The Millennial Sourdough Baker

What the Millennial sourdough making obsession REALLY should say about our generation

“What are you doing?” … “Stretching and folding my dough”… “It’s 2am in the morning Mohammed!”. I mean my wife did have a point , what drives someone to wake up to stretch and fold at such an ungodly hour? Bad timing? Maybe. Cultish obsession? Perhaps. A compulsive personality? Ummm, let me get back to you on that one.

Whatever it was — it got me thinking — who ever said Millennials are the “lazy, can’t stick with something for too long and don’t have the patience, grit or determination to see things through” type ? (Yes, I see you, you Boomers).

Sourdough is an art form; a thing of passion, perseverance and patience. The ‘starter’ takes at least a week to ‘cultivate’ — nurturing the growth of natural yeast needed to make the bread. It can be a smelly, murky and often family aggravating process and requires one to have in place a regular routine of ‘feeding’ the starter (everyday, like a baby or pet) until it starts going all bubbly and smells just a wee bit like your local boozer at the end of a Friday night. The older your starter gets, the better. Some have starters decades old and have even given em names like Jim, Sally or Juana (I’d like to think somewhat influenced by the jar its kept in). And that’s just the beginning of the process.

Once you have your starter you’ve got to create what the pro’s call a ‘Levain’ which is basically a little bit of your starter mixed with some flour and water (so you don’t use up all of your starter in making a single loaf). You’ve got to let that sit for 6 hours. On the 5th hour in a separate bowl you mix together the flour and water needed to make up the bulk of the loaf — or what’s called an ‘Autolyse’. After the 6 hours are up — you mix the Levain with the Autolyse and then you are ready for ‘Bulk fermentation’. Which is a 4 hour process of stretching and folding your dough in 15–30 min intervals (which is what my wife caught me doing at 2am on a Saturday morning!… and Yes … I did take my dough into the bedroom).

After ALL of this you then have something that can be shaped into a loaf. But that’s not the end of it — the pre-shaped loaf will then need to proof in the fridge over night — before you can bake it in the morning. Oh and you can totally mess up everything with the wrong type of flour, ratio of water to flour, too much salt or too much or too little time proofing, folding and shaping… can you see where I am going with this?

My very own sourdough loaves

I think we need to give the craft of sourdough making and the Millennial capacity for approaching such a pursuit with passion, dedication, perseverance and patience — the credit it deserves.

Embracing age based diversity is an aspect of the diversity wheel that we don’t talk about enough — yet key generation-changing issues are in a large part being influenced by stark intergenerational differences…just think… Brexit.

I am not suggesting that perhaps in making and breaking bread together we could find the solution to reversing entrenched intergenerational misunderstandings. However, we should be actively trying to develop and promote a more gentle philosophy towards one another, taking the time to get to know each other’s interests, beliefs and moral and political leanings to challenge each other on the areas where we may disagree and enable us to build on the areas where we are able to find some common ground.

By understanding each other better, maybe, we can create an environment that allows us to share more openly, be more well informed and in turn make better decisions that are more inclusive, less fractious and have a positive impact on our collective futures and the world we live in.

Like sourdough making, I suspect it will take a lot of time, dedication, perseverance and patience for us to get there!

FS Risk, PwC. Husband, Son, Brother. My views are my own.

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