Sourdough of my dreams and Free Giveaway!

***Post a comment below to be entered into a draw for a Woodfire Deli Gift Certificate. Free Giveaway ends November 15, 2014***sourdough

Sourdough…even just thinking about this delicious, chewy bread makes me salivate.

But try as I might, years of failure with this particular provender have decimated my hopes of ever creating a crusty, delicious bread. I have yet to claim success in the grand adventure of bread. My dough is always either too runny, too dense, too surly or just plain gross. No matter how much internet research I do, no matter how many You Tube videos I study or what I read in my pile of books on baking, I can’t seem to understand how to feel sourdough. And that’s what it is about- feeling the dough. Nurturing it, feeding and watching it grow like a beloved child into spongy, chewy perfection.

My chance to really get sourdough came recently when Buffy Dawson, co-owner of The Woodfire Deli in Souris, MB told me about her new hire; a baker whose passion for the craft is unmatched and whose especially rapturous enthusiasm for sourdough is second to none. What’s more- Selena adores finishing her masterpieces, not in a traditional electric oven, but in a wood fired one- the trademark of my friend’s unconventional yet sumptuously satisfying establishment , The Woodfire Deli. Slider-Wood-Plank


The oven at the Woodfire Deli cooks pizza and bread at an average temperature of 600F.

First Rising

Three year old, Leela and I arrived at the Woodfire Deli a little later than I’d planned (bakers begin their work days ridiculously early) but lucky for us, Selena was forgiving. She’d already prepared the sponge (sourdough starter- pre-fed an appropriate amount of bread forming food) the day before and was ready to start crafting her dough. It smelled like heaven! An acidic, high noted, bubbly poolish (bread lingo for not-too-runny-not-too-thick slop) was added to precise amounts of organic white flour, salt and water. Then the dough hook worked it’s way through the mix- sliding through the floury mass and flexing the gluten into a  batch of something recognizable.

Selena, ensuring that the dough was being worked up properly (rather than the sloppy, saggy failures I was used to), explained how temperature and humidity affect dough differently every day. These external factors can be the difference between a successful sourdough and a floppy fiasco. Today’s conditions demanded more flour, which she tossed into the mix with careful flicks of her wrist, a wee bit at a time.


Selena displays a big bowl of dough ready for rising number two.

There were several times when the mixer stopped and we patted the dough, checking it’s snap. Selena worked it until it felt like a baby’s butt- soft enough to press but with enough snapback to maintain it’s density. The finish was stickier than I’d expected (a sure sign that in the past I’d been a little too amorous with the flour).

For fun, Selena then added her own concoction of roasted red peppers, oregano and fresh cut rosemary. Almost instantly the dough absorbed these new flavors with an irresistible attraction much like the way a three year old is drawn to mud puddles. Both dualities coming together to produce a sum which is far greater than it’s two component parts.

Then it was time to let the dough sit and rise. “45 minutes should do it,” Selena advised taking note once again of ambient temperature. This second rising (the first occurs with the sponge) gives the natural yeasts in the sourdough a chance to develop.

Second Rising

I always took the notion of ‘punching the dough down’ literally. I love to make fisticuffs and unleash the fury in the bread bowl, but Selena advised against such brutality. “You fold it gently,” she whispered, caressing the dough with loving strokes in and over itself. A few turns was all the dough needed. Then it was time to cover it up once more and let it sit again to proof. “Half and hour” she whispered, as if she were putting a delicate child down for a nap.

Third Rising/ Proofing/ First Shaping


Hey look at that! I measured the perfect weight of dough.

Selena pulled the plastic back from the huge metal bowl and pressed her fingers into the dough. “We can shape it now,” she smiled and carefully transferred the bowl’s contents onto the clean metal table. She grabbed a knife and began to cut the dough apart, sectioning it into clumps that each weighed exactly the same amount. Once the dough was divided it was time to get artistic. The first shaping had me fooled. “We must be getting close to finished now.” I excitedly thought to myself, salivary glands gearing up for the tasting. Selena showed me how to caress the balls of perfectly measured dough into balls or boules that began to resemble the delicious bread of my dreams. Pulling it ’round and ’round while tucking the dough underneath itself, I watched as the balls rose up higher and higher. She let the round bread sit for five minutes before getting into the second shaping.

Second Shaping

Second shaping? This was taking forever. My mouth went on strike- deciding then and there that sourdough was not in it’s future. As my salivary glands went home for lunch I figured I’d better do the same. After the second shaping the bread had to rise again (at this point I lost count).

Nearly two hours later I got the text. Like a 1950’s father, sequestered with unwrapped cigars in hand to the lobby while his wife labored in a room of female secrecy. I somewhat nervously typed back, “Is it ready?”

