Wednesday, February 5, 2014

adventures in baking

Apparently I am a bit late to the whole baking-with-a-sourdough-starter game. When I share my tales of woe and (as of yet small) triumph people are nodding their heads yes, they know, and could they please have a bit of starter when I get it right?

At first, I did precisely what the book told me. Cover your mixture of water and flour with a cloth. That resulted in a crusted mess (see top-right corner) and thus I deducted that in San Francisco, the air must be more humid than it is at present in my kitchen. Back to the tried and true plastic-wrap method (too bad, sigh). Then I felt that it was too much waste to throw away most of what I had so carefully cultivated and all the bowls I own crowded the table with starter in various stages (now I am back to just one).

Meanwhile, I did bake bread, with varying success. I used the starter in familiar recipes and in new. I have yet to achieve the 'holey-ness' that I am pursuing. After some party conversation about the topic, I went in search of more insight and other methods/opinions/recipes. On the internet, where else? (sadly, yes, I used to run to the library for such queries). I purchased a kindle version of a book called 'the art of baking with natural yeast' which contains more information than I could want on the topic and luckily some recipes.

I was ready to throw in the towel, I'll admit. I do have a job, and other things to do besides setting the timer every 30 minutes to 'flip the dough gently to preserve the billowy gassy goodness' (not quite a direct quote). But the authors of this other book (Caleb Warnock and Melissa Richardson) convinced me that baking with a natural yeast starter is healthier, and negates the bad rep that bread has gotten recently. I'm all for that because I agree that nourishing your family with homemade bread is an ancient tradition I would love to continue.

I was not allowed to work today because the campus is closed due to yet another snow dump and I am not deemed essential enough to pay time-and-a-half. I decided to treat myself to oatmeal waffles made with the starter. Not bad at all. Last night I saw the snowflakes dancing like mosquitoes around the outside light. Now they are just pinpricks in the grey sky. I'll enjoy the day and get back to work tomorrow. Time to feed my starter, and shovel some snow.

taken with my phone during the drive home last night

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