Last month I checked BREAD HEAD: Baking for the Road Less Traveled, by Greg Wade and Rachel Holzman, out of the library. If I didn’t have ten bread-baking books already I’d definitely buy it. I might anyway, or I might check it out from the library another time
I was dubious because the book places heavy emphasis on sourdough, like the loaf in my photo. I like sourdough but not so much I’d make sourdough recipes a regular thing. That makes it feel pointless to go through the work of growing a starter, then keeping it around after I finish the initial bread — I may not make another sourdough for months and I don’t want to keep nursing the starter along. It would be different if I had a family of five to feed, but it’s mostly just me and there’s only so much bread I can eat a week.
Wade and Holzman make it easier because their system is simpler: flour and water mixed, then you wait until enough wild yeast gets in to ferment it. It still makes way more than necessary; after the first bread I made (sourdough banana bread) I had to pour a lot of it out. And I hate wasting food.
However on the next sourdough I figured out how to reduce the initial quantity to about 25 percent of what was recommended in the book. That left almost no waste.
The recipes are good. I’ve made apple muffins (not sourdough), crumpets (ditto) and cornbread (not sourdough but it does use a cornmeal/buttermilk ferment). The sourdough I made (the one in the photo) was a good bread but not stunningly superior to the breads I normally bake.
I’ll make one more sourdough before I send the book back to the library.
3 responses to “Sourdough and its discontents”
I keep my sourdough starter in the back of the fridge. And neglect it- a lot. I don’t feed it every few days, or even every week. I just pour off the alcohol that rises to the top and put it back. When I want to make sourdough, I just pull it out a day or so ahead, start to feed it again, and leave it out of the fridge until after I make the bread. Would a “real” baker be shocked? Probably. But it works for me.
The authors are realistic that even sourdough enthusiasts can’t feed as intensely as professionals — they have a section on reviving starter after it’s been in the deep freeze.
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