Bob the Beeman 

Well, this is something new but firmly based on all the SB honey work that I have done in the past. Perhaps one could say that it reflects a culmination of it. It certainly reflects the frustrations of the past months and lockdown with restricted access to just about everything that is normal in life.  

One thing has continued, stingless bees still produce their incredibly special honey, rich in the special yeasts and Lactobacilli that decide its ultimate flavour, character and popularity. You might wonder why I go here. Well my good wife Barbara enjoys cooking and has joined the nationwide Sourdough trend. She has produced some excellent results with multiple different flour types. 

I had used genomic techniques to name some of the yeasts that I had found in the SB honey I had tested and worked with Dr Flavia Massaro aiding in her work. She supplied the motivation for this next step, and some key information. She simply commented that my SB honey would supply the yeast organisms needed to start a sourdough culture. It is collected clean, with few contaminating organisms and in the period just after harvest and initial sealing of pot, the yeast organism numbers can reach very high numbers. That is the ideal time.  

I put this to the test. Mature honey, that had been kept in the frames for many months, did not work quickly. A second mature honey did likewise. However, SB honey showing actual fermentation when the pot was broken produced a quick response. Anyone who has ventured into this field will know the frustrations of which I refer. Nothing works like yeast out of a packet at this stageI do admit to not being patient and am more used to breadmaking and kneading in the old traditional way, from days back on the farm. One got yeast from a packet, and exercise from the kneading. 

Sourdough starters takes time and patience, being prepared to cull if contaminated. Fortunately, we did not have to do that. 

As the saying goes “the proof of the pudding is in the eating.” 

I admit to passing the final feeding up stage from culture in the starter, to inclusion to produce the baking dough to my good wife. It involves a series of 3 flour/water additions to stimulate activity for actual bread making. Because of the 3 additions of honey early, the overall amount of final mix became greater than needed for the bread so it could be portioned. The amount to produce the bread being made, and two new starters was put out. The rest was discarded.  

On the bread mix, Barbara used an air kneading technique, quite strange to me, and strange noises in the kitchen compared to the silence of traditional kneadingMore technique than muscle would be my description. Patience is a requirement and our oven actually has a very convenient dough proving mode. Ovens are getting fancy these days. It worked a treat, and two loaves of delightful bread were produced. First taste never takes long in this house, even after a full meal.  

It had a delightful nutty flavour, beyond the normal flavour of sourdough bread. There was very little honey in this mix, just a few tablespoons and the mix also produced two more starters. Normal unbleached bakers flour was used, so plenty of time to try the more exotic flour types and blends. The crust was lighter than other breads that we have had, but just enough crunch for our dog to hear and come running.  

Flavia supplied information on how they really use sourdough bread traditionally in Italy. I don’t know about others, but we learnt from that and changed our expectations and ways of eating this unique bread especially over time. It is a great addition to winter fare. 

Special thanks to Barbara and to Flavia. 

Bob the Beeman