Wednesday, November 9, 2011
The Sweet Success of Sourdough
Not my bread - photo by kidmissile via flickr
I have noted my baking trials and tribulations here before. I love baking and I love eating my freshly made baked goods. So, when a friend mentioned that his mother had recently inherited her father's sourdough starter, I was intrigued. I asked enthusiastic questions! And implied my desire to one day have my own sourdough starter! Then said friend's mother showed up with a jar. Of the very same sourdough starter that she had recently inherited. And gave it to me. Yikes.
Let me back up a little. I bake. Sometimes I bake bread, and I like it. But I am by no means an expert or really even an intermediate baker. But I recently read a very funny book (memoir) about baking the perfect bread called 52 Loaves. In it the author, William Alexander, bakes once every week for a year, trying to recreate a "perfect" bread he had once at a New York eatery. The book is clever and inspiring, but serves as a huge caveat to those of us who bake at home. Namely, do not try this at home, it's really hard and you will not ever achieve the perfect loaf but instead break your back and your oven.
So naturally I wanted to try his method, which uses a starter. According to the experts, using a starter gives a loaf a more intense flavor and better crustiness and all-around superiority. So when I received my very own starter out of nowhere, I did what every enthusiastic baker would do - I put it in the refrigerator and didn't come near it for a month. Well, I came near it, to feed it (yep) and give it a stir. And I fretted. I looked up recipes. I became mildly anxious. I went on a short vacation.
And then, last weekend, I baked. It took three days! First, I pulled the jar out of the refrigerator. I fed it flour and water and left it out on the counter to let it warm up and wake up. It woke up and bubbled and expanded as it should. So then, before bed on Friday night. I added more flour and salt and water to make the dough, put that in the fridge to rise overnight, woke up on Saturday, took it out, let it rise some more, formed loaves, let them rise, and then popped in in the oven. And left the house. But Chris was at home! And he took it out of oven for me, and even tested it.
It's very yummy. It may have taken three days, but it's super flavorful and crunchy on the outside. But I'm not showing any pictures. It's as flat as all get out. We'll work on that next time.