Saturday, June 22, 2013

James, Michael, Jacques and Me

James Sartain gave me the sourdough starter.

Michael Pollan gave me the inspiration to start making homemade bread again.

Jacques Pépin gave me the general recipe I used.

Is it any wonder I like men?

After reading Michael Pollan's latest book, "Cooked," I was intrigued to try making bread with natural yeasts from the air.  I took the shortcut of asking Jim Sartain for some of his sourdough starter, rather than start from scratch. Then, I consulted Jacques Pépin's "Essential Pépin" for technique in making what he calls Small Light Country Loaves.

I began with a little trepidation, because I didn't have faith that my starter would actually be strong enough to leaven bread - despite it's actively bubbly, almost effervescent evidence to the contrary. Jim told me to feed it daily; I did, and it rewarded me by rising to the top of the jar with a frothy topping of snow white bubbles like a funny, curly toupee. I nearly chickened out and added store bought yeast, but then I thought, "What the heck - the worst that can happen is I throw away a lump of dough - or make a doorstop."

The only ingredients were 1 cup of sourdough starter, 4 cups of flour, 2 teaspoons of salt, and 1-1/2 half cups of water. This is different from Jacques' recipe - he used an envelope (2-1/4 teaspoons) of instant yeast and two cups of water. I figured that I'd sub in a cup of the liquidy starter for 1/2 cup of the water. It made a very sticky, wet dough (as Jacques said it would - I was glad I had taken off my rings) that I raised and punched down two times, once for 3-1/2 hours, the second rise for 2 hours, and the last rise (with no punching that time) for 45 minutes after dividing the dough in four more or less equal parts. Yes, it pretty much takes all day, but the active handling time is really minimal.

Baked on parchment paper on a hot pizza stone in a 425 degree F oven that I sprayed twice with water to create steam, the loaves were golden brown with a crisp crust in about  35 minutes. I had set a timer but I didn't really need it - the heavenly scent of baking bread told me the loaves were ready about five minutes before the timer quacked (my timer makes sounds like a duck).

With smells like that emanating from the oven, I was tempted to break open one of the loaves immediately, but I resisted for  a full 10 minutes - talk about self control!  I finally sliced off one end and spread it with a little unsalted butter.

The crumb was tighter than I expected - should have left it to rise just a little longer, I think - but the flavor!  Oh, my heavens, the flavor is wonderful, richly yeasty and moist, but with a crackling, chewy crust. The tang of sourdough is evident and welcome, giving a white bread with some serious character and pizzazz.

These guys know bread. With James, Jacques and Michael in my corner, I can't go wrong.


Blogger Toons said...

I am so glad it worked for you. Fresh baked bread is a gift from above. Enjoy.

Saturday, June 22, 2013  
Blogger Greg said...

Nothing better than a fresh loaf.

Sunday, June 23, 2013  
Blogger nancy namaste said...

Nothing says loving like fresh bread from the oven!

Sunday, June 23, 2013  
Blogger cookiecrumb said...

I've never used a sourdough starter. It would probably just die in the fridge. I'm thrilled at your success.
Yay Toons! (And those other guys.)

Sunday, June 23, 2013  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Toons, well, if by above you mean Petaluma...

Greg, fresh bread is serious temptation.

Nancy, that sounds vaguely familiar. Pillsbury has nuttin' like this stuff.

Cookie, my first two borrowed batches did just that. Third time was the charm.

Sunday, June 23, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have you tried to make your own starter? That's when you know you're a success. Otherwise, I would think you actually cheated. I bet it was good though. Stomach doesn't know the difference between your starter and an established one...

Wednesday, July 17, 2013  

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