There is a void inside of you now. You’ve been trapped indoors for over two months and there’s a void inside of you. You’re scrubbing away at parts of your skin that may have accidentally come into contact with suspicious surfaces or the bodies of strangers and there is a void inside of you. You distract yourself with pop culture, social media, books, and video calls, and there is still a void inside of you. It is expanding rapidly, and it demands to be fed. How you appease it is entirely up to you. You must think of ways to do it. You must improvise. You must.
If Instagram stories are to be believed, the single most significant change to the status quo that will come of this period of collective trauma is the fact that an entire generation has discovered the joy of making their own sourdough bread! Yes, the comforting texture and complex flavor profile of sourdough have taken millennials by storm, providing hours upon hours of distraction to an increasingly anxious population. We must exercise control of something, anything; what better way to do it than through the slow process of creating a sourdough starter, painstakingly manifesting a loaf of bread into existence, and then immediately chomping down on it like a carrion bird on a desiccated carcass?
If you’re feeling intense pangs of jealousy as you witness your peers put their baking prowess on display, and if you think creating life via sourdough is out of your reach as a kitchen novice, fear not. We’ve put together an easy-to-follow recipe for you to create your own! Appease the beast inside — with its endless rows of gnashing teeth, with the blacker than black eyes, with the unnervingly soft coo that reminds you of your sweet baby sister before everything went wrong — with this simple offering. This recipe comes to us courtesy of our friend Santi Monterrosa, drummer of local indie-pop band Fervors.
The first thing we need to do is create a sourdough starter. The Spanish word for sourdough is “masa madre,” or “mother dough,” which struck you as an unspeakably stupid name the first time you heard it, but has started feeling progressively more correct the more you sit with it. A sourdough starter is a live culture made with flour and water.
The mixture of flour and water will begin to rise, cultivating the wild yeasts and bacteria present within. This is what will make your bread dough rise. But this is an ongoing process; you must keep your starter alive with regular feedings of flour and water. You must keep it strong. You must keep it proud. You must feed it, like a pet, or like your own sense of self-worth, or like the old woman without a face you vaguely remember from your childhood.
Let your mixture rest for 24 hours. After that period, you pour off some of the culture (roughly half of it), then administer another feeding of water and flour. You do this again for day three. You do this again for day four. You pray every night before bed. You call your parents and tell them you love them. You listen to the void’s cruel night song. You try to sing along but the only thing that comes out is a meek, tuneless whimper. You start noticing bubbles forming in your starter. It’s growing larger. It’s doubled in size. It’s alive. You are its God. You are its mother.
Now we make our bread. We need 290 grams of water, 80 grams of our sourdough, 400 grams of flour. What flour do we use? Well, we have a few options. The most common flour here is 000, but there’s also rye flour (integral de centeno) and buckwheat flour (serraceno). What are the differences? Well, there are many. I will just leave it at that.
We mix water, the sourdough starter and flour together, along with salt, to start triggering autolysis. Let rest for 40 minutes to an hour. Then we go through a process of kneading, letting it rest, and kneading again, continuously, for 10 to 15 minutes. We let it rest for two hours. Then we fold it onto itself so that the dough can stretch and tense up. We let it rest for two more hours. Then we place in our fridge for 10 to 12 hours. It must rest, for tomorrow is the day we submit it to the fires of hell.
Score the surface of the bread before baking. This will help heat escape as it rises in the oven. In order to properly bake our sourdough bread, we must place it inside a cast iron pot with a lid on. As you bake it with the lid on, it creates steam inside the pot which creates a nice crust on the bread. It also fills your kitchen with the wonderful smell of fresh bread, which should distract you from the pit of anguish you’ve been deeply ensconced in for weeks now, so much so that you barely remember what normal even feels like. Bake it at 250 degrees for 20 minutes. Pull it out of the pot and bake for another ten minutes.
The ritual begins. Your body shakes with the terrible knowledge of your ancestors’ dark prayer. The chortling harbinger of wet filth and snaking passageways awakens from its last death, from the unending shadows; the carrion oak’s bough sways in acknowledgment as the huntress mother clads you in her decadent raiment, stroking the matted, fetid hair that pokes out the hellspawn’s head, staring hungrily at the full moon, the blood eucharist a cruel reminder of her last sullen gasp; a vision of tusk and horn, unbeguiled by false gods, free at last with the sigil of Baphomet.
Yum! Our bread is done. You can share proudly on social media. You can show all your friends. You can pretend to be happy. You can whisper blood sigils. You can speak the dark truths that your bones won’t let you forget.
And there you have it! A recipe for delicious, warm, comforting sourdough bread. If this all sounds like too much work for you, worry not; we have a useful list of restaurants and bakeries that are open for delivery and will help satiate the gnawing inside. We’re at the point in the process where we kind of, sort of, maybe start to see a hint of a light at the end of an extended tunnel; we have to hunker down and endure, find comfort in the things we are able to, and see this thing through. Hopefully by the end of it all, our collective anxiety is somewhat assuaged. But even after quarantine is behind us, the screaming will remain. The screaming never stops.