Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Sourdough, Take One

Patience is not a virtue that I naturally possess. Baking homemade bread is akin to gardening in that they both take great amounts of patience. (I haven't ventured too far into the world of gardening for this reason; but maybe someday I will.)

I think baking bread is really good for my character development, as well as my five senses. And in the end all the waiting is worth it. Nothing—absolutely nothing in this world—tastes better than fresh, homemade bread straight from the oven.

Recently I decided to expand my bread-baking horizons and attempt to make sourdough bread from scratch, with a homemade starter. This was a five day process. Three days for the starter. Overnight for the sponge. Another overnight for the first rising. And then you bake it the next day.

I have to be honest—all the waiting and anticipation ended with slight disappointment. In the end, the bread was a little too dense. I’m not giving up easily though. After just one bite, I realized that sourdough bread is worth perfecting. The bread had indescribable character and depth of flavor. Homemade sourdough has a much more rich and complex flavor than anything you would get from a bakery.

So I will begin a new starter in the next few days.

Here is an excerpt from the cookbook I used, which provoked my interest in beginning the sourdough process:

“The best way to understand the miracle of sourdough bread is to bake it regularly. This bread is a paradox. It is both simple and complex. Every loaf has just four basic ingredients yet it can taste different every time you bake it. The yeast in sourdough bread is airborne and influenced dramatically by its environment. A simple change in weather can affect it, and the same recipe will bake differently from one house to another. More than any other bread, sourdough takes on the personality of the baker. The process of making it is time-consuming but it is not labor-intensive. In other words, a good sourdough bread requires a little human intervention and a lot of time alone. Once you have successfully made the starter, you will need 3 days to produce a loaf of incomparable depth and flavor.”

Here are some pictures of my first sourdough bread attempt.



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Heather L. said...

How exciting!!! Your loaf looks terrific and the sourdough you buy at places like Trader Joe's is also dense. I've never taken the time to try this yet, but it sounds like it would be fun to do sometime.....

Megan said...

Those are not your hands. :) Did you do this with your mom when she was in town?

Rachelle said...

That is a beautiful work of art. You nearly inspire me to bake. In order to maintain sanity awhile back I forgave myself of baking and decided to focus on cooking. However, you're making me reconsider.

Monica said...

I am not a good bread baker and gave up long ago. I can manage a yearly attempt with a mediocre result. You'll have to share your tips and tricks as you continue learning. I need some encouragement:)

mrsschrage said...

I am so impressed with your sourdough. I've been wanting to try that same recipe, but haven't had the patience and forethought. :)

BTW, the pizza dough recipe from that book is the BEST. I'm on my way to make it tonight for supper.