It's complicated, part deux

especially in the case of sourdough

Just taught the second round of my “Sourdough Lifestyle” class this past weekend, and while it’s improving with each session, I’m starting to realize that it may be too much to ask to cram all aspects of the process into a 3-hour class. Obviously 3 hours isn’t long enough to cover everything everything, but I’m trying to thread a needle through all the key aspects of sourdough baking, especially those that a) are generally hard to wrap one’s head around (like desired dough temperature) or b) are best conveyed through demonstration and conversation rather than text (like shaping and fermentation). I'd hoped that the class could also serve as a general introduction to sourdough baking for absolute beginners, but I think that there’s just too much slightly-advanced information to convey without a beginner’s eyes quickly glazing over. This particular class is really best suited for someone who has had enough experience with sourdough that they get the basic gist of things, but maybe have bumped up against roadblocks to consistent success and/or they are ready to take their sourdough baking to the next level.

I think I’d like to offer a separate class for people who have yet to dip their toes into the sourdough ocean and want someone to walk them through the process before they wade in. If that’s something that might interest you, please let me know, so I can gauge interest in it. (It won’t cover the ins-and-outs of how to start a starter from scratch, but I’d make sure you knew how to get and how to get it into tip-top shape before attempting your first loaf.)

The more I think about all this the more I realize that of all styles of bread, sourdough is particularly resistant to simplification. As I said in my previous post about the fractal nature of bread baking, the closer you look at it, the more questions that arise. And while—provided you have a robust starter— you can make perfectly pleasing loaves with minimal effort some of the time, you really won’t get consistent results until you start to pay closer attention to the more variable aspects of the process—things like starter activity, dough and ambient temperatures, and the signs of proper bulk fermentation. Those are exactly the sorts of things I try to go into in greater detail in the class (and here in future posts).

If you are one of those people who feels like they want to take their sourdough baking to the next level but have struggled to, I hope you’ll consider taking the class, I think you’ll find it helpful. There’s another session coming up on 5/15, and so far there are only a handful of people signed up, so it’s likely to be a more intimate group than previous ones.

—Andrew