Flour and water. It’s that simple.
Perhaps our oldest baked foods, bread has since the dawn of agriculture played a crucial role in both religious rituals and secular culture.
It feeds us corporally and spiritually. “Give us this day…” begins a common prayer.
It is also oh so good. Fresh out of the oven it has that fragrance that entices. Before you know it, slices after slice “evaporates.”
During COVID, baking bread has exploded into a passion no one would have predicted. Sourdough especially has been embraced with fervor.
Merridith Teller shares her journey. “I had attempted sourdough years ago but wasn't able to e anything except dense bricks. Last February, an opportunity came up to take a class at Seasons Pharmacy and Culinara on Lorne. I was able to begin making delicious loaves that weren't so dense. But I was still nervous to try on my own. Then when everything shut down with the pandemic, I started working from home and had some time to practise my sourdough.
“I learned from Garth Wunsch, and then I also learned from a few people on Instagram and a sourdough book I picked up last spring. That's when my creativity really took off, when I was introduced to all the different ways to make sourdough.”
Teller thinks of herself as a foodie and also a creative person.
“Anytime I get to create with food, I get excited. I get inspired by ingredients around me, and I love testing new flavour combinations to see what will happen. So far they've all worked out.
“I like to take what I need from inspiration or other mentors, but then make it my own. I've developed my own style and creativity. From the cutting and scoring patterns, to the methods for long fermentation and baking. Everyone has their own way. I don't believe there is only one way to do sourdough. Everyone finds what works for them.
“The hardest part is waiting for them to cool before slicing," she said.
“I use all organic Ontario flour in my loaves and I pride myself on using as much local ingredients as possible. I'm excited for the inspiration that will come from all the beautiful fresh food I will be able to get from our local farmers this summer. I love being able to share and create food for people. Something I think I learned from my grandma.”
Garth Wunsch said his daughter Jennifer started his bread exploration. “She’s a huge supporter of seniors doing stuff. But it may be in my genes. My great-grandpa Wunsch was a guild certified baker in Prussia before emigrating to Canada in 1882 ... and my dad was also an excellent cook.
“There’s lots to learn ... mostly how to ‘read’ the progress of the dough. Sourdough is 20 per cent science and 80 per cent art. I made a lot of 'curling rocks' before getting a respectable loaf.
“If one wants to go a little insane, start following several bakers online ... they all make a pretty loaf, but they all arrive at the destination differently. You have to find what works for you and stick with it until you master it.” Wunsch goes after each of his projects with a zeal — he dives deep.
“Sourdough is a product of fermentation. Natural airborne yeasts are allowed to colonize a mixture of flour and water and once active, can be maintained for as long as you care to do so. Sort of like having an extra pet in the house ... it needs to be given TLC.”
How many loaves does Wunsch typically prepare?
“Usually, I bake four focaccia on Mondays. They are more time demanding as you have to make them individually, whereas the bread is created in a large batch.”
Wunsch wanted to share his interest and found Seasons a willing partner in the project.
“Many students were so happy to finally turn out a respectable loaf on their first attempt in class, as most had tried and been very disappointed at home. Meredith Teller was one such student, having produced a fine collection of bricks (her term) until she took the class. She’s now a very successful - and adventurous baker. She tries all sorts of recipes.”
Wunsch looks forward to the end of COVID restrictions and restarting his classes.
“I find it good for body, mind and soul. One of my Bible scholar mentors taught us that ‘to teach is to learn twice’, and it is so true.”
Visit Wunsch’s shiny new Facebook page. Search for “Garth’s bread and more.”
The Local Journalism Initiative is made possible through funding from the federal government.
Hugh Kruzel, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Sudbury Star