Monday, July 26, 2010

out of thin air

My bread baking has taken a magical turn.

A few weeks ago, I began the process of developing a sourdough starter from scratch, which basically means I harnessed the natural wild yeast looming in my kitchen and, along with flour and water, turned it into a foaming, yeasty, glop of sourdough starter with enough leavening power to make fantastic breads.

And it worked. You might want to start calling me Hermione Granger. At least that's how I fancy myself as I stir up another batch of bread dough with this magical brew.

And somehow, I am still surprised every time my dough rises without me adding any packaged yeast. Sometimes, it's even a little too active.

I have been experimenting with sourdough recipes found in Breads from the La Brea Bakery, Local Breads, and The Bread Bible, and I have started using them as the starting point for my own bread recipes.

The results have been mostly scrumptious. Gabriel would be the first to tell you that not all of the loaves have been a huge success, but many have. Of course, I'll only share pictures of the good ones...

Sourdough Rye Sandwich Bread
Sourdough Pizza Dough
topped with pesto, goat cheese, tomatoes, and onions, then finished on the grill
Sourdough Croissants
I used the instructions found in The Bread Bible as a guide, which only requires rye flour, all-purpose flour, water, and a few days of patience. The chlorine contained in tap water would have inhibited the initial growth of the natural yeast, so rather than going out and buying bottled water for this project, I set out an open quart jar of tap water over night. The chlorine all evaporated by the next day, and I was able to put a lid on the jar and use that water for the entire process.
The initial starter I finished didn't have quite the leavening power necessary, but within another week of refreshing and refreigeration, it worked fantastic.
Interested in giving natural sourdough a try without going through the hassle of making your own? I have extra starter I can pass along (instead of just pouring it down the drain or feeding it to the chickens) with each loaf I make. Of course, I can only pass it along to those of you here in Northwest Arkansas...


  1. I would LOVE some starter. I have tried off & on to start my own but I haven't been successful. Is it very sour? Your bread is gorgeous!

  2. Count me in when you need to get rid of some starter!
    I just have not done Sourdough in a long while!
    Love the post..I am going to pass it along to a friend of mine.
    i agree your bread is really gorgeous!