First of all, it took me all day yesterday to figure out why no one was commenting on yesterday’s post. I felt forgotten. Ignored (just kidding). Then, I realized I’d managed to turn comments off by mistake. Sorry! If you’d still like to comment on my thoughts that came when immediate gratification had gone, I’d love to hear. But let's move forward…
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that I went from quietly pursuing the No Impact project to suddenly being caught up in a media whirlwind (not of my own making, by the way). At times, it’s been stressful. But you want to know what one of the great consolations has been? Making bread.
No matter how many newspapers or radio shows want to talk to me, I still have to feed my family. That means, sooner or later, I have to get back to the kitchen, measure out some flour and water, and start kneading.
I make the bread because, although I can buy local flour (see reasons for local eating here), I can’t find anyone who bakes bread with said local flour. So I roll up my sleeves and do it myself.
And the thing is that this quiet, non-cerebral activity has provided much needed space in my life. It’s a break. It’s one of those things that takes the rhythm and slows it right down to what it’s supposed to be. It helps me remove myself from the high-speed tempo of the Blackberry culture.
Since we switched off the mains electricity and have only the one solar panel for power, I found myself complaining that I couldn’t afford the electric juice to run the wireless modem. I was upset because I could no longer bring the computer to bed. What was I doing taking my computer to bed anyway?!
I’m not a Luddite, but before this project began, I had begun to let technology run my life rather than the other way around. Just because technology allows us to go at a breakneck speed doesn’t mean we should. That’s why making bread is such a consolation. It’s a way to stop, to take a break, to just, well, knead the bread.
So I’m giving here the recipe for the sourdough bread I make. Many people have emailed me and asked for it. This is it: homemade, take-a-break-from-technology, follow-the-slow-path, whole-wheat, sourdough bread (adapted, by the way, from Sandor Ellix Katz’s Wild Fermentation).
- First, make the starter. Vigorously mix two cups each of water and flour in a jar. Cover with cloth and store somewhere warm, stirring once a day. After a few days, you’ll see some tiny bubbles on the top. You’ve got active yeast. Time to make some bread! Remember, if you’re going to do this more than once, always keep a little starter to which you’ll add more flour and water.
- Pour two cups starter and two cups lukewarm water into a bowl. Mix in four cups whole wheat flour. You should have a soupy mess—what is called a “sponge.” Cover it with a wet cloth and put somewhere warm for between eight and 24 hours. Stir with a spoon when you remember.
- When the sponge is bubbly, mix in a teaspoon of salt and about four more cups of flour. You’ll know when you’ve added enough flour when it is too stiff to stir. Throw the dough on a floured counter and knead for about ten minutes, until it fights back a little when you poke it with your finger. Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover it with a damp cloth, and let it rise in a warm spot for a few hours. It’s done when it’s at least 50 percent bigger than it was.
- Break the dough into two loaves. Knead them each of a few moments and put them in greased bread pans. Let them rise again for an hour or two.
- Preheat the oven to 400˚F and bake for about 40 minutes. To test for doneness, remove the bread from the pan, and tap the bottom. It should have a deep drum-like sound, as if it’s hollow. If it doesn’t, cook a while more.
- When it’s done, wait 15 minutes before you cut it. It’s still cooking.
- PS If you’re going to do this again, don’t forget to keep your starter from dying. Replenish it with a cup or two each of flour and water and stir. Mix in another tablespoon of flour every day to keep it fed.
This post also appears in my Green Parenting column for Time Out New York Kids, appearing every Wednesday. For resources on eco-friendly stores and restaurants, or simply to plan a weekend outing, visit them at tonykids.com.
Colin Beavan (that's me!) is now leading a conversation about finding a happy, helpful life at Colinbeavan.com. If you want to know how people are breaking out and and finding authentic, meaningful lives that help our world, check it out the blog here and sign up to join the conversation here.