If Ken Forkish’s book Flour Water Salt Yeast made sourdough bread seem simple and scientific, Ed Wood’s World Sourdoughs from Antiquity made it seem mystical and magical. It’s interesting as Ed Wood’s biography shows him to be a biologist, someone who should understand the science of how the yeast operates.
Wood makes it seem like exact ratios have little to no effect on final bread product. He says that the quality of the water doesn’t matter much. This is problematic for me for several reasons. Firstly, pure water allows for a better flavor in making root beer from scratch. It is often what is recommended for all kinds of home brewing. Secondly, we’ve tried to use tap water to make sourdough bread before and we had problem with the efficacy of the yeast. It was far less effective. We theorize that this has to due with the chemicals we put in our water in the US to keep it safe for drinking. Continuing his nonscientific approaches, he also advocates for measuring by volume rather than weight.
Ed Wood tells some great stories about how he has saved various strains of yeast from different parts of the world and made bread with them. These stories are entertaining and engaging. Definitely worth reading if you have interest in this hobby. However, if you wish to use the recipes, I’d say be prepared to do some work perfecting them. I will give the caveat that we did lose our levain before I was able to try any of these recipes.
Overall I give this book 3 stars.
Next Up: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander