Talking Sourdough! With Tamiae Squibb June 29, 2015 08:28
Tamiae Squibb is a lover of all things food. Former market farmer at the Linnaea Farm on Cortes Island, she is a practiced gardener, artisan bread-maker and has started sharing what she knows as an instructor at Homesteader’s Emporium. Tamiae is one of the most humble, hard-working and thoughtful humans I know - which is probably why her bread is so dang delicious! I am very happy and honored to have the opportunity to ask her a few questions about the beautiful things she does!
Hey Tamiae! Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions with me! Do you want to take a tiny moment to add to my introduction and share a bit about what you do and what you’ve been working on?
Whoa, Kelsey, thank you for that very generous introduction! You're quite right: i do have a deep appreciation for all aspects of food; everything from growing it, processing, preserving and fermenting it, to producing yummy meals i can share with my near and dear. Since returning to Vancouver this winter I've been busying myself with maintaining a lovely little home garden (a welcome shift from larger scale projects that kept me busy on Cortes [Island] in recent years) and yes, I bake a lot of sourdough. Although my baking schedule keeps me fairly busy, I hope to continue exploring and learning more about the world of real bread.
I know you are really into the art of no-knead sourdough bread making. How did you get into this practice? Can you talk a bit about what it was like for you when you first started?
I was introduced to this specific style of breadmaking about two and a half years ago by a friend whose excitement about it really resonated with me. I grew up eating very little bread (rice was my childhood staple) and was already well-versed in the delicious world of fermented foods, so I didn't have to re-educate myself about what bread ought to be; it was a natural progression, getting my hands into sourdough. The loaves I first tried -of this tartine-style sourdough- were so beautiful and delicious I immediately began baking (and eating) a lot of bread. Through my early experiments I quickly acquired a lineup of eager bread-eaters who asked that I bake for them. Since then, I have been baking a minimum of a dozen loaves a week. often many more.
When you were still working and living at Linnaea Farm, I remember seeing you on a few occasions walking around outside carrying an unbaked loaf of bread. Can you talk a bit about the No Knead sourdough style and some of the advantages that have drawn you in? And also why you treat it like a little baby?
Ha ha ha, very funny! I remember those days... if I had accepted a dinner invitation at someone's place nearby but was already underway with the initial fermentation I would often take the bowls of dough with me in order to 'turn' them at the recommended intervals. Now, with more experience, I know how to fit the whole process into my day in a much more graceful way. This particular style of no-knead sourdough actually calls for some gentle handling (as opposed to none at all) and this 'turning' of the dough strengthens the gluten, thereby creating that signature open crumb (lots of big bubbles!) and impressive oven spring. The tartine style of sourdough was created and popularized by a baker named Chad Robertson who learned most of his tricks in France. This type of artisanal loaf has its roots in old world French bread-making but with Robertson's personalizations. The loaves are moist, chewy, with well-developed crusts, and although they are naturally-leavened, they do not necessarily possess that distinct tangy flavour people often associate with sourdough.
Interesting! Let’s take a step back for a moment. Can you talk a bit about what sourdough is and what are some of the nutritional and health benefits that it comes with?
Yes, good idea - sourdough is so simple (and beautifully complex at the same time)! To make bread with a sourdough culture (which is just flour and water activated by wild yeasts) all you need is flour, water and salt. and in my opinion, bread that is made only with those three ingredients is often the best. Long before commercial yeast was synthesized to help accelerate rising times and increase production, all bread was created with wild cultures. Using sourdough to make bread means that the grains in the dough are predigested through the process of fermentation thus making them more nutrient- and vitamin-rich. The lactic acid in sourdough breaks down phytates (which is an organic acid present on all nuts, grains, and seeds) which actually block the uptake of minerals like calcium, magnesium, copper and zinc. Also, the acetic acid which is produced during fermentation also helps preserve the loaf by inhibiting the colonization of mold. I guess that's a lot of information for now... maybe to recap: sourdough transforms grains into nutrient-rich foods that our bodies can digest, and possesses the power to transform a sticky mass of water and flour into a beautiful piece of edible art.
Yum! So much to learn! Since I've got your attention, I’ve noticed a lot of people (myself included) feel a bit intimidated about the idea of maintaining a sourdough starter. Do you have any tips or tricks you can share with us?
There is an abundance of information out there promoting varying styles of maintaining a sourdough starter, and often some of this information leaves people feeling like maintaining a starter is a lot of work and takes time, careful planning or endless amounts of flour. If I had to encourage someone totally new to sourdough and fermentation to get comfortable with their starter I would definitely suggest they give it a good week or two of regular feedings to ensure they 'know' their starter and to ensure that it is healthy. Once the baker is at a point where they understand their cultures' behaviours and is confident they know how to care for it, then it is perfectly fine to put the starter into the fridge if baking isn't a frequent affair. When I go through periods of only baking once a week, I will remove my starter from the fridge two days before I wish to mix my dough (which means it will receive 3-4 feedings before I use it for the bread, and this gives it time to reanimate and get strong) then I will put it right back into the fridge. When I put my starter back into the fridge, I always precede this with a feeding.
Wow, thanks for that! So, having had the privilege of trying your breads, I know you use a selection of flours. I'm wondering, what are some of your favorites and why?
Hmm... I suppose when I bake for myself I tend to use sprouted grain flours now, mostly because I love the flavour profile, but it is also so darn good for you. I really enjoy baking with wheat flours, especially unbleached, as the gluten strands become so strong and the doughs are easy to handle. I love eating rye but it can be a messy dough to deal with. I'm also really excited about ancient grains like einkorn -which in particular, is super high in nutrients- and because i'm a fan of heritage varieties of seed, I like to find ways to reintroduce these gems back into people's diets. It is probably also worth mentioning that I only use organic grains and prefer to mill my own flour fresh before mixing the dough.
Freshly milled flour - that makes sense! Any last thoughts or ideas you want to throw out there?
YES! I think everyone is capable of baking their own bread! Real food made with your own hands is so much better in so many ways. I want to encourage newbies to try using sourdough and not to get discouraged - a sourdough culture can be used for so much more than just bread too! Be imaginative, adventurous and share your experiments. Even if something doesn't taste or look right to you, chances are someone else will love it.
Yay! Thank you Tamiae!
by Kelsey Cham Corbett
June 29th, 2016