I grew up eating sourdough, and sourdough rye. It was pretty much the only type of bread we ate in my family. In my early school years I used to squirm every time I opened my lunchbox. Other kids got sliced Tip Top white bread with vegemite or honey, maybe even with hundreds and thousands on it. I always got sourdough rye with prosciutto, or salami, or some strain of German pâté. And I was feeling pretty hard done by. These days I look back and realise what I determined as ‘hard done by’ was in fact an extremely blessed childhood.
Wonderfully, since then, sourdough has become quite fashionable and where previously you would have to search long and hard to find a good loaf, a resurgence in traditional baking methods means that good sourdough is more accessible than ever.
Having said that, there is ‘sourdough’ and there is ‘sourdough’. I am particularly interested in the spelt sourdoughs, which is exactly where local artisan bakers, Ten Acres’, focus is as well.
Spelt is an ancient grain dating back in excess of 5,000 years. I was surprised to find that spelt is actually an ancient hybridisation between bread wheat and emmer wheat, another ancient grain. But then the ancient bread wheat would have been nothing like it is today. Genetics and human tinkering with the natural DNA of wheat has left it a shadow of its former self, which is where spelt has really come to the fore; it is pretty much as it was.
The process of a creating a good sourdough, is an interesting, albeit, a laborious one. It is based around a good starter culture, which for many bakers is quite often nurtured through generations of family baking.
Essentially a starter is just flour and water that is left to ferment and develop a natural yeast. After the fermentation process begins, it is ‘fed’ daily to keep the ‘cultures’ alive. This is the laborious bit… as this never stops! To keep the starter alive, it has to be continually fed… ALL. THE. TIME!
Come holiday time, it is not like a pet that you can take to a boarding kennel; you have to entrust it with someone who understands the importance of the dietary regime of this hungry little family member – and it’s not even cute!
Over the years, my father has started up many sourdough starters, only to go on holiday and then have to start the whole process over again, upon his return home. So alas… I do not have a family starter culture to boast of just yet, but I am working on it.
It is however, not all doom and gloom – Melody assures me that it is not as labour intensive once the starter culture is established. Starters can be rested, frozen and even dehydrated, but don’t ask me about that, as I have no successful stories to refer to at this stage!
And why would I, when I can buy perfectly good spelt sourdough bread from bakers like Jamie and Melody Flood, who are the passion behind the Ten Acres artisan bakery.
Jamie and Melody had long held the passion to create a sustainable farm business, so when a 10 acre property became available at Ninderry on the Sunshine Coast, it was all the impetus they needed to make the move.
Jamie had been working at Tanglewood Bakery, learning the artisanal skills involved in baking and the many secrets that sourdough baking holds. It made sense to use these skills to create the groundwork for their own bakery, which they have built on their property amongst an orchard of oranges and mandarins, as well as a plot of garlic.