En route to the Bothy at Inshriach Bobby Niven put a question to us – what is the secret of sourdough? Whether rhetorical, jovial, in-passing or a genuine enquiry, this simple asking became intrinsic to our week’s work and instigated an indulgent philosophical thinking during our stay.
Sam Luntley and Anna Luntley
Sourdough bread is bread raised with wild yeast. This wild yeast is commonly referred to as ‘the starter’ and is usually made using just flour and water. Once created, the starter needs to be tended daily – to be fed and cared for – in order to nurture a natural ferment. This process of feeding and nurturing means that sourdough breads have a history and a story, and are distinctive to their baker and to the environment in which they are made. They are in someway reflective / illustrative / informed by their time and place; document, artifact and record.
breadatthebothy was a week spent exploring of the art of sourdough bread baking at its most elemental – in the wilds and deep cold of the wintertime Cairngorm National Park using the wood heat of locally felled timbers in the Bothy’s log burning stove.
The breads baked were fermented with natural yeasts spored by the idiosyncrasies of the highland air – breeding loaves infused with Cairngorm flavour and spirit in their rise. We baked in the heat of the Bothy’s wood burner – fuelled by the woods of the Inshriach estate: timbers carried and chopped by the same hands that turned, folded, mixed and kneaded. We baked obsessively and incessantly; dawn and dusk, noon and deep night. Our loaves documented the circumstance and environment of their creation in their crumb, crust and colour; producing a material and edible documentation of a week spent at Inshriach.
Concurrently, the act and process of baking permeated the environment of the Bothy with warmth, scent, heat and moisture; expanding, contracting, thawing and scalding. The care, love, tire and frustration of making meant that at times the Bothy was a snow bound haven of harmony and satisfaction, while at others a furness of fury and exasperation. We needed the harsh cold to preserve, chill and retard, and yet also the blazing heat to prove, blister and burst. For our week, the Bothy was a enclave of energy and production – we worked harder than in our normal working lives. We like to think of a tension between the energetic and physical strain we experienced at / inflicted upon the Bothy and the calm, reflective and meditative retreat it has offered many artists previously; a tension imaginably captured in our breads with their burnished, orbaned and cracked crusts contrasted by their moist, creamy and soft-hued interiors.
For the week that we baked at Inshriach the Bothy became a hub or mother of sorts; nurturing and sharing with the local inhabitants of the Spey valley. Loaves were broken, left in porches and on steps, gifted, delivered and included on Valentines tasting menus. They inspired conversation, convivial dining, generosity of hand and month, critique and poetry.
In answer to Bobby’s question Inshriach gave us the answer in a warning before we had even reached the Bothy. A single word which, when heeded, can result in the perfect flavour, rise, appreciation, creative awareness and savour.
For a photographic journal of our time at the bothy please visit – www.breadatthebothy.tumblr.com