Master the Soul & Science of Sourdough with Kitchn & Modernist Bread

Master the Soul & Science of Sourdough with Kitchn & Modernist Bread

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Hali Bey Ramdene
Oct 8, 2017
(Image credit: Modernist Cuisine)
(Image credit: Kitchn)

Are you fascinated by sourdough bread? Want to attempt it for the first time? Or maybe perfect your own loaf? This month we have a treat for you. We're partnering with Modernist Cuisine, the brilliant masterminds behind a new masterwork devoted to bread, Modernist Bread (November 7, The Cooking Lab), in our series The Soul & Science of Sourdough.

We're obsessed with sourdough bread and how it blends both soul and science, history and modernity, and we invite you to discover the magic of its fundamentals together. Bread is a treasured part of life — how can it fit in yours? Find out this month at Kitchn!

Francisco Migoya and Nathan Myhrvold of Modernist Cuisine
(Image credit: Modernist Cuisine)

The Modernist Bread Project

You may be familiar with Modernist Cuisine from their massive, multi-volume Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking. This enormous effort in exploring the science of cooking broke ground in its understanding and presentation of science, but also in its incredible photography and design.

Now, the Modernist Cuisine team is doing this again — except with bread. Their new book, out this fall, is another major effort in advancing home cooks' understanding into the science behind maybe the world's most treasured food: bread.

Team Modernist Bread, led by Nathan Myhrvold and Chef Francisco Migoya, is lending serious muscle to the project of understanding bread, and they offer tactics and facts that turn wonder into understanding. This exploration into the science of sourdough is fueled by the curiosity and precision that led to their latest project, Modernist Bread, a tome dedicated to understanding the intricacies, science, and future of bread as we know it.

(Image credit: Ellie Markovitch)

Our month of the Soul & Science of Sourdough, in partnership with Modernist Bread, also has other guides. Meet Amy — your home cook sourdough guide.

Meet Amy Halloran, Your Home Cook Sourdough Guide

I learned to bake bread from a Fleischmann's Yeast booklet. My first was a basic white sandwich loaf that magically rose over the top of the pan, like the moon on the horizon. While I migrated to whole-wheat flour once I had kids, for most of my life I didn't think there was any need to stray from this style.

But then, five years ago I started to get pressure to graduate to sourdough bread, because it might be healthier and also because it seemed more sophisticated, like craft beer instead of Budweiser. As I researched a book about flour, I kept meeting professional bakers who made sourdough in wood-fired ovens. Sourdough seemed so out of reach for the home cook.

Amy's Sourdough Saga

The legend of the perfect loaf began to loom over me and my skills, even after great classes from King Arthur and other instructors. Each time I faced a bowl or ball of dough, my heart raced, my brain froze, and I felt like I was trying something other people could do, like gymnastics (which was easy for my sister and baffled and tangled me).

Then, a simple and miraculous thing occurred. One of my son's classmates decided to grow a sourdough culture and bake bread for the science fair. Using regular supermarket flour, this 11-year-old cultivated a starter in the corner of her kitchen, and baked a great loaf of bread for people to sample at her display. I went home determined to vanquish my fears.

I grabbed From the Woodfired Oven from my shelf and dug around in the refrigerator for a jar of starter I knew I'd kept, like an obligation I wanted to forget. The contents looked pretty iffy – furry and gray, not bubbly like the starter in the student's display. I scraped off all the iffiness, and put a smidge of dough with some flour and water in a bowl. Following Richard Miscovich's instructions, I made a loaf of bread without yeast. It rose like a dome, and even had a nice crust! Lo and behold, it wasn't even really sour. My family gobbled it up.

This was beginner's luck, because the next few (or 50) loaves I made were not as lovely. Three years into my journey, I'm still learning how flour, water, wild yeasts, and bacteria work — and I will be for the rest of my life.


The perfect loaf is the one that fits into your life.


The perfect loaf is the one that fits into your life. It's not the one that punishes your imagination, but the one that gets you excited about the potential of understanding science enough create magic in your very own kitchen, with your own two hands.

Welcome to the Soul & Science of Sourdough at Kitchn

This journey into the soul and science of sourdough is perfect for Amy's continuing education in bread, and will be for yours too — whatever your level of experience, confidence, and fear. This series of how-tos and whys will help us be kitchen gymnasts. Our coaches are the best in the game.

(Image credit: Emily Buehler)

In addition to Francisco Migoya and the Modernist Bread team, baker Emily Buehler will help escort us through the mechanics of the bread equation. Her book, Bread Science, explores the science and craft of making bread with the home baker in mind. She'll be our guide through some of the most common questions around sourdough bread, answering with clarity and a deep understanding of how things work.

So please, dive deep with us into the soul and science of sourdough.

The Soul & Science of Sourdough

Kitchn is partnering with Modernist Cuisine, the brilliant masterminds behind a new masterwork devoted to bread, Modernist Bread (October 24, The Cooking Lab), in our series The Soul & Science of Sourdough.

We're obsessed with sourdough bread and how it blends both soul and science, history and modernity, and we invite you to discover the magic of its fundamentals together. Bread is a treasured part of life — how can it fit in yours? Find out this month at Kitchn!

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