Saturday, February 8, 2014

Adventures in sourdough bread-baking

When I was in the eighth grade, we traveled through Europe as a family.  My dad had been invited by some missionary friends to speak about Jesus to the university students there.  In addition to his speaking engagements, we got a Eurail pass and visited every possible museum, church and castle my dad could get us to.  (In the eighth grade, I was not particularly excited about all of that.  I was looking forward to Paris and was hunting for a new pair of shoes.  Truly.)  But in college I did end up studying art, and art history classes were my absolute favorite.  Perhaps all those museum trips ignited a love of art in me after all.

One of the other things I remember about Europe is the bread.  My fondest memory is a trip we took along with two missionary families up to a little guest house in the Austrian Alps.  Each morning during our stay there, our hosts hung a drawstring bag full of fresh rolls on the outside of our door.  Maybe it was the luxury of freshly baked bread- still warm- delivered right to our door, or maybe it was simply the result of sleeping atop a downy feather bed, but it was my favorite place in all of Europe- that little inn in the mountains with the homemade rolls. 

In December I read Stones for Bread, and in the book the main character is an artisan baker.  The book was full of recipes and a narrative of the history of bread.  I finished the book and wanted to bake.  So I checked out several books at the library and started perusing them, to learn how.  I was contemplating beginning my own wild yeast starter.  The more I read, the more I realized just how MUCH there is to learn, and what a science the art of bread-making is, and it just all seemed a little overwhelming to add to my already-full plate.  So I announced to Mark that someday, maybe when the kids are older, maybe when we're old, I will learn to bake bread.  I think I'd really love it.

When I miscarried last month, a friend of mine brought us a meal, and with it a loaf of homemade sourdough bread.  It was so delicious, that bread- and so generous of her to share it.  I asked her for the recipe and when she emailed it to me she said she'd drop off some starter the next time she was in town.  And she did.  So then I had this unfamiliar liquid in a jar and no idea what to do with it, except for her recipe and instructions. 

So I followed her instructions and fed my starter daily and tried my first loaves.  They over-rose, if there is such a term, and went flat.  I baked them anyway and the bread was delicious.  And I learned that the next time I would use three pans, not the two.

The photo below is from my second batch of bread.  This time I mixed in a bit of wheat flour with the white, and folded parmesan cheese into the round loaf.

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Take three: (photos taken pre-baking)

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Isaac and I added feta, garlic and dill to this loaf.  It has been our favorite loaf so far.

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We made two loaves with chocolate chunks and peanut butter swirls.

I still don't know what I'm doing.  (I want to figure out how to make my bread more porous, for instance, and I have no idea what I'd need to do to make that happen.)  Someday maybe I'll have time to figure that out, or maybe I'll accidentally happen upon that as I experiment.  But for now, I am doing what I know to do, and changing things up a bit as I go, and happily surprised every time my bread turns out!  (Oh, and we're all probably getting chubby, too.)  ;)

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This morning's loaves.

5 comments:

  1. Yummy! This makes me hungry to come over and eat your bread. Because of course there is butter to go with it!

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  2. This is so funny. I have a post I'm working on tonight about my bread baking adventures. It's also funny that I mentioned reading Stones for Bread which my husband gave me for Christmas and it is what inspired me to start my own sourdough baking, too.

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  3. I have tried several times to make starter, usually it ends up all over my fridge or ceiling. I love making bread! Sometimes I am too lazy to grind the wheat then we just have white bread and that makes me feel guilty.. I always love your book recommendations. I will check out the Stones for Bread book! Glad to see you here.

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  4. I love that bread making is your new hobby and that we received a loaf of your sourdough with feta and sun-dried tomatoes! Simply delicious! And looked beautiful too!

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  5. They all look delicious, Stacy. I enjoy baking bread too, but mine are boring whole wheat breads. I have a few other recipes for buns I'd like to try, thanks for the beautiful inspiration and the book title to look for! :)

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