On a bad day, throwing myself into an unfamiliar recipe helps free my mind — I can focus solely on the task at hand. With so many of us programmed to constantly multitask, it’s liberating.
I spent all day Saturday learning how to make sourdough bread at Muddy Fork Farm & Bakery. With just two weeks until the wedding and what seems like a never-ending to-do list, it was just what I needed.
My parents got me a gift certificate to take a workshop at the bakery for Christmas and I’ve been looking forward to using it for months. I’ve had several pastries and breads from Muddy Fork Bakery at the wonderful Saturday morning Farmers’ Market. The owner of the bakery, Eric, gets up at 2 a.m. every Saturday to get all of the delicious goods into the wood-fired oven and off to the market on time.
The class started after the morning rush, at 9:45 a.m. Eric had coffee waiting for us and got us started right away on mixing two doughs — a rustic sourdough and a whole-wheat rustic sourdough. The ingredients for the breads were measured by weight, which is a more accurate and precise form of measurement for baking. Eric had a huge batch of starter for us to use in the bread. I’ve never baked breads that require a starter, so it was great to learn about the process of maintaining one. We let the dough rest most of the day, folding it in the bowl every half hour.
Before we knew it, it was time for lunch. We put together several pizzas using dough Eric prepared the night before the class. We topped them with kale, sausage, onions and garlic. I’m not sure what it was about those pizzas, but they were some of the best I’ve ever had. Eric salted and strained the onions before putting them on the pizza to soften them up and make them cook more easily — it made a huge difference. I’ll definitely be trying to recreate those pizzas at home sometime soon!
After lunch, we shaped our loaves, which was the most difficult part. In order to get a nice, round loaf, you have to fold the dough until it reaches its maximum amount of tension. This is something that takes a lot of practice — many of us struggled. We then topped our loaves off with flour or seeds of our choice and placed them in baskets to rest some more.
There was a lot of downtime at that point, which was the only downside of the class. It was a rainy day, so it was so hard not to fall asleep to the sound of raindrops hitting the roof! To kill some time, we watched a slideshow that illustrated the process of building the bakery’s wood-fired, brick oven, which I found really interesting. We also had some time to look through some beautiful bread-baking books and get some inspiration.
Finally, it was time to put our loaves in the oven! Because many of us didn’t do the best job shaping our loaves, they came out round, but flat. But, they still taste delicious! We all walked away with four loaves of sourdough and a sourdough starter.
The class definitely gave me the confidence and inspiration to try making sourdough at home. Hopefully my shaping technique will get better and my bread will come out a little prettier next time.
If you’re in the Bloomington area, I would definitely recommend taking a class at the bakery! They also offer a croissant making workshop, which I’m hoping to take soon.
But, for now, we have enough carbs to last us weeks.