Monika the Baker
Monika Walker is a self-proclaimed bread nerd. As the owner and head baker at Okanagan Grocery, she’s also a believer in passing on the ancient art of wild yeast bread making.
Here’s some of the wisdom she shared with me and my fellow sourdough enthusiasts during a recent artisan bread workshop at the bakery.
1. How to make sourdough starter
- Mix 1/4 cup of lukewarm water and 1/4 cup of organic white or whole grain flour in a glass jar or container. Cover the container with a kitchen towel and place in a cool, shaded spot for 2 – 3 days.
- After 2 – 3 days check the culture to see if any bubbles have formed around the sides and surface. If nothing seems to have happened, let it sit another day or two.
- If a crust has formed on the surface, not to worry, peel back the crust and inspect the culture for a strong, sour smell and small amount of carbonation (bubbles). If this is the case, you can start feeding.
Tip: If this all seems like too much trouble, pay a visit to your favourite baker instead. Ask politely, “do you have any sourdough starter for sale?” Your chances of hearing yes are good. Very good.
2. How to feed your sourdough starter
Your sourdough needs to be fed like a pet every 24 hours, with equal parts of flour and water to double its volume. Start feeding it with 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup flour. Discard half of the batter before your next feeding so that you don’t end up with a massive amount when you’re ready to make bread. Use the extra culture in pancakes and pizza dough, or give it to a friend.
3. How to remember to feed your sourdough starter
First, allow me to introduce you to Arnold and Naomi, the star starters at Okanagan Grocery. Arnold is 110 years old and is the foundation for all the hearty, whole-grain breads produced in the bakery. Naomi is much younger. It’s her job to breathe life into the lighter loaves, croissants, pastries and treats. Oh, and by the way, Naomi likes it when you talk to her.
Follow Monika’s lead and name your starter. It’s a single cell organism, a living thing, and one you’re less likely to forget to feed if you give it a name and identity.
4. How to tell if your sourdough starter is at its prime
Drop a small blob of starter into a glass of water. It’s ready to use when it floats.
5. How to bake a loaf with a crust the colour of caramel
Use a pizza stone and bake at 450ºF until the loaf darkens, then reduce down to 400ºF until it has a dark caramel coloured crust. Tap on the bottom of the loaf. It should sound hollow.
Use a water bottle to spritz the oven walls – once when you first put the loaf in to bake, and then a few more times throughout the baking process.
6. How to tell if the croissant you’re eating was made with real butter
According to Monika, “It should make a big mess when you eat it. If it doesn’t, it wasn’t made with real butter.”
7. How to tell if you’re in a really good bakery.
Look down. If there are crumbs on the floor, you’ve come to the right place.
Level l - Wild Yeast Sourdough and the Croissant What: A mix of hands-on and demonstration with Monika the Baker Where: Okanagan Grocery BakeShop, Kelowna, BC Cost: $45 Okanagan Grocery
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Laura Goyer is a world traveler and culinary travel professional, on a mission to help busy prime-time women find the best local food when they travel.