While I love to make quick breads, pastries and desserts, I have always loved fresh bread – the stuff you get in restaurants in the baskets that’s all warm and crunchy-crusted and decadent. There is something about smelling warm bread and eating it that just makes my day.
I took a sourdough starter course a few months ago after attempting to make my own starter and killing it horribly because I had no idea what I was doing. And by killing horribly I mean I left in the fridge for months, avoiding it like the plague. Yeah, I’m an avoider. But I took this two-hour workshop up in SF from a bread company called Sour Flour. We received a bit of starter for ourselves to take home and feed and make into our own thing. We also made a bit of flatbread, which was good – it was a short workshop, so it’s not like we had hours and hours to let it rise as a full loaf.
That workshop was very enlightening, but at this point the only thing I could say I successfully learned from it was how to keep a starter alive. I have attempted two bread-things from it – one was a loaf of bread from one of the example recipes the workshop referred to, and the other was attempting to integrate the starter into my grandmother’s orange rolls. The first was interesting, as I started the process on the weekend but found that I didn’t have enough time to do the rising and baking (I am working on the whole planning thing, as I have mentioned before), so I let the dough sit in the fridge overnight. And then for the rest of the week until the following weekend. I decided to finally take it out and see if I could salvage it, and it turned out pretty well. It didn’t rise as much as I was expecting, but it had a wonderful sourdough taste because it had sat in the fridge for so long, developing those flavors. Unfortunately, it sat so long that it was still very dense. I wanted a fluffy bread.
I recently started seriously perusing Reddit, and came a cross a sub-reddit called Breadit. I couldn’t resist looking at it, and someone mentioned a book called Tartine Bread. I looked it up and took the plunge and bought it on the iBook store, figuring it would be easier for me to take into the kitchen and such, and not let it get horribly doughed and floured. This was a good idea, as was reading the book, at least through the end of the first section where it tells how to work with an initial loaf, the most basic recipe. Turns out the sourdough I made had been using a modified Tartine recipe, so I had a bit of a step up with that.
This time I started the process Thursday night, and was able to bake the loaves on Sunday. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, because my dough looked less smooth and elastic-y than the pictures in the book, and I was certain it would be very dense once again. I did have to leave the loaves in the fridge overnight, as some of the initial steps took longer than anticipated, but I wanted to make sure things looked right. One of the aspects of baking that the book talks about is being attentive to the dough, and not just working by what a recipe says – each environment is different, and that impacts the dough’s development.
After removing the dough from the fridge and noticing that it hadn’t done terribly much, I further sank into apprehension as to whether it would work. I figured things would turn out the way they had before because I was too hasty and didn’t know what I was doing.
Once I removed it from the pan, though, I was rewarded:
It had bubbles! And was light and airy, while still very moist. A little butter doesn’t hurt, though.
I will post the recipe once I have a moment to copy down the recipe – it’s rather long and has a lot of notes for what to do it x, y or z happens. All good things, but a lot of stuff to go through. In the meantime, though, I am munching on amazing bread, and looking forward to my Valentine’s offering – peanut butter krispy treats.