Tuesday, September 9, 2008
A Week in the Making
I don't want to make this a baking blog, but...
The baking project that I'm featuring today is something that was a week in the making. Yes, a week. After much waffling and culinary procrastinating, I finally was motivated to make my own sourdough starter in an effort to bake some real, artisan-style bread. It's not that I'm not a fan of the whole Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day fad, but it doesn't really compare to real, wild yeast sourdough.
I've kept this little project under wraps because I wanted to surprise Jonathan with some homemade sourdough when he got home from California on Sunday evening. Jonathan loves sourdough, and always laments the inferiority of Boston bread as it compares to the famed San Francisco stuff. And who can blame him? I'm always surprised that there aren't more bakeries in the Boston area, and I've mentioned my love for Acme loaves here once or twice.
Feeling a bit inspired by my soft whole wheat loaves, I decided to take the plunge into the vast and highly complex world of sourdough and starters. I tried to do my research on the internet and with the help of some different books, and felt decidedly overwhelmed by the glut of information and opinions about the topic. In an effort to keep things simple, I went with the cultivation method outlined in my trusty King Arthur whole grains baking book.
The first few days were a little iffy (and my starter smelled a bit...funky), but in the end my pain au levain worked out pretty well. I won't go into too much detail because I'm far from an expert on this stuff, but the two little boules that I made were very tasty and had that nice, open crumb that I've never been able to achieve with other baking methods. I think my dough was a bit too soft, and the slashing was basically a disaster, but for a first try I was pretty pleased. This loaf was only about half whole-wheat, but I see many more bread-baking experiments in my future. I will try to post the more successful ones as they emerge from my oven.
For now, here's my first pain au levain, which made a lovely accompaniment to the vegetable, wild rice, and chicken meatball soup Jonathan and I had for dinner on his first night back in town. Yum!