Writing a sourdough book

It’s not news I’m writing a book on Sourdough, for a while I’ve been posting photos on twitter and facebook sharing my frustrations with my research and most recently my biochemistry lessons.

Thrown in at the Deep End

The research papers I’ve been reading in the last few months have been ok.  Boring and tedious?  Oh yes most definitely.  Pages of dense and badly phrased research findings, tiny results with very specific and not necessarily relevant details, continuously referring to other work, this was the perfect time to practice my tenacious side.

It was hard at first as many words were new to me or had a different meaning in this context but now looking back the research papers seem a breeze in comparison to the biochemistry lessons.

Sourdough ebook – Simples!

What started out as a rather more simple idea of writing an ebook on Sourdough, compiling all the experience I had gained through here into a neat format has now turned into something much bigger, something challenging and rather scary.

At the beginning of the year I met up with two lovely and talented friends, Gloria and Monica, Gloria’s advice was to bring out the book in volumes in order to make things easier for me, it was a great idea, I’ll bring out the first volume on Starters & How To Make a Loaf.

Dan Lepard Said…

…but then when discussing it with Dan he said, “That’s a great idea to bring it out in volumes but make the first volume just on starters, it’s such a complex subject and one so misunderstood”

This was a great idea, starters are full of mystery with so many variations on methods, recipes, hydrations, feeding schedules, there’s a myriad of opinions on them.


It’s Complicated

And this is how I started delving into research papers and the deeper I dig the more I’m drawn into its complexities.  The challenge now is to actually stop researching and make sense of this in plain English.  I could carry on researching for years, there so many papers on the subject but only a few that truly answer any questions.  The skill soon will be to start compiling a body of work with proper references to known researched facts or to many unknowns.

I think 70% of what I’m reading and learning about now I will not use but I want to make sure I have the facts behind what I write, this is the most important aspect for me.

Don’t Want to Add to the Confusion, Rye a Case in Point

There are plenty of bread books out there which add to the confusion.  Some make a statement that is only fact in part, and therefore leaving the reader with the wrong assumption.

An example of this is Jeffrey Hamelman’s Bread book, as a whole it’s a good book with excellent trustworthy recipes but the publishers are about to make an errata for the next revised addition on rye which leaves me cross.

“Rye flour contains gliadin as well as the protein glutelin (which is similar to glutenin). However, due to the presence of pentosans (see page 46), gluten formation is not possible, hence rye breads will always have a denser structure.”

Pentosans exist in wheat and other cereals, there are more of them in rye it is true, there exists a thesis on pentosans in wheat and their interference in gluten formation, and it may be that there is an effect by pentosans, but and here’s the but this is not why rye fails to form a good gluten structure.  The higher percentage of pentosans in rye may hinder, but what really stops rye forming a proper glutinous structure, a backbone if you like,  is the lack of High Molecular Weight glutenin subunits, often referred to as HMW-GS.

I’m quite good now at making your eyes glaze over if I start on the subject of gliadin and glutenin subunits.

Hamelman’s book is one of my favourites but I wish the ghost writer wasn’t so remiss with facts.

Shoot Me

There are some mind boggling moronic things written in bread books, I’ve given Anne and my biochemistry teacher permission to shoot me if I ever write like this, “Hold the slice to a bright light and there is a translucent glow, but no bright sparks of light shine through.  The crumb itself is starkly white because…”  


My book will be a poor man’s book, doing it all by myself, with the help and encouragement from friends.  I have asked Anne, Andrew Janjigian and my biochemistry teacher Jenny to read over any science parts making sure I don’t add 2+2 and make it 5.  I have asked various wonderful people to be my test readers for feedback.

I’m trying my best to research what I can properly.  A few weeks ago I attended a seminar at London University on “Scent & Sensibility: The neuroscience of fragrance”, just to see if I could ask one question on lactic and acetic acid, which I received no conclusive answer to, and this is the case many times over.

There are days I feel I’ve bitten too much, science is not my strong subject, it’s not easy learning a whole new language at this stage in my life, or should I say, at my age, but I do love knowing the whys and feel a deep sense of satisfaction knowing facts.

When it will be ready I don’t know.  I drag slow in-between the distraction of kids and things like 4 year old’s continuous problems with her supports for her feet.  Family life and writing don’t mix.

In the meantime I plod along…with my colour pens.