Why I Bake Our Bread

A week's worth of bread

I bake because …

Kefir Levain

… it’s wonderful, magical and elemental

Zeb Bakes shapes a boule

…it uses all our human senses, smell, touch, taste, sight, hearing and a little talking too !

Boule of naturally fermented dough

… it brings me into community with people all over the world who also love to bake


… it just looks and smells so wonderful

Beautiful Crumb

… baking makes the sun shine in my heart

56 thoughts on “Why I Bake Our Bread

  1. Jeannette

    I agree with you entirely, Joanna. I really miss my sourdough when I haven’t baked for a while which happened just lately. Last weekend I baked two lovely loaves and felt so happy and satisfied again, funny aren’t we?

      1. Karin Anderson

        A realtor told us that the smell of freshly baked bread helps selling a home, because the first few minutes decide whether prospective buyers like a place or not.

        1. Joanna Post author

          Trouble is that once you ‘know’ the trick, it ceases to work. I heard also that a hot drink is always offered in car showrooms because it engenders a ‘warm beholden feeling’ in the customer, they have had ‘something for nothing’ and therefore feel obligated. On a less cynical note, smell is processed in the limbic centre of the brain isn’t it? and is linked to memory and emotion? I half listened to a programme on the radio saying that our most important smell memories are laid down when we are in our first decade. I am not sure why the magic of the bread smell, but it is definitely linked with some good feelings/emotions/memories.

  2. Ana

    I know exactly what you mean, and I miss my sourdough, like Jeannette.
    Bread took me by surprise. I didn’t think it was my kind of thing. But now I love it, and it feels just right. I found in it a rhythm of life that I didn’t even know existed, let alone that I fitted into it. I wrote about it recently, too.

    1. Joanna Post author

      Lovely to meet you Ana, you have a beautiful blog and I love your photos of your rye starter amongst many other wonderful photos.

    1. Joanna Post author

      I love reading about what you bake and I am enjoying your current posts loads! I read the Forkish one with great interest as I have some of the same questions and it was so interesting to see you work through the issues in practice and what you came up with.

    1. Joanna Post author

      I like making little rolls. I don’t have Paul’s book so don’t know his recipes and methods. I know he is very popular so I am sure you will be fine.

  3. jaz

    i just love baking bread. my ovens have broken again and i am in bread baking withdrawal. i just can’t bring myself to buy store bought bread!

    1. Joanna Post author

      Oh no! can you make something on top of the stove in the meantime, create steam under a wok lid or something ?

  4. heidiannie

    Those are my reasons, too. Plus I love my own bread. Love the flex in my shoulders when I knead- love the look on my family’s face when they walk in the door and smell fresh bread. And I love knowing that I can do this- whenever or where ever I am- lovely bread, Joanna!

    1. Joanna Post author

      You have a lovely family and I love seeing their smiles on your blog as well as your glorious bread, thank you Heidiannie :)

  5. sallybr

    I haven’t baked as much as I used to, but it’s ok, I know baking life has ups and downs… still, I understand completely the feeling

    this is one of those posts that make me dream…..

    thank you!

    1. Joanna Post author

      cue that quote from ‘Pretty Woman’ Everyone needs dreams…. come to think of it I have never dreamed about baking, come on sub-conscious, lets have some fun!

  6. narf77

    That feeling you get when you serve something elemental up to your family, when it shines with your own homemade pleasure and tastes like magic THAT is what its all about :). If it brings the sunshine to your heart, you must bake every day! :)

    1. Joanna Post author

      Hehe, I would have to set up a micro-bakery and stop unsuspecting people in the street and press hot loaves into their hands. ‘The freezer canna take anymore Captain!’ (channeling Scotty here)…

      1. narf77

        You sound like me ;) “I am just one man!” Is Steve’s hue and cry these days…I reckon I am going to have to go door to door giving my wares away if this cooking wanderlust doesn’t let up! ;)

        1. Joanna Post author

          You could leave your wares on doorsteps on those early morning walks, one woman and her dog, secret delivery service?

