We have always baked bread in our home but it used to have to ebb and flow with the busyness of our schedules. Until this year – when home and work and rest and play all blurred together in a surreal landscape of golden fog and ominous shadow, stretching indefinitely into the horizon. In this place, baking bread has, in turn, become our daily rhythm — simultaneously a beautiful luxury and a grounding grace.
I started baking bread a few years ago with a desire to reclaim the artisan, homemade and slowness of intentional living. I wanted to push back against the mindless consumerism of modern and mass-produced goods, in every area of life. I wanted to return to a more wholesome, nourishing way of making bread, an everyday staple, that generations of people have relied on for hundreds of years.
But, what the practice of baking bread (and especially sourdough bread) ended up giving me was so much more.
As we traversed different seasons of life, the art, science and rhythm of baking bread followed. Even in the deep valleys of life, when life ruthlessly went on despite the pain and the grief of the present, the pillars of normalcy and the beautifully mundane were only a mixing bowl away.
In the making, the kneading, the baking and the sharing was a reminder to all who wander or feel lost that home is always there.
Because empires rise. cities burn. And yet, we have to get on with the business of living — loving, praying, eating, working, reading, dancing, growing, forgiving. The world doesn’t stop for us; it doesn’t heed our little novels. It spins like mad, and you can either plant your feet or get flung into space. It’s in those moments, most of all, that I have to sink my hands into the earth and hang on. It’s in those moments that I have to live deeply, slowly and honestly.
So, bake bread.
Share it, be nourished by it; whether in calm seas or chaos.
“The process of baking sourdough is sensuous and nurtures both mind and body, and requires a thoughtful and spiritual approach. Artistic and scientific, it is a combination of passion, patience, dedication and craftsmanship. It is about connection, touch, smell, taste, sight, heart and mind.” (Vanessa Kimbell)
Courtney Mielle's White/Spelt Sourdough Loaf Ingredients: 255g | white baker's flour (85%) 45g | wholemeal spelt flour (15%) 250g | filtered water (83%) 60g | levain (20%) 6g | pink himalayan salt (2%) & any additional add-ins (my favourites are olives, walnuts and poppy seeds!) Method: 1. Add levain to the water and use hands to mix until levain is mostly dissolved. 2. Add both types of flour and use a spatula to mix until well-combined (no dry spots!). 3. Cover and leave to rest for 2 hours (autolyse). 4. Add salt to the dough. Using wet hands, mix the salt into the dough until well-incorporated. 5. Let rest for 1 hour to begin bulk fermentation. 6. Perform a coil fold. Cover and let rest for 45 minutes to 1 hour. 7. Repeat step 6 as needed to develop sufficient strength and extensibility in the dough. I usually repeat it 3-4 times, depending on the temperature of my kitchen. Add in a lamination stage if including add-ins. 8. After around 5 hours (or more/less, depending on temperature of my kitchen), gently turn the dough out onto a floured surface. 9. Pre-shape the dough. Cover and let rest for 20 minutes. 10. Perform final shaping of the dough. Move to a banneton that has been dusted with rice flour. 11. Dust top of the dough in the banneton with more flour. 12. Cover and allow it to ferment in the refridgerator overnight (12-14 hour retard). 13. In the morning, place cast iron pot into the oven and preheat the oven to 250°C for 45 minutes to 1 hour. 14. Gently turn the dough out of the banneton onto a sheet of baking paper. 15. Flour the surface of the dough and score, using a lame. 16. Once the oven is hot enough, lift the dough using the sheet of baking paper and place the whole thing into the cast iron pot. Cover with the lid and place back into the oven for 25 minutes. 17. Remove lid of the cast iron pot and let the bread continue to bake for a further 15-20 minutes. 18. Turn off the oven and leave the door slightly ajar to let bread slowly cool. 19. Remove bread from the oven and let cool for 1-2 hours before slicing. 20. Enjoy, especially when shared with loved ones.