Welcome to story 6/8 in our ongoing series, #BringsMeWirth. Where we unpack what people in our community do for their mental health? In this session we enjoyed a great afternoon making (and eating) warm sourdough with our good pal, cool cat Alex Duckworth. Naturally, we had to write about it. So this is her story of breadmaking as a mental health practice, and a couple of tips for making a mean loaf of sourdough.
Bread making, a mental process
It seems to be kind of like a mindfulness 101 because you have to slow down and really pay attention. It’s a weekly practice for me. On Saturday mornings I do this every week. And it’s something I really look forward to; having that structure in my week.
And then it’s just eating the bread at the end of the day! With the batch size I make, I always have enough for an extra loaf to give to someone, which is my other favourite part.
I find it really helps me. My default tends to be a racing mind and I’m exploring ways to slow down and counter that a little bit. There are more traditional ways, like meditation which is really great but it can be challenging because it’s this big practice, the act of it being so prominent in our culture being something we ‘should’ do can make it challenging.
Finding little ways to slow down like sourdough baking, or going for a walk; just the simple things are things that I’m trying to integrate. And baking seems to help me with that.
When did you start the practice of baking sourdough?
I got into sourdough last year! My good friend Matt was baking it weekly and he basically got me into it. He gave me my own little starter which is the active yeast you have to feed every week, or it dies. You use that to make your dough. The fact that you have to feed it every week means that you have to be taking starter out of your start or it will forever grow. I like that about sourdough because you have to always be making it every week, or you have to throw out your start.
The process of making sourdough
I like it because it takes 72 hours to make. You have to be planning ahead, which isn’t something that comes naturally to me. So I’m forced to kind of plan and go, ‘okay two days from now I have to be staying in so that I can fold my dough.’
SO, you take two tablespoons out of your start, you add ⅓ cup of flour, ¼ water and that is your levain. Lastly, you mix it up and let it sit for about 4 hours.
Next, you add in the bulk of the flour: the key part to making the dough. So you have 5 ¾ cups of flour and then you add 2 ½ cups of water, you mix it all in and then you need to be folding it every half hour for the next 2.5 hours. You fold it five times.
To fold it: You get our all the little pieces of flour and let it rise on its own.
And then you let it sit for 2 to 24 hours. Sometimes the dough just doesn’t rise for me inexplicably, and I have no idea why and that’s what makes it fun. You can kind of play around with temperatures, and every time you make it it’s a little bit different.
Alex Duckworth is a former Olympic snowboarder currently working in video production and athlete marketing. Now she’s best known as a rollerblading enthusiast and boogie boarding aficionado. She is also a dear friend of WIRTH.