My son (who’s an incredible home baker) gave me some sourdough starter a couple months ago and told me I should give sourdough another try. I had failed to maintain a sourdough a couple years ago, and had given up on it — but this was a gift from Zak, so how could I refuse?
Well, Zak’s starter is so lively and tolerant that it has me hooked. It survived the long car trip from California and a few weeks of neglect when I was too busy to bake bread. As long as it’s fed (water and flour) from time to time, it’s in bubbly good spirits. And that wonderful starter has been inspiring me to make bread quite a bit lately — which has warmed up our apartment nicely during this cold spring.
I’ve mostly been using the Dutch oven method, in which the combination of a wet dough and a very hot oven-like pan makes for a crusty European-style bread. My current favorite is a hearty bread similar to the one I discussed in this post (which was also in praise of German bread) but using 1/4 to 1/2 cup of sourdough starter in place of the yeast, and adjusting a bit for the additional liquid of the starter. I bake it (in a Dutch oven preheated in a 450-degree oven) for 25 minutes with the lid on, and 15 minutes with the lid off.
The dough I’ve been using has approximately 1 cup bread flour, 1 cup whole wheat flour, 1/2 cup rye and 1/2 cup oatmeal, some sunflower, flax, sesame and poppy seeds and 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt — plus scant half cup of starter and about 1 1/2 cups of water. I say approximately, because I’ve found this recipe (like the starter) is quite forgiving of my slapdash methods.
Once I have a nice loaf of bread, a lot of problems are resolved around the house. Hungry? Have a slice of bread or toast. It’s always a good place to start.
If you’re lucky, there might be an avocado or something else good to put on it!