Breadmaking is one of those perfectly simple, absolutely miraculous things that, if successful, deliver no end of satisfaction. How great is it to give life to a leaven? And then to see that leaven shape a loaf of bread? And, if that's not enough, to pull that loaf out of the oven and be able to eat it!?
It's hard to take credit for bread, though. You don't actually do very much. You stir flour and water together and just wait and hope that something is happening in the fort you've made out of your heater, drying rack, folding chair, and quilts. This in no way diminishes the elation you feel when you part the blankets to find a jar full to brimming with lovely leaven--leaven that just the day before was a seemingly lifeless lump of flour and water.
I owe my success first and foremost to all the little beasties who so graciously decided to populate my leaven, but also to Andrew Whitley whose wonderful book, Bread Matters: The State of Modern Bread and a Definitive Guide to Baking Your Own, made me believe that there is no reason why anybody should not have a viable starter waiting patiently in the fridge for baking day. It really is that simple.
So far I have only tried Whitely's wheat leaven. Its success has encouraged me to get a rye sourdough going and when I do you'll be sure to hear about it.