So I’ve had this sourdough starter hanging out in my fridge for a few weeks. I have been feeding it, keeping it alive, staring at it blankly, shuffling it around so I can fit other things in my fridge, all while mentally preparing for the upcoming challenge… Well today I decided to do something with it and tried my hand at making sourdough bread. After all, I consider myself to be a San Francisco native (close enough anyway), so why wouldn’t I be able to produce the sourdough bread our lovely city is famed for? I pride myself on being a pretty good cook. I’m no Thomas Keller, but I know my way around a kitchen, with one caveat… I can’t bake.
I really CAN’T bake bake for shit. I try, in fact I participate in an annual cookie exchange with some girlfriends every year and have been doing this for roughly 18 years. You would think, I would pick up a trick or two during this time, but no. Year after year, I bake 12 dozen “whatevers,” and enter them into our cute little contest that I never win. Wait I take that back, I did win one year, but only because there was a category for best display. I made these atrocious gingerbread chew things that were barely palatable, but my display was a gingerbread man sitting on a toilet, pooping them out onto an assembly line. Not only was this hilarious, it was proportionate to the quality of cookie you bit into as well. SCORE! Now if only there were a category for most alcohol consumed, I’d win or place in the top three every time!
My first foray into the world of baking my own sourdough bread was no different than my attempts at baking cookies, sadly. I have pulled off yummy dinner rolls here and there, and one decent loaf of rustic italian, but I was really excited about sourdough! Not only does it feed my belly, it feeds my obsession with cultured and fermented foods as well.
If you like to experiment with food as I do, you have come to notice that recipes, especially ones for foods you aren’t that familiar with, can be a bit tricky when it comes to interpretation. For instance, when it says to “stir in just enough flour so that the dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl” it might mean to stir in enough flour so it pulls away from the sides of the bowl completely. Another thing that might be misinterpreted is when you are looking for a dough that is “sticky and elastic.” This particular stage of dough making can be quite vast. Add too much flour and you end up with a dense, hockey puck bread. Add too little and you end up with what I made… Freddy Krueger bread. The Freddy Krueger looking top happened because my dough was so sticky that the well oiled plastic wrap it was covered with while it was on its second rise, pulled the entire top layer off of what otherwise would have been a beautifully raised loaf of bread. I felt my spirit deflate right along with that loaf (sigh). I took a deep breath and shoved it into the oven anyway. I am glad I did, because despite the odd appearance of the loaf, it is actually pretty tasty and has a good texture inside. It just goes to show you, you should NEVER JUDGE A BREAD BY ITS CRUST!
I will attempt this recipe again, and post it as soon as I get it right. I will make sure to take pictures of the dough pulling away from the sides of the bowl, as well as the appropriate “sticky and elastic” texture. Here are some pictures, descriptions included… After all, sometimes the most helpful advice is hearing what NOT to do, right? This is not over sourdough!!! We will meet again soon and I will make you my bitch…
That big dent in the side is from my having to pry the loaf out of the greased pan with a spatula.