Traditional sourdough bread…in some not-so-traditional forms


Ahhh…glorious sourdough bread. When I considered traditional sourdough bread with Bow Narrows in mind, I had heard many times that it would be healthier bread for all of us. I was a bit skeptical. Years of gluten-intolerance…wheat had been the enemy. So I read and read and read. And then I took the plunge…I bought my first sourdough starter, a San Francisco one. I have to confess, my first loaves were just…ugly. Ugly bread. But loaf after loaf, they started to look better as I refined my technique and recipe. And you know what? We found we could eat sourdough bread, pancakes, tortillas, etc. and not suffer our usual reactions! So here is what’s going on in the amazing story of sourdough.

Not all sourdough bread is created equal. Some is called sourdough but is really just made with yeast packets and some sour flavoring. Blech. Traditional sourdough is made with sourdough starter, and it ferments/rises for many hours. And the beauty of this? Is that while its rising, it is breaking down the gluten and doing all sorts of wonderful things like adding vitamins in the process. So its more digestible, healthier and is literally the best-tasting bread ever. I hear this over and over when people try it for the first time. One guest, on her last breakfast with us this year, even said, “We are going to miss your sourdough!” So its the real deal when there’s no yeast packet. In fact, yeast packets weren’t even invented until the early 1900s. Sourdough it was until that time.

Another interesting part of the history of sourdough bread is that miners from the gold rushes in the 1800s relied on their sourdough starter to get them through the tough times. They kept some starter going, and all they needed was flour and water to have supper that night. When a starter is initially made from flour and water, it is naturally gathering wild yeast and good bacteria from the air around it. The San Francisco sourdough in particular has a wild yeast in it that can only be found in San Francisco. It’s what gives it that world-reknown flavor. So starters can be bought from all over the world, and each one will have its own unique flavor due to that region’s wild yeast and bacteria.

Sourdough starter in a bowl, dough ready for baking and the finished loaves cooling

So this is how sourdough came to Bow Narrows Camp with us. Our first year of making it was well-received, and I am so glad our guests enjoyed it as much as we do. As the season went on, I became a sourdough opportunist and was able find time to make more loaves than at the beginning. It will be back next year. We’ll be breaking wild-yeast sourdough bread with you at Bow Narrows for a long time to come.

— Joanne