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!

9 comments:

Shari@Whisk: a food blog said...

Wow, that looks amazing for your first foray into sourdough bread making! It's on my list of things to try too!

Christina said...

You've inspired me to finally start my own sourdough starter (which, honestly, probably won't be for a while, heh). Your bread is glorious!

Jeff Hertzberg said...

Hi, I'm Jeff Hertzberg, one of the co-authors of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. True sourdough starter is fantastic, and I've found that it works beatifully in our recipes, so long as you substitute out only about a cup and a half of starter for some of the flour and water. The resulting mixture stores nicely (about 7 days max) and lets you really leverage the time you spent making that beautiful starter.

It's not in our book, but it does work...

Jeff Hertzberg
www.artisanbreadinfive.com

Lucy said...

Looks amazing, just gorgeous!! My starter needs to be awaken after a long summer.

Joy the Baker said...

Your bread looks gorgeous! And you're such an inspiration! I just started my sourdough starter two days ago and I got some of my readers to play along with me. I will definitely post this success of yours as an inspiration. Thanks!

Zoe Francois said...

Your bread looks fantastic! I bet it tasted great as well. Congratulations on your first sour dough.

them apples said...

I used a starter recipe from the Moro cookbook, which involved fermenting a bunch of grapes and waiting for a MONTH.

A long wait, excellent results

Jerry said...

Jeff (Hertzberg)
with ref. to your posted 9/10/08 would you kindly post the complete sourdough recipe? I enjoy very much your book; it's a great work.
The bread I make using your recipe is fantastic and look forward about doing the same with sourdough.

Jeff Hertzberg said...

Jerry: That's just the problem, I don't have a developed recipe. You can use anyone's published recipe for sourdough; then take about a cup and a half of it and incorporate it into one of the recipes.

Pretty vague, and that's why it didn't go into our books! Sorry I can't be more helpful. All I can say is that it was very forgiving. Jeff