From the greatest happiness, to the greatest frustration. Every time I learn a little more, I feel a little more out of my depth. But I guess that is where the challenge lies.
Naturally leavened bread is a joy to work with, and something that I will always try to understand. But I get the feeling it will always be one step ahead of me.
Something so simple - flour, water and salt - can be so complex. It's not just about a recipe. And it's not just about an active starter. The more you learn, the more detailed it becomes: leaven, hydration, dough autolyzation; bench rest and folding techniques; pre-shape, final shape and creating tension; how long to retard the loaf in the fridge? Do you bake straight from the fridge or bring to room temperature? Scoring techniques. And then the oven - a whole other chapter: stone or Dutch? How much hydration? And do you bring the temperature down near the end of the bake?
Baking is something I never thought I'd do, but it has become such a part of mine and my family's life, with all the joy of experimenting and including all the frustrations. There is nothing like the smell of sourdough in the house, nothing like peeking in the oven and seeing the perfect 'ear' or 'oven spring ' to put a smile on your face. And when you slice into your crusty, dark, crunchy loaf, exposing the super soft, slightly sour bread, with huge holes, that butter will fall straight through - it makes all the time and effort worth it!
In the end, it is just bread. But then again, maybe your next loaf will be your best yet...
And there lies the addiction.
Naturally leavened, and homemade.