When I go to library, I usually head down the new arrivals section and check out the new cookbooks that arrive. A couple of months ago, I checked out Tartine Bread by Chad Robertson. The pictures were great, but the process seemed a bit too complex for me. Lots of steps, including weighing ingredients and making a sourdough starter. I returned it thinking that perhaps someday I would give it a shot. I follow The Way the Cookie Crumbles and Bridget wrote an article detailing her try at sourdough bread using the Tartine book method. I was inspired to try it myself. Rather than rewrite the recipe, just head over to her blog and follow those instructions if you’d like to make this bread.
First, a bit on sourdough starters. I had seen recipes that call for a starter that you mix up ahead of time. Essentially a starter is equal parts flour and water (or sometimes juice). Magically (or scientifically) this mixture cultivates wild yeast and begins to rise and fall. You “feed” the starter by discarding most of it and giving it more equal parts flour and water. Once your starter behaves in a predictable way, you are ready to bake with it.
I’ll say this. There is something deeply satisfying about creating bread from only flour, salt, and water. The process is lengthy, though not really labor intensive. I began this loaf two weeks ago! I thought that my starter wasn’t working correctly, so I headed over to the forums at The Fresh Loaf and got some quick advice over there. The advice boiled down to “stick with it”, and I continued my daily feedings of my starter. Yesterday I turned my dough out multiple times over a four hour period, let the dough rest in the fridge, and baked up my first loaf this morning. The bread has a crunchy, crusty texture on the outside and a soft, chewy inside. The sourdough flavor is there, but it isn’t super strong. Just an overall delicious bread!
The beauty of this process of creating a starter is that I now have it indefinitely. There are sourdough starters that are over one hundred years old in various parts of the world. For mine, it’ll go into the fridge, and I’ll feed it once a week or so and be able to use it for all types of baking.