How I met the mother

A bakery re­turns to tra­di­tional meth­ods of sour­dough mak­ing, and it’s raising in­ter­est

Life & Style Weekend - - READ - BY Letea Ca­van­der

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.

PHOTO: LETEA CA­VAN­DER

Baker Cameron Duff pre­par­ing some dough.

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