The Art of Sourdough Baking

The choice to centre breadmaking in our new Celandine Manor collection was affectionate and deliberate. In conversation with clients, friends and colleagues, we’ve discovered a shared pursuit of homely rituals. In the time that we’ve been sequestered at home, and family spaces have become crowded and dynamic, peaceful practices offer moments of stillness and mindfulness. For many of us, making sourdough has become a pillar of stability in a strange time. 

Sourdough is the oldest method of making leavened bread: its origins can be traced back to ancient Egypt. Prior to their civilization – as early as the neolithic period – our ancestors had been making and eating flat breads. The first person to discover fermentation must have felt a sense of the divine: the loaf is transformed, given a lighter composition with an unctuous, complex flavour.

The original recipe for sourdough is wonderfully simple and remains unchanged over the millenia. It begins with a starter: a mixture of flour, water and a little sugar. Lactic acid from human hands and wild yeasts from the air settle into the mix and after a few days, fermentation brings the starter to life. Making sourdough is a symbiotic life-giving process. Treated with respect, a sourdough starter can feed families over many years. It can be shared with family and friends and passed down generations.

We are often told that meditation offers myriad mental health benefits which in turn have the power to transform our physical health and holistic wellbeing – and yet we are instinctually resistant to mindfulness practices. Our minds dance away from us when we attempt to wrest control over chaotic thoughts. However, in conversation with fellow sourdough makers about mindfulness, we realised that few of us knew what it would become for us. At first, we may have just wanted to make a loaf of bread and only later did we realise we have developed a mindfulness practice.

Baking a loaf requires the use of all your senses. A baker works with living microorganisms – they need to respond to texture, tension, scent and even sound. To create beautiful sourdough, a baker needs to be wholly present and connected with the dough. It is a sensuous, subtle and powerful experience.

Our Celandine Manor installation honours the rewarding, soothing practice of breadmaking, which, for many members of our community, has been the antidote to mental health challenges in lockdown. We are grateful to be a part of this great tradition, which has seen mankind through many a strange time.

The breadmaking island in the Celandine Manor collection is made from solid marble, into which deep bevels have been cut, giving the installation a sense of solidity and gravitas, while still feeling contemporary and clean. Reeding along the length of the island brings relief to the natural patterning of the marble and echoes the same rhythmic principles at work in the traditional panelling. A recess runs along the worktop, allowing flour to be easily swept down into the sink.

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