Blog - The Loft | Calgary

The Art of Sourdough

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They say that good things come in threes, and we believe this rule applies to bread as well – the trifecta of pure and natural ingredients in an authentic, fermented, and tangy loaf of Sourdough bread is beautifully simple and simply beautiful. Flour, water, and salt. That’s all it takes to get the wild yeasts bubbling and socializing, granting you the ability to make a standout loaf of bread that is madly different from a white loaf purchased from the grocery store. We are very excited to be offering true sourdough at The Loft courtesy of our head baker, Ezzy. We sat down with him to chat about what it means to make a legitimate and delicious loaf of Sourdough bread.

Can you explain the process behind making a sourdough bread?

You have to begin with a sourdough starter. A starter is a mixture of equal parts water and flour that creates wild yeasts by fermenting and developing natural bacteria over time. Once your starter is ready to use, you then create a leaven. A leaven is a small portion of the sourdough starter that you mix into your dough, and this is the source of yeast for your fresh loaf of bread! Once this is all mixed, you have to let the dough autolyze. This is when the flour absorbs all the water, forms gluten, and the starches are broken down. After a few hours, the dough is ready to be folded into a scrumptious loaf of bread ready for baking!

The Loft-granary road-bakery-bread-pastries-sourdough-baker-marketIs a sourdough starter necessary to make real sourdough?

Yes – this is the trickiest part of the whole process. I’ve kept my starter alive for over 10 years now, and it has been a journey trying to do so. It is almost like having a baby, with a little bit less responsibility of course. You have to feed it consistently, discover its personality and temperament, handle it gently, keep it at a healthy temperature, and tend to its needs. When I’ve gone on vacation in the past, I have granted some friends the immense responsibility of babysitting my starter – it’s a needy little thing! Every starter is different than the last and as soon as you get to know its quirks, you can feed and tend to it properly, and eventually create a delicious and healthy loaf of sourdough with your starter’s help.

Since it is often a complicated and time-consuming task, many larger grocery stores will even add vinegar to their dough to give the loaf a distinctly sour taste. But on the contrary, real sourdough bread shouldn’t taste particularly sour. Just slightly tangy!

The Loft-granary road-bakery-bread-pastries-sourdough-baker-marketWas it a struggle for you to create your current starter?

Of course! It took me years of experimenting to strike the perfect balance between ingredients, weight, temperature, altitude, and so on. Every baker, regardless of experience or skill, struggles with making sourdough starters. You are bound to make some bad loaves of bread, but it just takes time to get to know how it works. I find that the process of creating and discovering a sourdough starter is a good life lesson in itself – learn from your mistakes and accept that good things take time.

The Loft-granary road-bakery-bread-pastries-sourdough-baker-marketAny tips for people wanting to try their hand at making homemade sourdough?
  • Be consistent – accept that it will take time to achieve your sourdough goals, and make sure you take notes and plan ahead.
  • Be passionate – working to create a sourdough is a labour of love. Although the creation of a delicious loaf is rewarding, you have to enjoy the process of getting there!
  • Be patient – an old man I used to work with back in Europe once reminded me that the Titanic was made by one of the biggest and most successful engineers in England. Mistakes can be made by even the most knowledgeable and skilled people. Patience and persistence are key in reaching success… at least for sourdough!

Not interested in attempting a starter yourself, or want to enjoy some fresh sourdough while waiting for yours to get bubblin’? Come check out our new bakery at Granary Road and try out one of Ezzy’s loaves of fresh sourdough along with many other delicious creations! Click here to see our full menu.

Get To Know Our New Head Baker, Ezzy

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How long have you been baking and how did you get into it?

I have been a baker for almost 29 years now. I grew up in Tunisia, and I have vivid memories of absolutely loving the aroma of something baking in the oven as a kid. In this part of the world, bread is a necessity to life – growing up, we incorporated it into every single meal. It was indispensable to day-to-day life, so I’ve always had an inherent attraction to baking.

At age 21, I did 2 years of baking and pastry school, and after that I decided it was a good time to see more of the world. One of my favourite sayings is that life is a like a book, and if you never travel and experience other places, you are only reading the first page – so I decided to move to Europe. I spent 2 years in Switzerland and 2 years in Sweden, working at bakeries in both countries. Then in 1994, my family and I moved to Montreal. Once in Canada, I had the opportunity to work for a variety of bakeries with diverse cultural influences, including Italian, Portuguese, and Asian. I was given the chance to practice everything I had learned in Europe while continuing to expand and diversify my knowledge of baking in a Canadian climate. Being exposed to all these different cultures, practices, and techniques has really helped shape my own baking practices.

 

The Loft-bakery-bread-bhead baker-calgary-south-marketWhy do you think it is important for people to buy bread from a local baker as opposed to a grocery store?

One of the major downfalls of shopping for baked goods at big grocery store bakeries is that they tend to streamline and simplify the baking method. Baking in large facilities and having  the machines do a lot of the work has its consequences. This can mean using cheaper and processed flour that is less nutritionally dense, offering less variety in types of breads, and losing the human touch in the process. With handmade breads and pastries, you can almost taste the labour of love that went into making them, and this is where they really stand out in contrast to the products from larger operations.

I really try to encourage people to shop at local bakeries as opposed to big grocery stores – primarily because artisan bakeries are becoming fewer and farther between. Encouraging and supporting local artisan bakers is important because they can give a more valuable contribution to the community in the form of jobs, better quality products, and the ability and desire to reincorporate the human touch into the baking practice.

 

What made you want to join The Loft? What are you most excited about?

One thing that really appealed to me about joining The Loft was the opportunity to work on building something from the ground up. Starting a bakery from scratch can be an incredibly rewarding challenge. I’ve been working in larger-scale commercial baking for the past while, and being in this environment I’ve started to feel like a cog in a machine where I am not necessarily able to exercise my creativity and passion for baking. As such, I’ve really started looking forward to returning to a more artisan-style of baking, one where the human element is much more evident in everything I do.

Working at The Loft, I’ll have the opportunity to interact with our customers on a regular and daily basis. I think it is incredibly important being able to engage and connect with the community on this level, and to be able to hear what they have to say about what we are making for them.

 

What is your favourite thing to bake and why?The Loft-bakery-bread-bhead baker-calgary-south-market

Definitely an authentic, delicious loaf of sourdough bread! I like to make mine with unbleached flour because it is naturally aged and much more nutrient dense than bleached commercial flour. I’ve had the same whole-wheat sourdough starter for at least 10 years, and it has been a long time trying to get the right balance of ingredients to make a great loaf. Now that I have a reliable starter, I absolutely love making sourdough.

That being said, I love making a variety of baked goods at home – my kids are always asking for things like cakes, scones, and tiramisu. I actually end up baking a lot in my spare time, which some people might find kind of crazy, but baking at home is a different experience. It’s a great way to spend time and connect with my family. My wife and I love baking pita bread together on the weekends, and I love dreaming baked goods up with my kids and seeing their eyes widen at the finished product.