          1. narf77

            The problem is…would you eat something left on your doorstep? ;) Nope…neither would I! ;) I am going to have to start cooking for the homeless…drive my little 4 x 4 into Launceston at night time and hand out my wares (bet they ask for McDonald’s ;) )

            1. Joanna Post author

              Yes if it was from someone I knew – my neighbour and I are always leaving things on each other’s doorstep, I worry a bit about the foxes getting there first though :)

              1. narf77

                I would worry about Earl getting there first…there are worse (and more nefarious) things than your home baked goods being eaten…

  7. lovinghomemade

    Lovely! I just got a proving basket and was very excited to use it. Unfortunately I was out all day, the dough over proved and I ended up with a flat sticky mess: needless to say my bread looked nothing like your photos, but it did still taste good! Hoping for a better result next time…

    1. Joanna Post author

      That is a shame! If you want any help that I can offer let me know. One thing you might try if you have to go out unexpectedly is to cover the proving basket with something like a shower cap and pop it in the fridge and this will slow the dough right down, unless it has lots of bakers’ yeast in it and you can bake it from the fridge, just add an extra ten minutes or so to your baking time.

      1. lovinghomemade

        Thanks very much – I was actually out longer than I had expected to be. The last time I put sourdough in the fridge it seemed to almost completely stop it rising so had thought it wasn’t a good idea. I will definitely do that next time, thanks.

        1. Joanna Post author

          It depends at what stage you put it in the fridge. If you put it in after the first prove/rise part and after you have shaped it, it will carry on rising while it cools down. If you put the dough in straight after mixing and the dough is quite cool, then it does slow it right down. It is always a bit of an experiment to find a schedule that suits you. The other thing is if you have a feeling you might end up being rushed or having to go out, is to use commercial yeast in the dough along with the sourdough to speed it up. It won’t be a true sourdough, but it will make perfectly acceptable bread with some fermented flour for improved flavour and digestibility.

          1. lovinghomemade

            That’s brilliant, thank you. I will have to have a go with some commercial yeast as well and see how that goes: the timing is often quite tricky otherwise. I have seen lots of recipes with yeast as well as the sourdough starter and wasn’t entirely sure why or if it was an “acceptable” option or a cheat that should be avoided so thanks for the advice!

            1. Joanna Post author

              In France I think they refer to pain au levain and pain de levain, and one is bread with levain and yeast and one is just levain on its own. It is sometimes called a ‘spike’ of yeast. As long as we are open about what we do and don’t try to pass something off as something it isn’t then it is up to us how we make our bread. I am not a hardline anything in that department :) xx

    1. Joanna Post author

      I am a sentimental wotsit at times, but yes, lets hope so, I am always so pleased when there is sun in the kitchen coinciding with wanting to take a loaf photo!

    1. Joanna Post author

      We do have some lovely bakeries in Bristol that make excellent bread but my favourites are both a good way away, Harts Bakery at Temple Meads train station and East Bristol Bakery in St Marks Road, Easton, so it is easier to keep baking from a practical point of view as well as having the pleasure of making and eating my own :)

  8. Ann

    A beautiful post – and I want the sun to shine in your heart always.
    I haven’t baked bread for a while as it has been too hot to feel like using the oven – luckily had enough in the freezer to keep me going and one doesn’t want to eat much in this weather anyway. Roll on autumn!

    1. Joanna Post author

      I don’t blame you in the least, there is a time for everything and baking is one of those things. I don’t think we get anything like the heat you get, and rarely over an extended period. The days are getting lighter here at last so I spend more time outdoors which is great!

  9. Jan

    All of that, Joanna, and it tastes really good. I read this last night and had to immediately go and feed my Princess Patsie – and, yes, we did have a little chat. Your loaves look so very beautiful and what better reason to bake than it puts sunshine in your heart – that’s so lovely.

  10. Jan

    My iPad is not playing nice – it might be that it’s taken umbridge because I dropped it! I read this post last night and just had to go and have a chat with my Princess Patsy and give her a feed. Your bread looks so wonderful Joanna -such fantastic oven spring. I’m so glad it puts sunshine in your heart and all your reasons for making it sound so joyous – all that and it tastes so good.

    1. Joanna Post author

      I have no idea why it put your first comment in moderation. most mysterious, sorry about that. But I have rescued it. I have chatted to my sordough starters too, who are a bit miffed that they don’t get to flex their bubbles that much at the moment, but I do keep them well fed on a weekly basis and clean out their containers and so on. The sun is absolutely wonderful this morning and there are new bulbs opening up their flowers, must go and have a closer look! xx Joanna

  11. Mal

    Hi Joanna,

    It doesn’t let up, does it, the “bread imperative”. Even though the children have flown the nest I’m still making bread on a daily basis. I’ve had to accept that the making is more important than the consuming. (The birdlife get’s the excess).

    1. Joanna Post author

      I only bake once or twice a week at most these days – loaves that is – I might bake other things in between, a batch of pita bread or something like that, I try to keep it in balance with what we need. Do you bake for other people Mal?

  12. Ray

    Can’t add anything to that. I only bake at the weekend but i love my homemade sourdough :0

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