Sourdough Bread – The Journey Begins

April 13, 2013

in Breads and Pastries, Cook What You Like

I’m on a sourdough bread baking adventure.  Playing with flour, water, salt and wild yeast. Untangling the science of fermentation.  And  loving the Art in bread making.

The pictured loaf looks pretty darn good, huh?  But it’s not one of mine.

My first few sourdough loaves were so bad that I didn’t want anyone to see them.  They got tossed directly into the trash.  The hard slabs of dough ringed the sides of the bin before bouncing off the bottom – thump, thump!  Subsequent batches were a little better but still needed help.  I was sharing with fellow winemaker John Hyde about some my not-so-successful attempts at sourdough bread making and was surprised when he offered tips and techniques on baking sourdough loaves. He sounded like a pro, and he is!  Little did I know, John was the head baker a few years back with Paragary’s, a local restaurant with several venues.  John is also the brains behind the on-line winery and restaurant marketing business,

Subsequent loaves continued to improve but that San Francisco sourdough tang with chewy “big holes” crumb eluded me. I must have sounded either really frustrated or inspirational for soon John asked for a piece of the sourdough starter so that he could experiment.  Not having baked a loaf of sourdough in awhile, John found that the transition from commercial baking to home baking isn’t always smooth.  The quantities are scaled way back.  The mixers are different.  Home ovens don’t behave like deck ovens.  And there’s no steam injection…

Still, John was able to turn out the gorgeous loaf pictured above.  He cautions though, that the bread’s good looks are deceiving; he’s still working on the flavor and texture.

Me, too.  Well, not just working on the flavor and texture but also on the shape and expansion joints and crust – just about everything. Dozens of loaves later, I’m learning there isn’t a single way to make sourdough bread.  In fact, there’s a gazillion ways to mix, knead, ferment, shape, proof and bake these golden gems.  Some methods are crazy easy; others are precise. Who would have thought that bread dough would be stretched and folded to build structure? And that bread bakers anticipate oven spring and patiently wait to hear the bread sing?  Intrigued?  I’ll be sharing some recipes and techniques and maybe soon, you’ll also be waxing poetically about sourdough.

A bowlful of wild yeast.




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