“We just have to bake it.” Selena replied. I ran back to the Woodfire Deli  determined not to miss a single floury thing.


“The trick with baking is steam,” Selena instructed. She misted the oven with a hand sprayer before popping the jiggling balls of bread into the heat. We weren’t using a steam oven and so of course, the steam had to be done at the baker’s discretion. Internal bread temperature rather than baking time determined when our masterpiece would be finished. Selena explained the magic number was 220F. Silly me,  I’d always gone by color and the rap of my first against the crust. Why didn’t I think to check my bread with a thermometer? Once the magic number appeared our lovely boules were ready to cool and I couldn’t help but admire them.IMG_4437

Now I know that every parent thinks their child is the most lovely creature they’ve ever laid eyes on, and with absolutely no overstatement whatsoever I can honestly say that was the most beautiful bread I’d ever seen. It brought tears to my eyes. Finally, finally (by association) I’d helped to create sourdough bread that looked just like it should. It only took eight hours but it was worth it, an exhausting labour of love.


p.s. I should mention that while I gaped on and on about bread for half a day, Selena also made focacia, dessert and cookies. Her kitchen prowess is unparalleled.

Thank you to Selena for unraveling the mysteries of sourdough and thank you also to Buffy and Steve for allowing me and little Leela into their eatery kitchen for far longer than I anticipated.

 ***Post a comment below to be entered into a draw for a Woodfire Deli Gift Certificate. Free Giveaway ends November 15, 2014***

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16 Responses to Sourdough of my dreams and Free Giveaway!

  1. Kathy Clelland says:

    We enjoyed some fine food at the wood fire deli this year. The staff was great and the food was awesome.

  2. Lynda Saunderson says:

    Lovely story about your adventure making sourdough. Breadmaking is a science and an art! I find working with dough is great therapy and of course who doesn’t enjoy the end result. We are so fortunate to have Buffy and Steve in our community and Kim, our yoga-foodie who is remembering us from afar.

  3. Travis Rivard says:

    Great article. Definitely looking forward to my next visit to the Woodfire Deli.

  4. Darci Semeschuk says:

    Ok, nice story, nice pics, we all mis Kim, we all love Woodfire, blah blah blah. I realy just want that gift certificate!

  5. Kathy says:

    Your article on Woodfire Deli’s sourdough bread was good. I had heard about it from a friend and your article has re-confirmed what she said about the deli. I love making bread and any local article that celebrates it is wonderful! Keep up the good work of spotlighting our local businesses in Southwestern Manitoba!

  6. olga benson says:

    I love to read about local food!

  7. Laurie says:

    We went to the Woodfire Deli for an impromptu date. The atmosphere was great and the food was unique. Real food is the only way to go.

    Wood fired ovens have fascinated us for years. One day, we plan to build our own. Until then, I dream…

    I also have a passion for making unique artisan breads. There is nothing like the feeling you get after doing much research,
    trial and error and then achieving success!

    I can only imagine the elation and satisfaction of combining the two passions.

    Thank you for the well written story about your adventure.

  8. Gill Robertson says:

    I have to agree with Jackie Kim your style if writing places us there next to you. I love the breads at the deli !!!

  9. Kay Aichess says:

    Barb, I have tried this several times since my bread intensive at the Woodfire but alas, I can’t seem to get it right…I’ll have to keep practicing.

  10. Karen Maryniuk says:

    I love breads and make them often but this sounds like a definite labour of love. I can hardly wait to try it! Thanks so much!!

  11. PHYLLIS ARMOUR says:

    Sour dough Bread is my most favorite in the world.

  12. Barb Arnold says:

    Congrats Kim. I have cooked and baked for over 45 years and have realized you can always learn something new in the kitchen. I love that we can actually get this bread at the Wood Fire Deli. We are so lucky to have such a “neat” eatery in a small town. Keep up the great work guys. By the way Kim have you tried to make sour dough bread at home yet?

  13. Loretta Turner says:

    mmmm so yummy! Must go there tomorrow!

  14. Jackie Kirkup says:

    Oh Kim! Yum, Yum, Yum! Your are an amazing writer and I felt like I was right with you the entire process! Oh how I would have loved to devour that bread, but knowing I couldn’t I wanted to take out that word gluten! Anyway great job and congratulations on partnering with the Woodfire Deli, Souris’s amazing food gem! Buffy and Steve are awesome additions to the community!

  15. Maggie Oldenkamp says:

    Enjoyed your sourdough tale! Thanks.

  16. Kay Aichess says:

    Congratulations! You are now in the comments section. The winner of the Woodfire Deli gift certificate will be randomly selected from comments submitted here! Good luck. Contest ends November 15, 2014.

Comments are closed.