Saturday, December 04, 2010

Baking Sourdough Bread

I realized, as I was poking through my posts that I haven't written about bread in awhile.

Some of you are bored already and some of you are dying from your gluten allergies. Sorry about that, but I must carry on!

I've been baking bread, steadily, crazily and continuously all year long. Somewhere in February, I decided to take the plunge and create my own sourdough starter. After days and days of making a slurry of flour and water in little jars and throwing away half of the weird smelling goo daily, it finally started rising, and no longer smelling weird and funky. A month later, I made my first batch of bread. The first batch was kind of funny, but so freakin' yummy that we couldn't stop eating it. I bought a set of bannetons (Bread molds or forms made of coiled reed to help the dough hold its shape while rising.) and learned how to use them. I then created a second starter, this time it was a rye starter. You know, for rye breads.

White sourdough from Bread Baker's Apprentice. Rings of flour are due to the banneton being heavily floured. Pretty!

And I went to work on my slashing and steaming techniques.

Look at the gringe (ear) on that loaf of rye sourdough! Sexy!

Next thing I knew, I had bought yet another ridiculous bread baking book (Bread by Jeffrey Hamelman and no, I'm not being compensated, it's just an incredible book. Not for the beginning bread baker, though.) and was making bread that took even longer to make than the Bread Baker's Apprentice loaves.

Crazy? Oh yes. Yes indeed.

Next thing I knew there were sourdough bagels,

English muffins,

multigrain boules

and loaf after loaf of different sourdough recipes. They weren't all successful, but almost all were fantastic. Now, our every day bread is made of sourdough. It might be a whole wheat multigrain with rye flakes, flaxseed and millet or a nice rye (Hey, it turns out that I like rye bread! It's just caraway seeds that I object to in my bread!) loaf. It all depends on what I'm in the mood for that baking day.

It's also been terribly therapeutic.

The act of taking wild yeast (Captured from the flour itself, not from the air as a TV chef would have you believe. Wild yeast grows on the food source it likes. For example: wheat.) and flour, water, and salt and making something as basic, yet as lovely as bread is rather soothing. The babies may be crazy, but look at this bread!
Pain au levain. Sexy French sourdough bread.

Making it has been fun, and I've learned an awful lot. I even put some up for sale for a good cause and have given away dozens and dozens of loaves (Which is the only reason I'm not the size of a whale, at this point!) to friends and family.

It's a helluva hobby. Considering how far I've come in the last year, I'm kinda worried what next year's leap will be. Will I start grinding my own grain? Planting an acre of wheat? Aiee!

Well, instead of worrying about it too much, I think I'll go have a slice of the Jewish Rye with caramelized onions I have sitting in the breadbox. It's calling to me, you see.



Cousin Janet in NY said...

Well I've said it before & I'll say it are truly amazing, Tracy! Those breads are so incredible looking, & I am sure they are even more incredible tasting. And I'm with you on the Yay-Rye, Boo-Caraway debate. I hate when you order an Everything Bagel at a bagel place & they threw in caraway seeds. Ruins it. And Happy Birthday to your husband from his (gulp) Eldest Cousin. Love to all

Woman with a Hatchet said...

Thanks Janet! I'll pass on the b-day wishes to Eric! Hugs!

ellen said...

Oh em gee! That bread looks so incredibly delicious! I want some!!!!

I'm moving in...

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