Thursday Bread History Seminar/Workshop #10 July 16, 2020, 9am Pacific: Sourdough

We are back again this Thursday with an exciting Seminar/Workahop. As always, you need to register with EventBrite for this Zoom meeting. In terms of time zones, this Seminar/Workshop works for people from the California and South American Pacificas Coast through to India, where the Seminar starts at 9:30 pm in Bangalore. For easy reference, it is 6pm in Belgium and 7 pm in Istanbul and Nairobi when it is 9am in California.

I am going to briefly introduce sourdough/levain in the context of the yeast/sourdough choice – talk a bit about what we know about the when of leavened breads based on archeological evidence versus surmise. I will also touch on the antipathy the Anglo-American bread culture had towards sourdough until the last few decades. But, I am going to keep my talk brief as the bulk of the session this week we will be led by the fabulously dynamic, enthusiastic Karl de Smedt, of Puratos, the multinational Belgian baking corporation. Karl is the founding curator of the most unique library in the world (if you want to contradict me on this then you have to post a link to the competitor for the title). The unique library he created and curates is the Puratos Sourdough Library.

Karl de Smedt, Guest Speaker will be Streaming from the Puratos Sourdough Library

Calling this library unique may trivializes its importance. 

As with everything in modern life, diversity is on the way out. For many many cultures, for millennia, sourdough cultures were life. In cultures with traditions of blood feuds, like in Sardinia, hostilities were put on hold if a feuding family lost its starter. They could go to their enemy to get more. Today, in Sardinia, most women making bread, even the local specialty, pane carasau, use commercial yeast. Just as restaurant chains, like Starbucks, McDonalds, Pret a Manger, etc. are reducing diversity in foodways, and just as a few big language groups — English, Spanish, Chinese, French, etc. put pressure on smaller languages — affluence and easy access to commercial yeast has worked havoc on the world’s sourdough cultures.

Karl De Smedt‘s Sourdough Library is preserving something that is exceedingly fragile. As you will hear from Karl, the search for unique starts is tough. And keeping these fragile examples of taste diversity alive is hard work. So, please join us on Thursday. Bring your questions about Sourdough. And prepare to see something truly rare — a repository of taste — a living museum preserving one of the more subtle aspects of culture — the starters we use to make our breads. 

The Quest for a Klondike Sourdough

We will be making pancakes and/or waffles with a sourdough starter. Karl de Smedt will be using a starter that apparently originated in the Alaska Klondike gold rush at the end of the 19th century. So, if you have a starter, I suggest you start refreshing it now. If you don’t, then I suggest you make a 1:1 mix of water and flour and add a pinch of yeast to it. Once that yeast-started starer is active, you can refresh it as you would a starter, between now and the Thursday session. Even if you have been able to make this yeast starter the day before you will get a sense for how to prepare sourdough pancakes and waffles from starters.

To give you a further sense of the diversity of starters in the Puratos Sourdough Library I will share with you a few other Puratos Sourdough Karl de Smedt collecting videos.

Collecting Sourdough Starters in Greece: Religious Context
China! A very different baking tradition.
One of the most famous breads from Italy: Durum bread from Altamura
The Sourdough of Japan
The mythic San Francisco Sourdough
A Glimpse of Sourdough in Turkey

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