WHILST I considered which recipe to share with you this month, I recalled the wine from last month and decided that bread, ‘The Staff of Life’, would be appropriate!

Bread being the most wildly consumed food in the world and existing in a mind-boggling array of styles and forms, it is one of our most ancient food technologies.

It’s believed that bread was made and consumed by humans as long as 30,000 years ago.

Our ancestors made unleavened flat breads (bread without yeast) by drying and grinding roots into flours and mixing it with water: the resulting paste would be cooked on rocks that had been heated in the fire.

At some point it’s possible one of our hairy cave-dwelling great-great-great-grandparents had a eureka moment – maybe he/she was a particularly lazy specimen and left their paste out for a few days without cooking it.

After a couple of days the paste started to bubble, and when cooked the result was much tastier and palatable.

Bread baking was perfected as an industry in ancient Egypt and they were making commercial yeast production as long ago as 300BC.

Yeasts are living microorganisms which are members of the fungus family and they are one of the magic ingredients that transform a basic mixture of flour and water into a soul-satisfying loaf of bread.

Another is the gluten, which is a composite of storage proteins contained in wheat. Gluten forms when water is added to flour as you knead your bread dough, and a continuous network of protein forms, giving the dough strength and elasticity.

The yeast feeds on the sugars in your dough, producing carbon dioxide and alcohol which forms bubbles that become trapped in the stretchy elasticated dough, making it rise like a balloon.

In recent times the rise of mass-produced bread, usually soft and white, has become pretty boring and standardised, lacking in both flavour and texture.

It might be no coincidence that the recent increase in gluten intolerance coincides with this, because mass produced bread can be very high in gluten due to the fast proofing times.

I believe that if there is one thing we should make at home then it’s bread. There is nothing as satisfying as making a loaf of bread.

Although it is simply flour, water, salt and yeast, these things put together with a little skill and practise produce something truly wonderful – it’s a pleasure to make, from the kneading of the dough through to the baking and finally the cutting and eating.

Sourdough is made by building up a starter of wild yeast rather than using commercial baker’s yeast: it is far superior in flavour, texture and nourishment due to the slow proofing time. It has a mildly sour taste and keeps longer than normal bread due to the lactic acid from the wild yeast.

The recipe I’m sharing is to make a sourdough loaf. Although it takes over a week to make from start to finish it’s not very labour intensive and the results are worth it!

Making the starter and watching it come to life and grow is also fun – it’s a bit like having a kitchen pet, on par with the aqua ‘monkeys’ I once received for Christmas as a child.

Some starters have been kept by bakers for hundreds of years, which I think is really impressive.