to it. But natural yeast converts dough into a digestible, vitamin-rich food that’s free from harmful enzymes and won’t spike your body’s defenses.” They explain that almost all yeast used today was created in a lab, stating “for the first time in 6,000 years, humans are eating bread that is not made with natural yeast.” In other words, according to the authors, it isn’t the gluten that is causing so many to develop Celiac and other related digestive diseases; it is the synthetic yeasts that we ingest that are predisposing our bodies to gluten intolerance.
Jenny gave me the book because she has a daughter who has some pretty severe gluten intolerance issues and she is curious if the nutritional claims hold up in real life, but she’s just not a bread baker (her words), so she asked if I could pretty please help. Well, I’m not a great bread baker either, but I’m eager and willing to learn. And really, taking a crack at keeping a sourdough starter wasn’t a very difficult decision for me to make – first, I would walk barefoot through a fiery hot pool of bubbling butterscotch for Jenny; and second, I’ve always wanted to try sourdough from the ground up: My mother kept a sourdough starter when I was very young, and the pancakes and bread she used to make for us is are a wonderful food memory for me.
Honestly, I wish I could just write out giant chunks of Caleb and Melissa’s book – they’ve done their homework, they outline their hypothesis well, and frankly, it makes a lot of sense. But I’ll leave that to you to read if you wish and draw your own conclusions. Here, I’m just going to concentrate on sharing the natural yeast (i.e., sourdough) process – and hopefully some wonderful recipes – with you.
Getting Sourdough Starter
To aid readers in the process, when you buy the book, Caleb will mail you dry sourdough starter for the price of a self-addressed, stamped envelope. (That’s a SASE, for you aging Zoomers.) I mailed my request off and had these little babies in hand a week later.
Starting a Sourdough Starter
The directions in the book say that I need about one tablespoon of starter to “get started,” but Caleb only sent me about ½ a teaspoon, so I’m just going to push through and see what happens. I also consulted these great directions for reviving Sourdough Starter at Yumarama, and I’ll update you on the progress next week on Sourdough Tuesday.