The World’s Only Sourdough Library

ACCORDING TO KARL DE SMEDT, sourdough belongs to the entire world. Burbling away in refrigerators at his Puratos Sourdough Library in St. Vith, Belgium, are over 100 sourdough starters from around the globe. Each one has been chosen specifically for its renown, origins, and often, estimated age. In the video above, Atlas Obscura gets an insider’s tour of the world’s …

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Salt-Rising Bread

Bacteria that cause gangrene are the magic ingredient in this cheese-scented loaf. Women traversing the American frontier didn’t have time to worry about keeping a bread starter. Salt-rising bread, whose rising depends upon neither salt nor yeast, became their solution. Pioneers cultivated bacteria in the potatoes or cornmeal that they mixed with flour to make …

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Sourdough Library

Burbling away in refrigerators are 105 sourdough starters from around the world. This sourdough library is hidden inside a baking corporation’s research center. Here, 105 sourdough starters and counting are stored and fed, in a long-term project to research and preserve bread biodiversity. In St. Vith, Belgium, Karl De Smedt has overseen the sourdough library …

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The Ukrainian wedding bread is so beautiful, it’s displayed near the altar. Korovai, or wedding bread, symbolizes an entire Ukrainian community’s blessings for a couple’s wedding. And it should, because it takes almost a village to make it. In a ritual that begins on the Saturday preceding the ceremony, seven women gather to knead dough …

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The $1000 cookbook that will change the way you think about bread

The five-volume cookbook titled Modernist Bread is described as a revolutionary new understanding of one of the most important staples of the human diet. It costs around $1000. When American scientist, inventor, entrepreneur and cook Nathan Myhrvold discovered Roman law demanded every loaf of bread from Pompeii’s 33 bakeries had to be stamped with a …

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Bread in the fridge

Refrigerating anything makes it last longer, right? Actually, no. Bread goes stale at around six times the speed when kept in the coolbox, as it speeds up the process known as retrogradation, in which water separates from the starch and the starch begins to reharden. Toasting stale bread temporarily reverses the process. You should store …

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Flat layer cakes

I’ve had my struggles with cake layers. They always come out domed and I always trim off less dome than they really need, which means slidey cake, drooping frosting, and all around MESS. To remedy this, I’ve read about using cake strips (strips that wrap around the pan and magically create flat layers) or baking …

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Flatbread Dough

After you’ve given your flatbread a really good knead you must let it rest. If you don’t let it rest you’re going to eat bread that’s going to be hard. Anjum Anand

Listen to your baking

Use all your senses, including hearing. A well-baked baguette crust should crackle when it first comes out of the oven. You can also knock the base of sourdough loaves with your knuckles. If you hear a hollow sound it’s well baked – if it sounds tight the dough may be undercooked. Dean Brettschneider


To better understand the basics of kneading try experimenting with scones by altering mixing times. Note the difference in result when you simply “put together” a scone mixture compared to a batch you’ve mixed for five minutes. Dean Brettschneider

Making Dough

People don’t leave the dough long enough to prove. I encourage people to use a recipe with a low percentage of yeast (if a recipe calls for 40 per cent yeast I’d make it 20 per cent). Leave it overnight, covered with a tea towel in a cupboard away from draft – try filling your …

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Baking Bread

Use an atomiser to spray water into your oven before and just after you place your bread in to bake. The steam helps produce a lovely leathery crust. Justin Gellatly

Bread and ice

When baking bread, put a tray of ice cubes on the shelf under the loaf when it first goes in the oven. This creates steam and allows the bread to rise a little more before creating a crust. Clare Celea

History of toast

The history of toast begins, of course, with bread. The earliest archaeological evidence of flour dates back some 30,000 years, and it’s likely people were making flatbreads around that time, too. Along with being a staple food in many civilizations, ritual bread was sometimes used as an offering to the gods in Ancient Greece. Wheat …

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