How I met the mother
A bakery returns to traditional methods of sourdough making, and it’s raising interest
THE mother was fermenting in a white bucket and smelt like something sour and damp in the corner of a hayshed. Baker Andrew Frost said the naturally occurring yeasts in the grain were causing the fermentation process in the mix of flour and water. The concoction is used in the making of sourdough bread. Some bakeries in Europe have used a mother for hundreds of years. It has a similar pungent smell to fermentation in the beer-making process. Mr Frost said bread and beer making went together in monasteries, in years gone by. “They’re two of the oldest manufacturing processes in the world,” he said. “And what we’re doing is the same as what they were doing back then.” The mother at Walter’s Artisan Bread on the Sunshine Coast is about nine years old and started off as a family recipe. Mr Frost said to make a mother, flour and water was mixed together and left in a warmish place. Then half the mother is discarded, or used as a starter for bread making, and it is “fed” again to keep it alive. “It’s unlimited, the amount of bread you can make out of it,” he said. “It’s cheaper than buying yeast, for a start, and it’s not an unnatural product.” No yeast is added to authentic sourdough bread, and the yeast naturally occurring in the flour dies during baking. “Some people have a bad reaction to yeast in their stomach. A lot of people think that is an intolerance to gluten when it’s not. It’s an intolerance to the yeast. They should go to a doctor and get diagnosed properly because a lot of people stop eating bread because they think they’re intolerant to gluten,” Mr Frost said. The Coast business is one of only a few in Queensland that embraces traditional bread-making processes. The bread starters, made from the mother, are worked over three days to produce the bread. Only two machines are used in the dough-making procedure. The rest is done by hand before the dough goes into a humidity-controlled proofer to rest before baking. An Italian-imported oven with stone plates finishes the job, along with a smaller one from an Australian company. The stones, on which the dough is placed, allow heat to permeate the bread from above and below, making an even bake and a good crust. Mr Frost came on board the business about three years ago after stints in bakeries, restaurants and patisseries worldwide. “I like making it because it’s good bread. And I was sold on it originally because I enjoyed it, and my partner at the time enjoyed it, and I wouldn’t make something that I’m not 100% confident in,” he said. The close-knit baking team has been following each other for years through different bakeries and restaurants across the Sunshine Coast. “We’ve all worked together for a long time. We’re a fairly stable team and don’t have a big turnover of staff,” Mr Frost said.
How to make a mother
Mr Frost said the most important thing in making (and maintaining) a mother was consistent temperature and the same feeding time. For domestic use, an established mother can be kept in a fridge and fed every few days rather than daily. According to bread website King Arthur Flour, to make a mother, mix one cup of whole wheat flour with half a cup of non-chlorinated water, cover it loosely and let it sit in a consistent environment (about 20 degrees). After 24 hours, discard half the mother and add a cup of all-purpose flour and half a cup of water. Mix well, cover, and let it sit again for another 24 hours. By day three, there should be some bubbling or other action in the bowl and it is time to start regular feedings.
Baker Cameron Duff preparing some dough.