We spend so much time trying to protect ourselves and our families from various microbes and the ensuing spoilage that they can cause that most of us probably do not stop and think about the wonders that they also produce. Imagine life without fermentation, If you are a regular reader of this space, chances are that is a very scary proposition.
Fermentation is really nothing more than complex organic substances being broken down into simpler ones. This process gives off waste products; sweet, sweet, delicious, intoxicating waste products. The process of fermentation gives us some of the most amazing food and drink on earth. Without it there is no wine, no beer, no cheese, and no bread.
I have seen the process of wine making quite a few times. Beer making is an on-again /off-again hobby of mine. However, nothing illustrates the fermentation process more clearly than the act of making bread. Four simple ingredients; flour, yeast, salt and water, combine to make the staff of life.
Bread making is my latest obsession. Some nights I lay awake thinking about it. Many days I have to push thoughts of bread out of my head so that I can work. Learning to bake bread is an on-going process, and I make mistakes quite often, but one of the greatest things about bread baking is that even the mistakes are delicious.
What inspired this obsession? I am a culinary school drop-out. I finished almost all of the cooking classes and mainly had other non-food related classes to take. The one major area of cooking that I did not study was baking, and it has felt like unfinished business for all of these years. One day I decided to see what it took to make a sourdough starter and ever since have been feeding my starter twice a day like a cherished pet, my clothes always have a dusting of flour, and my forearms look like Popeye’s from all of the kneading.
Here are some photos of the results of a few of my recent experiments in fermentation.